Rescue Those Oppressed

From Catechetical Lectures, 19 (350)

I have long been wishing, O true-born and dearly beloved children of the church, to discourse to you concerning these spiritual and heavenly mysteries; but since I well knew that seeing is far more persuasive than hearing, I waited for the present season, that finding you more open to the influence of my words from your present experience, I might lead you by the hand into the brighter and more fragrant meadow of the paradise before us, especially as you have been made fit to receive the more sacred mysteries, after having been found worthy of divine and life-giving baptism. Since therefore it remains to set before you a table of the more perfect instructions, let us now teach you these things exactly, that you may know the effect wrought upon you on that evening of your baptism.

First you entered into the vestibule of the baptistery, and there facing towards the west you listened to the command to stretch forth your hand, and as in the presence of Satan you renounced him. Now you must know that this figure is found in ancient history. For when Pharaoh, that most bitter and cruel tyrant, was oppressing the free and high-born people of the Hebrews, God sent Moses to bring them out of the evil bondage of the Egyptians. Then the door posts were anointed with the blood of a lamb, that the destroyer might flee from the houses which had the sign of the blood; and the Hebrew people was marvelously delivered. The enemy, however, after their rescue, pursued after them (Exodus 14:9, 23), and saw the sea wondrously parted for them; nevertheless, he went on, following close in their footsteps, and was all at once overwhelmed and engulfed in the Red Sea.

Now turn from the old to the new, from the figure to the reality. There we have Moses sent from God to Egypt; here, Christ, sent forth from his Father into the world: there, that Moses might lead forth an afflicted people out of Egypt; here, that Christ might rescue those who are oppressed in the world under sin: there, the blood of a lamb was the spell against the destroyer; here, the blood of the Lamb without blemish, Jesus Christ, is made the charm to scare evil spirits; there, the tyrant was pursuing that ancient people even to the sea; and here the daring and shameless spirit, the author of evil, was following you even to the very streams of salvation. The tyrant of old was drowned in the sea; and this present one disappears in the water of salvation.

But nevertheless you are bidden to say, with arm outstretched towards him as though he were present, “I renounce you, Satan.” I wish also to say wherefore ye stand facing to the West; for it is necessary. Since the West is the region of sensible darkness, and he being darkness has his dominion also in darkness, therefore, looking with a symbolic meaning towards the West, you renounce that dark and gloomy potentate. What then did each of you stand up and say? “I renounce you, Satan” — you wicked and most cruel tyrant! Meaning, I fear your might no longer; for that Christ has overthrown, having partaken with me of flesh and blood, that through these he might by death destroy death (Hebrews 2:14-15), that I might not be made subject to bondage forever. “I renounce you”— you crafty and most subtle serpent. “I renounce you” — plotter as you are, who under the guise of friendship contrived all disobedience, and work apostasy in our first parents. “I renounce you, Satan”— the artificer and abettor of all wickedness.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 313-386) was a theologian and liturgist, who served as Bishop of Jerusalem for nearly forty years. He developed the complex liturgical rites of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which influenced Christian worship across the ancient world, as pilgrims from Jerusalem brought home elements of what they had observed. His Catechetical Lectures were delivered to candidates for baptism early in his episcopate. His feast day is March 18.


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