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Saturday, April 23, 2022

First Holy Saturday Homily of Saint Photios the Great


Homily 11

HOMILY OF THE MOST BLESSED PHOTIOS, 
ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE, 
DELIVERED ON THE BURIAL OF THE HOLY BODY 
OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, ON HOLY SATURDAY

From each work and deed of Christ, our Saviour, the magnitude of His love for us is apparent, and the graces of salvation are splendidly unfolded unto us; and as the abundant sweetness of joy is distilled into men’s souls, it wipes away the bitter pollution of ancestral sin. The memory and topic of the passion and the burial is, however, an awful and inexpressible matter, but inasmuch as it is the end of the Incarnation, and anchors us, so to speak, in the very harbour of re-creation, and sounds forth in clear trumpet tones the Creator’s providence concerning us, so the feeling it arouses is neither simple nor unmixed, but it both overwhelms us and revives us with courage; it grieves and gladdens, the former by the passion and the death, the latter by the destruction of the passions and the slaying of death—which things are marvellously wrought for our resurrection in a manner surpassing words.

It is pleasant indeed to see at the wedding the water being pressed into wine from jars as from a bunch of grapes for the sake of the friends. It is pleasant to see the raging waves of the sea as they foam over the wreck being calmed and soothed by a mere command, and—what is most strange—with curving back ferrying the sailors across; and the multitude, many thousands of them, fed in the wilderness with seven loaves, and once again with five, leaving behind food for many more, the remnants of their banquet. Pleasant also it is to see the blind man given eyes, harmful streams of blood stemmed, lepers scraping off the flakes of their disease and having their blood cleansed, merely by virtue of a word and of the will, the lame man leaping up, demons routed, and God’s creature delivered from those that troubled him. Pleasant also to see is Lazarus called up from the grave and rising on the fourth day, and the hymn of the branch-bearing children, perfected for the King of glory. Yet not so pleasant as a passion that brings in rich measure freedom from passions, as a death blooming with the beauty of immortality; not so pleasant as Hell despoiled, as death slain, as tombs emptied out, and the Lord through His own struggles winning victory over all. Indeed, for the Maintainer and Maker of the universe to have been hanged incarnate on the cross, to have been buried in the entrails of the earth, to have visited Hell and been numbered among the dead, is terrible even to hear, frightful even for angels to conceive, and, while this is being performed, it is unbearable to the whole creation, even to that which is inanimate. But in the same measure that this has left nothing to exceed it in wonder and terror, nay, even to be conceived by one’s mind, so do mercy and Providence open out for us to an unutterable degree. The veil of the temple is rent, and the sun, charioteer of the day, is plunged into deep darkness, and the earth takes fright and quakes, affected by the sadness of the passion, But also tombs become pregnant and bring forth the dead, and the palaces of Hell are emptied and abolished, despoiled by the Sufferer’s victory, while the human race—this was the Lord’s goal, for which He endured sufferings and death—is delivered from that bitter and ancient domination.

2. Who shall tell the mighty acts of the Lord? Who shall cause all his praises to be heard? Speech leaps with eagerness and desires. with youthful ardour to attempt the unfolding of the mystery, but reason cowers and sinks to the depths of the mind, checking the impulse to speak. The ears open their doors, but the voice, restrained. by the consternation of the thoughts as by bolts, reduces to perplexity both those who have been emboldened to speak and those who have chosen to listen. Who shall tell the mighty acts of the Lord? Who shall cause all His praises to be heard? Nails are piercing the Lord’s hands, and they are tearing up, roots and all, the offshoots of our wickedness which had become implanted in our members, and by which human kind was laid waste and corrupted. A crown of thorns is bound round His head, and that encircling and painful collar of the ancient curse is cast off our neck. His side is transfixed with a spear, and the fount of our salvation opens up and is constantly widened, as blood and water, the cleanser of the universal transgression, well from the wound even after death. Who shall tell the mighty acts of the Lord? Who shall cause all His praises to be heard? A disgraceful death has delivered the world from shame, and, receiving in His face the spittle of the Jews, He who has generated the drops of dew, and counts the drops of the sea, drains the flood of sin. Who shall tell the mighty acts of the Lord? Who shall cause all His praises to be heard? The Lord is covered with a tomb, but the Lord’s providence for all things is not shut in with it, nor does He make the sin of His insulters an occasion for universal destruction. Nay, the Creator dwells in a tomb, yet steers the universe in goodly order. For it was not to wreak disaster that He willingly endured the cross, death, blows, spitting and every torment, but in order to deliver humankind from it. The Lord is covered with a tomb, and a throng of ungrateful slaves have made the tomb secure! and are sitting round. They are astounded even as they see the Creator dead ; they are astounded indeed, but they remain unconverted in their ingratitude; for the hardening of the mind is a terrible thing in that it does not even distinguish what is at one’s feet and most easy from what is most difficult and obscure. They are astounded, but they do not sing glory, and though they guard Him like a king, these wretched men insult Him like a criminal. They have made Him secure like a treasure, and while seeing others drawing therefrom through faith the riches of salvation, they themselves, oppressed by extreme poverty, miserably end their life in the ruin of unbelief. They know the resurrection, but are hiding it; for they have betrayed truth through avarice, and they have exchanged for falsehood what they have seen with their own eyes.

3. Why dost thou mislead thyself with thy deceits, O Jew? Why dost thou quibble away thy salvation? Why dost thou arm thy hands against thyself, leaving unto thyself not a drop of mercy, as much as would have been accorded for thy deed? Seest thou not the earth and the stones trembling at thy daring action? While creation is in mourning and sadness over thy lawlessness, art thou not ashamed to be more insensible than inanimate things, and dost thou rejoice dancing to thine own perdition? Hast thou not found thine outrage against the Lord and His murder, which thou wast bold enough to celebrate as a festival and make into a red-letter day, a subject of constant dejection? Those things whereby thou hadst nourished hopes of broadening the borders of thy garments, and multiplying thy miracles, and being loudly proclaimed “Rabbi” on earth, and being thickened and fattened, have they not turned out contrary to thy hopes? Where is now thy celebrated great temple? Has it not been overturned from its very foundations, surviving only as a legend and ax object of tears for those more inclined to sympathy? And as for the famous metropolis of thy nation, does it not now lie a topic of tragic stories, as thy plight amounts not only to an “Iliad of woes,’’! but shows the Ilian misfortunes to have been but a small part of thine own catastrophe? Where are thy public propitiatory sacrifices, and as for thy prophetic and divine inspiration, how has it vanished away from thee? Where is the fame of thy leaders and commanders themselves, which aforetime was most glorious among the aliens, but has now been reduced to the desolation of complete leaderlessness? Hast thou not raged against the Word? But thy oracular breastplate has changed its colour not to blood, but to black, as thy misfortune penetrated to its very core, and it no longer lifts up to thee a bright countenance. Hast thou insulted Him who was prophesied? But thou hast lost the Urim, as thine oracular letters have been reduced to the muteness of meaningless strokes. Hast thou risen up against the High Priest? But thou hast been driven away from the gift of priesthood. Hast thou of slaughtered: the Lamb? But thy sanctuary has fallen in ruins and has been corrupted into an unholy shrine. Hast thou not laid hands on the sacred offering? But thine altars have crumbled away. Hast thou not put the Heir to death? But thou hast been wiped off the testament. Hast thou not stripped bare the Lawgiver? But thou hast been denuded of thy prophetic gifts, and hast been cast down from thy boastfulness of the Law, in which thou tookest pride: for the strength and might of the laws lie in the honour and reverence to the lawgiver. Hast thou not parted His garments? But thou hast been stripped of those many ineffable wonders, thou hast no portion or lot in the promised land, thou hast been divided up among all the gentiles and barbarians, not prospering and multiplying, but diminished and distressed and subjected to mockery. What demon has goaded thee to this frenzy? Who has inflamed thee to so much envy? Who has filled thee with such foulness? Verily thou hast been proved not only to be kicking against the pricks, and dashing thy face against the rock, and poking the fire with a knife, and bringing down the moon (which is but a small part of creation) upon thyself, as the jest from old story that has become a proverb for the edification of the foolish puts it, but in truth shaking down the whole world on thy head, and the heads of thy children and thine entire line on account of thine outrages.

4. As for the Jewish nation, it is silent even against its will, and it is mute, and sighs, and is filled with dejection, as it broods over shadows, forms and empty hopes. But methinks my speech bids me turn back awhile, and fastening on to the words of the Gospel, supply therefrom what this day demands. What then do those divine words teach (for there is nothing like harkening to them)? “When,” it says, ‘‘the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph, and going up to Pilate, he begged the body of Jesus.’’ Verily Joseph was rich, since he sought the treasure of life; rich he was in making provision to acquire inviolate wealth; rich he was and wise in buying with inexpensive and moderate words the costly and splendid pearl, and concealing with them the object of his concern. For he does not request the body like one who thinks much of himself and uses loud words, but he asks for the dead as if to give him burial out of pity and mercy. And as he approaches Pilate, putting aside all hesitation and fear, he advises him, as though imparting his counsel, to have the dead man’s body taken down. For already, as the day of preparation was drawing to its close with the setting sun, the law of the Sabbath came into force with the day that was beginning, and he appeared more persuasive by indicating perchance the law according to which the bodies of the executed should not remain hanging. For while in other respects the Jews were acting unlawfully and departing barefacedly from ancestral customs, respect for the laws was cultivated by them in matters wherein they found nothing contrary to their will, and which were easy to accomplish. ‘‘Grant me,” says Joseph, “‘if thou wilt, to bury the corpse of Jesus, whom all his intimates left and went away. Grant me to bury the corpse, to whose passion many spectators gathered, but whom none has now remained to entomb, not even among his friends. Grant me to bury the corpse of a stranger and a destitute man. Gone from thee is the apprehension of his kingship. He is dead who was accused of wishing to seize the might of authority, but who, from the time of the betrayal up to the very verdict, was seen to be innocent of every misdeed. It is his corpse that I seek, his, whom prophet-killing tongues, voices and hands brought under condemnation of death, whereas thou wast inclined to cast a more merciful vote. Grant me to acknowledge gratitude to thee, whereby thou doest no harm to others. Nor will the Jewish rabble be grieved when they learn that their enemy is covered with earth. For they are irked even on seeing the one they hate dead, as, on the one hand, he publicly proclaims the foul murder by means of the cross, while attracting, on the other, the spectators’ pity and inciting them to abominate the cruelty of those who have crucified him. Nor will they threaten thee with Caesar’s friendship, saying, “Thou art not Caesar’s friend,’’ if thou givest the corpse to be buried in the ground. If only thou art willing, the fulfilment of my request is without disguise.

Soothing Pilate’s soul with such words, the wise and good Joseph succeeds in his purpose, and obtains the body of Jesus after it has been taken down. How could he not have succeeded, coming forward as he did with great desire and a most pious love, whereby he had as helper and fulfiller of his request Him for whom he was asking? So now Joseph requests and obtains the body. Why did he not ask for Him even as He was being dragged to the cross, and prevent the murder? At that time there breathed an anger more powerful than both his resolution and his strength, and the murderers’ envy cut off all hope. But as the flow of their anger subsided with the blood of the murder, and ceased (for the slaying of the envied person removes the wrath and jealousy), then he comes forward with an outspoken request, and displays the willingness which he has been concealing and cherishing for a long time; and having succeeded in his purpose, he takes up the Lord’s holy body. 
 
Flinging himself on the recumbent corpse, he uttered all manner of cries, and was divided between every kind of emotion. Everything possessed him at the same time: wonder and dismay, gladness and sorrow, joy and tears, hatred and pity, fear, cowardice and courage; his countenance was both gay and dejected. What descriptive speech could portray his condition at that time? He rejoiced at having the object of his desire; he wept to see Him dead. He pitied Him as He lay without burial. He hated the cruelty of those who had crucified Him; he wondered at the long-suffering of the One crucified. He was afraid as he touched the body; he felt courageous, strengthened. by love. He was sad for the suffering ; he rejoiced at his good fortune. The matter perplexed him, and he revolved his thoughts variously : “Shall I close with my hands the eyes of Him who by means of clay and speech planted eyes in the blind? Shall I prepare to press together His lips, at Whose word the lips of those that spoke with difficulty were splendidly unfolded and their tongue became distinct? Shall I cover with a napkin this head, for which the temple rent its veil as in public mourning, baring and revealing the secrets of its. inviolate sanctuary? Shall I join together the hands which have stretched out those withered arms, fettered and bound by age and sickness? Shall I press together His feet on which He trod the liquid waves of the sea, He by whose command the lame were set. straight on their feet and were seen to run? How shall I bury Him who called up a dead man from Hell, loosed him of his winding-sheet, and raised him on the fourth day?’’ Revolving such things in his thoughts, and remaining long in doubt, yet, since the time appointed by the dispensation had come, he becomes himself part of the dispensation and, smearing the Lord’s body with myrrh and aloes, (which among the Jews was the ultimate honour to the dead), and wrapping it up in funeral sheets, he lays it in the new sepulchre. A new sepulchre was standing ready, since Joseph was seeking to honour the Lord Himself with every possible means (for a new and individual sepulchre, instead of a common one polluted by many bodies, adds funeral dignity to the one that is buried), and for another twofold cause provided by the dispensation: firstly, lest, when the miracle of the resurrection takes place, the all-daring and shameless Jews should proclaim that he who arose from the dead was another one buried alongside, and not the one they had condemned to the cross, and so that every pretext for lies and godlessness be completely removed from them; and secondly, that some men might not think that only those bodies arose from the grave by whose side and in whose proximity lay the Lord’s body (for one of the sainted of old had already arisen even in the Lord’s lifetime), but so that the Lord should win His victory over Hell on behalf of all men, and likewise should be clearly known to have performed through His own suffering the resurrection of all the bodies scattered over the whole earth and sea, and dispersed by fire and air. For, inasmuch as He was not buried together with other bodies, and yet many saints, who did not lie close to the Lord’s sepulchre, but here and there, in different places, arose and made themselves visible to many persons, accordingly it is shown most clearly that the Lord’s death and resurrection were not accomplished for some and not for others, but for the sake of all. For such and similar reasons Joseph had a new sepulchre hewn out for the Lord, perchance not perceiving everything himself, but having in view one object only—reverence— while divine foreknowledge arranged and disposed in advance those other matters also.

5. Now the honourable Joseph, having deposited in the new sepulchre the newly dead body of Him who makes empty the tombs, inaugurates the new chamber of our resurrection, and having blocked the mouth of the tomb with a big stone, goes off mourning and lamenting, while the murderous impulse of the Jews is provoked to another outrage against the Saviour, and inflamed to another insult. In the case of other men it may be observed that as soon as they have exacted as great a penalty as they desire from those who have fallen under their wrath, their anger is calmed, as their passion is dissipated by the fulfilment of their will, and often they turn to pity. But the Jewish nation, inflamed by the blood of prophets and saints, know not how to be sated in their wrath, not even when they are allowed to carry out the ultimate manner of retribution, the foul deed of murder. For now once more is to be seen the excess of their depravity and cruelty. After the derision, the mockery, after the blows, the spitting, after the buffeting, the piercing of the hands and the transfixing of the feet, after the cross and death, and, as they thought, the Saviour’s extermination from among men, after all these, they revert to another kind of insanity, and kindle another war against the Lord, and instead of making peace with Him who is lying low for their sake, they go up to Pilate, and they rage against the dead One, and utter cries worthy of their impious mind and tongue. Who did that? The scribes and the pharisees, the flower of the Jewish mercy and sagacity. For it says, “The next day that followed the day of preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, 'We remember that that deceiver said while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.' Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come and steal him away, and say unto the people, 'He is risen from the dead.’" 
 
What could be fouler than such utterances? What could be more godless than such a resolve? What could be more insane than their shamelessness? Dost thou call a deceiver, O Jew, the unerring guide of salvation? Him who has come to deliver thee, the insulter, from deceit, and to snatch thee away from the condemnation of deceit? Is He a deceiver because He broke men away from idolatrous worship? Because He snatched them away from the demons’ domination? Because He changed the heavy harness of the Law into the mild and light yoke of the Gospel? Because He was outspoken in reproving thy hypocrisy? Because He threatened with the lash those who dared make His Father’s house a house of merchandise, not actually striking them, but showing them liable to the punishment of senseless beasts? I leave aside for the present the signs and the wonders, and those ineffable and unspeakable benefits, whereby He who was merciful to everybody benefited your ungrateful race. Still, was He a deceiver? He is dead. What concern hast thou for one who no longer is, and cannot induce others into deception? Was that man a deceiver? Then let His utterances lie cast down and neglected. For nothing of what He has said shall be. So why art thou a busybody, and sayest thou rememberest Him to have said He would rise after three days? Dost thou yet fear and dread lest His words come to pass? How then art thou not afraid to call Him a deceiver? How is it that, whereas thou oughtst to sigh and weep blood and by repenting of thy daring deeds make thy condemnation more bearable, thou, as if taking pride in not leaving any excess of wantonness and shamelessness to others, strivest to exceed preceding evils with new ones? Verily, when one is entirely possessed by envy and murder, one’s thoughts do not rise even for a moment from that frenzied ebriety and madness; wherefore even now these men talk nonsense in their insanity, saying, ‘‘We remember that he said, After three days I will rise,” and, “Command that the sepulchre be made sure, lest his disciples steal him away." Thou oughtst then to have accused the disciples of theft, instead of charging the Teacher with being a deceiver. Why, am I a deceiver if another man digs up my grave, and takes pleasure in dishonouring and insulting my body? It was needful in that case to ask for soldiers against those men, instead of insulting with another guard Him who was guarded by a tomb; to restrain those men from their violence, instead of slandering Him who had done no harm. But what dost thou do? The ones thou incitest to theft thou leavest unwatched, but Him whom earth and a stone hold thou again ragest against, planting snares and ambuscades? Besides, why fearest thou the theft? ‘‘Lest,’’ it says, “his disciples steal him away, and say that he is risen from the dead.’’ When was there a dead man seen working his own resurrection so it should be easy for his disciples to invent this thing that had not happened? Or how was it reasonable that men who had dared to commit a theft should then run to the people and proclaim the resurrection, incredible as it was even when it had happened? That would have meant accusing themselves of theft, instead of avoiding the charge; for by inventing an unlikely apology, they would have made the accusation certain, since a man who commits an unlawful act and seeks to escape suspicion provides himself with a plausible and likely refuge. But to have stolen a dead body and fabricated the tale that it had risen would not have been am act of the disciples, but the obvious mockery of enemies who took unstinting pleasure in insulting the stolen one. Thou wast not therefore afraid of their stealing it, nor that having stolen it they would invent a resurrection. Nay, the words of the crucified One distracted and harassed thy soul, and caused thee to see the resurrection, as it were, before thine eyes, and for this reason thou didst not cease from enacting its drama, not a tragic, nor a comic one, but verily a Jewish drama, a Pharisaean drama, worthy of thy prophet-killing stage; setting soldiers and locks and seals and guards round the body where it lay, so that, by secreting thyself, thou mightest not appear to have devised the theft, of which thou wast thyself the author. 
 
It is either a friend or an enemy who steals a dead body. If it is an enemy, then thou admittest that it is thy deed, and the daring action of thy hand. Why then stealest thou? Is it so that the disciples should say that He is risen from the dead? But if it is a friend, then why a naked body? Why should he have insulted the dead one by baring him and doing unseemly things to him, over whom, even if he did him no other honour, he should at least have performed the funeral rites, and respected the law common among all men, and by no means have uncovered a body which had just ‘been consigned to earth? Besides, for what purpose does one steal? So that, it says, His disciples should say that He is risen from the dead. It appears therefore that resurrection was a very likely thing, and very easy to accomplish, and had formerly been done by many men, so that in stealing they should have had recourse to such an acceptable and indisputable excuse. It would have been much simpler for the thieves to say, if they were going to invent a reason, that His body had been swallowed up by the earth, instead of having recourse to a resurrection that had not happened. Nay, thou hadst no fear lest they stole it and said that He was risen from the dead, but thou wast afraid of the prophets’ words which, willfully and drunk with murder, thou didst neglect to thy detriment, words which both clearly foretold thy foul murder and prophesied the Saviour’s resurrection. Thou wast afraid of these things. Thou knewest that the whole creation mourned the Lord’s passion and that the earth quaked. These things frightened and troubled thee, even if thou didst strive to be unfeeling and insensible. As these things occurred to thee and crowded upon thee when thou hadst time to remember them, they caused thee, even against thy will, to suspect the resurrection. For this reason thou dost anticipate, and work wickedness, and announce the theft in advance, in order that, when the resurrection takes place, thou shouldst have a wretched refuge in the theft which thou didst seize upon beforehand.

6. Was He stolen? Then why dost thou not arrest the robbers red-handed and bring them before Pilate? For thou didst have guard of the tomb with a company of soldiers. Besides, thou wast not ignorant that the theft itself was going to take place, as even thou foretellest. Who are the disciples who committed the robbery? Where did they convey the stolen body? Why, granted they were stealing it, were they attempting to loose the grave-clothes, to remove the napkin from the head, especially as these were plastered down with myrrh and aloes? Even in solitude and quiet, with nothing terrible to suspect and no guarding soldiers to fear, one could not easily have accomplished that, or torn off the body the grave-clothes which were glued and folded together with the mixture of myrrh and aloes. Yet was He stolen? Hast thou set about to seek the thieves? Dost thou punish the guards for negligence? Nay, thou doest none of these things—far from it. Nor was there anyone digging up the grave and stealing the body. But thou art thyself the thief, if there was one, thou art thyself the slanderer, thou art the one who exactest as thy reward from the more simple- minded or the most impious their incredulity of the resurrection; thou, the busybody and prattler, art in this matter the silent judge who utters not a word. For this reason dost thou keep still in this matter, and carest nothing of the laws appointed for theft, or the rest of the inquiry. Instead, having bruited about by every device and by bribery the theft of the true resurrection, which was thy pupose, thou didst content thyself with a lie, having lighted on the soldiers’ corruption as on a piece of good fortune, and being thankful if no one inquired anew how and by whom the theft was committed; though it was needful to take also into account that to any sensible person it was altogether incredible either that the disciples. should have committed the theft or bruited about the resurrection. 

For, according to thee, they would bruit about a resurrection that: did not take place. How will they show the risen one? It is an incontrovertible disproof of the report if the one who is bruited about has not appeared anywhere. And if they do not show Him, will they not appear to be raving, and be a laughing-stock before everybody, and make the Teacher an object of ridicule? For, by inventing things which are easily disproved as non-existent, one foolishly deprives him on whose behalf one is acting both of his true glory and of his real deeds. For if, whereas the Saviour was seen by many men. on many occasions after His resurrection from the dead, and many bodies of saints appeared unto many, and the angels sat before the tomb, and so great and so many prodigies were performed, yet you strove that the lie of the theft should spread about rather than the truth (for this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day); unless furthermore the resurrection of Christ our Saviour had been accomplished, splendid and famous and clear to all, with tombs being made empty, with many dead men becoming heralds of their own resurrection, with angels testifying to it, and the Lord Himself appearing to different men‘ at different times and places, unless the resurrection was confirmed and supported by all these things, how would any of the disciples have dared to say that the Teacher had risen, and not, even if other people had said it, have sunk with shame, put out of countenance by the absurdity of the report? It was indeed the unerring apprehension of things seen, the manifest and indubitable character of the resurrection, which filled the disciples with boldness and strength to become teachers and heralds of things they knew exactly. For what explanation could a man invent, even though he were practised in the invention of fables, or allege, though his tongue were armed in the shamelessness of falsehood, other than the unshakeable evidence of things seen by them and brought to their certain knowledge? Indeed these men, when He had been arrested and the cross” was being set up, abandoned their Master, and cast aside everything out of fear of what would overtake them. All the signs they had seen, all the teachings they had heard, all the miracles vouchsafed unto them by grace, all these things they forgot in their expectation of terrors. How then could these men, if they were convinced that He was dead and had not wrought the great mystery of His resurrection, have had strength to proclaim it instantly (not to speak of their having considered stealing Him away), or how could they, all their lives long, with great joy and eagerness, have offered to die for their confession and faith in Him? Therefore those who malign the resurrection can have no resource whereby they can escape from inevitable confutation, and not appear as furious maniacs and slanderers.”

7. Of these things, however, a special account will be given at the proper time. As for me, I am again drawn to revert to the strangeness of the tomb and of the burial. How does He suffer His body to be wrapped in grave-clothes Who has spread out the vault of heaven as a much-famed wonder? How could He, the Life and Resurrection of all men, have submitted to the laws of death, even though He abolished its power in His own flesh? How does He, Who before all time was jointly enthroned with the Father, become a joint-dweller with the dead? Oh, the Lord’s graces for our sake! Oh, the power of Him who became dead! O tomb, who art the emptying out of tombs, and the destruction of Hell, and the slaying of death, and the much- sung bridal-chamber of our resurrection! The wedding-chamber of the Creation begot marriage, nourished the expectation of children, and housed the husbandmen of the human race, but it had sorrows sprouting underneath, and death installed close, by which the flower of life was spoiled, and happiness in life was made uncertain; whilst the wedding-chamber of the tomb, which houses the author Himself both of our creation and of our re-creation, does not put forth the roots of children, which quickly wither away together with their offshoot, nor does it pledge to us a life and an existence harassed by death, but it joins virginity in wedlock to human nature, giving angelic life free scope on earth, and restores to our ancestors, who had defaced the Lord’s image by their passions, that bridal and pristine beauty. Having consecrated to the lot of men a sorrowless and untroubled life, it has made the gift of immortality above passions and corruption.

The ark of Noah, when the common deluge had poured from the heavenly founts, preserved its occupants as the seed of a second world, but kept them for a second experience of sorrows,” the evils of life. While this world-saving ark of the Saviour’s body, which has treasured up the Dispenser of life and Giver of joy, preserves human kind by lifting it above spiritual shipwreck. Having made the tombs empty of their dead, it pours forth the inexhaustible grace of the resurrection, and transporting us to the kingdom of heaven, it guards and keeps us forever away from the experience of further evils. The tabernacle made unto Moses had a pot and manna and a lantern and a table and the ordinances of the Law engraved on stone tablets; while this life-giving and venerable tabernacle does not pride itself on shadows and forms, the symbols of worship according to the Law, but having served the Lawgiver and common Lord Himself for a three-day burial, it has revealed the divine and great mystery of grace, after extending piety, without itself moving,” to the ends of the world. Even if it does not hold the treasure (for He is risen as He had willed), it has not been depleted of the riches of grace, for it keeps an inexhaustible store of miracles: it cures diseases, drives away sickness, routs demons, sanctifies souls, proclaims the folly of the Jews, preaches the Lord’s resurrection with visible signs, and confirms the abyss of His mercy on our behalf. Wondrous too was the manger at Bethlehem which received my Lord, wrapped in swaddling clothes after the manner of babes, as He had just emerged from a virgin’s womb and entered human life. Yet a far greater miracle does the tomb exhibit: for in the former the mystery of Christ’s incarnation was taking its beginning, as the Godhead was already being covered with flesh; in the latter, however, is accomplished the end, and the purpose of God’s advent—our perfection and re-creation—is completed, gleaming brilliantly and illuminating everything with the flash of the resurrection. At the former, the magi from the East offer gifts to the new-born; at the latter, the peoples of East and West and the other ends of the world, nations and tongues and every generation, bring unto Him who has risen from the dead not myrrh and frankincense and gold, the produce of inanimate earth, but they hand over to Him, inasmuch as He is the universal King and Creator of all, their very bodies and souls, exhaling the fragrance of faith and bedecked with the gold of piety. The songs of angels sounded over the manger, while by the tomb, too, angels were present and caused amazement. At the former, as if hinting at the condescension of the new-born, they struck up songs of “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, and good will toward men’’; while at the latter, without any veil or riddle, they sound forth the power of the risen One in a loud and clear voice, crying cut and saying, “He is not here: for he is risen as He said. Tell His disciples®° that He is risen from the dead,’’®! and, “Be not affrighted: ye seek Jesus the Nazarene, which was crucified; He is risen; He is not here; behold the place where they laid Him," and, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.’’ Later, the Lord Himself and Author of the resurrection saith: “Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God’’, and, “All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth.’’ 
 
8. Let us, too, willingly bring the gifts of victory to Him who became man for us, and suffered and®’ was buried for our sake, and delivered us from the ancient domination of Hell, as He is rising from the dead and winning victory overall. Ye who pride yourselves on your wealth offer the care and consolation of the poor; ye who are oppressed by poverty, patience and gratitude; those in power and authority, the sparing of the goods of others, protecting the wronged, and governing your subjects mildly as fellow-countrymen, instead of being haughtily arrogant towards them as to aliens, that you may yourselves show that this power and authority was in truth appointed and granted to you by God, and that you may not, through deeds that lead you into iniquity, arm the tongues of the many against their Creator who has appointed your authority. Those who are numbered as subjects, offer ye the striving to be properly and humanely governed, instead of the desire to exhaust by continuous disorder the patience of the rulers, foolishly making their clemency an excuse for negligence. Those who still draw the yoke of wedlock, offer ye concord in good will and modesty; for thus may wedlock preserve its honour. Those who have divorced themselves from this libidinous need, freed as from some painful bondage, direct yourselves towards the path of temperance. Those who have overcome these things, offer ye virginity as your oil, and that with a humble heart, that you may not be disappointed of being called wise, and your lamp be not dimmed by the spirit of conceit. The priests and shepherds, offer ye the watchful care of your flock, the exhibiting of yourselves as models to those you tend, and drawing them to virtue by example rather than by verbal exhortations. The flock, obedience and ready compliance with Paul, who testifies saying, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch (I dare not say, ‘We watch') over your souls." And all of us by all means let us bear fruit in mutual love and unhesitating faith in Him and piety, without which we would not be able to be enrolled not only among the disciples, but not even among the servants or the attendants.
 
9. Let Christ our God, who has despoiled Hell and slain death, and raised us along with Himself, adorn all the more with piety and the other virtues him to whom He has granted to reign on earth in His stead, and show him worthy of the heavenly kingdom, and along with him all of us, by the intercessions of our most holy Lady, the Mother of God, and of all the saints. Amen.

Source: THE HOMILIES OF PHOTIUS PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE, English Translation, Introduction and Commentary by CYRIL MANGO.