The Church in England and Wales marks today as the solemnity of the Assumption, so rather than giving the NT reading for the 20th Sunday in OT, year C, I give the one for this occasion
Ambrosiaster reminds us that in stating that Christ rose, Paul is refuting those false prophets who claimed Christ was never incarnate, so not having been born, could not rise again. The resurrection proves Christ was a man and able to merit, by his righteousness, the resurrection of the dead. Although he was, by nature life, he tasted death, St Cyril tells us, for the sake of us all; by his ineffable power he trampled on death in his own flesh that he might be the first born from the dead – he destroyed the power of death. He does not suffer in so far as he is viewed as God by nature, yet the sufferings of his flesh were according to the economy of the dispensation. For in what other way could he be the ‘first born of every creature’ and ‘of the dead’ unless the Word, being God, made his own flesh to suffer?
Athanasius teaches is that by the sacrifice of his own body, Jesus put an end to the law that was against us and made a new beginning of life for us, by the hope the the resurrection which he has given us. Since it was by man that death prevailed over us, so for this cause was the Word of God made man and through his sacrifice has cancelled the bond of death and destroyed its dominion over us. If the redeemer did not pay the price in his own flesh, St Basil tells us, then he could not have destroyed sin; we who had died in Adam could not have been raised in Christ unless Christ had truly been man.
This does not mean, St Augustine wrote in his City of God, that all who die in Adam will be raised in Christ, for not all will confess him, and those who do not will be punished for eternity by a second death. Adam died because he sinned, Ambrosiaster wrote in his commentary, and so it was only Christ, who was without sin, who could overcome death for us. We enter death through Adam, and eternal life through Christ alone. It is the rule of the devil and of death that Christ will destroy utterly, and the powers of hell will be nullified.
St Gregory of Nazianzus challenges anyone who interprets verse 25 as meaning Christ’s reign will have an end. Who, he asks, will bring that reign to an end? Who could? This is to mistake the meaning of the word ‘until’ (as some do with Matthew 1:25), which is not always exclusive of what comes after. What sane person would interpret Jesus’ saying “I am with you until the end of the World’ as meaning he could be with us thereafter?
Just as death was the first fruit of Adam’s sin and was the first sin to enter the world, so it will be the last to be destroyed, Chrysostom reminds us. Our new life begins by faith and is carried on, says Augustine, by hope, but the time will come when death shall be destroyed and we shall be changed and be like the angels; we have now mastered fear by faith, but then we shall have the mastery in love by vision. He takes upon himself our infirmities, and heal them through his love and his sacrifice.
In saying all things will be subject to the Father, Christ is not saying, as the Arian falsely taught, that he and the Father are not one, Theodoret of Cyr reminds us. They confuse two things – Christ’s humanity, which like all humanity will be subject to the Father, and his divinity, which is , of course, one with the Father
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