Sunday, July 01, 2007
Feast of the Precious Blood of Christ
St. John Chrysostom's Homily 16 on Hebrews
Hebrews ix. 15-18
"And for this cause He is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first Testament, they which are called might receive the promise of an eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead, otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator lives. Whereupon neither the first [testament] was dedicated without blood."
[1.] It was probable that many of those who were more weakly would especially distrust the promises of Christ because He had died. Paul accordingly out of a superabundance introduced this illustration, deriving it from common custom. Of what kind is it? He says, "indeed, on this very account we ought to be of good courage." On what account? Because testaments are established and obtain their force when those who have made them are not living, but dead. "And for this cause," he says, "He is the Mediator of the New Testament."A Testament is made towards the last day, [the day] of death. And a testament is of this character: It makes some heirs, and some disinherited. So in this case also: "-->I will that where I am,"Christ says, "they also may be."( John xvii. 24 .) And again of the disinherited, hear Him saying, "I pray not for" all, "but for them that believe in Me through their word."( John xvii. 20 .) Again, a testament has relation both to the testator, and to the legatees; so that they have some things to receive, and some to do. So also in this case. For after having made promises innumerable, He demands also something from them, saying, "a new commandment I give unto you."( John xiii. 34 .) Again, a testament ought to have witnesses. Hear Him again saying, "I am one that bear witness of Myself, and He that sent Me bears witness of Me."( John viii. 18 .) And again, "He shall testify of Me"( John xv. 26 ), speaking of the Comforter. The twelve Apostles too He sent, saying, "Bear ye witness before God."
[2.] "And for this cause"(he says) "He is the Mediator of the New Testament."What is a "Mediator"? A mediator is not lord of the thing of which he is mediator, but the thing belongs to one person, and the mediator is another: as for instance, the mediator of a marriage is not the bridegroom, but one who aids him who is about to be married. So then also here: The Son became Mediator between the Father and us. The Father willed not to leave us this inheritance, but was angry against us, and was displeased [with us] as being estranged [from Him]; He accordingly became Mediator between us and Him, and prevailed with Him.
And what then? How did He become Mediator? He brought words from [Him] and brought [them to us], conveying over what came from the Father to us, and adding His own death thereto. We had offended: we ought to have died: He died for us and made us worthy of the Testament. By this is the Testament secure, in that henceforward it is not made for the unworthy. At the beginning indeed, He made His dispositions as a father for sons; but after we had become unworthy, there was no longer need of a testament, but of punishment.
Why then (he would say) do you think upon the law? For it placed us in a condition of so great sin, that we could never have been saved, if our Lord had not died for us; the law would not have had power, for it is weak.
[3.] And he established this no longer from common custom only, but also from what happened under the old [Testament]: which especially influenced them. There was no one who died there: how then could that [Testament] be firm? In the same way (he says). How? For blood was there also, as there is blood here. And if it was not the blood of the Christ, do not be surprised; for it was a type. "Whereupon,"he says, "neither was the first [Testament] dedicated without blood."
What is "was dedicated"? was confirmed, was ratified. The word "whereupon" means "for this cause."It was needful that the symbol of the Testament should be also that of death.
For why (tell me) is the book of the testament sprinkled? (Ver. 19, 20) "For" (he says) "when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament, which God has enjoined unto you."Tell me then why is the book of the testament sprinkled, and also the people, except on account of the precious blood, figured from the first? Why "with hyssop"? It is close and retentive. And why the "water"? It shows forth also the cleansing by water. And why the "wool"? this also [was used], that the blood might be retained. In this place blood and water show forth the same thing, for baptism is His passion.
[4.] Ver. 21, 22 Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood, and without shedding of blood is no remission." Why the "almost"? why did he qualify it? Because those [ordinances] were not a perfect purification, nor a perfect remission, but half-complete and in a very small degree. But in this case He says, "This is the blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you, for the remission of sins." ( Matt. xxvi. 28 .)
Read the rest here