St. Gregory of Nazianzus’s First Easter Homily

April 12, 2023
Source: District of the USA
Agnus Dei c. 1635–1640, by Francisco de Zurbarán

The following homily was delivered by St. Gregory Nazianzus (also known as “Gregory the Theologian” in the Christian East) in 362 AD. Ordained the prior year, St. Gregory left home for a time to live as a hermit with his friend St. Basil the Great before returning to his hometown of Nazianzus to assist his father in quelling divisions within the local Christian community.

It is the Day of Resurrection and the beginning of my ministry. Let us then keep the Festival with splendor, and let us embrace one another. Let us say “Brethren” even to those who hate us; much more to those who have done or suffered aught out of love for us. Let us forgive all offences for the Resurrection’s sake: let us give one another pardon . . .; that He Who today rose again from the dead may renew us also by His Spirit; and clothing us with the New Man, may give me to His New Creation, to those who are begotten after God, as a good modeler and teacher for Christ, willingly both dying with Him and rising again with Him.

Yesterday the Lamb was slain and the door posts were anointed, and Egypt bewailed her firstborn, and the Destroyer passed up over, and the Seal was dreadful and reverend, and we were walled in with the Precious Blood. Today we have clean escaped from Egypt and from Pharaoh; and there is none to hinder us from keeping a Feast to the Lord our God—the Feast of our Departure; or from celebrating that Feast, not in the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth,4 and carrying with us nothing of ungodly and Egyptian leaven.

Yesterday I was crucified with Him; yesterday I died with Him; today I am quickened with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him; today I rise with Him. But let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us—you will think perhaps I am going to say gold, or silver, or woven work or transparent and costly stones, the mere passing material of earth, that remains here below, and is for the most part always possessed by bad men, slaves of the world and of the prince of the world. Let us offer ourselves, the possession most precious to God, and most fitting; let us give back to the Image what is made after the Image. Let us recognize our Dignity; let us honor our Archetype; let us know the power of the Mystery, and for what Christ died.

Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us. Let us become God’s for His sake, since He for our sake became Man. He assumed the worse that He might give us the better; He became poor that we through His poverty might be rich, He took upon Him the form of a servant that we might receive back our liberty; He came down that we might be exalted; He was tempted that we might conquer; He was dishonored that He might glorify us; He died that He might save us; He ascended that He might draw to Himself we who were lying low in the Fall of sin. Let us give all, offer all, to Him Who gave Himself a Ransom and a Reconciliation for us. But one can give nothing like oneself, understanding the Mystery and becoming for His sake all that He became for ours.

Christ is risen!

Truly He is risen!