You gave us life in the beginning; give us new life

From a sermon by Saint Athanasius, bishop

You gave us life in the beginning; give us new life

God, the Word of the all-good Father, did not disregard the human race, his own creation, when it was sinking back into corruption, but rather by the offering of his own body he destroyed the death men had incurred, and by his teaching he corrected their negligence. So he restored by his power all that belongs to man’s estate.

Anyone can find confirmation of this from the Savior’s own disciples who spoke of him, for in their writings one reads: The charity of Christ constrains us as we judge that if one died on behalf of all, then all died; and he died for all in order that we may live no longer for ourselves but for him who died for us and rose from the dead, our Lord Jesus Christ. And again: We see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, that by God’s grace he might taste death for everyone. Then the writer goes on to show why it had to be God the Word and no other who became man: Indeed it was fitting that in bringing many sons to glory, God, for whom and through whom all things exist, should make perfect the one who leads them to salvation. By this he means that the task of bringing men back from the corruption into which they had fallen belonged to no other save God the Word who had made them in the beginning. Further, Scripture shows that the Word assumed a body for the purpose of offering it in sacrifice on behalf of other bodies like his own, for the writer continues: Since the children have blood and flesh in common, he likewise shared in them himself so that by his own death he might destroy the one who had power over death, that is, the devil, and might deliver those who all their life long were enslaved by fear of death.

For by the sacrifice of his own body he both put an end to the law that stood against us and made a new beginning of life for us by giving us the hope of resurrection. Hence Paul, the Christ-bearer, declares: As through a man came death, so through a man has come the resurrection of the dead. For as all died in Adam, so also in Christ all shall be made to live.

No longer, then, do we die as men condemned, but as men being raised even now, we await the general resurrection of all, which God, whose work and gift it is, will reveal at the appointed time.

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