Let us render Him thanks while we persevere in piety

BRETHREN, I would remind you in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast – unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.

From today’s Gospel reading, 1 Cor 15:1-11.

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An Orthodox lady venerating the Cross

“And how can we more abide in piety than when we acknowledge God, Who in His love to mankind has bestowed on us such benefits?”

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Following St Cyril of Alexandria’s remarks on “receiving the cup of salvation” posted yesterday, here is St Athanasius (his forebear in the See) saying much the same thing.

In a Paschal letter in AD 333, St Athanasius asked what we can do to make some kind of return for Christ’s death and resurrection.

WHEREFORE, one of the saints, while he acknowledged the grace, but was insufficient to repay it, said, ‘What shall I render unto the Lord for all He has done unto me (Ps 115[116]:12)?’

For instead of death he had received life, instead of bondage, freedom, and instead of the grave, the kingdom of heaven.

For of old time, ‘death reigned from Adam to Moses’ (Rom 5:14); but now the divine voice hath said, ‘To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise’ (Lk 23:43).

And the saints, being sensible of this, said, ‘Except the Lord had helped me, my soul had almost dwelt in hell’ (Ps 113[114]:17).

Besides all this, being powerless to make a return, he yet acknowledged the gift, and wrote finally, saying, ‘I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord; precious in His sight is the death of His saints’ (Ps 115[116]:13, 15).

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“I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord. Alleluia.”
Maxim Berezovsky (1745-77)

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St Athanasius goes on to show that “taking the cup of salvation”, as well as to receive holy communion – “to draw near to the divine Lamb, and to touch heavenly food” as he describes it – is also to die to the world through humility and obedience, mortifying the passions of the flesh.

WITH regard to the cup, the Lord said, ‘Are ye able to drink of that cup which I am about to drink of?’

And when the disciples assented, the Lord said, ‘Ye shall indeed drink of My cup; but that ye should sit on My right hand, and on My left, is not Mine to give; but to those for whom it is prepared’ (Mt 20:22, 23).

Therefore, my beloved, let us be sensible of the gift, though we are found insufficient to repay it. As we have ability, let us meet the occasion.

For although nature is not able, with things unworthy of the Word, to return a recompense for such benefits, yet let us render Him thanks while we persevere in piety.

And how can we more abide in piety than when we acknowledge God, Who in His love to mankind has bestowed on us such benefits?

(For thus we shall obediently keep the law, and observe its commandments. And, further, we shall not, as unthankful persons, be accounted transgressors of the law, or do those things which ought to be hated, for the Lord loveth the thankful);

when too we offer ourselves to the Lord, like the saints, when we subscribe ourselves entirely [as] living henceforth not to ourselves, but to the Lord Who died for us, as also the blessed Paul did, when he said, ‘I am crucified with Christ, yet I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Gal 2:20).

St Athanasius of Alexandria, Letter V.3 (Source).

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