As with any great event in our lives, there are some preparations which may be done at a more remote time, and some which can only be done more proximately. Our preparations for the Passover of the Lamb of God are no different. Before Lent, we began to pack our bags for our forty day journey, discarding those things that would only weigh us down on our pilgrimage and packing the essentials to ensure the success of our trip. But now, the goal of our journey is fast approaching, and a more proximate preparation must be made.
It must have been about this time that the faithful Jews began to leave their worldly homes to make their way to the spiritual home, Jerusalem, where all would gather each year for the great festal days of Passover. In like manner, let us lift up our eyes and see the Holy City of Jerusalem set in wondrous array on the horizon of our Lenten Journey. Let us see the Cross of Christ being set up, and the empty tomb being made ready for the entombment of the Savior. For today the Lamb of God makes his way to the Passover, wherein he will pass mankind over from death to life, from slavery to freedom, from the tomb to Paradise. As has been our custom during this Lenten season, let us once again turn to the wisdom of the Church, and sitting at the feet of Saint Gregory Nazianzen, let us continue our preparations for the Passover of God.
We are soon going to share in the Passover . . . prescribed by the law, not in a literal way, but according to the teaching of the Gospel; not in an imperfect way, but perfectly; not only for a time, but eternally. Let us regard as our home the heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly one; the city glorified by angels, not the one laid waste by armies. We are not required to sacrifice bulls or rams, beasts with horns and hoofs that are more dead than alive and devoid of feeling; but instead, let us join the choirs of angels in offering God, upon his heavenly altar, a sacrifice of praise. We must now pass through the first veil and approach the second, turning our eyes toward the Holy of Holies. I will say more: we must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything we do, accepting all that happens to us for the sake of the Word, imitating his passion by our sufferings, and honoring his blood by shedding our own. We must be ready to be crucified.
If you are a Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Christ. If you are crucified beside him like one of the thieves, now, like the good thief, acknowledge your God. For your sake, and because of your sin, Christ himself was regarded as a sinner; for his sake, therefore, you must cease to sin. Worship him who was hung on the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself. Derive some benefit from the very shame; purchase salvation with your death. Enter paradise with Jesus, and discover how far you have fallen. Contemplate the glories there, and leave the other scoffing thief to die outside in his blasphemy.
If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to the one who ordered his crucifixion, and ask for Christ’s body. Make your own the expiation for the sins of the whole world. If you are a Nicodemus, like the man who worshipped God by night, bring spices and prepare Christ’s body for burial. If you are one of the Marys, or Salome, or Joanna, weep in the early morning. Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself.1
In this way, each one of us who has followed Christ during our Lenten journey will enter into the Passover of the Lamb. And having been crucified, having died, and having been buried with Christ, we will also rise with him on the glorious Paschal day.
(1Saint Gregory Nazianzen, Exerpt from a Lenten Homily)