The Sixth Sunday of the Resurrection
All who call upon his name will boast
In the Lord is the boast of my soul
Whoever boasts should boast in the Lord
As for me, I have no boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ
We have gained an unending boast against death in the Cross of Christ, and in his Resurrection from among the dead, for by his suffering, he uprooted the sentence upon us. In great, unending glory, then, we all cry out and say: Only-Begotten God the Word, who assumed our mortal body, have pity, O Lord, on your servants, who confess in your Cross!
The devil’s goal of forming our souls in his image is always accomplished through the sin of pride. Satan, in his extreme arrogance, refused to serve God and through this proud refusal fell from grace. In tempting us to do the same, he sometimes seems to “throw light” on certain aspects of our souls that we are proud of. But this is only an illusion; the devil is not a creature of light, but of darkness; he does not tell the truth, but is the father of lies. So what may appear to us as throwing light on our “good side,” is in fact only a darkening of other things within us. The devil uses shadows to hide our sinfulness from us in order to let it grow, and uses distractions to make us forget our utter dependence upon God in order to plant the seed of pride. Thus the vice of bragging is doubly dark, because it covers up our sinfulness and ignores our weakness.
St. Paul, always a bold thinker, was weary of the boasting of those who pretended to follow the Law of Moses. He warns the Galatians that “It is those who want to make a good appearance in the flesh who are trying to compel you to have yourselves circumcised only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those having themselves circumcised observe the law themselves; they only want you to be circumcised so that they may boast of your flesh.” (Galatians 6:12-13) The debate going on in St. Paul’s time regarding the Christian observance of the Mosaic Law became a cause for pride for many, which in turn made the debate all the more heated. It became no longer a question of truth or justice, but of “my side” winning. But Paul snuffs his own pride on this question and returns the debate to the right arena: “But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation.” (Galatians 6:14-15)
The Greatest Debate
Deeper than the argument between the first Faithful regarding the Law of Moses is that between humanity and the two criminal partners, Death and Sin. Adam had given in to Sin and become its slave, and Sin in turn sold him over to Death, and all of us with him. But Christ ransomed us from them and made us freemen and sons, and slaves no more. Such a difference in status between the first Adam and the second: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
The final Basilica Hymn of the Easter Season, summarizing in one sublime expression all the joy of the Resurrection, brings all of this together:
We have gained an unending boast against death in the cross of Christ, and in his resurrection from among the dead, for by his suffering, he ended the sentence that was upon us. In great, unending praise, then, we all cry out and say: Only-Begotten God the Word, who assumed our mortal body, have pity, O Lord, on your servants, who confess in your Cross!
It is therefore with real confidence that we brag with St. Paul, who quotes the prophet Hosea: “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 55)