Selections from Athanasius, Festal Letter 20

For Monday of Lent Week 3

1 Let us now keep the feast, my brethren, for as our Lord then gave notice to His disciples, so He now tells us beforehand, that “after some days is the Passover,” in which the Jews indeed betrayed the Lord, but we celebrate His death as a feast, rejoicing because we then obtained rest from our afflictions. We are diligent in assembling ourselves together, for we were scattered in time past and were lost, and are found. We were far off, and are brought near, we were strangers, and have become His, Who suffered for us, and was nailed on the cross, Who bore our sins, as the prophet says, and was afflicted for us, that He might put away from all of us grief, and sorrow, and sighing. When we thirst, He satisfies us on the feast-day itself; standing and crying, “If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink.” For such is the love of the saints at all times, that they never once leave off, but offer the uninterrupted, constant sacrifice to the Lord, and continually thirst, and ask of Him to drink; as David sang, “My God, my God, early will I seek You, my soul thirsts for You; many times my heart and flesh longs for You in a barren land, without a path, and without water. Thus was I seen by You in the sanctuary.” And Isaiah the prophet says, “From the night my spirit seeks You early, O God, because Your commandments are light.” And another says, “My soul faints for the longing it has for Your judgments at all times.” And again he says, “For Your judgments I have hoped, and Your law will I keep at all times.” Another boldly cries out, saying, “My eye is ever towards the Lord.” And with him one says, “The meditation of my heart is before You at all times.” And Paul further advises, “At all times give thanks; pray without ceasing.” Those who are thus continually engaged, are waiting entirely on the Lord, and say, “Let us follow on to know the Lord: we shall find Him ready as the morning, and He will come to us as the early and the latter rain for the earth.” For not only does He satisfy them in the morning; neither does He give them only as much to drink as they ask; but He gives them abundantly according to the multitude of His lovingkindness, vouchsafing to them at all times the grace of the Spirit. And what it is they thirst for He immediately adds, saying, “He that believes in Me.” For, “as cold waters are pleasant to those who are thirsty,” according to the proverb, so to those who believe in the Lord, the coming of the Spirit is better than all refreshment and delight.

2 It becomes us then in these days of the Passover, to rise early with the saints, and approach the Lord with all our soul, with purity of body, with confession and godly faith in Him; so that when we have here first drunk, and are filled with these divine waters which [flow] from Him, we may be able to sit at table with the saints in heaven, and may share in the one voice of gladness which is there.

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