Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the
old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without
yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. (I Corinthians 5:8)
the Feast of Unleavened Bread following the Passover symbolized living
the Christian life in dedication and service to God. How does this
apply to us today? Living the Christian life in this context means
allowing the Lord Jesus Christ to be Lord of every area of our life. We
are expressly told in I Corinthians 5:8 to continue celebrating the
holiness of life in dedication to God.
Holy dedication means
avoiding such sins as malice and wickedness. Faith should express
itself in obedience. Service should accompany our believing and
thinking. Sincerity and truth are the nourishments on which the
faithful believer will be sustained.
As the Lord Jesus Christ
our Passover was sacrificed for us, we should continue to offer
ourselves as living sacrifices unto Him. St. Paul in his letter to the
Romans said, "Therefore, I urge you brothers in view of God's
mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to
God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to
the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your
mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-the
good, pleasing, and perfect will" (Romans 12:1,2).
Ante-Nicene Fathers wrote about the continual offering of spiritual
sacrifices. Athenagorus, a second century apologist and prior Greek
philosopher (c.175) said, "The noblest sacrifice to Him is for us to
know who stretched out and vaulted the Heavens and who fixed the earth
in its place Yet, indeed, it does behoove us to offer a bloodless
sacrifice and "the service of our reason."
Carthage, North Africa (c. 197) said, "It is not earthly sacrifice, but
by spiritual, that offering is made unto God. Therefore we read 'Offer
to God a sacrifice of praise, and render to the Highest your vows.'
Thus, accordingly, the spiritual "sacrifices of praise" are pointed to."
Minucius Felix, a Roman lawyer who converted to Christianity (c.200)
said, "He who cultivates innocence, supplicates God. He who cultivates
justice, makes offerings to God. He who abstains from fraudulent
practices propitiates God. He who snatches man from danger, slaughters
the most acceptable victim. These are our sacrifices; these are our
rites of God's worship."
The Holy Book of I Peter 2:5 further
illustrates that it is essential the symbolism of the feast be kept at
all times in that believers derive their very life from the Lord Jesus
Christ and the "life-giving spirit:" "You also, like living stones are
being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering
spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
Eucharist is an important specific type of spiritual sacrifice. The
Eucharist is an ongoing continuance of the feast. The Didache tell us,
"But every Lord's Day, gather yourselves together, and break bread, and
give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your
sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his
fellow man come together with you, until they are reconciled, so that
your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is the thing that was
spoken of by the Lord, "In every place and time offer to me a pure
sacrifice; for I am a great King, and My name is wonderful among the
Irenaeus (c. 180) a bishop of the Church at Lyons,
states of the necessity of the spiritual sacrifice, "Therefore
sacrifices do not sanctify a man. For God does not stand in need of
sacrifices. Instead, it is the conscience of the offerer that
sanctifies the sacrifice when it is pure. This moves God to accept it
as from a friend It behooves us to make an oblation to God and in all
things to be found grateful to God our Maker. We should do this in a
pure mind, in faith without hypocrisy, in well-grounded hope, in
fervent love, offering to Him the first-fruits of His own created
things. And the Church alone offers this pure oblation to the Creator."
the Holy Great Fast, the Holy Week, and the Glorious Resurrection we
must continue to keep the feast. We must offer our lives as living
sacrifices unto the Lord. We must hear and pay heed to the Holy
Scriptures. We must open our heart to hear and apply the Biblical
truths to our lives. Life for the Lord Jesus Christ should be like
fertile soil. Keeping the feast does not mean, "Will I be fruitful?"
but "Just how fruitful can I become?"
May we all continue to endeavor to be holy and acceptable unto the Lord Jesus Christ.
H.G. Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States