Thoughts from the Early Church

Commentary by Origen

Prepare a way for the Lord. (Mk 1:3)

Let us examine the scriptural texts foretelling the coming of Christ. One such prophecy begins with a reference to John the Baptist: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.” What follows, however, applies directly to our Lord and Savior, since it is by Jesus rather than by John that “every valley has been filled in.

You have only to recall the kind of people you were before you put your faith in the Lord to see yourselves as deep valleys, as pits plunging precipitously into the lowest depths. But now that the Lord Jesus has come and has sent the Holy Spirit in his name, all your valleys have been filled in with good works and the Holy Spirit’s fruits.

Love no longer tolerates the presence of valleys in your lives; if peace, patience, and goodness find a home in you, not only will each of you cease to be a valley but you will actually begin to be a mountain of God.

Among the pagans we daily see this prophetic filling of every valley realized, just as among the people of Israel, now deprived of their former privileged status, we see the overthrowing of every mountain and hill. But “because of their offense, salvation has come to the pagans, to stir Israel to emulation.”

If you prefer you can visualize these fallen mountains and hills as the hostile powers that formerly raised themselves up in opposition to the human race. Such an interpretation is legitimate because, in order to fill in the kind of valleys we have been speaking of, the enemy powers—the mountains and hills—must be laid low.

Now let us turn to that part of the prophecy which also concerns the coming of Christ and see whether this too has been fulfilled. The text continues: “Every crooked way shall be straightened.” Each one of us was once crooked; if we are no longer so, it is entirely due to the grace of Christ. Through his coming to our souls all our crooked ways have been straightened out.

If Christ did not come to your soul, of what use would his historical coming in the flesh be to you? Let us pray that each day we may experience his coming and be able to say: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

Jesus my Lord has come, then. He has smoothed out your rough places and changed your disorderly ways into level paths, making in you an even unimpeded road, a road that is absolutely clear, so that God the Father may walk in you and Christ the Lord make his dwelling in you and say: “My Father and I will come and make our home in them.”

Homily on Luke’s Gospel 22, 1-4: SC 67, 300-02

Origen (183-253), one of the greatest thinkers of ancient times, became head of the catechetical school of Alexandria at the age of eighteen. In 230 he was ordained priest by the bishop of Caesarea. His life was entirely devoted to the study of Scripture and he was also a great master of the spiritual life. His book On First Principles was the first great theological synthesis. Many of his works are extant only in Latin as a result of his posthumous condemnation for heterodox teaching. Nevertheless, in intention he was always a loyal son of the Church.
 

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson