Saint Athanasius (295-373), Bishop of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church
24th Festal letter for Easter
"A deserted place by himself"
Each of the saints had to flee the « broad and spacious way » (Mt 7,13) to dwell alone, apart, and there live a virtuous life: Elijah, Elisha…, Jacob… Solitude and the forsaking of life’s tumult gains a man the friendship of God. Thus Abraham, when he left the land of the Chaldeans, was called “the friend of God” (Jas 2,23). The great Moses, too, when he left the land of Egypt… spoke with God face to face, was saved from the hands of his enemies and crossed the desert. All these are an image of our departure from shadows to wonderful light and of our ascending to the city that is in heaven (Hb 11,16), the prefiguration of true happiness and everlasting joy.
Whereas we have with us the reality announced by shadows and symbols, I mean the Father’s own image, our Lord Jesus Christ (Col 2,17; 1,15). If we always receive him as our food and mark the doors of our souls with his blood, we shall be freed from Pharaoh’s labors and from his overseers (Ex 12,7; 5,6f.)… Now we have found the road to pass from earth to heaven… In former times the Lord went before the children of Israel in a pillar of fire and a cloud; but now he calls us to himself, saying: “If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink; from whoever believes in me will flow rivers of living water springing up to eternal life” (Jn 7,37f.).
Therefore let everyone prepare themselves with ardent desire to go to this feast : let them listen to the Savior calling since it is he who comforts us all and each one in particular. Let anyone who is hungry come to him: he is the true bread (Jn 6,32). Let anyone who is thirsty come to him: he is the fountain of living water (Jn 4,10). Let the sick person come to him: he is the Word of God who heals the sick. If anyone is bowed down by the burden of sin and repents, let him take refuge at his feet: he is rest and the harbour of salvation. Let the sinner have confidence for he has said: “Come to me, you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest” (Mt 11,28).