Commentary of the Day

"Prepare the way of the Lord"
by Saint Cyril of Alexandria (380-444), Bishop, Doctor of the Church

“Let the desert and the parched land exult! Let the arid ground rejoice and bloom. Let it bloom with abundant flowers” (Is 35:1). What the inspired Scriptures usually call 'desert' and 'waste' is the Church of the pagans. She already existed in former times among the peoples but had not received her mystical Spouse from heaven, I mean the Christ (...) Christ came to her, however. Captivated by her faith, he enriched her from the divine river that streams from him – streams because it is the “fountain of life, stream of delight” (Ps 36[35]:10.9) (...) At his presence the Church ceased to be parched and arid; she encountered her Spouse, brought into the world countless children and was adorned with mystical flowers. (...)

Isaiah continues: “A pure way will be there, called the holy way” (v. 8). This pure way is the power of the Gospel entering into our lives or, to put it another way, the purifying power of the Spirit. For the Spirit removes the stain imprinted on the human soul, delivers us from our sins and enables us to rise above our uncleanness. Thus this road is very rightly described as holy and pure for it cannot be reached by anyone who has not been purified. Indeed no one is able to live according to the Gospel who has not first been purified by holy baptism, no one, therefore can do so without faith. (...)

Only those delivered from the devil's tyranny can lead the glorious life the prophet describes with these images: “No lion will be there nor beast of prey” (v. 9) on that pure way. Indeed, in former times such fierce beasts as is the devil, that inventor of sin, used to attack earth's inhabitants together with the evil spirits. But he was crushed by Christ, driven far away from the flock of believers and stripped of the dominion he used to wield over them. That is why, redeemed by Christ and brought together in faith they will walk united in heart along this pure way (v. 9). Forsaking their former ways “they will return to Zion”, that is the Church, “with everlasting joy” (v. 10) that has no end whether on earth or in heaven, and they will glorify God their Savior.

From: On Isaiah, III, 3