ADVENT readings from the early church fathers:

A Voice Crying in the Wilderness
from the Commentary on Isaiah by Eusebius of Caesarea, 260-340 A.D.

‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God’.  This makes clear that the events spoken of in the prophecy are to take place not in Jerusalem, but in the wilderness.  By this is meant that the glory of the Lord will appear, and the salvation of God will be made known to all flesh.

This prophecy was fulfilled historically and literally, when John the Baptist preached the saving advent of God, in the wilderness by the Jordan, where the salvation of God was in fact seen.  For Christ and his glory became known to all when, after he had been baptized, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit came down under the appearance of a dove, and rested upon him. This was the Father’s voice heard in testimony to the Son: ‘This is my Son, my Beloved; listen to him!’ .

These things were said because God was about to come to the wilderness which had been impenetrable and inaccessible for a whole age.  For all the nations were empty of the knowledge of God: access to them had been prohibited to all the men of God and the prophets.

That was why that voice ordered a way to be prepared for the Word of God, and the pathless and rugged wastelands leveled, so that at his coming, our God might find the road clear for his advance.  ‘Prepare the way of he Lord’: this is the Gospel preaching, the new consolation, the ardent desire that the salvation of god come to the knowledge of all men.

‘Get up to a high mountain, O herald of good tidings to Zion,
lift up your voice with strength, O herald of good tidings to Jerusalem’
These words fit in very well with the meaning of our first quotation.  They make an appropriate reference to the preachers of the Gospel, and announce the coming of God among men, after we have heard of the voice crying in the wilderness.  It is fitting that after the prophecy about John the Baptist, the preachers of good tidings be mentioned.

Who then is this Zion, except she who earlier was called Jerusalem?  For she too is a mountain, according to that passage of scripture, ‘The mountain of Zion, where you made your dwelling’, and the Apostle says, ‘You have come to Mount Zion’.  Does this perhaps refer to the band of apostles, chosen from among the former people of the circumcision?

This Zion and Jerusalem is she who receives the salvation of God.  She herself is placed on high on the mountain of God, that is on his Only-begotten Word.  To her he gives the command to get up on a high mountain, and preach the word of salvation.  But who preaches the good tidings, if not the band of those who make the Gospel known?  And what is meant by making the Gospel known?  Preaching to all mankind the coming of Christ on earth, and preaching it first to the cities of Judah.

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(c) 1999, 2000 Don Schwager