5 April 2007

Hebdomada Sancta III

[Taken from Athanasius Contra Mundum]
Every deed of Christ is a cause of glorying to the Catholic Church, but her greatest of all glorying is in the Cross; and knowing this, Paul says, But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of Christ (Galatians VI:14) . For wondrous indeed it was, that one who was blind from his birth should receive sight in Siloam; but what is this compared with the blind of the whole world? A great thing it was, and passing nature, for Lazarus to rise again on the fourth day; but the grace extended to him alone, and what was it compared with the dead in sins throughout the world? Marvelous it was, that five loaves should pour forth food for the five thousand; but what is that to those who are famishing in ignorance through all the world? It was marvelous that she should have been loosed who had been bound by Satan eighteen years: yet what is this to all of us, who were fast bound in the chains of our sins? But the glory of the Cross led those who were blind through ignorance into light, loosed all who were held fast by sin, and ransomed the whole world of mankind. And wonder not that the whole world was ransomed; for it was no mere man, but the only-begotten Son of God, who died on its behalf. Moreover one man's sin, even Adam's, had power to bring death to the world; but if by the trespass of the one death reigned over the world, how shall not life much rather reign by the righteousness of the One (Romans V:17-18) ? And if because of the tree of food they were then cast out of paradise, shall not believers now more easily enter into paradise because of the Tree of Jesus? If the first man formed out of the earth brought in universal death, shall not He who formed him out of the earth bring in eternal life, being Himself the Life? If Phineas, when he waxed zealous and slew the evil-doer, staved the wrath of God, shall not Jesus, who slew not another, but gave up Himself for a ransom (I Timothy II:6) , put away the wrath which is against mankind? Let us then not be ashamed of the Cross of our Saviour, but rather glory in it.

For the word of the Cross is unto Jews a stumbling-block, and unto Gentiles foolishness, but to us salvation: and to them that are perishing it is foolishness, but unto us which are being saved it is the power of God. For it was not a mere man who died for us, as I said before, but the Son of God, God made man. Further; if the lamb under Moses drove the destroyer (Exodus XII:23) far away, did not much rather the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world (John I:29) , deliver us from our sins? The blood of a silly sheep gave salvation; and shall not the Blood of the Only-begotten much rather save? If any disbelieve the power of the Crucified, let him ask the devils; if any believe not words, let him believe what he sees. Many have been crucified throughout the world, but by none of these are the devils scared; but when they see even the Sign of the Cross of Christ, who was crucified for us, they shudder. For those men died for their own sins, but Christ for the sins of others; for He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. It is not Peter who says this, for then we might suspect that he was partial to his Teacher; but it is Isaias who says it, who was not indeed present with Him in the flesh, but in the Spirit foresaw His coming in the flesh. Yet why now bring the Prophet only as a witness? take for a witness Pilate himself, who gave sentence upon Him, saying, I find no fault in this Man (Luke XXIII:14) : and when he gave Him up, and had washed his hands, he said, I am innocent of the blood of this just person (Matthew XXVII:24) . There is yet another witness of the sinlessness of Jesus,—the robber, the first man admitted into Paradise; who rebuked his fellow, and said, "We receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing amiss; for we were present, both thou and I, at His judgment." 4. Jesus then really suffered for all men; for the Cross was no illusion, otherwise our redemption is an illusion also. His death was not a mere show, for then is our salvation also fabulous. If His death was but a show, they were true who said, We remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, After three days I rise again (Matthew XXVII:63) .

His Passion then was real: for He was really crucified, and we are not ashamed thereat; He was crucified, and we deny it not, nay, I rather glory to speak of it. For though I should now deny it, here is Golgotha to confute me, near which we are now assembled; the wood of the Cross confutes me, which was afterwards distributed piecemeal from hence to all the world. I confess the Cross, because I know of the Resurrection; for if, after being crucified, He had remained as He was, I had not perchance confessed it, for I might have concealed both it and my Master; but now that the Resurrection has followed the Cross, I am not ashamed to declare it.

-St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical lectures

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