The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Post 4: St Cyril on John 19:25-42 for Good Friday

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 16, 2011

See previous posts: Post 1. Post 2. Post 3.

25 But there were standing by the Cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

This also the inspired Evangelist mentions to our profit, showing herein also, that none of the words of Holy Writ fall to the ground. What do I mean by this? I will tell you. He represents, as standing by the Cross, His mother, and with her the rest, clearly weeping. For women are ever prone to tears, and very much inclined to lament, especially when they have abundant occasion for shedding tears. What, then, induced the blessed Evangelist to go so much into detail, as to make mention of the women as staying beside the Cross? His object was to teach us that, as was likely, the unexpected fate of our Lord was an offence unto His mother, and that His exceeding bitter death upon the Cross almost banished from her heart due reflection; and, besides the insults of the Jews, and the soldiers also, who probably stayed by the Cross and derided Him Who hung thereon, and who presumed, in His mother’s very sight, to divide His garments among themselves, had this effect. For, doubtless, some such train of thought as this passed through her mind: “I conceived Him That is mocked upon the Cross. He said, indeed, that He was the true Son of Almighty God, but it may be that He was deceived; He may have erred when He said: I am the Life. How did His crucifixion come to pass? and how was He entangled in the snares of His murderers? How |633 was it that He did not prevail over the conspiracy of His persecutors against Him? And why does He not come down from the Cross, though He bade Lazarus return to life, and struck all Judaea with amazement by His miracles?” The woman, as is likely, not exactly understanding the mystery, wandered astray into some such train of thought; for we shall do well to remember, that the character of these events was such as to awe and subdue the most sober mind. And no marvel if a woman fell into such an error, when even Peter himself, the elect of the holy disciples, was once offended, when Christ in plain words instructed him that He would be betrayed unto the hands of sinners, and would undergo crucifixion and death, so that he impetuously exclaimed: Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall never be unto Thee. What wonder, then, if a woman’s frail mind was also plunged into thoughts which betrayed weakness? And when we thus speak, we are not shooting at a venture, as some may suppose, but are led to suspect this by what is written concerning the mother of our Lord. For we remember that the righteous Simeon, when he received the infant Lord into his arms, after having blessed Him, and said: Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart, O Lord, according to Thy Word, in peace; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, he also said to the holy Virgin herself: Behold, this Child is set for the falling and rising up of many in Israel; and for a sign which is spoken against; yea, and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed. By a sword he meant the keen pang of suffering, which would divide the mind of the woman into strange thoughts; for temptations prove the hearts of those who are tempted, and leave them bare of the thoughts that filled them. |634

26, 27 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy Son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour the disciple took her unto his own home.

He took thought for His mother, paying no heed to His own bitter agony, for His sufferings affected Him not. He gave her into the charge of the beloved disciple (this was John, the writer of this book), and bade him take her home, and regard her as a mother; and enjoined His own mother to regard him as none other than her true son—-by his tenderness, that is, and affection, fulfilling and stepping into the place of Him, Who was her Son by nature.

But as some misguided men have thought that Christ, when He thus spake, gave way to mere fleshly affection —-away with such folly! to fall into so stupid an error is only worthy of a madman—-what good purpose, then, did Christ hereby fulfil? First, we reply, that He wished to confirm the command on which the Law lays so much stress. For what saith the Mosaic ordinance? Honour thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee. His commandment unto us did not cease with exhorting us to perform this duty, but threatened us with the extreme penalty of the Law, if we chose to disregard it, and has put sin against our parents after the flesh on a par with sin against God. For the Law which ordered that the blasphemer should undergo the sentence of death, saying: Let him that blasphemeth the Name of the Lord be put to death, also subjected to the same penalty the man who employs his licentious and unruly tongue against his parents: He that curseth father or mother shall surely be put to death. As, then, the Lawgiver hath ordained that we should pay such honour to our parents, surely it was right that the commandment thus proclaimed should be confirmed by the approval of the Saviour; and as the perfect form of every excellence and virtue through Him first came into the world, why should not this virtue be put on the same footing as the rest? For, surely, honour to parents is a |635 very precious kind of virtue. And how could we learn that we ought not to lightly regard love toward them,even when we are overwhelmed by a flood of intolerable calamities, save by the example of Christ first of all, and through Him? For best of all, surely, is he who is mindful of the holy commandments, and is not diverted from the pursuit of duty in stormy and troublous times, and not in peace and quietness alone.

Besides, also, was not the Lord, I say, right to take thought for His mother, when she had fallen on a rock of offence, and when her mind was in a turmoil of perplexity? For, as He was truly God, and looked into the motions of the heart, and knew its secrets, how could He fail to know the thoughts about His crucifixion, which were then throwing her into sore distress? Knowing, then, what was passing in her heart, He commended her to the disciple, the best of guides, who was able to explain fully and adequately the profound mystery. For wise and learned in the things of God was he who received and took her away gladly, to fulfil all the Saviour’s Will concerning her.

28, 29 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things are now finished, that the Scripture might be accomplished, said, I thirst. There was set there a vessel full of vinegar: so they put a sponge full of the vinegar upon hyssop, and brought it to His mouth.

When the iniquity of the Jews had fully wrought the impious crime against Christ, and when there was nothing left wanting to the perfect satisfaction of their savage cruelty, the flesh, at the last extremity, felt a natural craving, for it was parched by the various acts of outrage, and felt thirst. For pain is very apt to provoke thirst, spending the natural moisture of the body in excessive inward heat, and burning the inward parts with the pangs of inflammation. It would have been easy for the Word, the Almighty God, to have released His Flesh from this torment; but, just as He willingly underwent His other sufferings, so He bore this also |636 of His own Will. Then He sought to drink; but so pitiless and far removed from the love of God were they, that, instead of liquid to quench His thirst, they gave Him something to aggravate it, and, in rendering the very service of love, committed a further act of impiety. For, in acceding at all to His request, were they not assuming the appearance of affection? But it was impossible that the inspired Scripture should ever lie, which put into the mouth of the Saviour these words concerning them: They gave Me gall to eat, and when I was athirst, they gave Me vinegar to drink.

The blessed Evangelist John says that they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it on hyssop, and so brought it. Luke makes no mention of anything of the kind, but merely declares that they brought Him vinegar. Matthew and Mark say that the sponge was put on a reed. Some may perhaps think there is a discrepancy in the accounts of the holy Evangelists; but no one who is right-minded will be so persuaded. We must rather try to search, and see by every means in our power, in what way the act of impiety was effected. The inspired Luke, then, disregarding the way in which the vinegar was brought, says, in brief, that vinegar was brought to Him when He was athirst. And there can be no question, that the Evangelists would not have disagreed with each other in these trifling and unimportant details, when, in all essential matters, they are in such perfect harmony and concord. What, then, is the difference between them? and of what treatment is it susceptible? There is no doubt, that the officers who executed the impious crime against Christ were many in number, I mean the soldiers who brought Him to the Cross; several also of the Jews shared in their cruelty, some putting the sponge on a reed, others on a stick of what is called hyssop—-for the hyssop is a kind of shrub—-and gave Jesus to drink of it; doing this, purblind wretches that they were, to their own condemnation. For, unawares, they were proving themselves utterly |637 undeserv-ing of compassion, when they thus altogether discarded mercy and humanity, and with unparalleled audacity vied with each other in impiety alone. Therefore, by the mouth of the Prophet Ezekiel, God thus spake unto the mother of the Jews, I mean Jerusalem: As thou hast done, so shall it be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head; and by the mouth of Isaiah, to lawless Israel: Woe unto the wicked! It shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him. This completed the measure of all the crimes that had been committed against Christ; but here, too, we may find a lesson to our profit. For hereby we may know that those who are of a God-loving temper, and who are firmly rooted in the love of Christ, shall wage, as it were, a ceaseless war with those who are of a different spirit; who will not, even to their latest breath, desist from raging against them, preparing for them severe temptations from every quarter, and eagerly devising every sort of thing that may hurt them. But, just as the wicked cease not from troubling them, so also shall their courage be continually sustained; and just as their trials, and the tribulation of temptation, have no abatement, so also the blessedness of the Saints shall have no end, and the joy of their state of glory shall remain for evermore, and world without end.

30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His Head, and gave up His Spirit.

When this indignity had been added to the rest, the Saviour exclaimed, It is finished; meaning that the measure of the iniquity of the Jews, and of their furious rage against Him, was completed. For what had the Jews left untried, and what extremity of atrocity had they not practised against Him? For what kind of insult was omitted, and what crowning act of outrage do they seem to have left undone? Therefore rightly did He exclaim, It is finished, the hour already summoning Him to preach to the spirits in hell. For He |638 visited them, that He might be Lord both of the living and the dead; and for our sake encountered death itself, and underwent the common lot of all humanity, that is, according to the flesh, though being as God by Nature Life, that He might despoil hell, and render return to life possible to human nature; being thus proved the firstfruits of them that are asleep, and the firstborn from the dead, according to the Scriptures. He bowed His head, therefore; for as this generally befalls the dying, through the slackening of the sinews of the flesh, when the spirit or soul that united and sustained it is fled, the Evangelist made use of this expression. The expression also, He gave up His Spirit, does not differ from language usually employed, for the vulgar use it as equivalent to “his life was extinguished, and he died.” But it is probable that it was of set purpose, and advisedly, that the holy Evangelist, instead of saying simply, He died, said, He gave up His Spirit; gave it up, that is, into the hands of God the Father, according to the saying that He spake: Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit; and for us, also, the meaning of the expression lays down a beginning and foundation of firm hope. For, I think, we ought to believe, and for this belief there is much ground, that the souls of Saints, when they quit their earthly bodies, are, by the bountiful mercy of God, almost, as it were, consigned into the hands of a most loving Father, and do not, as some infidels have pretended, haunt their sepulchres, waiting for funeral libations; nor yet are they, like the souls of sinful men, conveyed to the place of endless torment, that is, to hell. Rather, do they hasten into the hands of the Father of all, by the new way which our Saviour Christ has prepared for us; for He consigned His Soul into the hands of His Father, that we also, making it our anchor, and being firmly rooted and grounded in this belief, might entertain the bright hope that when we undergo the death of the body, we shall be in God’s hands; yea, in a far better condition than when we |639 were in the flesh. Therefore, also, the wise Paul assures us that it is better to depart, and be with Christ.

And when He gave up the ghost, the veil of the temple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom. The veil of the temple was of fine linen, let down to the floor of the centre of the temple, and shrouding the inner portion thereof, and allowing only the high priest to enter into the innermost shrine. For it was not in the power of any one at will to penetrate into the interior with unwashen feet, and carelessly to gaze upon the Holy of holies. How very necessary it was that this curtain should make this division, Paul shows us by his words in the Epistle to the Hebrews: For there was a tabernacle prepared; the first, which is called the Holy place. And after the second veil, the tabernacle, which is called the Holy of holies, having a golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot holding the manna, and the tables of the covenant, and Aaron’s rod that budded. But into the first tabernacle, he says, the priests go in, accomplishing the services; but into the second, the high priest alone, once in the year, not without blood, which he offereth for himself, and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the Holy place hath not yet been made manifest, while as the first tabernacle is yet standing. For there can be no question, that a veil was let down at the very entrance of the temple. And so there came into his mind the first tabernacle, which he called holy; for no one could affirm that any part of the temple was not holy, or, if he did so, he would lie, for it was all holy. And after the first tabernacle came the veil which was betwixt, which is the second veil, separating the innermost portion, that is, the Holy of holies. But, as the blessed Paul said, the Spirit signified, by figures and types, that the more fitting way in which the Saints should tread had not yet been made manifest; for the people were still kept at a distance, and the |640 first tabernacle was yet standing. For there had not, as yet, in fact, appeared unto men the manner of the life that Christ gave unto those who were called by the Spirit unto sanctification; and not yet had the mystery concerning Him been made manifest, for the written commandment of the Law was still in force. Therefore, also, the Law placed the Jews in the outer court. For the dispensation of the Law was, as it were, a porch and vestibule leading unto the teaching and life of the Gospel. For the one is but a type, the other is the truth itself. The first tabernacle was, indeed, holy, for the Law is holy, and the commandment righteous and good; but the innermost portion of the temple was the Holy of holies, for though the men who partook of the righteousness of the Law were holy, they became yet holier when they accepted the faith that is in Christ, and were anointed with the Holy Spirit of God. The righteousness of faith, therefore, is greater than the righteousness of the Law; and by faith we are far more abundantly sanctified. Therefore, also, the wise Paul says, that he gladly and readily endured the loss of the righteousness that is of the Law, that he might gain Christ, and might be found in Him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the Law, but that which is through faith in Jesus Christ. And some fell backwards, and, after running well for a time, were bewitched; and the Galatians were of this class: after pursuing the righteousness which is of faith, turning back to the commandment of the Law, and recurring to the state of life shadowed forth by types and figures; and to these Paul administered the well-merited reproof: If ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the Law; ye are fallen away from grace. But (to bring our explanation of the passage to a good and proper conclusion) we will simply repeat, that the veil of the temple was rent in twain, from the top to the |641 bottom; to signify, as it were, that God was in the very act of revealing the Holy of holies, and making the way into the inmost shrine open henceforth to those who believe on Christ. For the knowledge of the Divine mysteries is now laid bare before us; no longer shrouded in the obscurity of the letter of the Law, as it were a curtain, nor hidden by any covering from our quest, nor defended against the intrusion of the eye of the mind by types through which we could see but dimly. Rather are these mysteries now seen in simplicity of faith; yea, but few words suffice to explain them. For the word is nigh thee, says Paul, in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach: because, if thou shalt say with thy mouth, Jesus is Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Herein is seen in its completeness the mystery of piety towards God. But, while Christ had not as yet waged the conflict for our salvation, nor undergone the death of the flesh, the veil was still spread out, for the power of the commandment of the Law still prevailed. But when the iniquitous Jews, in their presumption, had wreaked to the utmost their malice upon Christ, and He had given up the ghost for our sake, and the sufferings of Emmanuel were accomplished, the time had then come that the broad veil, that had so long been spread out, should from henceforth be rent asunder—-that is, the protection of the letter of the Law—-and that the fair vision of the truth should lie bare and open before those who had been sanctified in Christ by faith. The veil was torn throughout; for what other meaning can be put upon the words: From the top to the bottom? And why was this? It was because the revelation of the message of salvation was not partial, but our enlightenment concerning the Divine mysteries was |642 perfected thereby. Therefore, also, the Psalmist said unto God, in the person of His new people: The hidden secrets of Thy wisdom hast Thou, revealed unto me; and, furthermore, the inspired Paul thus addresses believers on Christ: I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace which was given you in Christ Jesus; that in every thing ye were enriched in Him, in all utterance, and all wisdom, and all knowledge. The rending of the veil, then, not in part, but entirely throughout, signified then, that the worshippers of the Saviour were about to be enriched in all wisdom, and in all knowledge, and in all utterance, manifestly receiving the knowledge of the mystery concerning Him, undefiled and unclouded by blot or shadow. For this is what is meant by the words: From the top to the bottom. We say, then, that the most appropriate and fitting time for the revelation of the Divine mysteries was the occasion on which the Saviour laid down His life for us, when Israel spurned His grace, and wholly started aside from the love of God, in his frenzy against Him, and headstrong impiety. For any one may see that the measure of their iniquities was complete, when he learns that they persecuted, even unto death, the Giver of Life.

I think, therefore, that we have said enough on this subject, and that our explanation of the Divine purpose does not fall short of the mark. But, as we find the inspired Evangelist is very diligent to say: When He gave up the ghost, the veil of the temple was rent, thereby almost signifying as essential for us to know the occasion of that event, let us supplement our remarks by a further consideration, which savours, I think, of the spirit of pious research. For it is a thought which will be found in no way abhorrent to those fundamental doctrines, which are at once a blessing and a necessity to us. To proceed, then: the following custom was in vogue, both among the people and the rulers of the Jews. When they saw anything being done which they thought would especially offend the |643 Giver of the Law, or when they heard any outrageous or blasphemous utterance, they tore their garments, and put on the appearance of mourners; thereby, in a manner, taking up the defence of God, and by the intolerance they displayed of such offences, passing sentence of condemnation on the madness of the transgressors, and acquitting themselves of complicity therein. Moreover, the disciples of the Saviour, Barnabas and Paul, when certain of those who had not yet received the faith, thinking them to be gods (for they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercury), brought sacrifices and garlands, in company with the priests, and attempted to make sacrifices in their honour, leapt down from the platform on which they stood, because of the outrage that would be inflicted upon the glory of God, if any sacrifice were offered to men, and rent their garments, as is recorded, and by fitting words prevented the ignorant endeavour of the worshippers of idols. Also, when our Saviour Christ was on His trial before the rulers of the Jews, and was required to say Who He was, and whence He came, and said plainly in reply: Verily, I say unto you, henceforth ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven, Caiaphas leapt up out of his seat, and rent his garments, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy. The temple of God, then, followed, so to say, the custom that prevailed among the Jews, and rent its veil, as it had been clothes, at the moment when our Saviour gave up the ghost. For it condemned the impiety of the Jews as an insult against itself. And the accomplishment of this was God’s work, that He might show unto us the temple itself bewailing Israel’s guilt.

31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross upon the Sabbath (for the day of that Sabbath was a high day), asked of Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

It is not with the motive of testifying to the reverence |644 for holy days felt by men inured to shed blood with brutal ferocity, and found guilty of so monstrous an iniquity, that the blessed Evangelist says this; but rather from the wish to show that, in their gross stupidity, they committed that folly of which Christ spoke. For they strained out the gnat while they swallowed the camel; for they are found to reckon as of no account at all the most outrageous and awful of all crimes against God, while they exercised the greatest diligence with reference to the most paltry and insignificant matters, showing their folly in either case. The proof of this is not far to seek. For, behold, in the very act of putting Christ to death, they put great store on the respect due to the Sabbath; and, while they insulted the Lawgiver by outrages which surpass description, they parade their reverence of the Law; and, as that Sabbath was a high day, they affect to pay honour to it—-the very men who destroyed the Lord of the high day; and they ask a favour, which well suited their cruel spirit. For they besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, wishing to embitter, by this last intolerable outrage, the pangs of approaching death, to those who were already in agony.

32-37 The soldiers therefore came, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with Him: but when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His Legs: howbeit, one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His Side, and straightway there came out blood and water. And he that hath seen hath borne witness, and his witness is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye also may believe. For these things came to pass, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, A bone of Him shall not be broken. And again another Scripture saith, They shall look on Him Whom they pierced. 

In pursuance of the request of the Jews, men afflicted with a madness akin to their cruelty—-I mean the soldiers of Pilate—-break the legs of the two robbers, |645 as they were still numbered among the living, intensifying the bitter pang of their last agony, and finally despatching them by the most grievous act of violence. But when they found Jesus with His Head bowed down, and saw that He had already given up the ghost, they thought it lost labour to break His Legs; but, as they still had a faint suspicion that He might not be actually dead, they with a spear pierced His Side, which sent forth Blood, mingled with Water; God presenting us thereby with a type, as it were, and foreshadowing of the mystery of the Eucharist, and Holy Baptism. For Holy Baptism is of Christ, and Christ’s institution; and the power of the mystery of the Eucharist grew up for us out of His Holy Flesh.

By his account of what took place, the wise Evangelist confirms his hearers in the belief that He was the Christ long ago foretold by Holy Writ; for the events of His life harmonised with what was written concerning Him. For not a bone of Him was broken, and He was pierced with the spear of the soldier, according to the Scripture. He says himself, that the disciple that bare record of these things was a spectator and eye-witness of what took place, and knew, in fact, that his testimony was true; and the disciple to whom he thus alludes is none other than himself. For he shrank from speaking more openly, putting away from himself the assumption of love of glory, as an unholy thing, and as a grievous infirmity.

38 And after these things, Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked of Pilate that he might take away the Body of Jesus: and, Pilate gave him leave. He came, therefore, and took away His Body.

This saying is indeed fraught with a grievous charge against the Jews, as it shows that to become a disciple of Christ was dangerous, and exposed a man to penalties; for he plainly introduces this most excellent young |646 man—-I mean Joseph—-to our notice, as most especially anxious to escape the notice of the Jews, though he had been induced by Christ’s teaching to choose that worship which was the reality itself, and better and more pleasing to the God Who loves virtue than the commandment of the Law, and at the same time gives us a proof necessary to confirm our faith. For it was necessary for us to believe that Christ laid down His Life for us. And is it not an inevitable consequence that, when a man is entombed, we must have a firm conviction that he also died? And we may well condemn, as guilty of gross brutality, the presumption, hard-heartedness, and merciless temper of the Jews, who did not even pay unto Christ the respect due to the dead, nor honour Him with burial rites, when they saw Him lying before them an inanimate corpse; though they knew that He was the Christ, and had often been amazed by the marvellous works that He did, even though their bitter hatred might never have allowed them to profit by His miraculous power. The disciple of Arimathaea, therefore, passes judgment on the inhumanity of the Jews, and condemns the men of Jerusalem, when he goes and tends with fitting care the Body of Him Whom he did not as yet honour by an open confession of faith, but still believed on Him in secret, for fear of the Jews, as says the blessed Evangelist.

39 And there came also Nicodemus, he who at the first came to Him by night, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight.

He says that this disciple was not alone in taking counsel wisely, as well as in fervent zeal, to go to dress the sacred Body for burial, but he makes mention of a second along with the first. This was Nicodemus, who completed the body of testimony to the event that is respected by the Law. For, says the Law: In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. The men who laid Jesus in the tomb were two in |647 number, Joseph and Nicodemus; men who received the faith inwardly in their hearts, but were still scared by a foolish fear, and did not yet prefer to the honour and glory of the world that which is of God. For then they would have dismissed all fear of the Jews, and, paying slight heed to any danger from that quarter, would have indulged their faith fearlessly and freely, and thus have proved themselves holy, and good keepers of the commandment of our Saviour.

40, 41 So they took the Body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new tomb, wherein was never man yet laid.

Christ was numbered among the dead, Who for our sake became dead, according to the Flesh, but Whom we conceive to be, and Who is, in fact, Life, of Himself, and through His Father. And, that He might fulfil all righteousness, that is, all that was appropriate to the form of man, He of His own Will subjected the Temple of His Body not merely to death, but also to what follows after death, that is, burial and being laid in the tomb. The writer of the Gospel says that this sepulchre in the garden was a new one; this fact signifying to us, as it were, by a type and figure, that Christ’s death is the harbinger and pioneer of our entry into Paradise. For He entered as a Forerunner for us. What other signification than this can be intended by the carrying over of the Body of Jesus in the garden? And by the newness of the sepulchre is meant the untrodden and strange pathway whereby we return from death unto life, and the renewing of our souls, that Christ has invented for us, whereby we baffle corruption. For henceforth, by the death of Christ, death for us has been transformed, in a manner, into sleep, with like power and functions. For we are alive unto God, and shall live for evermore, |648 to the Scriptures. Therefore, also, the blessed Paul, in a variety of places, calls those asleep who have died in Christ. For in the times of old the dread presence of death held human nature in awe. For death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression; and we bore the image of the earthy in his likeness, and underwent the death that was inflicted by the Divine curse. But when the Second Adam appeared among us, the Divine Man from heaven, and, contending for the salvation of the world, purchased by His death the life of all men, and, destroying the power of corruption, rose again to life, we were transformed into His Image, and undergo, as it were, a different kind of death, that does not dissolve us in eternal corruption, but casts upon us a slumber which is laden with fair hope, after the Likeness of Him Who has made this new path for us, that is, Christ.

And if any one choose to give an additional meaning to the saying that the sepulchre was a new one, and that no man had been lain therein, be it so. He says, then, we may suppose, that the sepulchre was new, and that no one had been ever laid therein, that no one might be thought to have arisen from the sleep of death save Jesus only.

42 There, then, because of the Jews’ preparation {for the tomb was nigh at hand), they laid Jesus.

He not only says plainly that Christ’s Body was dressed for burial, and that there was a garden nigh unto the cross, and that there was a new sepulchre in it, but he also explains that He was laid therein, not leaving the least of the things which were done untold. For most essential truly to any creed or system of the mystery of our faith is the confession and the knowledge that Christ died. Therefore, also, the wise Paul, defining our rule of faith, speaks as follows: The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which |649 preach: because, if thou shalt say with thy mouth, Jesus is Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. And in another passage also: For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried; and that He hath been raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures. Very essential, then, for us is the narrative which the writer of the book gives us on these points. For it was our bounden duty to believe that He died and was buried; after that will easily follow the true belief, that He burst asunder the bonds of death, and returned as God to the life that was His own. For it was not possible that He should be holden of death. For, being by Nature Life, how could He have undergone corruption? And how could He in Whom we live, and move, and have our being, have been subjected to the laws to which our human nature is subject? Could He not rather, as God, have easily quickened that which lacked life?

2 Responses to “Post 4: St Cyril on John 19:25-42 for Good Friday”

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