Feast of St Sophia & Her Three Daughters: Faith, Hope & Love
HE STRETCHED out His hands on the Cross, that He might embrace the ends of the world; for this Golgatha is the very center of the earth. It is not my word, but it is a prophet who hath said, “Thou hast wrought salvation in the midst of the earth” (Ps. 74.12). He stretched forth human hands, who by His spiritual hands had established the heaven; and they were fastened with nails, that His manhood, which bore the sins of men, having been nailed to the tree, and having died, sin might die with it, and we might rise again in righteousness. “For since by one man came death, by One Man came also life” (Rom. 5.12, 17); by One Man, the Savior, dying of His own accord: for remember what He said, “I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again” (Jn. 10.18). [. . .]
These things the Savior endured, “and made peace through the Blood of His Cross, for things in heaven, and things in earth” (Cant. 6.3). For we were enemies of God through sin, and God had appointed the sinner to die. There must needs therefore have happened one of two things; either that God, in His truth, should destroy all men, or that in His loving kindness He should cancel the sentence. But behold the wisdom of God; He preserved both the truth of His sentence, and the exercise of His loving-kindness. Christ took our sins “in His body on the tree, that we by His death might die to sin, and live unto righteousness” (1 Pet. 2.24). Of no small account was He who died for us; He was not a literal sheep; He was not a mere man; He was more than an Angel; He was God made man. The transgression of sinners was not so great as the righteousness of Him who died for them; the sin which we committed was not so great as the righteousness which He wrought who laid down His life for us—who laid it down when He pleased, and took it again when He pleased. And wouldst thou know that He laid not down His life by violence, nor yielded up the ghost against His will? He cried to the Father, saying, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit” (Lk. 23.46); I commend it, that I may take it again. And having said these things, “He gave up the ghost” (Matt. 27.50); but not for any long time, for He quickly rose again from the dead.
[. . .] The Tree of life (Gen. 2.9; 3.22), was planted in the earth, that the earth which had been cursed might enjoy the blessing, and that the dead might be released.
Let us not then be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow, and on everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we rise up; when we are in the way, and when we are still. Great is that preservative; it is without price, for the sake of the poor; without toil, for the sick; since also its grace is from God. It is the Sign of the faithful, and the dread of devils: for He “triumphed over them in it, having made a show of them openly” (Col. 2.15); for when they see the Cross, they are reminded of the Crucified; they are afraid of Him, who “bruised the heads of the dragon” (Ps. 74.13). Despise not the Seal, because of the freeness of the gift; but for this the rather honor thy Benefactor.
[. . .] If any say that the Cross is an illusion, turn away from him. Abhor those who say that Christ was crucified to our fancy only; for if so, and if salvation is from the Cross, then is salvation a fancy also. If the Cross is fancy, the Resurrection is fancy also; but “if Christ be not risen, we are yet in our sins” (1 Cor. 15.17). If the Cross is fancy, the Ascension also is fancy; and if the Ascension is fancy, then is the second coming also fancy, and everything is henceforth unsubstantial.
Take therefore first, as an indestructible foundation, the Cross, and build upon it the other articles of the faith. Deny not the crucified.
—St Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 13