We return again to the series on St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures. This post contains the second half of his thirteenth lecture. As has been the case for a while, the focus is on the Nicene Creed.
21. The beginning of signs under Moses was blood and water; and the last of all Jesus’ signs was the same. First, Moses changed the river into blood; and Jesus at the last gave forth from His side water with blood. This was perhaps on account of the two speeches, his who judged Him, and theirs who cried out against Him; or because of the believers and the unbelievers. For Pilate said, I am innocent and washed his hands in water; they who cried out against Him said, His blood be upon us Matthew 27:24-25: there came therefore these two out of His side; the water, perhaps, for him who judged Him; but for them that shouted against Him the blood. And again it is to be understood in another way; the blood for the Jews, and the water for the Christians: for upon them as plotters came the condemnation from the blood; but to you who now believest, the salvation which is by water. For nothing has been done without a meaning. Our fathers who have written comments have given another reason of this matter. For since in the Gospels the power of salutary Baptism is twofold, one which is granted by means of water to the illuminated, and a second to holy martyrs, in persecutions, through their own blood, there came out of that saving Side blood and water , to confirm the grace of the confession made for Christ, whether in baptism, or on occasions of martyrdom. There is another reason also for mentioning the Side. The woman, who was formed from the side, led the way to sin; but Jesus who came to bestow the grace of pardon on men and women alike, was pierced in the side for women, that He might undo the sin.
22. And whoever will inquire, will find other reasons also; but what has been said is enough, because of the shortness of the time, and that the attention of my hearers may not become sated. And yet we never can be tired of hearing concerning the crowning of our Lord, and least of all in this most holy Golgotha. For others only hear, but we both see and handle. Let none be weary; take your armour against the adversaries in the cause of the Cross itself; set up the faith of the Cross as a trophy against the gainsayers. For when you are going to dispute with unbelievers concerning the Cross of Christ, first make with your hand the sign of Christ’s Cross, and the gainsayer will be silenced. Be not ashamed to confess the Cross; for Angels glory in it, saying, We know whom you seek, Jesus the Crucified. Matthew 28:5 Might you not say, O Angel,
I know whom you seek, my Master? But,
I, he says with boldness,
I know the Crucified. For the Cross is a Crown, not a dishonour.
23. Now let us recur to the proof out of the Prophets which I spoke of. The Lord was crucified; you have received the testimonies. You see this spot of Golgotha! You answer with a shout of praise, as if assenting. See that you recant not in time of persecution. Rejoice not in the Cross in time of peace only, but hold fast the same faith in time of persecution also; be not in time of peace a friend of Jesus, and His foe in time of wars. You receive now remission of your sins, and the gifts of the King’s spiritual bounty; when war shall come, strive thou nobly for your King. Jesus, the Sinless, was crucified for you; and will you not be crucified for Him who was crucified for you? You are not bestowing a favour, for you have first received; but you are returning a favour, repaying your debt to Him who was crucified for you in Golgotha. Now Golgotha is interpreted,
the place of a skull. Who were they then, who prophetically named this spot Golgotha, in which Christ the true Head endured the Cross? As the Apostle says, Who is the Image of the Invisible God; and a little after, and He is the Head of the body, the Church. And again, The Head of every man is Christ 1 Corinthians 11:3; and again, Who is the Head of all principality and power. Colossians 2:10 The Head suffered in
the place of the skull. O wondrous prophetic appellation! The very name also reminds you, saying,
Think not of the Crucified as of a mere man; He is the Head of all principality and power. That Head which was crucified is the Head of all power, and has for His Head the Father; for the Head of the man is Christ, and the Head of Christ is God 1 Corinthians 11:3 .
24. Christ then was crucified for us, who was judged in the night, when it was cold, and therefore a fire of coals John 18:18 was laid. He was crucified at the third hour; and from the sixth hour there was darkness until the ninth hour Matthew 27:45; but from the ninth hour there was light again. Are these things also written? Let us inquire. Now the Prophet Zacharias says, And it shall come to pass in that day, that there shall not be light, and there shall be cold and frost one day; (the cold on account of which Peter warmed himself;) And that day shall be known unto the Lord Zechariah 14:6-7; (what, knew He not the other days? Days are many, but this is the day of the Lord’s patience, which the Lord made ;)— And that day shall be known unto the Lord, not day, and not night: what is this dark saying which the Prophet speaks? That day is neither day nor night? What then shall we name it? The Gospel interprets it, by relating the event. It was not day; for the sun shone not uniformly from his rising to his setting, but from the sixth hour till the ninth hour, there was darkness at mid-day. The darkness therefore was interposed; but God called the darkness night. Genesis 1:5 Wherefore it was neither day nor night: for neither was it all light, that it should be called day; nor was it all darkness, that it should be called night; but after the ninth hour the sun shone forth. This also the Prophet foretels; for after saying, Not day, nor night, he added, And at evening time it shall be light. Do you see the exactness of the prophets? Do you see the truth of the things which were written aforetime?
25. But do you ask exactly at what hour the sun failed ? Was it the fifth hour, or the eighth, or the tenth? Tell, O Prophet, the exact time thereof to the Jews, who are unwilling to hear; when shall the sun go down? The Prophet Amos answers, And it shall come to pass in that day, says the Lord God, that the sun shall go down at noon (for there was darkness from the sixth hour;) and the light shall grow dark over the earth in the day. What sort of season is this, O Prophet, and what sort of day? And I will turn your feasts into mourning; for this was done in the days of unleavened bread, and at the feast of the Passover: then afterwards he says, And I will make Him as the mourning of an Only Son, and those with Him as a day of anguish Amos 8:10; for in the day of unleavened bread, and at the feast, their women were wailing and weeping, and the Apostles had hidden themselves and were in anguish. Wonderful then is this prophecy.
26. But, some one will say, Give me yet another sign; what other exact sign is there of that which has come to pass? Jesus was crucified; and He wore but one coat, and one cloak: now His cloak the soldiers shared among themselves, having rent it into four; but His coat was not rent, for when rent it would have been no longer of any use; so about this lots are cast by the soldiers; thus the one they divide, but for the other they cast lots. Is then this also written? They know, the diligent chanters of the Church, who imitate the Angel hosts, and continually sing praises to God: who are thought worthy to chant Psalms in this Golgotha, and to say, They parted My garments among them, and upon My vesture they did cast lots. The
lots were what the soldiers cast.
27. Again, when He had been judged before Pilate, He was clothed in red; for there they put on Him a purple robe. Is this also written? Esaias says, Who is this that comes from Edom? The redness of His garments is from Bosor Isaiah 63:1-2; (who is this who in dishonor wears purple? For Bosor has some such meaning in Hebrew. ) Why are Your garments red, and Your raiment as from a trodden wine-press? But He answers and says, All day long have I stretched forth Mine hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
28. He stretched out His hands on the Cross, that He might embrace the ends of the world; for this Golgotha is the very centre of the earth. It is not my word, but it is a prophet who has said, You have wrought salvation in the midst of the earth. He stretched forth human hands, who by His spiritual hands had established the heaven; and they were fastened with nails, that His manhood, which here 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 ; by One Man, the Saviour, 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 John 10:18 .
29. But though He endured these things, having come for the salvation of all, yet the people returned Him an evil recompense. Jesus says, I thirst —He who had brought forth the waters for them out of the craggy rock; and He asked fruit of the Vine which He had planted. But what does the Vine? This Vine, which was by nature of the holy fathers, but of Sodom by purpose of heart—(for their Vine is of Sodom, and their tendrils of Gomorrha Deuteronomy 32:32;)— this Vine, when the Lord was thirsty, having filled a sponge and put it on a reed, offers Him vinegar. They gave Me also gall for My meat, and in My thirst, they gave Me vinegar to drink. You see the clearness of the Prophet.’ description. But what sort of gall put they into My mouth? They gave Him, it says, wine mingled with myrrh. Mark 15:23 Now myrrh is in taste like gall, and very bitter. Are these things what you recompense unto the Lord? Are these your offerings, O Vine, unto your Master? Rightly did the Prophet Esaias aforetime bewail you, saying, My well-beloved had a vineyard in a hill in a fruitful place; and (not to recite the whole) I waited, he says, that it should bring forth grapes; I thirsted that it should give wine; but it brought forth thorns Isaiah 5:1-2; for you see the crown, wherewith I am adorned. What then shall I now decree? I will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the clouds which are the Prophets were removed from them, and are for the future in the Church; as Paul says, Let the Prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge 1 Corinthians 14:29; and again, God gave in the Church, some, Apostles, and some, Prophets. Ephesians 4:11 Agabus, who bound his own feet and hands, was a prophet.
30. Concerning the robbers who were crucified with Him, it is written, And He was numbered with the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12 Both of them were before this transgressors, but one was so no longer. For the one was a transgressor to the end, stubborn against salvation; who, though his hands were fastened, smote with blasphemy by his tongue. When the Jews passing by wagged their heads, mocking the Crucified, and fulfilling what was written, When they looked on Me, they shaked their heads , he also reviled with them. But the other rebused the reviler; and it was to him the end of life and the beginning of restoration; the surrender of his soul a first share in salvation. And after rebuking the other, he says, Lord, remember me ; for with You is my account. Heed not this man, for the eyes of his understanding are blinded; but remember me. I say not, remember my works, for of these I am afraid. Every man has a feeling for his fellow-traveller; I am travelling with You towards death; remember me, Your fellow-wayfarer. I say not, Remember me now, but, when You come in Your kingdom.
31. What power, O robber, led you to the light? Who taught you to worship that despised Man, your companion on the Cross? O Light Eternal, which gives light to them that are in darkness! Therefore also he justly heard the words, Be of good cheer ; not that your deeds are worthy of good cheer; but that the King is here, dispensing favours. The request reached unto a distant time; but the grace was very speedy. Verily I say unto you, This day shall you be with Me in Paradise; because today you have heard My voice, and hast not hardened your heart. Very speedily I passed sentence upon Adam, very speedily I pardon you. To him it was said, In the day wherein you eat, you shall surely die Genesis 2:17; but thou today hast obeyed the faith, today is your salvation. Adam by the Tree fell away; thou by the Tree art brought into Paradise. Fear not the serpent; he shall not cast you out; for he is fallen from heaven. Luke 10:18 And I say not unto you, This day shall you depart, but, This day shall you be with Me. Be of good courage: you shall not be cast out. Fear not the flaming sword; it shrinks from its Lord. O mighty and ineffable grace! The faithful Abraham had not yet entered, but the robber enters! Moses and the Prophets had not yet entered, and the robber enters though a breaker of the law. Paul also wondered at this before you, saying, Where sin abounded, there grace did much more abound. Romans 5:20 They who had borne the heat of the day had not yet entered; and he of the eleventh hour entered. Let none murmur against the goodman of the house, for he says, Friend, I do you no wrong; is it not lawful for Me to do what I will with My own ? The robber has a will to work righteousness, but death prevents him; I wait not exclusively for the work, but faith also I accept. I have come who feed My sheep among the lilies Song of Songs 6:3, I have come to feed them in the gardens. I have found a sheep that was lost Luke 15:5-6, but I lay it on My shoulders; for he believes, since he himself has said, I have gone astray like a lost sheep ; Lord, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.
32. Of this garden I sang of old to My spouse in the Canticles, and spoke to her thus. I have come into My garden, My sister, My spouse Song of Songs 5:1; (now in the place where He was crucified was a garden John 19:41😉 and what takest Thou thence? I have gathered My myrrh; having drunk wine mingled with myrrh, and vinegar, after receiving which, He said, It is finished. For the mystery has been fulfilled; the things that are written have been accomplished; sins are forgiven. For Christ having come an High-Priest of the good things to come, by the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, nor yet by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption; for if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer, sprinkling the defiled, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh, how much more the blood of Christ Hebrews 9:11? And again, Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh. And because His flesh, this veil, was dishonoured, therefore the typical veil of the temple was rent asunder, as it is written, And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom Matthew 27:51; for not a particle of it was left; for since the Master said, Behold, your house is left unto you desolate , the house broke all in pieces.
33. These things the Saviour endured, and made peace through the Blood of His Cross, for things in heaven, and things in earth. Colossians 1:20 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 Peter 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 would you 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 Your hands I commend My spirit Luke 23:46; I commend it, that I may take it again. And having said these things, He gave up the ghost Matthew 27:50; but not for any long time, for He quickly rose again from the dead.
34. The Sun was darkened, because of the Sun of Righteousness Malachi 4:2. Rocks were rent, because of the spiritual Rock. Tombs were opened, and the dead arose, because of Him who was free among the dead ; He sent forth His prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water Zechariah 9:11. Be not then ashamed of the Crucified, but be also bold to say, He bears our sins, and endures grief for us, and with His stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5 Let us not be unthankful to our Benefactor. And again; for the transgression of my people was He led to death; and I will give the wicked for His burial, and the rich for His death. Therefore Paul says plainly, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He has risen again the third day according to the Scriptures 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 .
35. But we seek to know clearly where He has been buried. Is His tomb made with hands? Is it, like the tombs of kings, raised above the ground? Is the Sepulchre made of stones joined together? And what is laid upon it? Tell us, O Prophets, the exact truth concerning His tomb also, where He is laid, and where we shall seek Him? And they say, Look into the solid rock which you have hewn. Isaiah 51:1 Look in and behold. You have in the Gospels In a sepulchre hewn in stone, which was hewn out of a rock. And what happens next? What kind of door has the sepulchre? Again another Prophet says, They cut off My life in a dungeon , and cast a stone upon Me. I, who am the Chief corner-stone, the elect, the precious 1 Peter 2:6, lie for a little time within a stone— I who am a stone of stumbling to the Jews, and of salvation to them who believe. The Tree of life , therefore was planted in the earth, that the earth which had been cursed might enjoy the blessing, and that the dead might be released.
36. 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 Colossians 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. Despise not the Seal, because of the freeness of the gift; out for this the rather honour your Benefactor.
37. And if you ever fall into disputation and have not the grounds of proof, yet let Faith remain firm in you; or rather, become thou well learned, and then silence the Jews out of the prophets, and the Greeks out of their own fables. They themselves worship men who have been thunderstricken : but the thunder when it comes from heaven, comes not at random. If they are not ashamed to worship men thunderstricken and abhorred of God, are you ashamed to worship the beloved Son of God, who was crucified for you? I am ashamed to tell the tales about their so-called Gods, and I leave them because of time; let those who know, speak. And let all heretics also be silenced. 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 Corinthians 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.
38. Take therefore first, as an indestructible foundation, the Cross, and build upon it the other articles of the faith. Deny not the Crucified; for, if you deny Him, you have many to arraign you. Judas the traitor will arraign you first; for he who betrayed Him knows that He was condemned to death by the chief-priests and elders. The thirty pieces of silver bear witness; Gethsemane bears witness, where the betrayal occurred; I speak not yet of the Mount of Olives, on which they were with Him at night, praying. The moon in the night bears witness; the day bears witness, and the sun which was darkened; for it endured not to look on the crime of the conspirators. The fire will arraign you, by which Peter stood and warmed himself; if you deny the Cross, the eternal fire awaits you. I speak hard words, that you may not experience hard pains. Remember the swords that came against Him in Gethsemane, that you feel not the eternal sword. The house of Caiaphas will arraign you, showing by its present desolation the power of Him who was erewhile judged there. Yes, Caiaphas himself will rise up against you in the day of judgment, the very servant will rise up against you, who smote Jesus with the palm of his hand; they also who bound Him, and they who led Him away. Even Herod shall rise up against you; and Pilate; as if saying, Why do you deny Him who was slandered before us by the Jews, and whom we knew to have done no wrong? For I Pilate then washed my hands. The false witnesses shall rise up against you, and the soldiers who arrayed Him in the purple robe, and set on Him the crown of thorns, and crucified Him in Golgotha, and cast lots for His coat. Simon the Cyrenian will cry out upon you, who bore the Cross after Jesus.
39. From among the stars there will cry out upon you, the darkened Sun; among the things upon earth, the Wine mingled with myrrh; among reeds, the Reed; among herbs, the Hyssop; among the things of the sea, the Sponge; among trees, the Wood of the Cross;— the soldiers, too, as I have said, who nailed Him, and cast lots for His vesture; the soldier who pierced His side with the spear; the women who then were present; the veil of the temple then rent asunder; the hall of Pilate, now laid waste by the power of Him who was then crucified; this holy Golgotha, which stands high above us, and shows itself to this day, and displays even yet how because of Christ the rocks were then riven ; the sepulchre near at hand where He was laid; and the stone which was laid on the door, which lies to this day by the tomb; the Angels who were then present; the women who worshipped Him after His resurrection; Peter and John, who ran to the sepulchre; and Thomas, who thrust his hand into His side, and his fingers into the prints of the nails. For it was for our sakes that he so carefully handled Him; and what thou, who were not there present, would have sought, he being present, by God’s Providence, did seek.
40. You have Twelve Apostles, witnesses of the Cross; and the whole earth, and the world of men who believe in Him who hung thereon. Let your very presence here now persuade you of the power of the Crucified. For who now brought you to this assembly? What soldiers? With what bonds were you constrained? What sentence held you fast here now? Nay, it was the Trophy of salvation, the Cross of Jesus that brought you all together. It was this that enslaved the Persians, and tamed the Scythians; this that gave to the Egyptians, for cats and dogs and their manifold errors, the knowledge of God; this, that to this day heals diseases; that to this day drives away devils, and overthrows the juggleries of drugs and charms.
41. This shall appear again with Jesus from heaven ; for the trophy shall precede the king: that seeing Him whom they pierced Zechariah 12:10, and knowing by the Cross Him who was dishonoured, the Jews may repent and mourn; (but they shall mourn tribe by tribe , for they shall repent, when there shall be no more time for repentance;) and that we may glory, exulting in the Cross, worshipping the Lord who was sent, and crucified for us, and worshipping also God His Father who sent Him, with the Holy Ghost: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.