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Thoughts from the
Early Church
Friday of the Lord’s Passion
(Good Friday)
April 10, 2019

Commentary by Cyril of Alexandria
The account of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  “They took Jesus in charge and carrying his own cross he went out of the city to what was called the Place of the Skull, or in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified him.”

They led away the author of life to die—to die for our sake. In a way beyond our understanding, the power of God brought from Christ’s passion an end far different from that intended by his enemies. His sufferings served as a snare for death and rendered it powerless. The Lord’s death proved to be our restoration to immortality and newness of life.

Condemned to death though innocent, he went forward bearing on his shoulders the cross upon which he was to suffer. He did this for our sake, taking on himself the punishment which the Law justly imposed upon sinners. “He was accursed for our sake according to the saying of Scripture: ‘A curse is on everyone who is hanged on a tree.””

We who have all committed many sins were under that ancient curse for our refusal to obey the law of God. To set us free he who was without sin took that curse upon himself. Since he is God who is above all, his sufferings sufficed for all, his death in the flesh was the redemption of all.

And so Christ carried the cross, a cross that was rightfully not his but ours, who were under the condemnation of the Law.

As he was numbered among the dead not on his own account but on ours, to destroy the power of death and to become for us the source of eternal life, so he accepted the cross we deserved. He passed the Law’s sentence on himself “to seal the lips of lawlessness for ever,” as the psalm says, by being condemned sinless as he was for the sin of all.

Christ’s example of courage in God’s service will be of great profit to us, for only by putting the love of God before our earthly life and being prepared when occasion demands to fight zealously for the truth can we attain the supreme blessing of perfect union with God. Indeed, our Lord Jesus Christ has warned us that anyone who does not take up his cross and follow him is not worthy of him.

And I think taking up the cross means simply renouncing the world for God’s sake and, if this is required of us, putting the hope of future blessings before the life we now live in the body. Our Lord Jesus Christ was not ashamed to carry the cross we deserved, and he did so because he loved us.

Those united to Christ are also crucified with him by dying to their former way of life and entering upon a new life based on the teaching of the Gospel, Paul spoke for all when he said: “I have been crucified with Christ and the life I live now is not my life, but the life that Christ lives in me.”

(Commentary on Saint John’s Gospel 12, 19: PG 74, 650-654)

Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444) succeeded his uncle Theophilus as patriarch in 412. Until 428 the pen of this brilliant theologian was employed in exegesis and polemics against the Arians; after that date it was devoted almost entirely to refuting the Nestorian heresy. The teaching of Nestorius was condemned in 431 by the Council of Ephesus at which Cyril presided, and Mary’s title, Mother of God, was solemnly recognized.

The incarnation is central to Cyril’s theology. Only if Christ is consubstantial with the Father and with us can he save us, for the meeting ground between God and ourselves is the flesh of Christ. Through our kinship with Christ, the Word made flesh, we become children of God, and share in the filial relation of the Son with the Father.

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Edith Barnecut, OSB. was a consultant for the International Committee for English in the Liturgy, Sr. Edith was responsible for the final version of many of the readings in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Journey with the Fathers
Commentaries on the Sunday Gospels
- Year A, pp. 52-53.
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Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
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