Holy and Great Friday

“Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” – 1 Peter 2:21b-24

Today God died. Churches and their keepers are robed in black. Christians fast and mourn. If we learned our own humility in response to God through the humility of God in the past two days, how much more should we be humiliated that by our own self-gratifying volition we have chosen for the innocent to suffer. We should weep at the depths of our depravity and the cost of our sin.

And yet, in my heart I secretly glory at the thought of it. How ironic it is, how divinely ironic, that at God’s weakest, at His most vulnerable, that He should win His greatest victory. And on my behalf no less. As much as it pains me, infinitely more it causes me to rejoice. We ought to weep today – the whole earth who mourned the death of God on the cross – but we also ought to be able to taste the ecstasy of Easter already. Like children who know how the story ends, we should rush headlong in our hearts to the triumph of God with praise on our lips and elation in our hearts.

Cyril of Jerusalem (selections from his Catechetical Lecture “On the Words ‘Crucified’ and ‘Buried'”):

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.

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? 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, 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.

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 thou deny Him, thou hast many to arraign thee.

Judas the traitor will arraign thee 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 thee, by which Peter stood and warmed himself; if thou deny the Cross, the eternal fire awaits thee. I speak hard words, that thou may not experience hard pains. Remember the swords that came against Him in Gethsemane, that thou feel not the eternal sword.

The house of Caiaphas will arraign thee, showing by its present desolation the power of Him who was erewhile judged there. Yea, Caiaphas himself will rise up against thee in the day of judgment, the very servant will rise up against thee, 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 thee; and Pilate; as if saying, “Why deniest thou 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 thee, 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 thee, who bore the Cross after Jesus.

From among the stars there will cry out upon thee, 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

Thou hast Twelve Apostles, witnesses of the Cross; and the whole earth, and the world of men who believe on Him who hung thereon. Let thy very presence here now persuade thee of the power of the Crucified. For who now brought thee to this assembly? What soldiers? With what bonds wast thou constrained? What sentence held thee fast here now? Nay, it was the Trophy of salvation, the Cross of Jesus that brought you all together…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 forever and ever.

Amen.

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