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Excerpts from the Fathers of the Church on the Cross of Christ

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From St. Andrew of Crete's discourse on The Exaltation of the Cross

We are celebrating the Feast of the Cross which drove away darkness and brought in the light.  As we keep this feast, we are lifted up with the Crucified Christ, leaving behind us earth and sin so that we may gain the things above.  So great and outstanding a possession is the Cross that he who wins it has won a treasure. Rightly could I call this treasure the fairest of all fair things and the costliest, in fact as well as in name, for on it and through it and for its sake the riches of salvation that had been lost were restored to us.

Had there been no Cross, Christ could not have been crucified.  Had there been no Cross, Life itself could not have been nailed to the tree.  And if Life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ's side, blood and water for the world's cleansing.  The legal bond of our sin would not be cancelled, we should not have attained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open.  Had there been no Cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled.

Therefore, the Cross is something wonderfully great and honorable.  It is great because through the Cross the many noble acts of Christ found their consummation -- very many indeed, for both his miracles and his sufferings were rewarded with victory. The Cross is honorable because it is both the sign of God's suffering and the trophy of his victory.   It stands for his suffering because on it he freely suffered unto death. But it is also his trophy because it was the means by which the devil was wounded and death conquered: the barred gates of hell were smashed, and the Cross became the one common salvation of the whole world.

The Cross is called Christ's glory; it is saluted as his triumph.  We recognize it as the cup he longed to drink and the climax of the sufferings he endured for our sake.  As to the Cross being Christ's glory, listen to his words:

"Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in him God is glorified, and God will glorify him at once."  And again, "Father, glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world came to be."  And once more: "Father, glorify your name."  Then a voice came from heaven:  "I have glorified it and will glorify it again."

Here he speaks of the glory that would accrue to him through the Cross.  And if you would understand that the Cross is Christ's triumph, hear what he himself also said: "When I am lifted up, then I will draw all men to myself."

Now you can see that the Cross is Christ's glory and triumph....

Excerpts from St. Leo the Great's homily On the Passion of the Lord

Our understanding which is enlightened by the Spirit of truth, should receive with purity and freedom of heart the glory of the Cross as it shines in heaven and on earth. It should see with inner vision the meaning of the Lord's words when he spoke of the imminence of his passion:  "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified."  Afterward he said: "Now my soul is troubled, and what am I to say? Father, save me from this hour?  But it was for this that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your Son."

When the voice of the Father came from heaven, saying, "I have glorified him and will glorify him again,"  Jesus said in reply to those around him:  "It was not for me that this voice spoke, but for you.  Now is the judgment of the world, now will the prince of this world be cast out.  And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself."

How marvelous the power of the Cross: how great beyond all telling the glory of the passion: here is the judgment-seat of the Lord, the condemnation of the world, the supremacy of Christ crucified.

Lord, you drew all things to yourself so that the devotion of all peoples everywhere might celebrate, in a sacrament made perfect and visible, what was carried out in the one temple of Judea under obscure foreshadowings.

Now there is a more distinguished order of Levites, a greater dignity for the rank of elders, a more sacred anointing for the priesthood, because your Cross is the source of all blessings, the cause of all graces.  Through the Cross the faithful received strength from weakness, glory from dishonor, life from death.

The different sacrifices of animals are no more: the one offering of your body and blood is the fulfilllment of all the different sacrificial offerings, for you the true Lamb of God: you take away the sins of the world.  In yourself you bring to perfection all mysteries, so that, as there is one sacrifice in place of all other sacrificial offerings, there is also one kingdom gathered from all peoples.

Dearly beloved, let us then acknowledge what Saint Paul, the teacher of the nations, acknowledged so exultantly:  "This is a saying worthy of trust, worthy of complete acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners."

God's compassion for us is all the more wonderful because Christ died, not for the righteous or the holy but for the wicked and the sinful, and, though the divine nature could not be touched by the sting of death, he took to himself, through his birth as one of us, something he could offer on our behalf.

The power of his death confronted our death.  In the words of Hosea the Prophet, "Death, I shall swallow you up."