CATECHESIS 73: On the Saving Passion of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ
by St. Theodore the Studite
Given on Great and Holy Friday.
Brethren and Fathers, while the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ when they are recalled are always able to pierce the soul, they do so especially in these present days, on which each of them reached its end. What then are they? The murderous council against Him, the Jewish arrest, His being led away to death, His arraignment before Pilate’s tribunal, the interrogation, the scourging, the blows, the spittings, the insults, the mockeries, the ascent of the Cross, the nailing of his hands and feet, the tasting of gall, the piercing of His side and all the other things which blazed forth with them, which the world cannot contain, nor can anyone worthily proclaim, not human tongue, nor even all the tongues of angels together.
For let us consider, brethren, this great and ineffable mystery. The Lord “who reveals the counsels of hearts” [1 Cor. 4:5] and knows every human desire, is the One who is taken before a council of death; the Lord “who bears all things by the word of his power” [Hebrews 1:3]is the One who is handed over to sinners; the Lord “who binds the water in the clouds” [Job 26:8] and sows in the earth in due season and uniformly is the One who is led away prisoner; the Lord “who measures the heavens with the span of His hand and the earth in a handful and weighed all the mountains in the balance” [Isaias 40:12] is the one who is struck by the hand of a servant; the Lord who adorned the boundaries of the earth with flowers is the One who is dishonourably crowned with thorns; the Lord who planted the tree of life in Paradise is the One who is hanged upon an accursed tree.
O great and more then natural sights! The sun saw them and faded, the moon saw them and was darkened, the earth perceived them was shaken, the rocks perceived them and were rent, all creation was turned back at the outrages done to the Master. The lifeless elements which have no senses, as if endowed with life and sensation from fear of the Lord and from the spectacle of what is seen, were amazed and altered; and do we, who have been honoured with reason, for whose sake Christ died, remain untouched and unweeping in these days? How could we be less rational than things which have no reason, more unfeeling than the stones? In no way, my brothers, in no way.
Let us rather be amazed in a manner worthy of God, by being changed with a fair change; let us draw down tears, sacrifice the passions, changing insults for insults and exchanging wounds for wounds, the one through obedience, the other through unflinching confession. Do we not see the burning incitements of divine love? Who ever dwelt in prison for a friend? Who accepted slaughter for their beloved? But our good God not only did the one and both of them, but accepted ten thousand sufferings for the sake of us, the condemned. Fittingly then the blessed Apostle, when he thought on these things and became powerfully aware of the love of God, said: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor rules nor powers, neither present nor future, neither height nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” [Rom. 8:38-39].
For such was the love God had for us that “He gave His only Son, that all who believe in him might not perish,” as it is written, “but have eternal life” [John 3:16]. As an exchange for this love, the saints, when they had nothing to offer, offered their own bodies and blood by asceticism and struggle, singing with blessed David the song: “What return may we make to the Lord for all that He has given to us?” [Psalm 115:3] Let us also, brethren, cry out these words each day, as we serve Him with an unceasing attitude of love, striving again and again for what is better, so that we may become heirs with the saints of the eternal blessings in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages.