“This day was the death of death and the destruction of sin”

Jesus went forth out of the city, bearing Himself the Tree of His own Cross, like another Isaac carrying the wood for the sacrifice. Will anyone say that this was done without purpose? The daughters of Jerusalem wept on that occasion, not knowing over whom they would have to weep. “Weep over yourselves and your children,” said the Lord, “and not over Me, for I am now fulfilling that which I chose of Mine own free will.” And they would weep hitherto if He whom the Jews did away with was not risen again from the dead. But now let us speak with joy of our salvation. Jesus went forth and walked between malefactors; that it might be fulfilled, “He was reckoned among the transgressors.” He who only did good, our Saviour and our Lord, went forth among thieves and sinners.

And now the day of His crucifixion, was the day of Adam’s transgression. God created Adam on the sixth day; and on that day he transgressed. On that day too Jesus became obedient and endured His sufferings at the sixth hour when Adam tasted of the fruit; that we should overcome in Christ at the same hour that we were overwhelmed in Adam. The Tree of Life in the Garden is the Tree of the Cross. There was a woman, through whom sin came into the world; here is a virgin who heard Him say: “Behold thy mother.” On that day Adam put forth his hand for evil; and Jesus spread His holy arms for our good. Adam drew near to the tree; and Jesus laid His hands and His feet on the Tree to which they were fastened with nails. Adam tasted of the fruit through lust; and Jesus tasted of vinegar mingled with bitter gall. Adam heard this sentence: The earth shall bring forth to thee thorns and thistles. Our Jesus of His own will was crowned with the thorns of Adam. Adam brought down a curse upon himself; but Jesus who is blessed by them that are condemned, was hanged on the Tree as one accursed. We run as it were in a race; one on the right, the other on the left; for the types given by Moses are complete and realized. For as he went up the mountain at the time when the people of God was fighting with Amalek, and Joshua the Son of Nave, as leader, held out his rod in his hand, he showed beforehand the figure of the Cross, with his arms and his rod. There Hur and Aaron, one on the right hand of Moses, and the other on the left; and here two thieves, one on the right and the other on the left of Jesus. And why thieves? that thou mayest know, O sinner, that His sufferings were for such as thou art. One reviled; but the other blessed.

And what didst thou see, O thief, or rather, O thou bringer of glad tidings to us? Neither a sign nor a miracle. He is nailed to the Cross as well as thou; and He tastes of gall which thou hast not drunk. He is crowned with thorns, which thou hast not worn. Then one reviled and would not learn of his fellow. What seest thou? A Man hanging on the Cross and the scorn of His foes, and thou sayest: “Remember me when Thou comest in Thy kingdom.” What! dost thou call Him Lord who is thus hanging on the Cross, sentenced to it by His Judges; and is He a Judge who is thus condemned? Thou didst feel and acknowledge that He was crucified for sinners, and was doing His utmost to give life to those that were lost: for He is the Lamb slain and offered in sacrifice for many. What then dost thou ask, O thou believer, and no longer thief?—That Thou wouldst remember me in Thy kingdom. Thou askest a thing that is far and distant, but I will give it thee at once. Thou hast not been slow in believing; and I will not withhold My grace: today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise. So that he really rose to Paradise, who was about to descend into hell to which he was doomed. And why this day? Because while on this day Adam was driven from Paradise, at this hour the thief opened it and went into it. And from the hour at which Adam ate of the fruit of the garden until he left it, Jesus remained on the Cross, until He fulfilled the spreading of Moses’ hands towards heaven. “They pierced My hands and My feet,” according to the saying of David. Gall in the cup is offered because of Adam’s lust to Him Who is crowned with thorns. In order that the adversary should be put to shame, He carried the conquest of His enemy as far as the Cross, and endured patiently his infamous treatment.

But in like manner as the heavens showed the place of the Nativity by means of a brilliant star in the East, so also they made known how they mourned for the sufferings of Christ, by withholding the light of the sun, in order to hide the fury and audacity of His enemies. The light hid itself for three hours, as long as the Sun of Righteousness remained on the Cross and in sufferings; afterwards the sun reappeared, lest they might think night had arrived. But the sun did not shrink from being darkened; it hid itself three hours in order to represent as it were the stay of the Son of Man for three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, and His appearing again. When the heavens withheld their light and gave it back they proclaimed a miracle; and the earth shook at the fight it could not bear. For it was fitting and becoming all creation to bear witness of Him Who was suffering on the Cross. And the bosom and bars of the earth were torn asunder in order to receive Him Who was free among the dead. The types and examples of Joseph the patriarch, as handed down by the ancient Jews, were realised in the Son Who was betrayed to death by them, and dwells for ever with His Father,

Let us then abide by Jesus who endures Agony for our sake. At the foot of His Cross thieves were crucified with Him, as being necessary to the fulfilment of the dispensation, that we might learn how men do die, and how God was separated from him by His will and not without it. Those who were subject to the law of nature had their legs broken, that they should endure death according to that nature. But He who had power to lay down His life and power to take it again in like manner as He took of His own will and not against it, a body out of the Virgin, also of His own accord and not otherwise made on the Cross, a separation between His Spirit and His body. “Father, in Thy hands I commit My Spirit”—not in the hands of the wicked who, reviled and reproached Him on all sides. This is a great wonder: for He died willingly and not unwillingly; and there need not of necessity be any pain connected with it, for when He will, He gives up His Spirit.

He is then in every respect the One Only-begotten; for as He alone was begotten of the Father, and He alone was born of the Virgin according to the flesh, so also in death, He dies of His own will and not otherwise. Those who heard this could hardly believe it, and they asked; Can a man give up the ghost when he likes, of his own will? So that one of the soldiers who could not believe that He was already dead, made a gash in His side with a spear, and some in wonder said: “Of a truth He was the Son of God.” But why did he not pierce with his spear the heart or other parts near it? Because it was where the serpent hid his fangs. For Eve Was taken from Adam’s side, and he who wishes to heal the bite of the serpent, must cut the part in which the venom lies. It was therefore fitting and right that one side should be wounded for another; that the saying might come true: “All things concerning Me have an end.” …

This day was the death of death, and the destruction of sin; this day was the sacrifice offered for the propitiation of our sins, but the shame of our foe. This was the beginning of our life, the signal of victory over the great adversary. But of that death no one doubts; for all admit and confess it. The Gentiles ridicule it; the Jews say: we put Him to death. But they will bear the doom they have brought down upon themselves; while the Church rejoices in Jesus Christ our Lord; to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Eusebius of Emessa

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