Theophilus of Alexandria, Homily on the Crucifixion and the Good Thief (Excerpt 1)

For Tuesday of Lent Week 5

[From Norman Russell, Theophilus of Alexandria, The Early Fathers of the Church (New York: Routledge, 2007).]

In spite of all these things accomplished by him in their presence, they did not give him credence, but seized him and delivered him to be crucified. Having brought him into the court of the High Priest, they treated him with contempt rather than honour. Then the word of Scripture was fulfilled: ‘They brought evils upon me instead of blessings, and hatred instead of my love’ (Ps. 109 [108]:5).

What, then, are the evils which the people he created, the people who killed him, did to him? They are terrible to describe or to hear. My tongue trembles, my eye weeps, my spirit groans, my soul is distressed to utter them. It is God that they have seized, the Lord that they have bound, the king of glory that they have crucified. Jesus Christ is the one that they have bound. They have pierced with nails the hands of him who created them. They slapped the face of their Lord. They beat his head with their fists. They placed a crown of thorns on his head. They dressed him in a purple cloak. They gave him vinegar and gall. On this day they did all these things to him. They crucified with him two thieves. One of them, who was unworthy of the vision of his divinity, said to the Lord, deriding him: ‘If you are the Christ, save yourself and us’ (Lk. 23:39). The other replied, rebuking him with indignation: ‘“Do you not fear God? We are receiving the due reward of our sins which we have committed, but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him with great joy, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise”’ (cf. Lk. 23:40–3).

‘The gate of Paradise has been closed since the time when Adam transgressed, but I will open it today, and receive you in it. Because you have recognized the nobility of my head on the cross, you who have shared with me in the suffering of the cross will be my companion in the joy of my kingdom. You have glorified me in the presence of carnal men, in the presence of sinners. I will therefore glorify you in the presence of the angels. You were fixed with me on the cross, and you united yourself with me of your own free will. I will therefore love you, and my Father will love you, and the angels will serve you with my holy food. If you used once to be a companion of murderers, behold, I who am the life of all have now made you a companion with me. You used once to walk in the night with the sons of darkness; behold, I who am the light of the whole world have now made you walk with me. You used once to take counsel with murderers; behold, I who am the Creator have made you a companion with me.

‘All these things I will pardon you because you have confessed my divinity in the presence of those who have denied me. For they saw all the signs which I performed, but did not believe in me. You, then, a rapacious robber, a murderer, a brigand, a swindler, a plunderer have confessed that I am God. That is why I have pardoned your many sins, because you have loved much (cf. Lk. 7:47). I will make you a citizen of Paradise. I will wash your body so that it will not see corruption before I resurrect it with me on the third day and take you up with me.

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