For Wednesday of Lent Week 5
[From Norman Russell, Theophilus of Alexandria, The Early Fathers of the Church (New York: Routledge, 2007).]
Consider and contemplate God’s mercy and great patience. He looks down from on high and sees his only-begotten Son nailed to the wood, and is longsuffering in his great bounty. For him, then, they still pierce our Lord Jesus Christ’s holy hands with nails, they still slap his face, they still beat his head with fists, they still give him vinegar mixed with gall to drink, they still divide his garments by lot, and they still break a cane on his head. And in spite of all these things, he does not grow angry, nor has he any rancour in his heart against them.
Do you want to know the truth? I will not tell you; listen to him. After all these things he cried out, saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Lk. 23:34). Do you realize how great is the Father’s mercy towards us, and that of his Son, who mounted on the cross for the salvation of the entire created world? For the moment he was hung on the cross, he purified the whole of creation, the things of heaven and the things below. His divine body, then, hanging on the cross made the whole air clean and pure. With the shedding of his sacred blood, the whole earth was equally purified of its contamination. Moreover, his divinity descended into Hades, despoiled it, and released the souls shut up in darkness, setting them free. For this is what he promised us with his mouth of truth, which in all eternity has never uttered any falsehood.
‘If they exalt me on earth, I will draw them to me’ (cf. Mt. 10:32). In another place it says, ‘I will draw them to me with the chains of my love’ (cf. Jn 12:32). What great love, then, is equal to this, which makes him mount up on the wood of the cross and surrenders him voluntarily to imprisonment? For if it was not of his own free will, who would have been able to seize him? For who could ever have seized God, the Creator?