Theophilus of Alexandria, Homily on the Crucifixion and the Good Thief (Excerpt 3)

For Thursday of Lent Week 5

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

Do you want to know the truth? Listen, I will tell you it. I will say to you again that while they do all these things to him, he turned his eyes towards heaven and prayed to his Father, saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Lk. 23:34). At the same time you should be aware that God the Father determines at what hour to send down on them his irrevocable anger, even as the voice of his Only-begotten ascends to him, beseeching him to put aside the indignation of his anger.

He sent a powerful angel and rent the curtain of the temple from top to bottom, tearing it into two. The earth shook, the rocks were split, the sun, that great source of light, was obscured and darkness filled the world to cover his sacred body on the cross, for it was stripped of his clothing which they had divided (cf. Mt. 27:45, 51; Lk. 23:44–5).

Ponder, then, my beloved, and reflect on God’s mercy towards the world. He who had clothed the whole of creation was despoiled of his own clothing. He was left naked on the wood of the cross. But the sun, that wise minister, covered its Lord with darkness, which endured until the eyes of those atheists were dimmed, so that they should not see the great mystery that lay on the wood of the cross, for they are not worthy of it

For he who was worthy of contemplating it at that hour saw the accomplishment of the mystery of his divinity. Who was ever worthy of this great glory at that hour?

Let us examine this. The Father contemplates it from heaven. The thief, too, after ascending to the height of the cross, contemplates all the things that had taken place, and rejoices and exults to see them. Who has ever seen them? The host of angels surrounds the cross and praises him with hymns. The Father looks down from heaven, giving glory to his Only-begotten. All the air is in motion because the body of the Creator is suspended on high. All the earth rejoices because the blood of its king is sprinkled upon it.

Theophilus of Alexandria, Homily on the Crucifixion and the Good Thief (Excerpt 2)

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?

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.

Athanasius, Festal Letter 45 Fragment

For Monday of Lent Week 5

Let us all take up our sacrifices, observing distribution to the poor, and enter into the holy place, as it is written; “whither also our forerunner Jesus is entered for us, having obtained eternal redemption.” . . . (From the same:) . . . And this is a great proof that, whereas we were strangers, we are called friends; from being formerly aliens, we have become fellow citizens with the saints, and are called children of the Jerusalem which is above, whereof that which Solomon built was a type. For if Moses made all things according to the pattern showed him in the mount, it is clear that the service performed in the tabernacle was a type of the heavenly mysteries, whereto the Lord, desirous that we should enter, prepared for us the new and abiding way. And as all the old things were a type of the new, so the festival that now is, is a type of the joy which is above, to which coming with psalms and spiritual songs, let us begin the fasts.

Athanasius, Festal Letter 44 Fragment

For Friday of Lent Week 4

When therefore the servants of the Chief Priests and the Scribes saw these things, and heard from Jesus, “Whosoever is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink;” [John 7:37] they perceived that this was not a mere man like themselves, but that this was He Who gave water to the saints, and that it was He Who was announced by the prophet Isaiah. For He was truly the splendour of the light , and the Word of God. And thus as a river from the fountain he gave drink also of old to Paradise; but now to all men He gives the same gift of the Spirit, and says, “If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink.” Whosoever “believes in Me, as says the Scripture, rivers of living water shall flow out of his belly.” [John 7:37-38] This was not for man to say, but for the living God, Who truly vouchsafes life, and gives the Holy Spirit.

Athanasius, Festal Letter 43 Fragment

For Wednesday of Lent Week 4

Of us, then, whose also is the Passover, the calling is from above, and “our conversation is in heaven,” as Paul says; “For we have here no abiding city, but we seek that which is to come,” whereto, also, looking forward, we properly keep the feast. (And again, afterwards:) Heaven truly is high, and its distance from us infinite; for “the heaven of heavens,” says he, “is the Lord’s.” But not, on that account, are we to be negligent or fearful, as though the way thereto were impossible; but rather should we be zealous. Yet not, as in the case of those who formerly, removing from the east and finding a plain in Senaar, began [to build a tower], is there need for us to bake bricks with fire, and to seek slime for mortar; for their tongues were confounded, and their work was destroyed. But for us the Lord has consecrated a way through His blood, and has made it easy. (And again:) For not only has He afforded us consolation respecting the distance, but also in that He has come and opened the door for us which was once shut. For, indeed, it was shut from the time He cast out Adam from the delight of Paradise, and set the Cherubim and the flaming sword, that turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life—now, however, opened wide. And He that sits upon the Cherubim having appeared with greater grace and loving-kindness, led into Paradise with himself the thief who confessed, and having entered heaven as our forerunner, opened the gates to all. (And again:) Paul also, “pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling,” [Phil 3:14] by it was taken up to the third heaven, and having seen those things which are above, and then descended, he teaches us, announcing what is written to the Hebrews, and saying, “For you have not come to the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, and clouds, and darkness, and a tempest, and to the voice of words. But you have come to Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, and to the general assembly and Church of the first-born, which are written in heaven.” Who would not wish to enjoy the high companionship with these! Who not desire to be enrolled with these, that he may hear with them, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” [Matt 25:34]

Athanasius, Festal Letter 42 Fragment

For Tuesday of Lent Week 4

For we have been called, brethren, and are now called together, by Wisdom, and according to the Evangelical parable, to that great and heavenly Supper, and sufficient for every creature; I mean, to the Passover—to Christ, Who is sacrificed; for “Christ our Passover is sacrificed.” (And afterwards:) They, therefore, that are thus prepared shall hear, “Enter into the joy of your Lord. “

Athanasius, Festal Letter 40 Fragment

For Monday of Lent Week 4

“You are they that have continued with Me in My temptations; and I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father has appointed unto Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom.” Being called, then, to the great and heavenly Supper, in that upper room which has been swept, let us “cleanse ourselves,” as the Apostle exhorted, “from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” [2 Cor 7:1]; that so, being spotless within and without—without, clothing ourselves with temperance and justice; within, by the Spirit, rightly dividing the word of truth—we may hear, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.” [Matt 25:21]

Athanasius, Festal Letter 29 Fragment

For Friday of Lent Week 3

The Lord proved the disciples, when He was asleep on the pillow, at which time a miracle was wrought, which is especially calculated to put even the wicked to shame. For when He arose, and rebuked the sea, and silenced the storm, He plainly showed two things; that the storm of the sea was not from the winds, but from fear of its Lord Who walked upon it, and that the Lord Who rebuked it was not a creature, but rather its Creator, since a creature is not obedient to another creature. For although the Red Sea was divided before by Moses [Exodus 14:21], yet it was not Moses who did it, for it came to pass, not because he spoke, but because God commanded. And if the sun stood still in Gibeon, and the moon in the valley of Ajalon [Joshua 10:12], yet this was the work, not of the son of Nun, but of the Lord, Who heard his prayer He it was Who both rebuked the sea, and on the cross caused the sun to be darkened [Matthew 27:45].

Another Fragment
And whereas what is human comes to an end, what is divine does not. For which reason also when we are dead, and when our nature is tired out, he raises us up, and leads us up [though] born of earth to heaven.

Athanasius, Festal Letter 28 Fragment

For Thursday of Lent Week 3

. . . In order that while He might become a sacrifice for us all, we, nourished up in the words of truth, and partaking of His living doctrine, might be able with the saints to receive also the joy of Heaven. For there, as He called the disciples to the upper chamber, so does the Word call us with them to the divine and incorruptible banquet; having suffered for us here, but there, preparing the heavenly tabernacles for those who most readily hearken to the summons, and unceasingly, and [gazing] at the goal, pursue the prize of their high calling; where for them who come to the banquet, and strive with those who hinder them, there is laid up both a crown, and incorruptible joy. For even though, humanly speaking, the labour of such a journey is great, yet the Saviour Himself has rendered even it light and kindly.