Glorified through the Cross

C hrist, who has shown by his words and actions that he was truly God and Lord of the universe, said to his disciples as he was about to go up to Jerusalem: We are going up to Jerusalem now, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the Gentiles and the chief priests and scribes to be scourged and mocked and crucified.

These words bore out the predictions of the prophets, who had foretold the death he was to die in Jerusalem. From the beginning holy Scripture had foretold Christ’s death, the sufferings that would precede it, and what would happen to his body afterward. Scripture also affirmed that these things were going to happen to one who was immortal and incapable of suffering because he was God.

Glorified through the Cross - 1 - Christ on the Cross

Only by reflecting upon the meaning of the incarnation can we see how it is possible to say with perfect truth both that Christ suffered and that he was incapable of suffering, came to suffer. In fact, man could have been saved in no other way, as Christ alone knew and those to whom he revealed it. For he knows all the secrets of the Father, even as the Spirit penetrates the depths of all mysteries.

It was necessary for Christ to suffer: his passion was absolutely unavoidable. He said so himself when he called his companions dull and slow to believe because they failed to recognise that he had to suffer and so enter into his glory. Leaving behind him the glory that had been his with the Father before the world was made, he had gone forth to save his people. This salvation, however, could be achieved only by the suffering of the author of our life, as Paul taught when he said that the author of life himself was made perfect through suffering. Because of us he was deprived of his glory for a little while, the glory that was his as the Father’s only-begotten Son, but through the cross this glory is seen to have been restored to him in a certain way in the body that he had assumed. Explaining what water the Saviour referred to when he said: He that has faith in me shall have rivers of living water flowing from within him, John says in his gospel that he was speaking of the Holy Spirit which those who believed in him were to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified. The glorification he meant was his death upon the cross for which the Lord prayed to the Father before undergoing his passion, asking his Father to give him the glory that he had in his presence before the world began.

This reading is used in the Roman liturgy’s Office of Readings on the Tuesday in the Octave of Easter (Oratio 4:1-2, PG 89. 1347-1349) with the accompanying biblical reading from I Peter 1:22-2:10. It’s author, St. Anastasius of Antioch, was one of the later Church Fathers. As abbot of the monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, he supported orthodoxy against all forms of heresy, especially ideas that would detract from the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus Christ. He died around the year 700 AD. For an overview of the Early Church Fathers, click here.

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St. Athanasius was born in Alexandria, Egypt, around the year 296 AD. Most probably, he was educated in the famous catechetical school of that city, which decades earlier was led by St. Clement of Alexandria and then Origen. Athanasius became a deacon and secretary to the Alexandria’s bishop, Alexander, and in that capacity accompanied his bishop to the first great Ecumenical Council, the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Shortly after returning from the Council (328), St. Athanasius was named the successor to Bishop Alexander and became patriarch archbishop of Alexandria, the greatest episcopal see in the Church after Rome.St. Athanasius is one of the most important of the Early Church Fathers, best known for his tireless proclamation of the Council of Nicaea’s profession of faith in the full divinity of Christ during the troubled period of the Arian heresy, which denied Jesus’ equality with the Father. For decades after the Council, powerful forces in the government of the Eastern Roman empire lobbied for an Arian form of Christian faith. Athanasius bravely stood against them and was exiled numerous times by the government and actually had to flee to Rome in 339 where he stayed for 7 years in exile, establishing close relationships with the Roman Church which supported him throughout the rest of his life as he continued to stand for orthodoxy. While still a deacon in his twenties, Athanasius wrote his famous treatise, On the Incarnation (full text available below), which remains one of two best known works. The other is his Life of Antony, the spiritual classic which tells the story of St. Anthony of the Desert who initiated the monastic movement in Egypt and indeed throughout the entire Christian world. St. Antony and his monks were stalwart supporters of Athanasius throughout his struggle with Arianism. From 339 to 359 Athanasius also wrote a number of other works defending the orthodox faith of the Council of Nicaea. St. Athanasius died in Alexandria on May 2, 373, and to this day he is honored on May 2 in the Roman liturgy.  (Bio by Dr. Italy)