Quotes From Early Church Fathers on Christ's Death

Christ taken down from the cross, by James Tissot

CONTEMLATING THE LORD'S PASSION

from a sermon by Leo the Great, 5th century

True reverence for the Lord's passion means fixing the eyes of our heart on Jesus crucified and recognizing in him our own humanity.

The earth - our earthly nature - should tremble at the suffering of its Redeemer. The rocks - the hearts of unbelievers - should come forth, the massive stones now ripped apart. Foreshadowings of the future resurrection should appear in the holy city, the church of God: what is happen to our bodies should now take place in our hearts.

No one, however weak, is denied a share in the victory of the cross. No one is beyond the help of the prayer of Christ. His prayer brought benefit to the multitude that raged against him. How much more does it bring to those who turn to him in repentance.

Ignorance has been destroyed, obstinacy has been overcome. The sacred blood of Christ has quenched the flaming sword that barred access to the tree of life. The age-old night of sin has given place to the true light.

The Christian people are invited to share the riches of paradise. All who have been reborn have the way open before them to return to their native land, from which they had been exiled. Unless indeed they close off for themselves the path that could be opened before the faith of a thief.

The business of this life should not preoccupy us with its anxiety and pride, so that we no longer strive with all the love of our heart to be like our Redeemer, and to follow his example. Everything that he did or suffered was for our salvation: he wanted his body to share the goodness of its head.

First of all, in taking our human nature while remaining God, so that the Word became man, he left no member of the human race, the unbeliever excepted, without a share in his mercy. Who does not share a common nature with Christ if he has welcomed Christ, who took our nature, and is reborn in the Spirit through whom Christ was conceived?

Again, who cannot recognize in Christ his own infirmities? Who would not recognize that Christ's eating and sleeping, his sadness and his shedding tears of love are marks of the nature of a slave?

It was this nature of a slave that had to be healed of its ancient wounds and cleansed of the defilement of sin. For that reason the only- begotten Son of God became also the son of man. He was to have both the reality of human nature and the fullness of the Godhead.

The body that lay lifeless in the tomb is ours. The body that rose again on the third day is ours. The body that ascended above all the heights of heaven to the right hand of the Father's glory is ours. If then we walk in the way of his commandments, and are not ashamed to acknowledge the price he paid for our salvation in a lowly body, we too are to rise to share his glory. The promise he made will be fulfilled in the sight of all: Whoever acknowledges me before men, I too will acknowledge him before my Father who is in heaven.


Leo was born in 400 AD in Tuscany, Italy. He was well-educated, but yearned for the spiritual life. He became an archdeacon under Pope Sixtus III. When Sixtus III died in 440, Leo was unanimously elected Bishop of Rome. Leo led the church during a particularly troubled time when barbarian armies were ravaging what remained of the Roman Empire which was in total political and military collapse and suffered a vacuum of political leadership. Pope Leo filled the void and became the advocate for the temporal as well as spiritual needs of his flock. He is noted for persuading Attila the Hun to abandon his plans to sack the city of Rome in 452. He was the spokesperson for the Roman citizenry in 455 when the Vandal barbarians swept into Central Italy, securing concessions from them. Many of Leo's sermons and letters were concerned with theological questions concerning the person of Jesus Christ and his role as mediator and savior. Leo died in 461.

Reflections on the Cross of Christ from the early church fathers
What Happened on the Cross, by John Damascene
A Few Drops of Blood Renew the Whole World, by Gregory Nazianzen
What We Behold on the Cross, by Augustine
Contemplating the Lord's Passion by Leo the Great
The Lamb that was Slain by Melito of Sardis
The Power of the Blood of Christ by John Chrysostom
By One Death and Resurrection the World Was Saved by Basil
The Life-giving Cross of Christ by Theodore the Studite
Let us too glory in the Cross by Augustine
The Cross of Christ by Leo the Great
The Body of Christ Gives Life to Those Who Receive It, by Cyril of Alexandria
The Death of Death by Augustine

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