The boast of the Cross – St. John Chrysostom

[On this day the Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates the Glorious Feast of the Cross: may the Lord’s victory on the cross be a strength and reminder to us all this day.]

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

Truly this symbol is thought despicable; but it is so in the world’s reckoning, and among men; in Heaven and among the faithful it is the highest glory. Poverty too is despicable, but it is our boast; and to be cheaply thought of by the public is a matter of laughter to them, but we are elated by it. So too is the Cross our boast. He does not say, I boast not, nor, I will not boast, but, Far be it from me that I should, as if he abominated it as absurd, and invoked the aid of God in order to his success therein.

And what is the boast of the Cross? That Christ for my sake took on Him the form of a slave, and bore His sufferings for me the slave, the enemy, the unfeeling one; yea He so loved me as to give Himself up to a curse for me. What can be comparable to this! If servants who only receive praise from their masters, to whom they are akin by nature, are elated thereby, how must we not boast when the Master who is very God is not ashamed of the Cross which was endured for us.

Let us then not be ashamed of His unspeakable tenderness; He was not ashamed of being crucified for your sake, and will you be ashamed to confess His infinite solicitude? It is as if a prisoner who had not been ashamed of his King, should, after that King had come to the prison and himself loosed the chains, become ashamed of him on that account. Yet this would be the height of madness, for this very fact would be a special ground for boasting.

[St. John Chrysostom, Homily 6 on Galatians]

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Late have I loved You – Augustine of Hippo

Late have I loved You, O Beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved You! For behold You were within me, and I outside; I sought You outside and in my unloveliness fell upon those lovely things that You have made. You were with me and I was not with You. I was kept from You by those things, yet had they not been in You, they would not have been at all.

You called and shouted to me to break open my deafness: You sent forth Your beams and shined upon me and chased away my blindness: You breathed fragrance upon me, and I drew in breath and now I pant for You: I tasted You, and now hunger and thirst for You: You touched me, and I burn for You peace.

[Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, Book 10]

Hold to the cross in the tempest – Amma Syncletica

If you have begun to act well, do not turn back through the constraint of the enemy, for through your endurance the enemy is destroyed. Those who put out to sea at first sailed with a favourable wind; then the sails spread, but later the wind becomes adverse. Then the ship is tossed by the waves and is no longer controlled by the rudder. But when in a little while there is calm, and the tempest dies down, then the ship sails on again. So it is with us, when we are driven by the spirits who are against us; we hold to the cross as our sail and so we can set a safe course.

[Amma Syncletica, Apophthegmata Patrum]

Excerpt from Gospel of the Day – Take up your cross – Mark 8:34-35, 1th of Hathor- Augustine of Hippo

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“When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34-5)

What is, Let him take up his cross? Let him bear whatever trouble he has; so let him follow Me. For when he shall begin to follow Me in conformity to My life and precepts, he will have many to contradict him, he will have many to hinder him, he will have many to dissuade him, and that from among those who are even as it were Christ’s companions. They who hindered the blind men from crying out were walking with Christ. Whether therefore they be threats or caresses, or whatsoever hindrances there be, if you wish to follow, turn them into your cross, bear it, carry it, do not give way beneath it. There seems to be an exhortation to martyrdom in these words of the Lord. If there be persecution, ought not all things to be despised in consideration of Christ?

The world is loved; but let Him be preferred by whom the world was made. Great is the world; but greater is He by whom the world was made. Fair is the world; but fairer is He by whom the world was made. Sweet is the world; but sweeter is He by whom the world was made. Evil is the world; and good is He by whom the world was made.

[Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 46 on the New Testament]

Be at peace – St. John Chrysostom

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God is not a God of war and fighting. Make war and fighting to cease, both that which is against Him, and that which is against your neighbor. Be at peace with all men, consider with what character God saves you. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9). Such always imitate the Son of God: you imitate Him too. Be at peace.

The more your brother wars against you, by so much the greater will be your reward. For hear the prophet who says, With the haters of peace I was peaceful (Psalm 120:7) This is virtue, this is above man’s understanding, this makes us near God; nothing so much delights God as to remember no evil. This sets you free from your sins, this looses the charges against you: but if we are fighting and buffeting, we become far off from God: for enmities are produced by conflict, and from enmity springs remembrance of evil.

[St. John Chrysostom, Homily XIV on Philippians]

Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free – St. John Chrysostom

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If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have laboured long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honour, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.

And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honours the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honour the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.

Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.

[St. John Chrysostom, Paschal Homily]

O Lord who adorned the earth with flowers, they dressed You with a scarlet robe – Prayers of the Coptic Orthodox Church

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O you dwellers of Jerusalem, come and see. They crucified Jesus, the Son of David, on a cross. They dressed Him in a scarlet robe like the kings, and placed a crown of thorns on His head.

He adorned the heavens with the stars, created the earth and beautified it with flowers. They placed a reed in His right hand as a wise man and a teacher. They compelled a cross on Him as a conqueror.

The women who came to Jerusalem for the Passover wept and wailed when they saw Jesus. He looked at them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me. Rather, weep for yourselves because of the tribulation that will befall you. There will be days when you envy the barren who never gave birth, nursed or raised a child.They will ask the mountains to fall on them, and the hills to cover them. For if they do this when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?

When they came to the place called the skull, there they set the cross and crucified Him.

They crucified with Him two criminals, one on His right and one on His left, so that the prophesy of the prophet may be fulfilled.

The soldiers took His clothes and cast lots to divide His garments. They inscribed on the cross over His head, in Hebrew, Greek, and Roman, “This is the king of the Jews.” The people stood by, watching, and the rulers mocked Him saying, “He saved others, let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen one.” The soldiers also mocked Him saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save Yourself and come down off the cross.” One of the criminals railed at Him in front of everyone, saying, “If you are the Christ save Yourself and save us of this shame that we endure.”

The other rebuked him saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence and condemnation? We deserve this punishment but He is innocent and without blame.”

Then he said to Jesus, “Remember me, O Lord in Your Kingdom.” The Lord of Glory replied saying, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

There were women standing by the cross of our Saviour, His mother, His mother’s sister Mary Clopas and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother,” and from that hour the disciple took her to his own home as the Lord said.

And from the sixth hour to the ninth hour there was darkness on the whole earth.

O Lord who adorned the earth with flowers, they dressed You with a scarlet robe, and the skies with the stars, they put a crown of thorns on Your head.

You who have dominion over Heaven and Earth, they put a reed in Your hand. You who suspended the whole world with one word of Your mouth;

You were crucified on the cross. You were crucified for our sins and abolished the power of death by Your cross, O Ominpotent.

[Exposition of the Sixth Hour of Great Friday, Rite of the Coptic Orthodox Church]