Day 4/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Why was it Christ’s Blood was shed? – St. Gregory the Theologian and St. Athanasius the Apostolic

 

Now we are to examine another fact and dogma, neglected by most people, but in my judgment well worth enquiring into. To Whom was that Blood offered that was shed for us, and why was It shed? I mean the precious and famous Blood of our God and High priest and Sacrifice.

We were detained in bondage by the Evil One, sold under sin, and receiving pleasure in exchange for wickedness. Now, since a ransom belongs only to him who holds in bondage, I ask to whom was this offered, and for what cause? If to the Evil One, fie upon the outrage! If the robber receives ransom, not only from God, but a ransom which consists of God Himself, and has such an illustrious payment for his tyranny, a payment for whose sake it would have been right for him to have left us alone altogether.

But if to the Father, I ask first, how? For it was not by Him that we were being oppressed; and next, On what principle did the Blood of His Only begotten Son delight the Father, Who would not receive even Isaac, when he was being offered by his Father, but changed the sacrifice, putting a ram in the place of the human victim? Is it not evident that the Father accepts Him, but neither asked for Him nor demanded Him; but on account of the Incarnation, and because Humanity must be sanctified by the Humanity of God, that He might deliver us Himself, and overcome the tyrant, and draw us to Himself by the mediation of His Son, Who also arranged this to the honor of the Father, Whom it is manifest that He obeys in all things? So much we have said of Christ; the greater part of what we might say shall be reverenced with silence.

But that brazen serpent (Numbers 21:9) was hung up as a remedy for the biting serpents, not as a type of Him that suffered for us, but as a contrast; and it saved those that looked upon it, not because they believed it to live, but because it was killed, and killed with it the powers that were subject to it, being destroyed as it deserved. And what is the fitting epitaph for it from us? O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? You are overthrown by the Cross; you are slain by Him who is the Giver of life; you are without breath, dead, without motion, even though you keep the form of a serpent lifted up on high on a pole.

[St. Gregory Nazianzus, Second Oration on Pascha]

 

Some points of contemplation and prayer from the above:

+ God the Father was not thirsty for blood, nor was He “angry” at the Son – the act of the Incarnation and our Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was an act of love, of His own volition for our sake. The Lord Christ did not “have” to die for us, He chose to do so. And God the Father did not “require” death or blood to fulfill a “Divine Justice” – it is not justice for the Innocent to die for the guilty. The consequences of sin, (which is defined as any separation from God, the Source of Life itself) were corruption, and then death (Rom 6:23), natural consequences of separation from God, the Source of Life. Natural consequences, and not desired by God. So a Divine Plan for salvation because of His love was set in motion, a plan which existed before the creation itself. The Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was in order to cure these fundamental ailments, of corruption of human nature and death. He came in the perfect union of human nature and Divine nature in the One Incarnate Nature of God the Word (our Lord Jesus Christ). And in dying on the cross, St. Athanasius the Great tells us:

 

“The body of the Word, then, being a real human body, in spite of its having been uniquely formed from a virgin, was of itself mortal and, like other bodies, liable to death. But the indwelling of the Word loosed it from this natural liability, so that corruption could not touch it. Thus it happened that two opposite marvels took place at once: the death of all was consummated in the Lord’s body; yet, because the Word was in it, death and corruption were in the same act utterly abolished. Death there had to be, and death for all, so that the due of all might be paid. Wherefore, the Word, as I said, being Himself incapable of death, assumed a mortal body, that He might offer it as His own in place of all, and suffering for the sake of all through His union with it, ” might bring to nought Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might deliver them who all their lifetime were enslaved by the fear of death.” (Heb 2:14)

Have no fears then. Now that the common Savior of all has died on our behalf, we who believe in Christ no longer die, as men died aforetime, in fulfillment of the threat of the law. That condemnation has come to an end; and now that, by the grace of the resurrection, corruption has been banished and done away, we are loosed from our mortal bodies in God’s good time for each, so that we may obtain thereby a better resurrection. Like seeds cast into the earth, we do not perish in our dissolution, but like them shall rise again, death having been brought to nought by the grace of the Savior. That is why blessed Paul, through whom we all have surety of the resurrection, says: “This corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality; but when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor 15:53).

[St. Athanasius the Apostolic, On the Incarnation of the Word]

 

+Thank You Lord for Your infinite mercy and love for mankind. Glory be to You forever, Amen+

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