Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Christ the Victor

Here is a perfect expression of how the Early Church understood the mystery of salvation. Here, St. Cyril is commenting on St. Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah and Christ’s response to this confession. Note how Cyril views the Cross and Resurrection as part of a process of salvation, and especially how the Paschal Mystery is an overthrowing of tyranny and a shared victory for us all rather than simply the payment of a debt owed to God. This “Christus Victor” understanding of salvation is what we proclaim in the Episcopal Church, leading to a deeper appreciation of God’s perfect love, which “casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18). This passage also makes clear that Christ’s teachings and the Paschal Mystery are a united reality—the former being completed by the latter. Finally, such an understanding of salvation makes clear our response to share the faith lovingly by way of response and action rather than remaining passive viewers or recipients.


When, however, the disciple had professed his faith, [Christ Jesus] charged them, it says, and commanded them to tell it to no one: “For the son of man,” he said, “is about to suffer many things, and be rejected, and killed, and the third day he shall rise again.” And yet how was it not rather the duty of disciples to proclaim him everywhere? For this was the very business of those appointed by him to the apostleship. But as the sacred Scripture says, “there is a time for everything.” There were things yet unfulfilled which must also be included in their preaching of him, such as were the cross, the passion, the death in the flesh, the resurrection from the dead, that great and truly glorious sign by which testimony is born of him that Emmanuel is truly God and by nature the Son of God the Father. For that he utterly abolished death, and he faced destruction, and spoiled hell, and overthrew the tyranny of the enemy, and took away the sin of the world, and opened the gates above to the dwellers upon earth, and united earth to heaven; these things proved him to be, as I said, in truth God. He commanded them, therefore, to guard the mystery by a seasonable silence until the whole plan of the dispensation should arrive at a suitable fulfillment. 

St. Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376 – 444), from Commentary on Luke, Homily 49.

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