April 2009 - Vol. 29

Quotes From Early Church Fathers on Christ's Death

Crucifixion by Michael O'Brien
What Happened on the Cross?

by John of Damascus

By nothing else except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ has death been brought low:
The sin of our first parent destroyed,
hell plundered,
resurrection bestowed, 
the power given us to despise the things of this world, 
even death itself, 
the road back to the former blessedness made smooth, 
the gates of paradise opened, 
our nature seated at the right hand of God, 
and we made children and heirs of God.
By the cross all these things have been set aright...
It is a seal that the destroyer may not strike us, 
a raising up of those who lie fallen, 
a support for those who stand, 
a staff for the infirm, 
a crook for the shepherded, 
a guide for the wandering, 
a perfecting of the advanced, 
salvation for soul and body, 
a deflector of all evils, 
a cause of all goods, 
a destruction of sin, 
a plant of resurrection, 
and a tree of eternal life.

[excerpted from Orthodox Faith, 4]...

Go to > Next Page

> What Happened on the Cross? by John of Damascus
 > A Few Drops of Blood Renew the Whole World, by Gregory Nazianzen
 > The Lamb That Was Slain Has Delivered Us from Death and Given Us Life, by Melito of Sardis
 > The Death of Death, by Augustine of Hippo


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John of Damascus 

John of Damascus, also known as John Damascene, was born in 676. He was brought up in Damascus Syria in a Christian family living under Muslim rule. His father was a government official under both the Byzantine emperor and the Muslim rulers of Damascus. John received a classical education. His fields of interest and contribution included law, theology, philosophy, and music. He was fluent in Arabic as well as Greek. John worked in the Muslim court until the hostility of the caliph toward Christianity caused him to resign his position, about the year 700.

Mar Saba Monastery, Judaean dessert 
photo by Shay Shtickgold

He moved to the vicinity of Jerusalem and became a monk at Mar Saba Monastery located in the Judaean desert hills near Bethlehem, 18 miles southeast of Jerusalem. He taught in the monastery, preached many sermons in Jerusalem, and wrote both theological treatises and hymns. 

Since he lived in the midst of political and theological turmoil, John wrote a great deal to clarify true doctrine and to do his part in spreading the gospel. He is recognized as one of the principal composer of hymns in Eastern Orthodoxy. His most important theological work, The Fount of Wisdom, is a summary of Eastern theology. He was a key defender of the use of icons during the iconoclast controversies.

John is considered the last of the Greek church fathers and the first of the East to formulate a comprehensive synthesis of Christian Dogma. John died in 749. He worked to the very end and was beloved by his fellow monks and revered by the people. He was buried at the Monastery of Mar Saba. 

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