THE CURSES OF HOLY AND GOOD FRIDAY

Written by Vladimir Moss

   In mathematics, two minuses make a plus; and something analogous take place in God’s economy, His calculus of salvation, as it were.

     In the troparion for Good Friday we chant: “Thou hast redeemed us from the curse of the law”. And St. Paul develops the thought: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Galatians 3.13). What is the curse of the law, and to what curse did Christ subject Himself in order to deliver us from that curse?

     St. John Chrysostom explains: “’Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us’ (Galatians 3.13). In reality, the people were subject to another curse, which says, ‘Cursed is every man who continueth not in all the words of the law to do them’ (Deuteronomy 27.26). To this curse, I say, people were subject, for none had continued in, or was a keeper of, the whole law; but Christ exchanged this curse for the other, ‘Cursed by God is everyone who is hanged on a tree’ (Deuteronomy 21.23). And then both he who hanged on a tree, and he who transgresses the law, is cursed, and as it was necessary for him who is about to relieve from a curse himself to be loosed from it, but to receive another instead of it, therefore Christ took upon Him such another, and thereby loosed us from the curse. It was like an innocent man’s undertaking to die for another condemned to death, and so rescuing him from punishment. For Christ took upon Him not the curse of transgression, but the other curse, in order to remove that of others. For, ‘He practiced no iniquity, nor was craft in His mouth’ (Isaiah 53.9; I Peter 2.22). And as by dying He rescued from death those who were dying, so by taking upon Himself the curse, He delivered them from it.”[1]

     And again in his homily On the Cross and the Thief St. John says: “Today our Lord Jesus Christ is on the Cross, and we celebrate, so that you should know that the Cross is a feast and a spiritual triumph. Formerly the Cross was the name of a punishment, but now it has become an honourable work; before it was a symbol of condemnation, but now it has become the sign of salvation… It has enlightened those sitting in darkness, it has reconciled us, who were in enmity with God… Thanks to the Cross we do not tremble before the tyrant, because we are near the King. That is why we celebrate in commemorating the Cross…. In fact, one and the same was both victim and priest: the victim was the flesh, and the priest was the spirit. One and the same offers and was offered in the flesh. Listen to how Paul explained both the one and the other. ‘For every high priest,’ he says, ‘chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins… Hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer’ (Hebrews 5.1, 8.3). So He Himself offers Himself. And in another place he says that ‘Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation’ (Hebrews 9.28)….”

April 13/26, 2019.

Holy and Great Friday.

[1] St. John Chrysostom, P.G. 61:700, cols. 652, 653.