Thoughts from the Early Church
Commentary by John Chrysostom
God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son. (Jn 3:16)
Although we praise our common Lord for all kinds of reasons, we praise and glorify him above all for the cross. It fills us with awe to see him dying like one accursed.
It is this death for people like ourselves that Paul constantly regards as the sign of Christ’s love for us. He passes over everything else that Christ did for our advantage and consolation and dwells incessantly on the cross. “The proof of Gods love for us,” he says, “is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.”
Then in the following sentence he gives us the highest ground for hope: “If when we were alienated from God, we were reconciled to him by the death of his Son, how much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life!”
It is this above all that made Paul so proud, so happy, so full of joy and exultation, when he wrote to the Galatians: “God forbid that I should glory in anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
What wonder, indeed, if Paul rejoices and glories in the cross, when the Lord himself spoke of his passion as his glory. “Father,” he prayed, “the hour has come: glorify your Son.”
The disciple who wrote those words also told us that the Holy Spirit had not yet come to them because Jesus was not yet glorified, calling the cross glory.
And when he wanted to show God’s love did he do so by referring to signs, wonders, or miracles of any sort?
By no means: he pointed to the cross, saying: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that all who believe in him might not perish but have eternal life.”
And Paul writes: “Since he did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how can he fail to lavish every other gift upon us?”
And in his exhortation to humility he uses the same example, saying: “You should have the same dispositions as you find in Christ Jesus. Although his nature was divine, he did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave. Bearing the human likeness, sharing the human lot, he humbled himself and was obedient even to the point of dying—dying on a cross!”
Returning to the subject of love, Paul again urges his hearers to “love one another, even as Christ loved us, and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” And Christ himself showed how the cross was his chief preoccupation, and how much he longed to suffer.
In his ignorance, Peter, first of the Twelve, foundation of the Church, leader of the Apostles, protested: “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you”! Listen to what Christ called him: “Get behind me, Satan. You are an obstacle in my way,” proving by the strength of his reprimand his great eagerness to suffer on the cross.
Treatise on Providence 17, 1-8: SC 79, 225-29
John Chrysostom (c. 347-407) was born at Antiocli and studied under Diodore of Tarsus, the leader of the Antiochene school of theology. After a period of great austerity as a hermit, he returned to Antioch where he was ordained deacon in 381 and priest in 386. From 386 to 397 it was his duty to preach in the principal church of the city, and his best homilies, which earned him the title “Chrysostomos” or “the golden-mouthed,” were preached at this time. In 397 Chrysostom became patriarch of Constantinople, where his efforts to reform the court, clergy, and people led to his exile in 404 and finally to his death from the hardships imposed on him. Chrysostom stressed the divinity of Christ against the Arians and his full humanity against the Apollinarians, but he had no speculative bent. He was above all a pastor of souls, and was one of the most attractive personalities of the early Church.
**From Saint Louis University