09 May 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

Recognize this, brothers: be glad, brothers, that after the triumph of Christ the prison of the saints has been broken open, and the netherworld no longer exercises any jurisdiction over the saints, since Christ penetrated all the way to the netherworld in order to free the just, not the unjust. Let us realize, brothers, how great a benefit Christ has provided, or rather, how without Christ no one possessed salvation, since, besides the wretched dissolution of their bodies, the souls, too, of the saints were being held in confinement in the underworld. - St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 123, par. 7 (On Lazarus and the Rich Man)


R.C. Loren said...

Hello Pastor Weedon. I find your quotes of the day to be rather stimulating to my thought processes. Today's is no exception. Can you explain this for a confused mind? Is this figurative language which addresses the reality of what Christ earned and did for us on the cross or is this saying that the saints or believers in Christ who died before His resurrection had their souls held captive in hell? Did their souls suffer there, or were they at rest with their Lord or were they in some void? What does the Bible teach about these things? I likely have completely misunderstood this quote. Can you enlighten me?

William Weedon said...

Dear R.C.,

St. Peter Chrysologus is reflecting the ancient church's teaching that the dead prior to our Lord's victory over death descended into Hades - a two compartment Hades, where the unjust suffer torments and the just are comforted (think Lazarus and the Rich Man). At the decent into hell, our Lord empties Hades of the righteous and brings them into the promised paradise, but proclaims to the unjust his victory.

Some Scripture that points in this direction:

"No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man who is in heaven." John 3

"All these died without having received what was promised, that they should not be made perfect apart from us."
Heb. 11

"And the graves of many saints were opened and their bodies were raised and after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many." Matt 27

Luther, in his famous sermon on the Descent, speaks twice of our Lord "releasing the prisoners" by His coming into Hades.

The Catalog of Testimonies appended to the Lutheran Book of Concord cites St. Cyril also: "The soul, having obtained union with the Word, descended into hell; but using its divine power and efficacy, it said to the ones in bondage, 'Go forth!'" (Section VI)

Wartburg said...

Pastor Weedon,
I love your response. That JOHN 3:13 has become a mind bender, blower for me these past few years; I blame Dr. Luther. He has commented on that text in a few places, here is one:"So too, Christ says in John 3[:13], “No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven,” whereby he shows indeed that his body is at the same time in heaven and on earth, yes, even at the ends of the earth. For by his glorification he did not become another person, but before as well as after was present everywhere.

… But what is the meaning of “Son of man—descended—ascended”? He speaks so clearly about the Son of man, as the one who came down among us and ascended again. Now of course it is certain that Christ did not come down or ascend according to his divinity, but according to his humanity. If Oecolampadius indeed wished to boast so haughtily, he should first prove that this text refers to Christ according to his divinity, and teach the meaning of descending and ascending, and expound the text carefully and cogently."
I hope that is not too much off of the subject. Why do you think that the REFORM explain the DESCEND INTO HELL ONLY UPON THE CROSS (Good Friday)? They really do not go any further than that. Any way hope all is well.

William Weedon said...


You know what that John 3 passage reminds me of? Someplace in Lord of the Rings, Tolkein talks about how the Elves who came to middle earth from the blessed realm actually live in both worlds at the same time. I think he stole it from John 3 and our Lord. He came to earth without leaving heaven.

Wartburg said...

Pastor Weedon,
Thanks for the reply. I know NOTHING about The Lord of Rings.That part in it sounds really cool. Between all of these people wanting you to see C.S. Lewis movies, RING, I really can't put the PASSION in this list-what am I suppose to do? Hang out in a Movie joint?! Any way I did see the The Lion movie. I really think Lewis blew it. Where? Please comment on this-The part where the Lion goes into a tent to talk with EVIL about laying down His Life??? That looked like and sounded to much like the early heresy which stated that the atonement was to appease the evil one...No,No, No.
Please don't say it's only a movie and I'm reading too much into it. That's what I thought to myself and I've heard NO ONE else bring this observation to the public. What do you say?

William Weedon said...


When it comes to whom the Ransom is offered to, I go with St. Gregory of Nazianzus: "don't go there." : )

We must now consider a problem and a doctrine often passed over silently, which in my view, nevertheless needs deep study. The blood shed for us, the most precious and glorious blood of God, the blood of the Sacrificer and the Sacrifice – why was it shed and to whom was it offered? We were under the reign of the devil, sold to sin, after we had gained corruption on account of our sinful desire. If the price of our ransom is paid to him who has us in his power, I ask myself: Why is such a price to be paid? If it is given to the devil, it is outrageous! The brigand receives the price of redemption. Not only does he receive it from God, he receives God Himself. For his violence he demands such a disproportionate ransom that it would be more just for him to set us free without ransom. But if the price is paid to the Father, why should that be done? It is not the Father who held us as His captives. Moreover, why should the blood of His only Son be acceptable to the Father, who did not wish to accept Isaac, when Abraham offered Him his son as a burnt-offering, but replaced the human sacrifice with the sacrifice of a ram? Is it not evident that the Father accepts the sacrifice not because He demanded it or had any need for it but by His dispensation? It was necessary that man should be sanctified by the humanity of God; it was necessary that He Himself should free us, triumphing over the tyrant by His own strength, and that He should recall us to Himself by His Son who is the Mediator, who does all for the honor of the Father, to whom He is obedient in all things… Let the rest of the mystery be venerated silently. (Oratian 45:22)

Now, because it was a story, Lewis expands a bit beyond the boundaries, but what he's trying to get at is that evil in its greediness to destroy, actually attempts to kill Him who indestructible Life and that is evil's undoing! In that sense, there's no problem with the scene. Evil or death or Satan or however you want to put it, does greedily gobble down Christ. HUGE mistake. Glory be to God!

Wartburg said...

Pastor Weedon,
Thank You ever so much for this answer. I was against that sceen but I did not trumpet a voice against it; I just kind of thought it to myself but I did share those thoughts with my beloved kids. Don’t you know my 12-year-old son reminded me of what I said month’s later but it was in an o.k. context. I am going to read your response to both of my children and “Gregory” as well. The whole of what “Gregory” has said is excellent. The most striking part to me is this: “…who did not wish to accept Isaac, when Abraham offered Him his son as a burnt-offering, but replaced the human sacrifice with the sacrifice of a ram?” There is so much to say here, I’ll just let the mans word stand (excellent). Our beloved Dr. Luther has written some where (I can’t find it right now, I wish I could) that Jesus Our LORD on THE CROSS was like bait on a hook for Our Adversary. He took the bait and swallowed the hook and ripped up his whole insides (something like that). Thank you much.

William Weedon said...


That's an old Patristic image too. And a juicy one. First that I remember it is Nyssa. He wrote this:

"In order to secure that the ransom in our behalf
might be easily accepted by him who required it, the Deity was hidden
under the veil of our nature, so that, as with a ravenous fish, the
hook of the Deity might be gulped down along with the bait of the
flesh, and thus life being introduced into the house of death and light
shining in darkness, that which is diametrically opposed to light and
life might vanish; for it is not in the nature of darkness to remain
when light is present, or of death to exist when life is active." (St.
Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism, chapter XXIV)

Isn't that great? There's a great hymn by St. Romanus the Melodist that gets at the same idea. Only in that hymn Satan is celebrating the crucifixion while death/hell is screaming out that it's being destroyed!

Check it out:

Pilate fixed three crosses on Golgotha: two for the thieves, and one for the Giver of life. When Hell saw it, he said to those below, “My ministers and powers, who has fixed a nail in my heart? A wooden lance has suddenly pierced me and I am being torn apart! My insides are in pain, my belly in agony, my senses make my spirit tremble, and I am compelled to disgorge Adam and Adam’s race. All men were given to me by the Garden’s tree–but now a tree is bringing them back again to Paradise.”

When he heard this, Satan, the cunning serpent ran crawling and said, “What is it, hell? Why do you groan for no reason? Why produce these wailings? This Tree, at which you tremble, I carpentered up there for Mary’s Child. I suggested it to his enemies for our advantage, for it is a Cross, to which I have nailed Christ, wishing by a tree to do away with the second Adam, just as I did away with the first one. So do not be afraid. It is dry and barren. It will not harm you. Keep hold of those you have. Of those we rule, not one will escape again to Paradise.”

Hell replied to Satan, “You have lost your senses–you, the cunning snake of old! All your wisdom has been swallowed up by the cross, and you have been caught in your own snare. Lift up your eyes and see that you have fallen into the pit you dug! Behold that Tree, which you call dry and barren, bears fruit: a thief tasted it and has become heir to the good things of Eden. Moses’ rod led the people out of Egypt, but this tree brings mankind back again to Paradise.”

Satan answered, “Wretched hell–cease this cowardly talk! Your words reveal your thoughts. Are you afraid of a cross and of the Crucified? Not one of your words has shaken me, for these deeds are part of my plan. I will also open a grave and entomb Christ, so that you may enjoy your cowardice doubly–from his tomb as well as from his cross. When I see you, I will mock you. For when Christ is buried I will come to you and say, “Who now brings Adam back again to Paradise?”

Then hell spoke back, “Now is the moment for you to listen, Satan. Now you will see the power of the Cross and the great authority of the Crucified. For you, the cross is folly. But the world sees it as a throne, on which, as though seated, Jesus is nailed and hears the thief cry to him, ‘Lord, remember me in your kingdom.’ Listen now as he answers, kingly, ‘Today, poor beggar, you will reign with me. For with me, you will go in again to Paradise.”

At these words, Satan began to wilt, and what he heard he saw: a thief witnessing to Christ crucified. And so, amazed, he struck his breast and said, “Christ did not answer his accusers, and yet he speaks to a thief? To Pilate he never spoke a word; but now he addresses a murderer, saying, “Come, live in pleasure”? What is this? Who has seen words or deeds done by this thief, by means of which he goes again to Paradise?

Again the devil called out, “Receive me, Hell. I turn to you; I submit to your views, I, who did not believe them. I saw the Tree at which you shuddered, made red with blood and water. And I shuddered, not, I tell you, at the blood, but at the water. For the blood shows Jesus’ slaughter, but the water shows his life, for life has gushed from his side. For it was not the first but the second Adam who carried Eve, the mother of all the living, again to Paradise.”

Now Hell and Satan cried out together, “Let us lament as we see the Tree which we planted transformed into a holy trunk, beneath which thieves, murderers, tax collectors and harlots will find shelter, and reap sweet fruit from what seemed barren. For they cling to the Cross as the Tree of Life. Pressed against it and swimming, through it they escape, and come again as to a harbor, again to Paradise.”

Hell said to Satan, “Swear, tyrant, finally to crucify no one.” And Satan replied, “You take an oath to kill no one. We have had our experience, let us draw back our hand. Let neither of us ever again tyrannize the race of Adam, for it has been sealed by the Cross, it has been given life, like a treasure of a precious pearl in a fragile pot; life, which a thief, well-suited to his trade, took on the Cross. For stealing he was nailed up to die ; and having thieved he was called again to Paradise.”

O most high and glorious, God of fathers and of youths, your willing outrage has become our honor. For in your Cross, we all may boast. To it we have nailed our hearts, that on it we may hang our instruments and sing to you, the Lord of all, from the songs of Zion. The ship from Tarshish once brought gold to Solomon; but to us your Tree gives back, every day and every moment, wealth beyond price. For it brings us all again to Paradise.

Wartburg said...

Pastor Weedon,
Glory is to God. What excellence of speech and thought in mind at work in Gregory of Nyssa. Such a man spent and was spent for the cause of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Exhausting thoughts from so many centuries ago. Rich in taste and costly perfume. “The Father of Father’s” as well as “The Star of Nyssa”. Thank you for your care and impute. I actually pulled down Vol. 5 of the “Nicene and Post-Nicene FATHERS” and have begun to search.