Quotes From Early Church Fathers on Christ's Death

Jesus Down from the Cross - painting by Michael O'Brien

The Lamb That Was Slain Has Delivered Us from Death and Given Us Life 
from an Easter homily by Melito of Sardis (2nd century AD)

There was much proclaimed by the prophets about the mystery of the Passover: that mystery is Christ, and to him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 

For the sake of suffering humanity he came down from heaven to earth, clothed himself in that humanity in the Virgin's womb, and was born a man. Having then a body capable of suffering, he took the pain of fallen man upon himself; he triumphed over the diseases of soul and body that were its cause, and by his Spirit, which was incapable of dying, he dealt man's destroyer, death, a fatal blow. 

He was led forth like a lamb; he was slaughtered like a sheep. He ransomed us from our servitude to the world, as he had ransomed Israel from the hand of Egypt; he freed us from our slavery to the devil, as he had freed Israel from the hand of Pharaoh. He sealed our souls with his own Spirit, and the members of our body with his own blood. 

He is the One who covered death with shame and cast the devil into mourning, as Moses cast Pharaoh into mourning. He is the One that smote sin and robbed iniquity of offspring, as Moses robbed the Egyptians of their offspring. He is the One who brought us out of slavery into freedom, out of darkness into light, out of death into life, out of tyranny into an eternal kingdom; who made us a new priesthood, a people chosen to be his own for ever. He is the Passover that is our salvation. 

It is he who endured every kind of suffering in all those who foreshadowed him. In Abel he was slain, in Isaac bound, in Jacob exiled, in Joseph sold, in Moses exposed to die. He was sacrificed in the Passover lamb, persecuted in David, dishonored in the prophets. 

It is he who was made man of the Virgin, he who was hung on the tree; it is he who was buried in the earth, raised from the dead, and taken up to the heights of heaven. He is the mute lamb, the slain lamb born of Mary, the fair ewe. He was seized from the flock, dragged off to be slaughtered, sacrificed in the evening, and buried at night. On the tree no bone of his was broken; in the earth his body knew no decay. He is the One who rose from the dead, and who raised man from the depths of the tomb.

Melito of Sardis was bishop of Sardis (now in present day Turkey) in the second century AD and known for his pastoral approach. A letter of Polycrates of Ephesus to Victor, bishop of Rome, around 194 AD (Eusebius, Church History V.24) states that "Melito the eunuch whose whole walk was in the Holy Spirit" was buried at Sardis [in 180 AD]. Tertullian (c. 160-225 AD) wrote that Melito was a esteemed as a prophet by many of the faithful Christians. 

Melito was a prolific Christian writer, although only one sermon, entitled “On the Passover,” and a few fragments of his works are preserved today. Eusebius listed most of his works and gave a few extracts in his Church History (IV.13, IV.26). One work which was written around 172 AD is  "An Apology for the Christian Faith," an appeal to the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius to examine the accusations against the Christians and to end the persecution. Melito presented elaborate parallels between the Old Testament, the form or mold as he called it, and the New Testament which he saw as the truth that broke the mold, in a series of Eklogai, six books of extracts from the Law and the Prophets which pointed to Christ and the Christian faith. Eusebius also cited Melito’s famous canon (official list of the books) of the Old Testament, one of the earliest known canons preserved from the early church period.

Reflections on the Cross of Christ from the early church fathers
• What Happened on the Cross, by John Damascene
• A Few Drops of Blood Renew the Whole World, by Gregory Nazianzen
• What We Behold on the Cross, by Augustine
• Contemplating the Lord's Passion by Leo the Great
• The Lamb that was Slain by Melito of Sardis
• The Power of the Blood of Christ by John Chrysostom
• By One Death and Resurrection the World Was Saved by Basil
• The Life-giving Cross of Christ by Theodore the Studite
• Let us too glory in the Cross by Augustine
• The Cross of Christ by Leo the Great
• The Body of Christ Gives Life to Those Who Receive It, by Cyril of Alexandria
• The Death of Death by Augustine

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