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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IX:
John of Damascus: Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.: Concerning the Cross and here further concerning Faith.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XI.—Concerning the Cross and here further concerning Faith.

The word ‘Crossis foolishness to those that perish, but to us who are saved it is the power of God2343 For he that is spiritual judgeth all things, but the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit. 2344 For it is foolishness to those who do not receive in faith and who do not consider God’s goodness and omnipotence, but search out divine things with human and natural reasonings. For all the things that are of God are above nature and reason and conception. For should any one consider how and for what purpose God brought all things out of nothing and into being, and aim at arriving at that by natural reasonings, he fails to comprehend it. For knowledge of this kind belongs to spirits and demons. But if any one, under the guidance of faith, should consider the divine goodness p. 80b and omnipotence and truth and wisdom and justice, he will find all things smooth and even, and the way straight. But without faith it is impossible to be saved 2345 . For it is by faith that all things, both human and spiritual, are sustained. For without faith neither does the farmer 2346 cut his furrow, nor does the merchant commit his life to the raging waves of the sea on a small piece of wood, nor are marriages contracted nor any other step in life taken. By faith we consider that all things were brought out of nothing into being by God’s power. And we direct all things, both divine and human, by faith. Further, faith is assent free from all meddlesome inquisitiveness 2347 .

Every action, therefore, and performance of miracles by Christ are most great and divine and marvellous: but the most marvellous of all is His precious Cross. For no other thing has subdued death, expiated the sin of the first parent 2348 , despoiled Hades, bestowed the resurrection, granted the power to us of contemning the present and even death itself, prepared the return to our former blessedness, opened the gates of Paradise 2349 , given our nature a seat at the right hand of God, and made us the children and heirs of God 2350 , save the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. For by the Cross 2351 all things have been made right. So many of us, the apostle says, as were baptized into Christ, were baptized into His death 2352 , and as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ 2353 . Further Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God 2354 . Lo! the death of Christ, that is, the Cross, clothed us with the enhypostatic wisdom and power of God. And the power of God is the Word of the Cross, either because God’s might, that is, the victory over death, has been revealed to us by it, or because, just as the four extremities of the Cross are held fast and bound together by the bolt in the middle, so also by God’s power the height and the depth, the length and the breadth, that is, every creature visible and invisible, is maintained 2355 .

This was given to us as a sign on our forehead, just as the circumcision was given to Israel: for by it we believers are separated and distinguished from unbelievers. This is the shield and weapon against, and trophy over, the devil. This is the seal that the destroyer may not touch you 2356 , as saith the Scripture. This is the resurrection of those lying in death, the support of the standing, the staff of the weak, the rod of the flock, the safe conduct of the earnest, the perfection of those that press forwards, the salvation of soul and body, the aversion of all things evil, the patron of all things good, the taking away of sin, the plant of resurrection, the tree of eternal life.

So, then, this same truly precious and august tree 2357 , on which Christ hath offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sakes, is to be worshipped as sanctified by contact with His holy body and blood; likewise the nails, the spear, the clothes, His sacred tabernacles which are the manger, the cave, Golgotha, which bringeth salvation 2358 , the tomb which giveth life, Sion, the chief stronghold of the churches and the like, are to be worshipped. In the words of David, the father of God 2359 , We shall go into His tabernacles, we shall worship at the place where His feet stood 2360 . And that it is the Cross that is meant is made clear by what follows, Arise, O Lord, into Thy Rest 2361 . For the resurrection comes after the Cross. For if of those things which we love, house and couch and garment, are to be longed after, how much the rather should we long after that which belonged to God, our Saviour 2362 , by means of which we are in truth saved.

Moreover we worship even the image of the precious and life-giving Cross, although made of another tree, not honouring the tree (God forbid) but the image as a symbol of Christ. For He said to His disciples, admonishing them, Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven 2363 , meaning the Cross. And so also the angel of the resurrection said to the woman, Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth which was crucified 2364 . And the Apostle said, We preach Christ crucified 2365 . For there are many Christs and many Jesuses, but one crucified. He does not say speared but crucified. It behoves us, then, to worship the sign of Christ 2366 . For wherever the sign may be, there also will He be. But it does not behove us to worship the material of which the image of the Cross is composed, even though it be gold or precious stones, after it is destroyed, if that should happen. Everything, therefore, that is dedicated to God we worship, conferring the adoration on Him.

The tree of life which was planted by God in Paradise pre-figured this precious Cross. p. 81b For since death was by a tree, it was fitting that life and resurrection should be bestowed by a tree 2367 . Jacob, when He worshipped the top of Joseph’s staff, was the first to image the Cross, and when he blessed his sons with crossed hands 2368 he made most clearly the sign of the cross. Likewise 2369 also did Moses’ rod, when it smote the sea in the figure of the cross and saved Israel, while it overwhelmed Pharaoh in the depths; likewise also the hands stretched out crosswise and routing Amalek; and the bitter water made sweet by a tree, and the rock rent and pouring forth streams of water 2370 , and the rod that meant for Aaron the dignity of the high priesthood 2371 : and the serpent lifted in triumph on a tree as though it were dead 2372 , the tree bringing salvation to those who in faith saw their enemy dead, just as Christ was nailed to the tree in the flesh of sin which yet knew no sin 2373 . The mighty Moses cried 2374 , You will see your life hanging on the tree before your eyes, and Isaiah likewise, I have spread out my hands all the day unto a faithless and rebellious people 2375 . But may we who worship this 2376 obtain a part in Christ the crucified. Amen.



1 Cor. i. 23.


1 Cor. 2:14, 15


Heb. xi. 6.


Basil. in Ps. cxv.


Basil, cit. loc.


Text, προπάτορος ἁμαρτία. Variant, προπατ. ᾽Αδὰμ ἁμαρτ.


Text, ἠνοίχθησαν. Variant, ἠνοίγησαν.


Cyril, Hier. catech. i. 14.


Text, διὰ σταυροῦ. Variant, δί αὐτοῦ.


Rom. vi. 3.


Gal. iii. 27.


1 Cor. i. 24.


Basil. in Is. xi.


Exod. xii. 23.


Cf. Cyril, Contr. Jul., bk. vi.


Text, Γοργοθᾶς, ὁ σωτήριος. Variant, σταυρός.


θεοπάτωρ Δαβίδ. Cf. Dionysiaster, Ep. 8.


Ps. cxxxii. 7.


Psa. 132.8.


Text, Σωτῆρος. Variant, σταυρός.


St. Matt. xxiv. 30.


St. Mark xvi. 6.


1 Cor. i. 23.


Text, Χριστοῦ. Variant, σταυροῦ.


Gen. 2:0, Gen. 3:0.


Heb. xi. 21.


Auct., Quæst. ad Antioch., 9, 63.


Num. xx.


Exod. iv.


Exod. 4


Text, οὐκ εἰδυί& 139·. Variant, εἰδώς.


Iren., bk. v., c 18.


Isa. 1:0, Isa. 65:2.


Text, τοῦτο. Variants, τοῦτον and τούτῳ.

Next: Concerning Worship towards the East.

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