Hymn of Lauds, Sunday Matins
Κύριε, ὅπλον κατὰ τοῦ διαβόλου, τὸν Σταυρόν σου ἡμῖν δέδωκας∙ φρίττει γὰρ καὶ τρέμει, μὴ φέρων καθορᾷν αὐτοῦ τὴν δύναμιν∙ ὅτι νεκροὺς ἀνιστᾷ καὶ θάνατον κατήργησε∙ διὰ τοῦτο προ-σκυνοῦμεν, τὴν Ταφήν σου καὶ τὴν Ἔγερσιν.
Lord, you have given us your Cross as a weapon against the devil; for he quails and trembles, una-ble to contemplate your power; for you raise the dead and made death of no effect: therefore we worship your Burial and your Rising.
The Cross is the trophy of the Orthodox Church, intimately linked with the life of Our Saviour Jesus Christ. It is also the symbol of the utter defeat of the devil as the above Matins Hymn in the Plagal 4th mode so poetically describes.
How was the devil defeated by the Cross of Christ? The tradition of the Holy Fathers of our Church contains the teaching of Christ’s Crucifixion and Death being the culmination of an act of “Divine Deception”, the devil being the one deceived.
Let us hear the Fathers on this theme, beginning with St Gregory of Nyssa: “therefore, in order to secure that the ransom on our behalf might be easily accepted by him who required it, the Deity was hidden under the veil of our nature, that so, as with ravenous fish, the hook of the Deity might be gulped down along with the bait of 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…” (Great Catechism 24).
St Maximos the Confessor expounds on the same theme: “Moreover, the Lord mounted His flesh on the fish-hook of His Divinity as bait for the devil’s deceit, so that, as the insatiable serpent, the devil would take His flesh into his mouth (since its nature is easily overcome) and quiver convulsively on the hook of the Lord’s divinity, and, by virtue of the sacred flesh of the Logos, completely vomit the Lord’s human nature once he swallowed it.” (Ad Thalassium 64: On the Prophet Jonah and the Economy of Salvation).
St John of Damascus continues: “Wherefore death approaches, and swallowing up the body as bait, is transfixed on the hook of divinity, and after tasting of a sinless and life-giving body, perishes, and brings up again all whom of old he swallowed up.” (An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk. 3.27).
Christ’s death on the Cross is the completion of this act of deception, the devil having been defeated for all time by the Divine Nature of Christ even as Christ’s Human body perishes on the Cross (only to rise again in three days).
Source: Lychnos August / September 2017