May 3, 2024

The Seven Sayings of Christ from the Cross (Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos) - 1 of 2

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Christ was crucified on Friday at twelve noon, or the sixth hour as it was called at that time, and He remained on the Cross until three o'clock in the afternoon on Friday, that is, until the ninth hour. So He remained on the Cross for three hours. Saint John Chrysostom says that this event is our feast: "Today our Lord Jesus Christ is on the cross, and we celebrate it, so that you may know that the cross is a spiritual feast and celebration."

During these three hours darkness fell on the whole creation. During these three hours on the Cross, in the darkness, Christ spoke seven sayings. When I say sayings, I don't mean that He gave sermons and speeches, but He said a word or a phrase. When one reads the Gospels, one sees exactly these seven sayings that Christ spoke on the Cross, which have great theological power.

I will analyze, as quickly as possible, the seven sayings that Christ said on the Cross, which also show the theology of Christ's Passion and His Crucifixion, since, according to the sacred Chrysostom, "the cross is the symbol of the kingdom." "I proclaim him king, therefore, because I see him crucified, for it becomes a king to die for his subjects." Christ speaks as the King of heaven and earth, as the Lord of life and death.

Thus, today "standing beside the King, let us observe this feast, celebrating the memory of the cross," we celebrate the Cross of Christ and are initiated into the theology of the Cross and the theology of glory.

1. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."

The first saying is the phrase of Christ: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). Christ turns to His Father and begs Him to forgive their sin, because they do not know what they are doing. It is the first saying and, of course, when we talk about the seven sayings, I will present them chronologically, as He told them, taking these sayings from all the Evangelists.

With this first saying, as Leontios of Byzantium, a theologian of the 6th century, says, it appears that Christ is a mediator between people and God the Father. The human race left Paradise, lost communication with God and now Christ comes to reconcile not the Father with the people, but to bring the people back to the Father. So here it is shown that Christ is a mediator.

We find this in the epistle of the Apostle Paul to Timothy where he writes: "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2:5). After all, it is He who united the divine with human nature in His existence and in this way reconciled people to God.

Then, with this saying it appears that Christ prayed to His Father, not because the Father was ignorant of what the Son willed, since there is the same will and the same energy between God the Father and God the Son, but with this saying He revealed His Father, saying "Father". On the Cross He confesses once more what He said many times, that His Father sent Him into the world, that He is the Son of the Father. Thus, He revealed His Father once more and also revealed that He is the true Son of the Father.

This saying "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" refers, of course, to the Jews who crucified Him and to the people, who said "Away with him, away with him, crucify him," but also to His Disciples, who forsook Him. Peter denied Him, Judas betrayed Him and the others abandoned Him. Judas destroyed himself, because he then committed suicide, but this saying of Christ applies to the others.

And this saying also shows the way that we too must be, when we have different enemies fighting us. We must ask for the forgiveness of their sins, because this is an expression of a high spiritual life. According to the sacred Chrysostom, "Let us imitate the Master, and pray on behalf of our enemies."

2. “Woman, behold your son!” “Behold your mother!”

The second saying of Christ on the Cross is what He said to His Mother, the Most Holy Theotokos and to John, His beloved Disciple. He turned to the Panagia His Mother and said: "Woman, behold your son!" and then he turned to the Evangelist John, the Disciple whom He loved and said to him: "Behold your mother!" (John 19:26-27).

When we read the texts of the Holy Gospels, we see that "there stood by the cross" His Mother, the Most Holy Theotokos, His Mother's sister, Mary of Cleopas, Mary Magdalene and John "whom Jesus loved." Christ saw them there and spoke this saying (John 19:25).

The sacred Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid, says that on the Cross Christ does everything without hesitation, since He is interested despite His pain on behalf of His Mother, He fulfills the prophecies, He opens Paradise to the thief, while before the Cross - as He was in the Garden of Gethsemane - He shed sweat. This shows that those things that happened in Gethsemane, where He begged and said, "My Father, if it is possible, take this cup from Me, though not as I will, but as You will," were of His human nature, while those that took place on the Cross were done by divine power.

That is why the Church replaces the inscription placed on the Cross, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" with the inscription: "The King of Glory"; that is, He is the King of Glory, who does everything with divine power.

And, of course, here He shows His love for His Mother and that the Panagia was His real Mother, from whom Christ assumed human nature, and loved her. He also shows that He also loved His Disciple, the Evangelist John the Theologian, who was a Virgin Disciple and Theologian and he followed Him to the Cross and to him was handed over the care for His Mother.

The Mother of Christ was a Virgin, the Evangelist John was the Virgin Disciple and he was the one who loved Christ very much and Christ loved him. Therefore, virginity is closely connected with theology and love. The Theologian Disciple had to receive the Panagia and preserve her as a treasure.

Also, it seems that Christology is very closely connected with Theotokology. That is, we love the Panagia because Christ loved her and we love the Panagia in order to attain the love of Christ.

3. "Amen I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."

The third saying of Christ on the Cross was the one He said to the thief on His right: "Amen I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:42-43). The interpreters explain that He speaks this saying as a man, because as God He was always in Heaven. The "today you will be with Me in Paradise," has the meaning that the thief will be with Him in Paradise, but it also has the meaning that as God He was in Paradise, but now also the human nature, without mortality and passivity, will enjoy this glory.

The sacred Chrysostom says that on the day and hour when Christ put the thief in Paradise, He accomplished two "feats". "First, He opened Paradise, then, He brought in a thief." Thus, with this saying, "today He gave us back the ancient homeland, today He brought us back to our native city, and the common human nature was granted a home."

The sacred Theophylact, commenting on this event, observes that Christ "is on the cross as a man, and is everywhere as God," and "even in paradise He fills all things," thus on the Cross and in Paradise, wherever He was, He fills everything with His divinity.

In the phrase "you will be with Me in Paradise," something that was said by Saint Mark the Eugenikos, Metropolitan of Ephesus, who lived in the 15th century, and is a great Confessor of the faith, must be emphasized. When in the Synod of Ferrara-Florence (1438-39) they discussed the subject of purgatorial fire, Saint Mark made the distinction between Paradise, that is, when the saints die, the soul is separated from the body and goes to Paradise, and the Kingdom of God that will take effect and will take place after the Second Coming of Christ. Now, that is, the souls of the saints are in Paradise, but after the Second Coming of Christ when the bodies will be resurrected and man will have both soul and body, then they will enter the Kingdom of God.

Let me remind you that Christ said this because there was a small dialogue on the Crosses between the thieves. Christ was nailed to the Cross, and all those below Him were blaspheming Him. In fact, they told Him that if He is God, He should come down from the Cross so that they may believe in Him.

In the midst of all this, the thief on the left said to Christ: "If You are the Christ, save yourself and us." Then the thief on the right turned to the thief on the left and said to him: "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." Then he said to Jesus, “Remember me, Lord, when You come in Your kingdom" (Luke 23:39-43).

The thief on the right turns out to be a real theologian. Saint John Chrysostom says that this thief received the kingdom: "You have seen the philosophy of a thief, you have seen prudence, you have seen teaching; in an instant from the cross he was lifted up to heaven," that is, he was raised up from the cross to heaven!

The thief crucified on the right is a great theologian for many reasons. First, he recognizes that Christ is God and said: "Do you not even fear God?" It is amazing to be on the cross and there on the cross nailed and in pain, to gain the knowledge of God. Secondly, the thief on the right is also distinguished by a self-reproach, since he reproaches himself when he says "for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." This is a very big self-reproach. And the third is that he believes that there is another life and he believes that there is Paradise, that there is the Kingdom of God, that is why he says: "Remember me, Lord, when You come in Your kingdom." This is a very great theology. Thus, as the sacred Chrysostom says, the thief on the cross did not forget his art, but with his confession he "stole the kingdom."

Also, this incident shows that on Golgotha there are three crosses, in the middle is the Cross of Christ, on the right and left are the crosses of the thieves. Both were thieves, one was no better than the other, the right thief was no better than the left thief. But what is the difference? The difference is that one thief confesses his sins and confesses that Christ is God, while the other thief refuses to confess his sin, but also denies the divinity of Christ.

The sacred Chrysostom says: "Do you see the thief and the thief? Both on the cross, both from wickedness, both from a life of robbery, but both are not within." One inherited a kingdom and the other went to hell.


Become a Patreon or Paypal Supporter:

Recurring Gifts

Contact Form


Email *

Message *