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Athanasius on the "Conquest of the Cross"

Easter is around the corner. So, I thought I’d share this gem from St. Athansius’ On the Incarnation. 

A very strong proof of this destruction of death and its conquest by the cross is supplied by a present fact, namely this. All the disciples of Christ despise death; they take the offensive against it and, instead of fearing it, by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ trample on it as on something dead. Before the divine sojourn of the Savior, even the holiest of men were afraid of death and mourned the dead as those who perish. But now that the Savior has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing and prefer to die rather than deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they die, they do not perish, but live indeed, and become incorruptible through the resurrection…So has death been conquered and branded for what it is by the Savior on the cross. It is bound hand and foot, all who are in Christ trample as they pass and as witness to Him deride it, scoffing and saying, “O Death, where is thy victory? O Grave, where is thy sting?”

We often focus on the importance of Christ’s work on the cross in purchasing our forgiveness for sin. It is that, and we must not ignore that. However, Athanasius would have us see the implications of the cross more  broadly. Christ’s death and resurrection is nothing less than the defeat of death, and followers of Christ now deride it as no terrible thing, for it is utterly defeated. Gospel indeed!

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