What is the Cross For?
Any discussion on the general topic of redemption immediately raises some obvious questions. Firstly, what is man being saved from? Is it an ‘evil’ which affects the human condition? For example, original sin. Or is it alienation in our relationships: from our true selves and others? Secondly, what are we being saved for? Is it for some sort of afterlife; or is it for a happy existence here on earth?Many ideas have surfaced, in the Church, concerning the event and meaning of Christ’s redemptive action on Good Friday.
Origen believed Christ paid a price to the devil on Good Friday, who had held power over enslaved sinners, and hence the term the ‘rights of the devil’, as it became known. Gregory of Nyssa also held this model – of a buying back from the Devil (1Cor 6:20; Gal 3:13; 4:5; 1 Pet 1:18); but in his version God deceives Satan. Satan had dominion over mankind, and so was expecting to receive the soul of Jesus, on Good Friday, as his payment. But Satan falls into a trap and ‘consumes’ Jesus not releasing he is consuming his divinity (which was veiled from Satan), as well as his flesh, and so once Jesus gains entry into Satan’s domain he vanquished darkness and death.
Anselm repelled by such redemptive teachings, as the devil’s right over humanity, constructed his own redemptive concept, that of satisfaction. But for the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, this satisfaction theory makes God seem ‘sinister’ needing to balance the books between debit and credit, as if God demands a human sacrifice, that of his Son’s, to makes things right again with man.
A more modern approach to the question of redemption lists three evils from which man suffers: alienation; illness/death; and the evil of lack of meaning and truth in one’s life. These are the basic evils which Christ redeems us from, ultimately sin. Jesus saved us this day and opened up the gates of heaven, while offering us the gift of coming back into a right relationship with God; and no matter what way one may perceive the complexities of redemption, let us today simply pray for the grace and the strength to accept this gift of Jesus, and proclaim it to others.
We adore you, O Christ and we praise you because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.