The Second Adam Sleeps on the Cross

Lent 2014: Readings from Augustine

“Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other one who was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one of the soldiers opened his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out” (Jn 19:32-33). The Evangelist deliberately chose the word: He did not say “struck his side” or “wounded” or any other verb, but “he opened,” so that thereby in a sense the gate of life might be thrown open from which the sacraments of the Church flowed out, without which there is no entry to the life which is true life. That blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins; that water mingled the drink of salvation; it provided both the bath and the drink. This was foretold when Noah was ordered to make a gate in the side of the ark (Gen 6:16) by which might enter the animals that were not to die in the flood, by which the Church was prefigured. For this sake the first woman was made from the side of the sleeping man (Gen 2:22) and was called life and the mother of the living (Gen 3:20). This symbolized the great good even before the great evil of the transgression. Here the second Adam inclined his head and fell asleep on the cross so that a spouse might be formed for him from what flowed from the sleeper’s side. O death by which the dead come back to life! What is purer than that blood? What more healthy than that wound? (In Ioannem Tr. 120, 2; PL 35, 1953)

About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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