The Creed: The Son

I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord

He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary

He suffered under Pontius Pilate

was crucified, died, and was buried

He descended to the dead

On the third day he rose again

He ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father

He will come again to judge the living and the dead

 


“I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord”

Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4.20.7

The life of man is the vision of God

The Son of the Father declares [him] from the beginning, inasmuch as he was with the Father from the beginning, the same one who also showed prophetic visions to the human race—along with diversities of gifts, his own ministrations, and the glory of the Father—in regular order and connection, at the fitting time for the benefit [of mankind]. . . . And for this reason, the Word became the dispenser of the paternal grace for the benefit of men, for whom He made such great dispensations, revealing God to men and presenting man to God.

On the one hand, this preserved the invisibility of the Father, so that man should not become a despiser of God by claiming to possess in advance what he should be advancing toward. But on the other hand, this also revealed God to men through many dispensations, lest man, failing away from God altogether, should cease to exist. For the glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in seeing God. For if the manifestation of God, which is made by means of the creation, affords life to all living in the earth, much more does that revelation of the Father which comes through the Word, give life to those who see God.

Origen, On First Principles 1.2

1. First we must know this: that in Christ there is one nature, his deity, because he is the only-begotten Son of the Father, and another human nature, which in very recent times he took upon him to fulfill the divine purpose. Our first task therefore is to see what the only-begotten Son of God is, seeing he is called by many different names according to the circumstances and beliefs of the different writers He is called Wisdom, as Solomon said, speaking in the person of Wisdom: The Lord created me the beginning of his ways for his works. Before he made anything, before the ages he established me. In the beginning before he made the earth, before the springs of water came forth, before the mountains were settled, before all the hills he bets me (Prov. 8:22–25) . . . .

2. Now who with reverent thoughts can suppose or believe that God the Father ever existed, even for a single moment, without begetting this wisdom? For he would either say that God could not have begotten wisdom before he did beget her, so that he brought wisdom into being when she had not existed before, or else that he could have begotten her and—what is profanity even to say about God—that he was unwilling to do so. Each of these alternatives, as everyone can see, is absurd and impious, that is, either that God should advance from being unable to being able, or that, while being able, he should act as if he were not and should delay to beget wisdom.

This is why we recognize that God was always the Father of his only-begotten Son, who was indeed born of him and draws his being from him, but is yet without any beginning—not only that kind which can distinguished by periods of time, but even that which the mind alone can contemplate in itself and to perceive, so to speak, with the bare intellect and reason. Wisdom, therefore, must be believed to have been begotten beyond the limits of any beginning to have been begotten beyond the limits of any beginning that we can speak of or understand.

Augustine, On Faith and the Creed 3–4 

The reason that he is named the Word of the Father is that he makes the Father known. Consider an analogy: when we speak (truthfully), or intention is that that our words make known our thoughts to those who hear us—that whatever we carry in our hearts secretly may be exhibited outwardly and so understood by another person by means of signs. In the same way, this Wisdom that God the Father begot is most appropriately named his Word, inasmuch as the most hidden Father is made known to worthy minds by the same.

4. Now there is a very great difference between our mind and the words by which we try to set forth our mind. Indeed, we do not “beget” intelligible words but instead form them. And in the forming of them the body is the underlying material. Between mind and body, however, there is the greatest difference. But God, when he begot the Word, begot that which he is himself. He did not beget the Word out of nothing, nor of any material already made and founded. Instead, he begot of himself that which he is himself.

John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith 4.8

First-born and Only-born

He who is first begotten is called “first-born,” whether he is only-begotten or the first of a number of brothers. If then the Son of God was called “first-born, but was not also called “Only-begotten,” we could imagine that he was the first-born of creatures, as being a creature. But since he is called both “first-born” and “Only-begotten,” both senses must be preserved in his case. We say that he is first-born of all creation (Col. 1:15) since both he himself is of God and creation is of God, but as he himself is born alone and timelessly of the essence of God the Father, he may with reason be called “Only-begotten Son” and “first-born” but not “first-created.” For the creation was not brought into being out of the essence of the Father, but out of nothing by his will. And he is called first-born among many brethren (Rom. 8:29), for although being only-begotten, he was also born of a mother. Since, indeed, he participated just as we ourselves do in blood and flesh and became man, while we too through him became sons of God, being adopted through the baptism, he who is by nature Son of God became first-born among us who were made by adoption and grace sons of God, and stand to him in the relation of brothers. This is why he said, I ascend unto My Father and your Father (John 20:17). He did not say our Father, but my Father—clearly in the sense of Father by nature, and your Father, in the sense of Father by grace. And My God and your God. He did not say our God, but My God: and if you distinguish with subtle thought that which is seen from that which is thought, also your God, as Maker and Lord.


“He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary”

Ignatius, Letter to the Ephesians 18–19

18. Let my spirit be counted as nothing for the sake of the cross, which is a stumbling-block to those that do not believe, but to us salvation and life eternal (1 Cor. 1:18). Where is the wise man? Where the disputer? Where is the boasting of those who are styled prudent? For our God, Jesus Christ, was by the appointment of God conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized, that by his passion he might purify the water.

19. Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord. These are three renowned mysteries, wrought in silence by God. How, then, was he manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else [in the heavens]. Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life. And now that took a beginning that had been prepared by God. From then on, all things were in a state of tumult, because he enacted the abolition of death.

Athanasius, On the Incarnation 9, 20, 44, 54

The Purpose of the Incarnation

9. For the Word, realizing that in no other way would the corruption of human beings be undone except, simply, by dying, yet being immortal and the Son of the Father the Word was not able to die, for this reason he takes to himself a body capable of death, in order that, participating in the Word who is above all, might be sufficient for death on behalf of us all, and through the indwelling Word would remain incorruptible, and so corruption might henceforth cease from all by the grace of the resurrection. Whence, by offering to death the body he had taken to himself as an offering holy and free of all spot, he immediately abolished death from all like him, by the offering of a like. . . . And now the very corruption of death no longer holds ground against human beings because of the indwelling Word, in them through the one body. As when a great king has entered some large city and made his dwelling in one of the houses in it, such a city is certainly made worthy of high honor, and no longer does any enemy or bandit descend upon it, but it is rather reckoned worthy of all care because of the king’s having taken residence in one of its houses; so also does it happen with the King of all. Coming himself into our realm, and dwelling in a body like the others, every design of the enemy against human beings had henceforth ceased, and the corruption of death, which had prevailed against them, perished. For the race of human beings would have been utterly destroyed had not the master and Savior of all, the Son of God, come for the completion of death. (trans. Behr, 58)

Incorruptible body

20. Therefore the body, as it had the common substance of all bodies, was a human body. If it was constituted by a new miracle from a virgin only, yet being mortal it died in conformity with those like it. Yet by the coming of the Word into it, it was no longer corruptible by its own nature but because of the indwelling Word of God it became immune from corruption. And thus it happened that both things occurred together in a paradoxical manner: the death of all was completed in the lordly body, and also death and corruption were destroyed by the Word in it. (Behr, 71)

Could God have saved another way?

44. But perhaps some will say that God should have [saved humankind] by a nod only and his Word should not have touched a body, just as when he created them of old, making them out of nothing. To this objection, the following could reasonably be said: that formerly, when nothing at all exited, only a nod and an act of will was needed for the creation of the universe. But when the human being had once been made, and necessity required the healing, not for things that were not, but for things that had come to be, it followed that the healer and Savior had to come among those had already been created, to heal what existed. . . . For it was not non-existent things that needed salvation, so that a command alone would have sufficed, but the human being, already in existence, who was corrupted and perishing. (Behr, 96–7)

He was incarnate that we might be made god

54. Therefore, just as if someone wishes to see God, who is invisible by nature and not seen at all, understands and knows him from his works, so let one who does not see Christ with his mind learn of him from the works of his body, and test whether they be human or of God. And if they be human, let him mock; but if they are known to be not human, but of God, let him not laugh . . . but marvel that through such a paltry thing things divine have been manifested to us, and that through death incorruptibility has come to all, and through the incarnation of the Word the universal providence, and its giver and creator, the very Word of God, have been made known. For he was incarnate that we might be made god; and he manifested himself through a body that we might receive an idea of the invisible Father; and he endured the insults of human beings, that we might inherit incorruptibility. He himself was harmed in no way, being impassible and incorruptible and the very Word and God; but he held and preserve in his own impassibility the suffering of human beings, on whose account he endured these things. (trans. Behr, 107)

Augustine, On Faith and the Creed 4.9–10

The Incarnation confers honor on both sexes

9. Those who deny that our Lord Jesus Christ had an earthly mother, Mary, are also worthy of contempt. For that divine saving economy conferred honor on both sexes, masculine and feminine, and demonstrated that, by being clothed in the nature of a man through his birth from a woman, God’s love extends not only to what he assumed but also to the one through whom he assumed. . . .

10. We must not allow the thought of a female womb to undermine our faith, leading us to recoil from such a birth on the part of our Lord, one which the foul-minded consider unclean, for the apostle speaks with absolute truth when he says, God’s folly is wiser than human wisdom (1 Cor. 1:25) and, To the clean, all things are clean (Tim. 1:15). . . . [Consider the way that] rays [of sunlight] penetrate even to the very stench and other such repulsive places, acting according to their nature without in any way suffering contamination as a result, because by its nature visible light is closer to what is foul and what can be seen. How much less, therefore, could the Word of God, being neither corporeal nor visible, be contaminated through the body of a woman, when he assumed human flesh with soul and spirit, the means by which the majesty of the Word indwells, and in a manner hidden from the frailty of a human body! And so it becomes abundantly clear that the Word of God could not possibly suffer corruption through a human body, for not even the human soul itself is tainted by its union with the body. (WSA 163)

John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith 3.2

So then, after the assent of the Holy Virgin, the Holy Spirit descended on her, according to the word of the Lord which the angel spoke, purifying her, and granting her power to receive the divinity of the Word, and likewise power to bring forth. And then was she overshadowed by the enhypostatic Wisdom and Power of the most high God, the Son of God, who is of like essence with the Father as of Divine seed, and from her holy and most pure blood he formed flesh animated with the spirit of reason and thought, the first-fruits of our compound nature—not by procreation but by creation through the Holy Spirit; not developing the fashion of the body by gradual additions but perfecting it at once, he himself, the very Word of God, standing to the flesh in the relation of subsistence.

For the divine Word was not made one with flesh that had an independent pre-existence , but taking up his abode in the womb of the Holy Virgin, he unreservedly in his own subsistence took upon himself through the pure blood of the eternal Virgin a body of flesh animated with the spirit of reason and thought, thus assuming to himself the first-fruits of man’s compound nature, himself, the Word, having become a subsistence in the flesh. So that he is at once flesh, and at the same time flesh of God the Word, and likewise flesh animated, possessing both reason and thought. Wherefore we speak not of man as having become God, but of God as having become Man. For being by nature perfect God, he naturally became likewise perfect Man: and did not change his nature nor make the dispensation an empty show, but became, without confusion or change or division, one in subsistence with the flesh, which was conceived of the Holy Virgin, and animated with reason and thought, and had found existence in him, while he did not change the nature of his divinity into the essence of flesh, nor the essence of flesh into the nature of his divinity, and did not make one compound nature out of his divine nature and the human nature he had assumed. 

Maximus the Confessor, Ambiguum 7

Incarnation and Deification

By his gracious condescension God became man and is called man for the sake of man and by exchanging his condition for our revealed the power that elevates man to God through his love for God and brings God down to man because of his love for man. By this blessed inversion, man is made God by divinization and God is made man by hominization. For the Word of God and God wills always and in all things to accomplish the mystery of his embodiment.


 “Suffered under Pontius Pilate”

Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans 2

Against Docetism

Now, he suffered all these things for our sakes, that we might be saved. And he suffered truly, even as also he truly raised up himself. He did not, as certain unbelievers maintain, only seem to suffer (as they themselves only seem to be Christians). And as they believe, so shall it happen unto them, when they shall be divested of their bodies, and be mere evil spirits. 

Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Trallians 10–11

Christ’s suffering and martyrdom

But if, as some that are without God, that is, the unbelieving, say, that he only seemed to suffer, then why am I in chains? Why do I long to be exposed to the wild beasts? Do I therefore die in vain? Am I not then guilty of falsehood against the cross of the Lord? Flee, therefore, those evil offshoots [of Satan], which produce death-bearing fruit, whereof if any one tastes, he instantly dies. For these men are not the planting of the Father. For if they were, they would appear as branches of the cross, and their fruit would be incorruptible. By it he calls you through his passion, as being his members. The head, therefore, cannot be born by itself, without its members; God, who is [the Saviour] himself, having promised their union.

Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity 10.23

So the Man Jesus Christ, Only-begotten God, as flesh and as Word at the same time Son of Man and Son of God, without ceasing to be Himself, that is, God, took true humanity after the likeness of our humanity. But when, in this humanity, He was struck with blows, or smitten with wounds, or bound with ropes, or lifted on high, He felt the force of suffering, but without its pain. Thus a dart passing through water, or piercing a flame, or wounding the air, inflicts all that it is its nature to do: it passes through, it pierces, it wounds; but all this is without effect on the thing it strikes; since it is against the order of nature to make a hole in water, or pierce flame, or wound the air, though it is the nature of a dart to make holes, to pierce and to wound. So our Lord Jesus Christ suffered blows, hanging, crucifixion and death: but the suffering which attacked the body of the Lord, without ceasing to be suffering, had not the natural effect of suffering. It exercised its function of punishment with all its violence; but the body of Christ by its virtue suffered the violence of the punishment, without its consciousness. True, the body of the Lord would have been capable of feeling pain like our natures, if our bodies possessed the power of treading on the waters, and walking over the waves without weighing them down by our tread or forcing them apart by the pressure of our steps, if we could pass through solid substances, and the barred doors were no obstacle to us. But, as only the body of our Lord could be borne up by the power of His soul in the waters, could walk upon the waves, and pass through walls, how can we judge of the flesh conceived of the Holy Ghost on the analogy of a human body? That flesh, that is, that Bread, is from Heaven; that humanity is from God. He had a body to suffer, and He suffered: but He had not a nature which could feel pain. For His body possessed a unique nature of its own; it was transformed into heavenly glory on the Mount, it put fevers to flight by its touch, it gave new eyesight by its spittle.

Augustine, City of God 14.9

Jesus’ experienced true emotions as part of his incarnate life

Concerning the question of mental disturbances (perturbations) . . . . According to the sacred Scriptures and sound doctrine, the citizens of the holy city of God, who live according to God in the pilgrimage of this life, both fear and desire, and grieve and rejoice. And because their love is rightly placed, all these affections of theirs are right. They fear eternal punishment, they desire eternal life; they grieve because they themselves groan within themselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of their body (Romans 8:23) . . . .

Even the Lord Himself, when he condescended to lead a human life in the form of a slave (Phil. 2:6–10) had no sin whatever, and yet exercised these emotions where he judged they should be exercised. For as there was in him a true human body and a true human soul, so was there also a true human emotion. So when we read in the Gospels that the hard-heartedness of the Jews moved him to sorrowful indignation (Mark 3:5), or when he said, I am glad for your sakes, to the intent you may believe (John 11:15), or when he shed tears before raising Lazarus (John 11:35), or when he said that he earnestly desired to eat the Passover with his disciples (Luke 22:15), or when, as his passion drew near, his soul was sorrowful (Matt. 26:38)—all these emotions are certainly not falsely ascribed to him. But as he became man when it pleased him, so, in the grace of his definite purpose, when it pleased him he experienced those emotions in his human soul.

But we must admit that even when these affections are well regulated and according to God’s will, they are peculiar to this life and not to that future life we look for, and that often we yield to them against our will. And thus sometimes we weep in spite of ourselves, being carried beyond ourselves, not indeed by culpable desire; but by praiseworthy charity. In us, therefore, these affections arise from human infirmity. But it was not so with the Lord Jesus, for even his infirmity was the consequence of his power. But so long as we wear the infirmity of this life, we are rather worse men than better if we have none of these emotions at all. . . . And therefore that which the Greeks call apatheia, and what the Latins would call, if their language would allow them, impassibilitas, if it be taken to mean an impassibility of spirit and not of body, or, in other words, a freedom from those emotions which are contrary to reason and disturb the mind, then it is obviously a good and most desirable quality, but it is not one which is attainable in this life. . . . When there shall be no more sin in humanity, then there will be apatheia. In the present, however, it is enough if we live without crime. And he who thinks he lives without sin does not in fact put away sin, but pardon.

If we were to call apathy a state of being in which the mind is the subject of no emotion, who would not consider this insensibility to be worse than all vices? It may be that in the state of hoped-for blessedness that we will be free from the sting of fear or sadness. But who in their right mind would say that we will experience neither love nor joy shall there? If by apathy one means a condition in which there is no fear that terrifies us nor any pain that annoys us, we must in this life renounce such a state if we would live according to God’s will, but we may hope to enjoy it in that blessedness that is promised as our eternal condition. . . .

A good life has all these affections rightly ordered, while a bad life has them wrongly ordered. In the blessed life of eternity, there will be love and joy that is not only right but also assured. But there will be no fear or grief. From this, we can begin to see how citizens of the City of God are to live in their earthly pilgrimage—they live after the spirit, not after the flesh, that is, according to God, not man. . . . The city of the wicked, however, who do not live according to God but according to man . . . are shaken with those wicked emotions as by diseases and disturbances. And if there are some who seem to restrain and, as it were, temper those passions, they become so elated with ungodly pride that their disease increases as their pain decreases. And if some . . . have become enamored with themselves because they are no longer aroused or excited by any emotion, not moved by any affection—such persons rather lose their humanity rather than obtain true tranquility. For a thing is not necessarily right because it is inflexible, nor healthy because it is insensible.

 

Cyril of Alexandria, On the creed 24

God’s word is, of course, undoubtedly impassible in his own nature, and nobody is so mad as to imagine the all-transcending nature capable of suffering. But by very reason of the fact that he has become man, making flesh from the holy virgin his own, we adhere to the principles of the divine plan and maintain that he who as God transcends suffering, suffered humanly in his flesh.

If whilst being God he has become man yet has not departed from any aspect of his being God; if he has been made part of creation and yet abides above creation; if whilst being as God the giver of law was being made under law and yet was still giver of law, and whilst being, divinely, master he put on slaves’ form, and yet retains unimpaired the dignity of mastership; if whilst being only-begotten he was been made the first-born among many brethren and yet is still only -begotten, does it tax credibility if by the same token he suffered humanly and yet is seen as divinely impassible? (trans. L. Wickham, Cyril of Alexandria: Select Letters [Oxford: Clarendon, 1983], 123).


“Was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hell.

 

Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching 34, 37

34. And the trespass which came by the tree was undone by the tree of obedience, when, hearkening unto God, the Son of man was nailed to the tree; thereby putting away the knowledge of evil and bringing in and establishing the knowledge of good. Now evil is to disobey God, even as hearkening unto God is good. And for this cause the Word spoke by Isaiah the prophet, announcing beforehand that which was to come. For they are prophets because they proclaim what is to come. By the prophet, then, the Word spoke thus: I refuse not, nor gainsay: I gave my back to scourging, and my cheeks to smiting; and my face I turned not away from the shame of spitting.

So then by the obedience wherewith He obeyed even unto death, hanging on the tree, He put away the old disobedience which was wrought in the tree. Now seeing that He is the Word of God Almighty, who in unseen wise in our midst is universally extended in all the world, and encompasses its length and breadth and height and depth—for by the Word of God the whole universe is ordered and disposed—in it is crucified the Son of God, inscribed crosswise upon it all. For it is right that He being made visible, should set upon all things visible the sharing of His cross, that He might show His operation on visible things through a visible form. For He it is who illuminates the height, that is the heavens; and encompasses the deep which is beneath the earth; and stretches and spreads out the length from east to west; and steers across the breadth of north and south; summoning all that are scattered in every quarter to the knowledge of the Father . . . .

37. Thus then He gloriously achieved our redemption, and fulfilled the promise of the fathers, and abolished the old disobedience. The Son of God became Son of David and Son of Abraham, perfecting and summing up this in Himself so that He might make us to possess life. The Word of God was made flesh by the dispensation of the Virgin, to abolish death and make man live. For we were imprisoned by sin, being born in sinfulness and living under death.

  

Theophilus of Alexandria, Homily on the Crucifixion

Do you realize how great is the Father’s mercy towards us, and that of his Son, who mounted on the cross for the salvation of the entire created world? For the moment he was hung on the cross, he purified the whole of creation, the things of heaven and the things below. His divine body, then, hanging on the cross made the whole air clean and pure. With the shedding of his sacred blood, the whole earth was equally purified of its contamination. Moreover, his divinity descended into Hades, despoiled it, and released the souls shut up in darkness, setting them free. For this is what he promised us with his mouth of truth, which in all eternity has never uttered any falsehood. . . .

Ponder, then, my beloved, and reflect on God’s mercy towards the world. He who had clothed the whole of creation was despoiled of his own clothing. He was left naked on the wood of the cross. But the sun, that wise minister, covered its Lord with darkness, which endured until the eyes of those atheists were dimmed, so that they should not see the great mystery that lay on the wood of the cross, for they are not worthy of it. . . .

The cross is the completion of the sacred mystery. For when the bread and wine are sacrificed on the holy altar, they are no longer bread and wine as before, but a divine body and a sacred blood.

The cross is the consolation of those who are afflicted by their sins. The cross is the straight highway. Those who walk on it do not go astray. The cross is the lofty tower that gives shelter to those who seek refuge in it. The cross is the sacred ladder that raises humanity to the heavens. The cross is the holy garment that Christians wear. The cross is the helper of the wretched, assisting all the oppressed. The cross is that which closed the temples of the idols and opened the churches and crowns them. The cross is that which has confounded the demons and made them flee in terror. The cross is the firm constitution of ships admired for their beauty. The cross is the joy of the priests who dwell in the house of God with decorum. The cross is the immutable judge of the apostles. The cross is the golden lampstand whose holy cover gives light. The cross is the father of orphans, watching over them. The cross is the judge of widows, drying the tears of their eyes. The cross is the consolation of pilgrims. The cross is the companion of those who are in solitude. The cross is the ornament of the sacred altar. The cross is the affliction of those who are bitter. The cross is our help in our hour of bodily need. The cross is the administration of the demented. The cross is the steward of those who entrust their cares to the Lord. The cross is the purity of virgins. The cross is the solid preparation. The cross is the physician who heals all maladies.

Athanasius, On the Incarnation 10.5

By the sacrifice of his own body, he put an end to the law which was against us and made a new beginning for us by the hope of resurrection. It was because of humans that death prevailed over humanity, and because the Word of God became human that death was destroyed and life raised up again. One follower of Christ said, Since death came through humanity, through humanity came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor. 15:21). We no longer die in condemnation, but await the resurrection of all, which he will bring about at the right time (1 Tim. 6:15)—he being God, the one who brought it about and bestowed it upon us.

 


“On the third day he rose again”

Ignatius, Letter to the Smyrnaeans 3

For I know that after His resurrection also He was still possessed of flesh, and I believe that He is so now. When, for instance, He came to those who were with Peter, He said to them, "Lay hold, handle Me, and see that I am not an incorporeal spirit." And immediately they touched Him, and believed, being convinced both by His flesh and spirit. For this cause also they despised death, and were found its conquerors. And after his resurrection He did eat and drink with them, as being possessed of flesh, although spiritually He was united to the Father.

Augustine, On the Trinity 4.6

Sacramentum and Exemplum

To balance this double death of ours the savior paid in his single one, and to achieve each resurrection of ours he pre-enacted and presented his one and only one, by way of sacrament (sacramentum) and by way of model (exemplum) . . . Being clothed with mortal flesh, in that alone he died and in that alone he rose again; and so in that alone he harmonized with each part of us, by becoming in that flesh the sacrament for the inner man and the model for the outer one. As a sacrament of our inner man [i.e., a saving mystery for our souls], he uttered that cry, both in the psalm and on the cross, which was intended to represent the death of our soul: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” . . . By the crucifixion of the inner man is to be understood the sorrows of repentance and a kind of salutary torment of self-discipline . . . Again, the Lord’s death is the model (exemplum) for the death of our outer man, because such sufferings were the greatest possible encouragement to his servants “not to fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28) . . . Likewise, the resurrection of the Lord’s body is found to serve as a model for our outer man’s resurrection . . . So then, the one death of our savior was our salvation from our two deaths, and his one resurrection bestowed two resurrections on us (trans. Hill, WSA I/5:156-57).

Augustine, Expositions on the Psalms

The Resurrected Christ is the source of our renewal

101.7. The faith of Christians is not triumphant because they believe that Christ died but because they believe that Christ rose again. Even a pagan believes that he died . . . In what do you really take pride? You believe that Christ is risen and you hope that through Christ you will rise. This is why your faith is triumphant: If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Rom. 10: 9). 

120.6. By the passion the Lord passed over from death to life; and opened a way for us who believe in his resurrection, that we too may pass over from death to life. It is no great thing to believe that Christ died: pagans and Jews, and all bad people believe that. All of them are sure that he died. The faith of Christians is in the resurrection of Christ. This is what matters to us that we believe that he rose from the dead.


“He ascended into heaven”

Augustine, On Faith and the Creed 6.13

On natural and spiritual bodies

 13. We believe that he ascended into heaven, an abode of blessedness that he also promised to us when he said, They shall be like the angels in heaven (Matt. 22:30), in the which is the mother of us all, the eternal Jerusalem in the heaven (Gal. 4:26). Our belief that a body of clay was taken up to heaven is a cause of scandal to some people, be they irreligious gentiles or heretics. [Gentiles assert that nothing earthly can be found in heaven,] and this is because they are unacquainted with our scriptures and the truth of the remark: What is sown is a natural body, and what is raised is a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44). This does not imply that the body is changed into a spirit and becomes such, because our present body, which is described as natural, does not undergo transformation and become a soul. What is meant is a spiritual body, which because of its subjection to the spirit makes it compatible with its heavenly abode, changed and transformed from all frailty and earthly weakness to the purity and steadfastness of heaven. This is the transformation of which the same apostle speaks: We shall all rise, but we shall not all be changed (1 Cor. 15:51). He teaches that this will be a transformation not into something worse but into something better . . . . But any attempt to discover the place and position of the Lord’s body represents both the height of curiosity and an exercise in folly; the only thing we are required to believe is that it is in heaven. It is not given to our human frailty to fathom the secrets of heaven, but it is in keeping with our faith, when reflecting on the dignity of the Lord’s body, to think thoughts that are both sublime and free from error. (WSA 164)


“And is seated at the right hand of the Father”

 

Augustine, On Faith and the Creed 7.14

On the meaning of the Father’s “right hand” and seated posture

We should not take this to mean that some kind of human form is to be ascribed to God the Father, so that a right and left side are envisaged in the minds of those who think about him. And . . . we are not to imagine this to mean a sedentary position, lest we incur the sacrilegious guilt of those whom the apostle excoriates, who have exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the image of a mortal human being (Rom. 1:23). For a Christian to erect an image of this sort in a place of worship is forbidden; even more prohibited is the construction of one in our heart, which is the true dwelling place of God, provided it has been cleansed of this world’s desires and fallacies.

By “right hand,” then we are to understand a reference to the height of blessedness, where justice, peace, and joy are to be found, just as the goats are placed at the left hand, which denotes a place of unhappiness, because of their evil and inhumane behavior. Consequently, when God is said to sit, what is meant is not the location of his members but his power to judge, a power which his divine person has never lacked, and one which confers their just deserts on those who deserve them. When the last judgment takes place, however, the undoubted glory of the only-begotten Son of God, judge of the living and the dead, is destined to be revealed with much greater clarity in the sight of the human race. (WSA 165)

Rufinus of Aquileia, Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed

32. To sit at the right hand of the Father is a mystery belonging to the Incarnation. For it does not befit that incorporeal nature without the assumption of flesh; neither is the excellency of a heavenly seat sought for the divine nature, but for the human. Whence it is said of Him, Your seat, O God, is prepared from thence forward; You are from everlasting. The seat, then, whereon the Lord Jesus was to sit, was prepared from everlasting, in whose name every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth, and things under the earth; and every tongue shall confess to Him that Jesus is Lord in the glory of God the Father; of Whom also David thus speaks, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit on my right hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool. Referring to which words the Lord in the Gospel said to the Pharisees, If therefore David in spirit calls Him Lord, how is He his Son? By which He showed that according to the Spirit He was the Lord, according to the flesh He was the Son, of David. Whence also the Lord Himself says in another place, Verily I say unto you, henceforth you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the power of God. And the Apostle Peter says of Christ, Who is on the right hand of God, seated in the heavens. And Paul also, writing to the Ephesians, According to the working of the might of His power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him on His right hand.

John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith 4.1

After Christ was risen from the dead, he laid aside all his passions—his corruption or hunger or thirst or sleep or weariness or such like. For, although he did taste food after the resurrection (Luke 24:43), yet he did not do so because it was a law of his nature (for he felt no hunger), but in the way of economy, in order that he might convince us of the reality of the resurrection, and that it was one and the same flesh which suffered and rose again. But he laid aside none of the divisions of his nature, neither body nor spirit, but possesses both the body and the soul intelligent and reasonable, volitional and energetic. In this way, he sits at the right hand of the Father, using his will both as God and as man in behalf of our salvation, energizing in his divine capacity to provide for and maintain and govern all things, and remembering in his human capacity the time he spent on earth, while all the time he both sees and knows that he is adored by all rational creation. For his Holy Spirit knows that he is one in substance with God the Word, and shares as Spirit of God and not simply as Spirit the worship accorded to him. Moreover, his ascent from earth to heaven, and again, his descent from heaven to earth, are manifestations of the energies of his circumscribed body. For He shall so come again to you, says he, in like manner as you have seen Him go into Heaven Acts (1:11).

 


“He will come again to judge the living and the dead”

Rufinus of Aquileia, Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed

To be constantly prepared – “quick” and “dead” refer to “soul” and “body”

33. That He shall come to judge the quick and the dead we are taught by many testimonies of the divine Scriptures. But before we cite what the Prophets say on this point, we think it necessary to remind you that this doctrine of the faith would have us daily solicitous concerning the coming of the Judge, that we may so frame our conduct as having to give account to the Judge who is at hand. For this is what the Prophet said of the man who is blessed, that, He orders his words in judgment Ps. 112:5). When, however, He is said to judge the quick and the dead, this does not mean that some will come to judgment who are still living, others who are already dead; but that He will judge both souls and bodies, where, by souls are meant the quick, and the bodies the dead; as also the Lord Himself says in the Gospel, Fear not them who are able to kill the body, but are not able to hurt the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.