Isidore of Seville: de Ecclesiasticis Officiis (Ancient Christian Writers) trans. Fr. Thomas L Knoebel
XXX (XXIX). GOOD FRIDAY
Good Friday, that is, the sixth day after the Sabbath, is held in solemnity because on this day Christ fulfilled the mystery of the cross. It was for this reason he had come into this world so that, because we had been struck down on the wood in Adam, we might be healed again through the mystery of the wood. For by reason of this triumph, human insignificance offers an annual celebration to Christ throughout the whole world because of the fact that he deigned to redeem the world by the blood of his passion and to absolve the sin of the world through the cross, death being conquered. The substance of his divinity did not undergo the injury of this cross but only the nature of the humanity he had taken on. For the passion was of the body; the divinity remained free from injury. The justification of the Lord's passion is shown in three parts. The first reason is so that Christ might be given as redemption for the guilt of the world and that the ancient enemy might be caught as if on the fishhook of the cross. Hence he would vomit out those he had gulped down, and he would lose the plunder which he had taken, conquered not by power but by justice, not by domination but by reason.
The second reason is so that the official teaching of life might be offered to men still to come. For Christ ascended onto the cross so that a model of suffering and resurrection might be offered to us: of suffering for the strengthening of patience, of resurrection for the stirring up of hope. Thus he might show us two lives in the flesh, one laborious, the other blessed: the laborious which we ought to tolerate, the blessed for which we ought to hope.
The third reason for taking up the cross is so that the pride of the world and its inflated wisdom might fall down, humiliated, through the seemingly foolish preaching of the cross. So that it might be evident "that God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength" [1 Cor 1:25].
The apostle Paul also teaches that "with the eyes of your heart enlightened" [Eph 1:18]we ought to know "what is the breadth and length and height and depth" [Eph 3: 18] of the cross. Its breadth is the transverse bar of the cross on which his hands were extended; the length, from the transverse bar down to the earth; the height, from the transverse bar all the way up to his head; and the depth truly that which is hidden, buried in the ground. Through this sign of the cross the entire life of the saints is described. For it is said to us: "Take up your cross and follow me" [Matt 16:24]. For it is then that the body is crucified, when "whatever in you is earthly is put to death: fornication, impurity, passion" [Col 3:5], and so on, and, when the outer person "is wasting away" so that the inner "nature might be renewed day by day" [2 Cor 4:16], the suffering is of the cross. And these, indeed, although they are good works, they are nevertheless still laborious. The reward of these works is rest, and thus it is said: "Rejoice in hope" [Rom 12: 12], so that, thinking of our future rest, we may perform even our laborious tasks with joy. The breadth of the cross on the transverse bar of the wood where the hands are fastened signifies this joy. For the work is understood through the hands, the joy of working through the length, for sadness makes shortness.
Next, through the height of the cross on which the head is yoked, there is signified the expectation of celestial retribution through the justice of our sublime God. And the "faith working through love" [Gal 5:6] hopes, so that it might be believed that these good works are to be done not on account of the earthly benefits and temporalities of God, but rather on account of that which is above. And now truly by the length on which the whole body is extended, is signified that tolerance so that we might remain long-suffering. Hence, those who bear up are said to be long-suffering. Through the depth, however, which is that part of the wood which lies hidden, fixed in the earth, but thence raises up everything that stands above, are signified the inscrutable judgments of God by which humans are called by God's hidden will to the participation of such great grace, "one having one kind and another a different kind" [1 Cor 7:7].
XXXI (XXX). HOLY SATURDAY
The veneration of Holy Saturday is celebrated because it was on this day that the Lord rested in the tomb. Therefore, Sabbath in the Hebrew language is well translated as "rest," either because God rested on that day, the world having been completed, or because on that day our Lord and redeemer rested in the tomb. This day is also midway between the death and resurrection of Christ, signifying that rest after death of souls from every labor and from all troubles through which there is a passing over through the resurrection of the flesh to that life of which our Lord Jesus Christ has deigned to give a foretaste in his resurrection.