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Today’s Saint March 26
The Penitent Thief
This Thief purchased salvation from the Cross and made the kingdom of heaven his booty. He did violence to the Divine Majesty (like the wrestler Jacob) and prevailed not by his own power, but by faith; for the Lord himself hath said that the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent man taketh it by force. The two crucified thieves may be taken as images of Jewry and heathendom; and then the Thief who repented becometh an image of the ingathering from heathendom, all which same had at first walked in darkness, but afterwards are come unto the knowledge of the truth. The thief who repented not becometh thus an image of Jewry that is still unbelieving. They trod together the path of sin until they came to the Cross, but the Cross parted them asunder.
They were parted asunder on this wise: he that did not believe entered upon the path of darkness and destruction; and he that believed gained the path of salvation. The Thief upon the cross learnt the dividing of the ways; for the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish. Behold the just judgement of God, that thou mayest say with the Prophet, Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgements. For one sin was Adam condemned, and at one cry of faith was the Thief saved. One sin cast Adam out of paradise, one holy act brought in the Thief to dwell therein. Behold a marvel! Even unto Abraham was made no promise of paradise; because he believed God, he hath indeed inherited it; but it was never promised unto any until it was promised unto the good Thief.
He did not see the Saviour seated on a kingly throne. He did not see him worshipped in a temple, speaking from heaven, or directing the ministry of Angels. Rather, he saw him as one numbered with the transgressors. He saw him suffering, and addressed him as though he were in glory. He saw him on the Cross and besought him as though he were enthroned in the heavens. He saw him condemned, and called upon him as his King, saying, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. Yea, he seeth Christ crucified and proclaimed himself subject to his royal Majesty. He beheld him hanging upon the Tree, and thought on the kingdom of heaven. Wondrous is the conversion of the Penitent Thief!
From a homily by Saint John Chrysostom
ALMIGHTY and merciful God, who hast prepared a way of salvation for the wicked: graciously shew us thy love in the face of thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, whereby he drew unto himself the blessed Thief on the cross; that we likewise may be moved to true repentance, and attain the promise to be in Paradise with him, even the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Who liveth and reigneth with thee and Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
The Anglican Breviary, Frank Gavin Liturgical Foundation, Inc., New York, 1955, pages 1858-1859
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