The power of the mystery of the death of Christ is this…: we through sin have lost in ourselves the image of God and therefore through the fall and sin have become mortal, as the Apostle has said (Eph. 2:1).
Therefore God Who created us in His Image, having had mercy on us, on His own creation and His own image, for our sake became man, and suffered death for all so as to raise us who have been killed into the life which we lost on account of our disobedience.
For He ascended on the Holy Cross and crucified sin – the sin for which we were banished from Paradise – and led captivity captive as it says in the Scripture (Ps. 67:18; Eph. 4:8).
What does this mean: “led captivity captive?” This means that after the transgression of Adam the enemy took us captive and held us in his power so that human souls which departed from the body went to hell, for Paradise was closed.
But when Christ ascended on the heights of the Holy and Life-giving Cross, then by His own Blood He delivered us from the captivity by which the enemy had taken us for our transgression.
That is, He snatched us from the hands of the enemy, and so to speak, recaptured us, conquering and overthrowing the one who had taken us captive. Wherefore it says in the Scripture that He “led captivity captive.”
Such is the power of the mystery; Christ died for us so that, as the Saint said, He might raise us up into life who have been killed.
And thus we have been delivered from hell by Christ’s love of mankind, and it is up to us whether we go to Paradise, for the enemy no longer compels us as he did before and does not keep us in slavery.
Only let us take care for ourselves O brethren, and preserve ourselves from sin in very deed. For many times before I have said to you that every sin which is fulfilled in deed again enslaves us to the enemy, inasmuch as we voluntarily throw ourselves down and enslave ourselves to him.
Is this not a shame and is this not a great misfortune if, after Christ has delivered us from hell by His own Blood and after we have heard all this, we should again go and throw ourselves into hell? Are we not in this case deserving of yet greater and more powerful torture?
May the Lover of mankind, God, have mercy on us and grant us heedfulness, so that we might understand all this and profit by it, that we might obtain at least a small portion of God’s mercy.
Dorotheos of Gaza (505-565 or 620): Conference 21 – An Explanation of Certain Expressions of St Gregory the Theologian which are Sung together with the Troparia on Holy Pascha @ Pravoslavie.