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St Augustine on the Gospel 
(Tractate CXX in Vol VII, NPNF(1st))


John XIX. 31-37. 

1. After that the Lord Jesus had accomplished all that He foreknew required accomplishment before His death, and had, when it pleased Himself, given up the ghost, what followed thereafter, as related by the evangelist, let us now consider. "The Jews therefore," he says, "because it was the preparation (parasceve), that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath-day (for that Sabbath-day was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away." Not that their legs might be taken away, but the persons themselves whose legs were broken for the purpose of effecting their death, and permitting them to be detached from the tree, lest their continuing to hang on the crosses should defile the great festal day by the horrible spectacle of their day-long torments. 

2. "Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other who was, crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs: but one of the soldiers with a spear laid open His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water." A suggestive word was made use of by the evangelist, in not saying pierced, or wounded His side, or anything else, but "opened;that thereby, in a sense, the gate of life might be thrown open, from whence have flowed forth the sacraments of the Church, without which there is no entrance to the life which is the true life. That blood was shed for the remission of sins; that water it is that makes up the health-giving cup, and supplies at once the layer of baptism and water for drinking. This was announced beforehand, when Noah was commanded to make a door in the side of the ark, whereby the animals might enter which were not destined to perish in the flood, and by which the Church was prefigured. Because of this, the first woman was formed from the side of the man when asleep, and was called Life, and the mother of all living. Truly it pointed to a great good, prior to the great evil of the transgression (in the guise of one thus lying asleep). This second Adam bowed His head and fell asleep on the cross, that a spouse might be formed for Him from that which flowed from the sleeper's side. O death, whereby the dead are raised anew to life! What can be purer than such blood? What more health-giving than such a wound? 

3. "And he that saw it," he says, "bare record, and his record is true; and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye also might believe." He said not, That ye also might know, but "that ye might believe;" for he knoweth who hath seen, that he who hath not seen might believe his testimony. And believing belongs more to the nature of faith than seeing. For what else is meant by believing than giving to faith a suitable reception? "For these things were done," he adds, "that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of Him ye shall not break. And again, another scripture saith, They shall look on Him whom they pierced." He has furnished two testimonies from the Scriptures for each of the things which he has recorded as having been done. For to the words, "But widen they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs," belongeth the testimony, "A bone of Him ye shall not break:" an injunction which was laid upon those who were commanded to celebrate the passover by the sacrifice of a sheep in the old law, which went before as a shadow of the passion of Christ. Whence "our passover has been offered, even Christ," of whom the prophet Isaiah also had predicted, "He shall be led as a lamb to the slaughter." In like manner to the words which he subjoined, "But one of the soldiers laid open His side with a spear," belongeth the other testimony, "They shall look on Him whom they pierced;" where Christ is promised in the very flesh wherein He was afterwards to come to be crucified.