Translation from the work of St Severus by Father Peter Farrington
You are not charged with saying that the Word is not consubstantial with us, but because you refuse to accept that the Only-Begotten Word of God, who was incarnate and made perfect man, suffered as we did, because he had hypostatically united to himself a passible flesh, and that he had been in all things like us, with the exception of sin, and that he was the same, passible according to the flesh and impassible according to the divinity.
Now, by declaring, “For neither sin nor corruption is a substance,” to what do you give, with the exception of sin, the name of corruption? It is obvious that it is to the blameless sufferings, in which there is no guilt of sin, thinking to overthrow Saint Cyril who wrote this: “For it is a sign of bodily corruption that is constituted by the fact that one could still see the wounds in the hands and the side, and the appearance of the marks and blows carried by the blade”.
And again: “Corruption did not remain after the resurrection, especially that of such a holy body, since it had been resurrected for incorruptibility, and it is believed also that afterwards it no longer felt the need of nourishment. He has shown the marks of the nails and he has not refused to take food to confirm the great mystery of the resurrection and to implant faith in our souls to all”.
It is therefore from impiety that you will not admit being driven to declare these insinuations of piety. In an invidious and blasphemous manner, you do not consider that the voluntary sufferings, the scars of bodily corruption, which also involve no guilt of sin, and the redemptive death, have obtained their completion in incorruptibility. That they were the principle and root of the impassibility and immortality which follow after the resurrection. You draw upon your own head the anathema that was directed by you against the Fathers and against the Holy Spirit who speaks in them!
The key issue in this passage from St Severus, is that he notices that Julian of Halicarnassus speaks of “neither sin nor corruption is a substance“. This means that he is saying that sin is not a thing, and neither is corruption. But this leads St Severus to ask, if you are separating sin and corruption, then what is corruption? If it is not sin then it must be something else, and he concludes, as Julian states elsewhere, that it is the natural suffering of the flesh, and the natural and blameless passions – pain, hunger, tiredness etc, which Julian is calling a corruption, and which he is denying that the Lord Jesus experienced.
Julian wants to consider that these things – pain, hunger, tiredness etc – are unworthy of God and are a stain of some sort which the divine Word cannot bear. But St Severus turns to the words of St Cyril, who describes these signs of suffering as a bodily corruption, without them being a sign of sin or guilt. St Cyril and St Severus are in complete agreement. These experiences and expressions of human frailty are a bodily corruption, but they are not associated with sin or guilt at all.
The bodily corruption, the suffering and the experience of mortality in death, are all truly experienced by the Word of God, and they are not to be considered as bearing or signifying the guilt of sin at all. This same bodily corruption, experienced by each one of us in pain, suffering, tiredness, hunger and mortality, is also natural to us, and since it has been accepted by Christ who is without sin, it is not a sign of sin in ourselves either.
It is sin itself which is worthy of guilt and which is blameworthy. But these other aspects of our humanity are not associated with guilt or sin at all, as St Cyril and St Severus teach.