March 2010 - Vol. 38
God Has Reigned from a Tree
Meditations on the Cross of Jesus Christ
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,
so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness;
by his wounds you have been healed.
- 1 Peter 2:24
God Has Reigned from a Tree
a hymn for Passiontide by Venantius Fortunatus (c.530-610)
The standards of the King appear,
The Cross - the Tree of Life
by Hippolytus (c.170-236)
The tree is my everlasting salvation. It is my food, a shared banquet. Its roots and the spread of its branches are my own roots and extension… Its shade I take for my resting place; in my flight from oppressive heat it is the source of refreshing dew for me… Food for my hunger and wellspring for my thirst, it is also covering for my nakedness, with the spirit of life as its leaves… Fearful of God, I find in it a place of safety; when unsteady a source of stability. In the face of a struggle, I look to it as a prize; in victory my trophy.
It is Jacob’s
ladder, the passage of angels, at whose summit the
Lord is affixed. This tree, the plant of
immortality, rears from earth to reach as high as
heaven, fixing the Lord between heaven and
earth. It is the foundation and stabilizer of
the universe, undergirding the world that we
inhabit. It is the binding force of the world…
It is riveted into a unity by the invisible bonds of
the Spirit, so that its connection with God can never
be severed. Brushing heaven with its uppermost
branches, it remains fixed in the earth, and between
the two points, its huge hands completely enfold the
stirring of the air. A single whole, it
penetrates all things and all places.
What We Behold on
As they were looking on, so we too gaze on his
wounds as he hangs. We see his blood as he dies. We see
the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of
his resurrection. He bows his head, as if to kiss you.
His heart is made bare open, as it were, in love to you.
His arms are extended that he may embrace you. His whole
body is displayed for your redemption. Ponder how great
these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in
your mind: as he was once fixed to the cross in every
part of his body for you, so he may now be fixed in
every part of your soul. [GMI
The Throne of Love
We venerate the cross as a safeguard of faith, as the strengthening of hope and the throne of love. It is the sign of mercy, the proof of forgiveness, the vehicle of grace and the banner of peace. We venerate the cross, because it has broken down our pride, shattered our envy, redeemed our sin and atoned for our punishment.
The cross of Christ is the door to heaven, the key to paradise, the downfall of the devil, the uplifting of mankind, the consolation of our imprisonment, the prize for our freedom. The cross was the hope of the patriarchs, the promise of the prophets, the triumph of kings and the ministry of priests. Tyrants are convicted by the cross and the mighty ones defeated, it lifts up the miserable and honors the poor. The cross is the end of darkness, the spreading of light, the flight of death, the ship of life and the kingdom of salvation.
Whatever we accomplish for God, whatever we succeed and hope for, is the fruit of our veneration of the cross. By the cross Christ draws everything to him. It is the kingdom of the Father, the scepter of the Son and the seal of the Holy Spirit, a witness to the total Trinity.
The answer of a Christian reflection on Genesis is that
sin has to be taken away, removed from human life. Not
only do human beings have to cease doing the things that
cause evil and further ruin, the things that deserve
penalization, but also the sinful state of the human
race that causes those actions has to be changed. The
disease that leads to death has to be healed. Sinfulness
has to be eradicated; true health, true life, has to be
given. Human beings need a Redeemer, someone who can
rescue them from the misfortune into which they have
fallen and restore them to true life.