Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Universal Exaltation of the Holy and Life Giving Cross

When Adam and Eve had fallen prey to the serpent and broken communion with God by choosing their way over God’s (Genesis 3:1ff), in the end, God expelled the Two from the Garden, in part to take from them the Tree of Life, “lest [Adam] put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever” (Gen. 3:22). This was excommunication by Adam and Eve’s own choosing, but was also a mercy by God’s grace. Imagine being full of sin and immortal. Endless suffering. (See the difficult but poignant film “The Green Mile” for an example of this.)

In the Garden, Adam and Eve were free to eat from every tree—presumably including the Tree of Life—with the exception only of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Having crossed the only barrier, which was there for their own protection, they now “see”, and as a result, die. We follow daily in their path.

But through the Crucifixion and subsequent Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord, the true Tree of Life is once again offered to us—the Cross. The Divine irony is that by partaking of it, we too, must die, but by partaking in it, we find the only true Life. In fact, if we choose not to partake of it, death is all the more final. This Tree—the Cross—is offered to us both to cleanse of our sins, to cure our ‘sight’, and to offer us life everlasting with God, again.

Jesus Christ offered himself fully and completely for our sins, dying on the Cross. In so doing, he did not do away with our own suffering and death, but rather, partook of and sanctified the same. By His descent to the dead, He began to free the righteous captives (see the Icon of Pascha); by His Resurrection, Christ has trampled down death by death. Only by sharing in this: “Deny thyself, take up thy cross daily, and follow me” will we truly live.

Come, O people! Let us fall down in worship before the blessed tree!
For by the cross, eternal justice has come to pass.
The Devil deceived Adam by the tree. Now he has been deceived by the cross!
He held the royal creation in bondage.
Now he has been cast down with an amazing fall!
The serpent’s venom is washed by the blood of God!
The curse is destroyed by the righteous sentence
Of the just One, who was condemned unjustly!
The tree has been healed by the Tree!
The passion of the passionless God has destroyed
the passions of the condemned!
Glory to Thy dispensation, O Christ,
Our gracious King and the Lover of man! (Verses on Lord I call)

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