Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Christian Heritage - June 9

He who was also the carpenter's glorious son set up his cross above death's all-consuming maw, and led the human race into the dwelling place of life. Since a tree had brought about the downfall of our race, it was upon a tree that we crossed over to the realm of life. Bitter was the branch that had once been grafted upon that ancient tree, but sweet the young shoot that has now been grafted in, the shoot in which we are meant to recognize the Lord whom no creature can resist.

We give glory to you, Lord, who raised up your cross to span the jaws of death like a bridge* by which souls might pass from the region of the dead to the land of the living. We give glory to you who put on the body of a single mortal man and made it the source of life for every other mortal man, woman, and child. You are incontestably alive. Your murderers sowed your living body in the earth as farmers sow grain, but it sprang up and yielded an abundant harvest of human beings raised from the dead.

Come then, let us offer our Lord the great and all-embracing sacrifice of our love, pouring out our treasury of hymns and prayers before him who offered his cross in sacrifice to God for the enrichment of us all.

Ephrem of Edessa (AD 306-373), Sermon on Our Lord 3-4.9

*When I post these quotes, I usually prefer to let my Ancestors in the Faith speak for themselves. But today I wanted to point out that this quote - from the 4th century - is quite probably the basis (or at least the crystallization of a similar tradition Ephrem had received) of that ubiquitous diagram used by so many evangelists today. You know, the drawing of a chasm with God on one side and humankind on the other, bridged by the Cross of Christ? Well, here it is, in poetic form, more than a millenium and half before I'd ever shown it to someone. Awesome.

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