Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Christian Heritage - September 14 - The Fruit of the Cross

"How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of paradise, but opens the way for our return.

"This was the tree on which Christ, like a king on a chariot, destroyed the devil, the lord of death, and freed the human race from his tyranny. This was the tree upon which the Lord, like a brave warrior wounded in hands, feet, and side, healed the wounds of sin that the evil serpent had inflicted on our nature. A tree once caused our death, but now a tree brings life. Once deceived by a tree, we have now repelled the cunning serpent by a tree. What an astonishing transformation! That death should become life, that decay should become immortality, that shame should become glory! Well might the holy Apostle exclaim: Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world! The supreme wisdom that flowered on the cross has shown the folly of worldly wisdom's pride. The knowledge of all good, which is the fruit of the cross, has cut away the shoots of wickedness."

Theodore of Studios (AD 759-826), Oratio in adorationem crucis: PG 99, 693-694

Theodore refounded the monastery of Studios at Constantinople and made it a center of monastic life in the East. He has left a number of letters and treatises.

While I agree that the Cross is instrincally good and pleasant, I think we must also keep in mind the obvious bitterness and horror of it. The Cross is good because of the love God shed upon us from it; it is bad, however, because of the agony we cast upon God at it. The tree in Eden was appealing to eye and tongue, but was lethal and foul as our doom. The Cross was lethal and foul to eye and mind, but is our life and hope for God's glory.

Also, I think it's fruitful to remember the whole cast of Eden. Redemption is mystical reversal along the same existential contours. We fell in Adam when Eve offered him the fruit and he offered his obedience to God to himself; but we were redeemed in Christ when he offered Himself to the Father and his mother to us at the Cross.

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