On the occassion of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, we have a selection from “De fide orthoxa” of John Damascene. This selection is interesting for me on three counts: first, because it brings the original text which are quoted in Catholic ritual prayers involving the cross. Unfortunately, fundamentalists who read these ritual prayers not knowing the original context of such quotations, make it look as if Catholic devotion to the cross has been concocted by some priest. Well, here is a Father of the Church who is closer to the time of the apostles than are the founders of these fundamentalist sects who justifies the veneration of the cross and the Catholic devotion to it.
Secondly, this selection lists several passages in the Old Testament that prefigures the cross of Christ. I for one did not know before reading this selection that the staff of Moses, Aaron and Joseph were types of the cross.
Finally, the selection is the first I’ve seen that deals with the crucifix and sign of the cross, and lends itself as a good material for reflection especially on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and Good Friday.
Although every action and manifestation of Christ is splendid, divine, wonderful, nothing among these is more worthy of admiration than the cross, which of itself is worthy of all veneration.
The Cross and the Christian Life
Nor could death have been destroyed by any other cause, if not through the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech. 1,14) which destroyed the sin of the first man, emptied Death, gave life with the resurrection, the force or perhaps even the presence given to us so that we can despise our own death, the return prepared by way of the ancient beatitude, the doors of paradise opened wide, our nature given its place at the right side of God, finally, us, having become sons and heirs of God, (all these would not have been possible) if not through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Behold Death and the Christ-event, that is, the cross which clothed us with the wisdom of the true God. It is the power of God pronounced from the Word of the Cross because the power and the strength of God — victory over death — has been shown to us by its means. Just as the four extensions of the cross are joined together at the center, so the sublimity and profundity by virtue of the power of God, the breadth, namely in which each creature visible and invisible are contained.
The sign of the cross It is the sign of the cross that distinguishes the faithful from the infidel. It is the shield, the armor and the trophy against the demon. It is our defense, so that the exterminating angel does not touch us, as Scripture says (cf. Ex. 9:12)
It is what raises up those who lie down, the fulcrum of those who stand on their feet, the cane of those who are weak, the rod for the sheep, the support of those in need, the perfection of those who depart, the salvation of the soul and the body, what drives away evil, the cause of all good, the destruction of sin, the bud of the resurrection, the wood of eternal life.
The Crucifix For these reasons, this wood, salvific and venerable on which Christ offered himself as victim for our sakes, having been sanctified by the contact of the most holy body and blood, ought to be adored. And so we also adore the symbol of this precious cross which gives life — it should be built from whatever material is possible, not because we venerate the material (God does not wish that) but the symbol with which Christ is indicated.
The Cross in Scriptures
In the New Testament In fact, even He in admonishing his disciples said “The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky (Matthew 24:30)” surely indicating thereby the cross. Following this, the angel of the resurrection of Christ told the women:”You seek the crucified Jesus the Nazarene” (Mk. 16:6) and the Apostle: “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23). Many in fact are of Christ and of Jesus, but only one is the Crucified. He does not say “wounded by the lance” but “crucified”. For which reason we should adore the sign of the cross, for where the cross is, there He himself will be.
Prefigured in the Old Testament. The wood is a “figure” of the life that comes from the cross. The wood of life which God placed in paradise brought with it the figure of the cross, which is worthy of veneration. Since, by means of the wood, the way to death was opened so it was appropriate that through the wood, life and resurrection was to be given.
The Staff of Joseph Moses and Aaron First, Jacob in adoring the greatness of the staff of Joseph (Gen. 47,31) alluded to the cross; and blessing the sons (Gen. 48,14) he closed the palm of his hands, openly pointing to the image of the cross. The same thing is referred to either by the staff of Moses — with which he struck the sea and brought salvation to Israel while submerging Pharaoh in the waters (cf. Ex. 14:16), or by extending in the form of the cross his hands, making the Amalekites flee (Ex. 17:11). The bitter waters, subsequently, were sweetened by the wood (cf. Ex. 15:25) and the Rock, with the help of the staff, having been struck gave forth milk (Ex. 17:6). The staff of Aaron the priest, validated — because of the divine response — his own dignity (Num. 17:8-9). Raised up in the guise of a trophy of wood, the dead serpent (Num. 21,9) brought salvation to those who with faith watched the dead enemy…
The great Moses exclaimed: “You shall see your life hanging on the wood with your own eyes (Deut. 28:66)”. Similarly, Isaiah “Through the day I extended my hands towards a people that did not believe and contradicted me (Isaiah 65:2)”
We who adore the Cross, we can reach the ultimate participation in Christ who has been fixed upon the cross.
John Damascene, De fide orthodoxa, 4, 11
Originally posted 2008-08-25 01:09:53. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
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