“Christ Himself bore our sins in His own body on the Tree.”
-1 Peter 2:24
On the Third Sunday of Great and Holy Lent we encounter the Cross of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. The Cross, at times referred to as the Wood or the Tree in Scripture, is placed at the middle of the Great Fast to encourage us, to strengthen us, and to fill us with its powerful grace.
A hymn from Great Vespers says the following:
Come now, O first-formed couple and pair, who by the envy of humanity’s murderer had fallen from heaven’s chorus through having tasted of old the most bitter pleasure of the fateful tree. Behold, the other Tree, which is truly all-venerable, today is coming. Therefore run to it and with joy cry aloud with faith, and embracing it say to it: You, O all-venerable Cross are truly our source of help; we have partaken of your fruit, and we have thus acquired incorruption instead of death, great mercy, and with certainty Eden once again.
What is this hymn teaching us? I will summarize it as follows:
Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptation of Satan and, against God’s commandment, ate the fruit from the forbidden tree and thus fell from a state of grace and communion with God. However, our loving and merciful God prepared another Tree, the Tree of the Cross, upon which the Son of God Himself was affixed. Now, we Orthodox Christians, run to this Tree, partake of its fruit – the flesh and blood of Christ – and rejoice in the fact that by this Precious Wood we have help and protection and eternal life!
Let us consider how blessed we are to be able to mark ourselves as often as we possibly can with this precious symbol – the sign of the Cross! Therefore, let us cross ourselves frequently and in every instance and need, for through the Tree of the Cross our sins have been forgiven and everlasting life has blossomed!