“Now the flaming sword no longer guards the gates of Eden; it has mysteriously been quenched by the wood of the Cross! The sting of death and the victory of hell have been vanquished; for You, O my Savior, have come and cried to those in hell: ‘Enter again into paradise.'” -Kontakion — Tone 7 from the 3rd Sunday in Great Lent, “Veneration of the Holy Cross
In Psalms 96:10, it reads, depending on the translation, “The Lord reigns from the wood of the Cross.”
Today, Orthodox Christians celebrate the reality of this Psalm: the Lord reigns from wood, from the Cross. What does this mean?
I came across a friend’s status today that was a quote from Calvinist teacher John Piper. It was in regards to the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement, but he was led to ask me this question, “When Christ was in the garden sweating drops of blood and He prays ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’ What would you say was in the cup?”
I believe this was a great question to ask an Orthodox Christian on the day in which we venerate with holy awe the Cross of our Savior. The cup was the partaking of the curse we all are under, the curse of sin and death. Christ who knew no sin became sin for us. He enters into our darkness. Our god is not foreign to our depravity. He took it on and defeats it through His crucifixion and resurrection. The cup was this. Not the Father’s wrath.
He came into the curse and reverses it by defeating it. The cup of suffering, of taking on the curse. The cup of sin and death. The cup of the curse. It is his full humanity crying out here to avoid his impending death. It is in our nature to abhor death, so we see this in his statement to let this cup, this death, this curse, pass from him. For it is through His death, that He enters into death and into the curse we’re all under to defeat it. This is an awesome example of human will being fully united to divine will, so that the Father’s will is done.
“Let him where is hung on a tree be cursed,” is how scriptures put it. We don’t deny this curse, but it has nothing to do with the Fathers wrath as PSA adherents would gather. It is on the cross that Christ drank of this cup, very figurative, but yet literal, language being spoken here. We must tell the nations that Christ reigns from the wood, from the Cross. The Cross, the instrument of His death is what took captive captivity, what put down death and sin. The Cross, which we Orthodox venerate and celebrate this 3rd Sunday of Lent, is His throne. It defeated this curse of sin and death.
He drank fully from this cup! He has become sin for us! He reigns over sin and death from within sin and death. He is near to us in our sins. He has conquered them for us to bestow us with the crown of Life. From within this curse, He has trampled down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.
By the wood of the Cross, He reigns as Christ Pantocrator! It is only beautiful that it was from the Cross that He told the thief, “Today you will join me in Paradise”! On His throne, the Cross, He opened to us His Paradise. He reigns from this throne. He invites us in to cooperate with His graces and energies to work His image in us through deification.
So go tell the world that the Lord reigns from the Cross! If you have not heard then open your heart and ears to the Gospel of Christ; He reigns from the wood of the Cross and gives us life. He has defeated the curse that we are under. We shall see Resurrection. We can have life.
Paradise has been opened to you through the Cross; will you come into this joy that has come to us all?