Gottesdienst

Good Friday: Faithful Cross! Above All Other.

Faithful cross! Above all other, One and only noble tree! None in foliage, none in blossom, none in fruit thy peer may be. Sweetest wood and sweetest iron! Sweetest weight is hung on thee.
 
That is to say: Of all the trees, there is no tree that could your equal, O blessed Cross, none that could match your glory, none that could rise to your nobility, since the weight you bore is the thrice Holy One, the Incarnate God. How could there be any other that could be your peer, your equivalent? For there was no other that performed this infinitely noble task but you, O blessed Cross.
 
There have been many trees of high significance, but their value is only great because they anticipated your glory, O Cross. There were the oaks of Mamre, in the plain where Abraham dwelt, where in the disguise of three men, the thrice Holy One visited and promised Sarah a son in her old age, in token of the Blessed Virgin Birth of our Christ. Those oaks approximated your value because their wood and their strength anticipated yours, for they were in the presence of God.
 
And there was the burning bush at call of Moses, when he first heard the blessed name of the Lord. That bush was a wonderful anticipation because it was burning yet was not consumed, in token of the suffering and death of our Lord that likewise did not consume him. And if that bush was a holy place, whereat Moses was instructed to remove his shoes, how much more, O Cross, are you holy, whereat we must venerate the holiness of Christ whose shoeless feet were impaled on your sacred wood.
 
There was also the juniper tree that shielded Elijah when he fled from Ahab, and at which an angel touched him and gave him food and drink to sustain him. How much more have you been a shield for us, by the body of Christ, and how much more have we harvested from your sweet limbs the blessed blood and holy water that poured forth from his pierced side?
 
And what can be said of the cedars of Lebanon, and the fir trees and almug trees used for the building of Solomon’s temple? Such a wondrous story the temple told, in its majesty and wonder, token of the majesty of the body and flesh of Christ in his Holy Incarnation; and then in its destruction in the days when the people were delivered into Babylonian captivity, after which they returned and the temple was rebuilt, token of the resurrection of our Lord. Surely the wood of the temple betokened your wondrous wood, O Cross.
 
I could go on to mention the trees of Elim and the olive trees and fig trees, and the palms and the sycamores of Canaan which the Israelites inherited.
 
And the trees of the Gospel: the sycamore tree that Zacchaeus climbed, whom the Lord ordered to come down: for Zacchaeus had climbed it to see Jesus, but he did not belong there (Zacchaeus, come down, for it is only Christ who belongs on a tree, in that holy place reserved for him who would redeem the world).
 
And the palms whose branches were cut down to hail the King of the Jews as he came on an ass into the city to do this blessed work: palms that bespeak his royalty and declare his dignity.
 
Indeed all the trees that are in the wood proclaim you, O Cross, and show forth your glory; for your wood was needed for the blessed iron that held fast his sacred hands and feet, and to support his sacred weight. As David sang and declared, Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: then shall the trees of the wood rejoice at the presence of the Lord, because he cometh to judge the earth.
 
O holy, sweet, blessed Cross, worthy to be loved, in whom is our salvation, our life, and resurrection. Most precious wood, by which we are saved and set free, sign to be reverenced, which seals us for God, glorious Cross, we ought to glory only in you, as the Apostle declares, saying, God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
But we do not acknowledge you because of the wickedness of godless and foolish men that used you for cruelty upon the limbs of our most gentle Lord, but because of the wisdom and goodness by which he of his own free will took you up. For they could not have done anything unless his wisdom had permitted it, and he could not suffer unless in his mercy he willed it. They chose you, O Cross, that they might carry out their evil deeds; but he chose you that he might fulfil the work of his goodness, that through you he might save sinners from death. They, that they might kill life; he, that he might destroy death. They, that they might condemn the Saviour; he, that he might save the condemned. They, that they might bring death to the living; he, to bring life to the dead.
 
They acted foolishly and cruelly; he wisely and mercifully. Therefore, O wondrous Cross, we do not value you because of the intention of their cruel folly, but according to the working of mercy and wisdom of which you were the blessed Instrument.
 
Thus do we sing your praises, O Cross: for by you hell is despoiled, by you its mouth is stopped up to all the redeemed. By you demons are made afraid and restrained, conquered and trampled underfoot. By you the world is renewed and made beautiful with truth, governed by the light of righteousness. By you sinful humanity is justified, the condemned are saved, the servants of sin and hell are set free, the dead are raised to life. By you the blessed city in heaven is restored and made perfect. By you God, the Son of God willed for our sakes to become obedient to the Father, even unto death, because of which he is exalted and has received the name which is above every name.
 
O Cross, chosen and prepared for such ineffable good, the work that was accomplished on you exalts you more than all the praises of human or angelic thought and tongue. In you and through you is my life and my salvation; in you and through you is all my good.
 
So let my glory be through you and in you; let my true hope be through you and in you. For by you my sins are wiped out, by you my soul is dead to its old life and lives to the new life of righteousness. And by my baptism I am bound to you, and freed from the sins in which I was conceived and born, and cleansed from those that I committed after I was reborn, so that by you I may come to those good things for which man was created, all by the might and the love and the authority of the one whose body you bore, our Lord Jesus Christ our Lord who is blessed for ever and ever.
 
Faithful cross! Above all other, One and only noble tree! None in foliage, none in blossom, none in fruit thy peer may be. Sweetest wood and sweetest iron! Sweetest weight is hung on thee.