Called again to Paradise

TO him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
(Rev 2:6-8)

A cross in the hand of Coptic Pope Shenouda III

A cross in the hand of Coptic Pope Shenouda III

Today is the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross, which liturgically echoes the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14.

In the passage below, St Bede tells us that by Christ’s crucifixion we receive again the life of Paradise which we lost.

One might ask, How does this work?

If we look to Bede’s sermon for some ingenious doctrine of redemption, we will find ourselves disappointed.

St Bede’s answer to the question would lie in one simple phrase:

“Let us love him dearly.”

**

GOD so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that every one that believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (Jn 3:16)

Note how he [St John] reaffirmed concerning the Son of God what he promised concerning the son of man, when “lifted up upon the cross”, saying:

“so that every one that believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life”.

For indeed, our redeemer and maker, being the Son of God before the ages, was at the end of the ages made son of man,

so that he who created us by the power of his divinity, might himself restore us to the profound enjoyment of the blessedness of perpetual life, by means of the fragility of human nature, so that we might have once again that life which we lost.

And so it should be our business, dearest brethren, turning from vice to divine blessings, to love God our Father dearly, with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength, who first loved us dearly (1 Jn 4:19), with so much love that he did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for the sake of us all.

We should love that same Son dearly, who while he was in the form of God, for the sake of of liberty and life took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made obedient to the Father to death, even to the death of the cross (Phil 2:5-11).

And so the Apostle John says of him (Rev 1:4-6), “Who loved us dearly, and washed us clean from our sins in his blood”.

St Bede (+735). Homily XVI, “On the Feast of the Finding of the Cross”. My translation.

**

THE sword of flame no longer guards the gate of Eden, (Gen 3:24)
For a strange bond came upon it: the wood of the Cross.
The sting of Death and the victory of Hades (1 Cor 15:55) were nailed to it.
But you appeared, my Saviour, crying to those in Hades:
‘Be brought back
Again to Paradise’.

Nailed to the form of the Cross
As truly a ransom for many (Mt 20:28)
You redeemed us, Christ our God,
For by your precious blood in love for mankind
You snatched our souls from death.
You brought us back with you
Again to Paradise.

All things in heaven and earth rightly rejoice with Adam,
Because he has been called
Again to Paradise.

St Romanos the Melodist, Kontakion 22 “On the Victory of the Cross”, of which the Proemium and first Ikos are still used today, on the 3rd Sunday of Lent. Translation from Anastasis.

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