Let thy Cross be a staff

THY flock has seen the wolves, and lo! it cries loudly.
Behold how terrified it is!

Let thy Cross be a staff,
to drive out them that would swallow it up!

St Ephrem the Syrian, “Nisibene Hymns” IV (CCEL).

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Sheep in a gulley near Pengenffordd, Powys, Wales. © Graham Horn, Geograph. Used under licence.

Sheep in a gulley near Pengenffordd, Powys, Wales. © Graham Horn, Geograph. Used under licence. Click for original..

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The Stavrosimon of Matins today is filled with various Biblical allusions, and ideas which the Fathers have reflected on.

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“WHEN thou didst take up suffering Cross and death,

Σταυρὸν καὶ θάνατον, παθεῖν ἑλόμενος. The language is of someone snatching up a weapon, as we see shortly.

“in the midst of Creation,

The tree of the Cross is linked to the Tree of Life in the midst of Paradise.

AND out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2:9.

The parallel between the two trees is a popular Patristic meditation.

THE tree of life which was planted by God in Paradise pre-figured this precious Cross. For since death was by a tree, it was fitting that life and resurrection should be bestowed by a tree.

St John Damascene (+749), “An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith” IV.11 (CCEL).

“thou piercedst them through when thou wast pleased, O Saviour, to be nailed through thy body.

It was in truth our spiritual enemies that were pierced through and vanquished on the Cross.

FORASMUCH then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.

Hebrews 2:14.

AND you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Colossians 2:13-15.

St Gregory of Nyssa wrote of the assaults and suggestions of the enemy:

WHEN we are aware of his attacks, we ought to repeat to ourselves the apostolic words,

“As many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death” (Rom 6:3).

Now if we have been conformed to His death, sin henceforth in us is surely a corpse, pierced through by the javelin of Baptism.

On The Baptism of Christ (CCEL).

An icon of the Crucifixion of Jesus

“But the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.”

“Then even the sun hid her rays,

AND it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

Luke 23:44-46.

This is an indication of decision-time, and also of hope and blessing, as we see from the Prophecy of Joel:

MULTITUDES, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.

The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.

Joel 3:14-16. See Mt 24:29, 27:50-53.

“and when the malefactor saw it, he gave praise to thee upon the Cross, crying, Remember me, O Saviour; and believing, he laid hold of Paradise.”

AND he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Luke 23:39-43.

We recall these words in our preparation for Communion.

O SON of God, receive me today as a communicant of thy Mystical Supper: for I shall on no account speak of thy Mystery to thine enemies; nor shall I give thee a kiss after the fashion of Judas; but as the malefactor I confess to thee: Remember me, O Lord, in thy Kingdom.

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Stavrotheotokion

WE have come into possession of a staff of power, O Birth-giver of God, the Cross of thy son, by which we strike down the braying insolence of our enemies — we who with longing magnify thee unceasingly.

Matins on Friday of Mid-Pentecost (today). Greek text at Analogion.

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