Many years before the wooden cross was erected, by the deceit of the devil, man was exiled from the garden of paradise. It was in the garden that man dared to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge. And by the fruit of the wood, the Devil subjected us to exile, but through the wood of the cross we were then nourished and the Most-High King declared us heirs to His kingdom and freed us from our bondage of sin.
In ancient times, it was on a piece of wood that Moses lifted up the serpent of bronze when the Lord commanded the people to look upon it and be healed (Numbers 21:4-9). In doing so, Moses gave us a sign to remember when the one True Cross would come and heal us of our brokenness; it is a sign that the Lord has promised never to abandon us if we place our trust in Him.
Moses also recounts in Genesis the instructions to Noah: “Make thee an ark of gopher wood.” By following our Lord’s instructions very vigilantly, wood was used to build an ark and sustain mankind from the deep consuming waters of sin and death.
Wood has always been something I have been fascinated with. I have watched since my eyes were opened the use of wood in the construction of furniture, homes, fences, and barns. I love the different grain and color of lumber. At an early age I was introduced to carpentry and given a hammer and some nails and instructed to practice hitting the nail on the head with only the head of the hammer. Of course granddad gave me 10 penny spiral nails to practice with that were hard to bend. And he was wise enough to give me a hammer with a fiberglass handle which was resistant to splitting when I missed the nail head and struck the nail with the hammers’ handle. Somehow I also managed to bend a few of his unbendable nails!
I have also spent time in the old barns studying how the huge wooden beams were joined together and attached with wooden pegs. They look strong and more than able to carry the enormous amount of weight from the lofts full of hay and grain and the dead weight of the snow as it gathers in the winter months!
However, those huge beams holding the barn and its’ heavy load are merely toothpicks when compared to the strength of the wood of the ancient cross. Of course, the barn beams are more massive in girth and length but you must observe that the wood of the Holy Cross sustains an enormous amount of weight! Upon our Lord’s wooden cross rests the weight of all humanities sins and brokenness, all of our failures and lust for ungodliness.
Just as my Grandfather knew I would on occasion miss the mark and jamb the hammer handle onto the nail head, our Father knows that we too will miss the mark of perfection but by His bountiful love, we can be renewed by means of the Holy Cross. “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”(Psalm 34:8) He sent His son who suffered and died on the Holy Cross, and then for our benefit descended into Hades, freed the captives and arose on the third day! Won’t you deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Christ? Life is full of bent nails! But just as the night is not permanent but redeemed in every sunrise, your debt has been cancelled and you belong to a family that yearns for your salvation. We pray: O Lord, save your people, and bless your inheritance!” (Troparion of the Holy Cross)
Fr. Gabriel Weller 2005- 9-27-2020