The Mystery of The "Thrice Blessed Tree."
This month of September, as we began the Ecclesiastical Year with the hope and promise of a new beginning and an inner transformation in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we celebrated two Great Feasts: (1.) The Nativity of the Holy Mother of God on September 8th; and (2.) The Exaltation of the Most Precious Cross on September 14th.
Our Church is so wise and instructive. The first feast is dedicated to the Mother of God's birth quite fittingly. She is the greatest of the Saints in the Orthodox Christian Church. As a paragon of virtue, she is the exemplar and paradigm for us to aspire. She represents the most pure and perfect offering on behalf of humanity to God. She listened, accepted, and received the Word of God.
She did not doubt, question, or argue. In her, was no guile, plotting, cunning or deceit. Quiet, peaceful, and serene, she was receptive. She was not distracted from without or consumed from within. When she heard, she obeyed, and when she received the Word, she kept It, and there was an infinite, providential transformation of the cosmos for all eternity, for in her holy simplicity and her sublime humility, she offered herself unquestionably, unhesitatingly, and totally; and in turn, God emptied Himself of All His Glory, dwelt within her and became Man, so that Man can become God; and the Mother of God thus became the chosen instrument of salvation.
Through her ear, through her hearing and obeying, God took flesh and blood and merged His Divinity with our Humanity she offered. The world and the destiny of Man was changed forever, not by a great charismatic conqueror, but by a simple humble maiden. Indeed, the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God's eyes, and Wisdom has built Her House. He did not choose a grand palace or temple. He chose a Tabernacle not made by human hands. He chose His abode and His vessel for the salvation of the world--The Sanctified and Consecrated Womb of the Virgin.
This is why we dedicate this first great feast to the birth of the Mother of God, for in her birth, God's Plan for universal salvation has dawned and with it a new opportunity for a new beginning and a new age. Her womb has appeared on earth and is made ready and dedicated for the Son of God to dwell; and as the New Eve on earth, she will take away the curse of the Old Eve in Hades. Through her obedience, we are redeemed from Eve's disobedience. Through one's simplicity, we are delivered from the other's wiles. Through one's innocence, we are delivered from another's guilt; and through the latter's humility, we are delivered from the former's pride.
Seeking to be exalted, Eve fell, spiraling uncontrollably down the vortex of the abyss unto the depths of Hades. Being humble, the Maiden Mary (The New Eve) ascended and was exalted in glory beyond compare--even to the Angelic Beings. Eve's gates were opened, and Cain came into the world. Mary's Gates were never opened, and God came into the world. Through the Old Eve, the gates of Paradise were closed to us. Through the Mother of God (The New Eve), the Gates of Paradise are opened to us.
In Paradise, God planted a Tree. From this Tree hung a Curse who deceived Eve by appealing to her pride. Through this Tree, humanity fell from Grace. Since what God does not assume is not saved, God sought to redeem us from this Tree with another Tree. We lost Paradise, but God would give us Paradise again. Thus, He made a new Paradise out of the Virgin's Womb, and He planted a new Tree.
This Garden was never tilled or husbanded. God planted this Tree from the root of Jesse, and from this human lineage in time would come the Son of Man as to His humanity without a father, and from eternity, the Son of God as to His Divinity without a Mother. This would be a Holy and Mysterious squaring of the circle--a Divine Reconciliation. Now the New Adam could come to redeem us from the Old Adam. Whereas the Old Eve was born from the side of the Old Adam under a Tree; the New Adam is born as a Tree in the Womb of the New Eve. God is wise and inscrutable in His Ways; He wants to deliver us totally in order to save us totally.
The New Eve, the New Adam, and the New Paradise have provided the new Tree to save us from the Old Tree. The New Adam would become the Curse hung upon the New Tree of the Cross to redeem us from the Curse that hung upon the Old Tree. The Son of God become Son of Man of the Virgin would be crucified on the Cross to take away the sting of sin and its wages Death.
As Moses lifted up the serpent on the wood so that the Old Israel who looked upon it in Faith would be delivered from the poison of its bite, the agony of disobedience, and the fear of death, so Christ would be lifted up on the Wood so that the New Israel who looked on it in Faith would be delivered from the curse of the serpent on the Tree, the poison of sin, the suffering of alienation, and the finality of death, and, moreover, this time, being God, He would deliverer us, not for a generation, as He did for the Old Israel, but rather for eternity, as His New Israel.
Whereas the Old Adam was disobedient through a Tree; the New Adam was obedient unto the Cross (The Tree). Crucified on the "Place of the Skull," the Blood of the New Adam cleansed and redeemed the Old Adam from the Curse on the Tree and delivered him from the sting of Death. By God's Providential Plan, The New Tree of the Cross was established to grant life and Paradise. The instrument of humiliation, intimidation, cruelty, and death devised by man was transformed into a vehicle of exaltation, inspiration, love, and life by God.
Through this Tree of the Cross, suffering becomes glorification, despair hope, and alienation reconciliation. The Cross becomes the Crossover from earth to Heaven, and Christ on the Cross becomes the Passover from the slavery and bondage of a fallen kingdom to the freedom and joy of the Eternal Kingdom; for on this Tree of the Cross, Christ reconciles all things, fulfills all things, and becomes all things, so that in Him we may become a new creation in Him enshrouded in the Mystery of Fellowship and Communion with the Father and Holy Spirit. A stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Greeks, we nevertheless rejoice, and moreover, glory in the Cross--the irresistible Banner of our victory over Death, the clarion Trumpet of our Glory, and the Divine Emblem of Eternal Salvation.
For this reason, the Church places these two great feasts at the beginning of the Ecclesiastical Year to remind us that not only has the salvation of the world dawned in the Nativity of the Theotokos but also that Christ's Cross assures us eternal Victory as we gaze upon It lifted up high at the Feast of the Exaltation. This is indeed the Thrice Blessed Tree planted for our salvation. This gives us the triumphal momentum, direction, focus, and purpose as we enter a new year and the promise of a new beginning.
"And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the Throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of the street, and on either side of the river, was the Tree of Life, which bore Twelve Fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the Tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the Throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. There shall be no night there. The need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God given them light. And they shall reign forever and ever."--Rev. 22: 1-5.
Worshiping Him before the Footstool of His Cross on earth, as He reigns exalted above the Heavens in Glory, I humbly remain,