Surveying the Wondrous Cross

Great and Holy Friday

Forbid it Lord that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God. All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.

When i survey the wondrous cross by isaac watts

The hymn writer’s meditation on the cross of the Lord has always made a profound impact on my personal devotion. I was reminded of this verse this morning as we chanted the Royal Hours at the foot of the cross in Church. Watts’ verse is based on the epistle read at the first hour, St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, bu whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.”

This cross, this basest of all instruments of torture and death becomes today our fountain of life. Indeed, what precious treasure can compare to her and to Him Who is crucified upon her? And what are we to make of this sudden turn of events, that the Maker of all things was killed so horrifically by his creation? Did this not make the greatest of all catastrophes, one that to which no amount of human conflict, no desolation, no war can compare? Yet in the midst of this ultimate catastrophe shines hope, goodness, triumph, and (dare we say it?) euphoria.

J.R.R. Tolkien coined a term which combines both of these realities into one word– eucatastrophe (“eu” Greek prefix meaning good and “catastrophe”) meaning a sudden turn of events where everything that was dark and hopeless suddenly and unexpectedly turns not just toward the good, but into something great. Think of Frodo Baggins in the heart of Mordor, crawling up Mt. Doom with his last ounce of strength. Think of Odysseus outnumbered in his own house by disgusting sycophants wasting away his very substance. And of course, think today of the Lord of Glory condescending willingly to be arrested, tried as a common criminal, then killed on the cross. Even death itself and the devil were fooled as he descended into hell not to suffer ultimate defeat, but to harrow it, empty it of all its dead. Tolkien calls the Lord’s resurrection from the dead, “the euchatastrophe of the Incarnation.”

May He who suffered crucifixion and death for our sake and our salvation enable us to behold Him also in his third day Resurrection. To Him be glory forever and ever. AMEN.

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