Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
(Numbers 21:4b-9; Philippians 2:6-11; John 3:13-17)
One of the earliest poems in the English language is a reflection on the cross of Christ. In “The Dream of the Rood” the rood, which is a pole or a cross, explains the trajectory of its existence. It was once a tree before it was cut down for the disgraceful purpose of being an instrument of torture and death for a condemned man. But on being brought to Calvary, the rood realized that he was being embraced by Christ and suffered with him. In the end the rood was exalted as precious stones are placed on it where the Savior’s body was perforated. The story is a kind of personal perspective of the second reading today.
Philippians 2:6-11 is believed to have originated as a song sung by early Christians. It was adopted by Paul for his letter’s lesson on humility and obedience. Jesus was God, but at the Father’s command humbled himself to come to earth as a human. There he did not cease to obey but in accordance with his Father’s wish allowed himself to be crucified. However, that was not the end of the story. God raised him up so that he might be worshipped by all.
“The Dream of the Rood” as Paul’s message in Philippians invites us to suffer with Christ. We will see our bodies wither in time as God calls us to suffer. This is a humiliation. But, accepted as a participation in the crucifixion, we can find comfort in traversing the way of the Savior. Having died with him, we may be confident that in the end we will experience his glory.