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The Easter Tree

san clemente copy

The cross flowers at Easter time. A flowering cross in the great apse of the church of San Clemente in Rome brims with life. It’s a resting place for doves; its branches swirl around the gifts God gives. It brings life, not death, to humanity signified in Mary and the disciple John, to creation itself that draws new life from it. The hand of God makes it so.

The mystery of the sacraments offered in this sacred place brings its life-giving graces to us.

An early preacher Theodore the StuditeĀ  praises the mystery of the cross:.

“How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of paradise, but opens the way for our return.

“This was the tree on which Christ, like a king on a chariot, destroyed the devil, the Lord of death, and freed the human race from his tyranny. This was the tree upon which the Lord, like a brave warrior wounded in his hands, feet and side, healed the wounds of sin that the evil serpent had inflicted on our nature. A tree once caused our death, but now a tree brings life. Once deceived by a tree, we have now repelled the cunning serpent by a tree.

“What an astonishing transformation! That death should become life, that decay should become immortality, that shame should become glory! Well might the holy Apostle exclaim: Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world!”

San Clemente, Rome