Saint Anthony of Padua uses the History of the Greeks from the Apocryphal Gospel to recount the story of the origin of the Cross. In his Opus for the Feast of The Discovery of the Cross St. Anthony tells the story of the tree from which the Cross came. This sermon became so popular that two hundred years later, the story was still being passed on; and subsequently inspired the well-known artist Piero della Francesca in the year 1435 to paint the story in breathtaking scenes.
St. Anthony began his Opus with Joel (2:22): “The tree that bears its fruit, the fig tree and the vine give their yield.” This tree is further mentioned in the book of Wisdom:
“When because of him (the unjust man) the earth was flooded, it was Wisdom again who saved it, directing the course of the just by contemptible wood. This contemptible wood is the Cross of Christ; contemptible because `accursed is anyone who is hanged on a tree,’ where Christ, the Wisdom of God the Father, was scorned and derided: `So you would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days! Then save yourself! If you are God’s Son, come down from the Cross !’” (Mt. 27:40)
On this contemptible tree, Christ saved the world.
The Origin of the Cross
The Origin of the Cross goes back to Adam. When Adam became ill, he sent his son Seth to find some medicine to heal him. Seth went to an area near the Garden of Eden. There he approached an Angel guarding the gate to Paradise. Seth told him his father was dying and pleaded with the Angel to help him. The Angel broke off a limb from the tree from which Adam had eaten of the forbidden fruit, even after God the Father had forbidden him and Eve to do so. The Angel handed the branch to Seth and with that he said, Your father will be healed when this branch bears fruit. Saint Anthony writes that the preface of the Mass of the Feast of the Discovery of the Cross, made a reference to this occurrence.
“The tree of man’s defeat became his tree of victory. Where life was lost, there life has been restored.”
Seth rushed home, only to find that his father Adam had died and had already been buried. He planted the branch on Adam’s grave. This branch later grew into a great tree! It appears the Queen of Sheba saw the tree in “the house made of wood,” as the Palace of King Solomon was called. She had a Vision, where the tree’s origin and the circumstances involving the tree were revealed to her. Not daring to tell the king what she had learned, she instead wrote to him when she arrived home that she had seen a person hanging from the tree; and it was He who would bring about the downfall of the entire nation. Did he remember something from Scripture foretelling the One who was yet to come? Did he see in the queen’s Vision a fulfillment of an ominous prophecy? All we know is that it is written, Solomon, fear overtaking him, buried the tree in the deepest bowels of the earth - the place that would later be called the sheep pool.
You may recall that we read in John’s Gospel that the sick would come to the sheep pool in search of healing:
“...there were crowds of sick people - blind, lame, paralyzed - waiting for the water to move; for at intervals the Angel of the Lord came down into the pool, and the water was disturbed, and the first person to enter the water after this disturbance was cured of any ailment he suffered from.
“When the time of the coming of Christ was approaching, the tree began to grow over the wate, and it is then that `the Angel would come to stir the water.’ On Good Friday, when they looked for a tree on which to crucify Our Lord, they found this tree. They cut it down, and brought it to the place where Jesus stood ready to carry it to His crucifixion. And so it was on Calvary that the Angel’s word to Seth was fulfilled. “Thus, the tree bore its fruit, saving Adam and restoring him to health.”
The Tree, now the Cross of Salvation, was once again buried deep in the bowels of the earth. Were they hoping it would rot and go away? But the tree and the message of the tree would not be stilled. Three centuries later, Saint Helena - Constantine’s mother would discover the tree. This is why we have a Feast called The Discovery of the Cross.
Allow us to have Saint Anthony speak to your hearts:
“The Eyes of Our Beloved are now closed in death.
The Face, `upon Which the Angels desired to look’
has turned pallid and pale.
The Lips, Which once uttered words of eternal life,
have now turned blue.
The Head, Whose sight made Angels tremble,
now hangs lifeless.
The Hands, Whose touch cured leprosy,
brought back life, restored sight,
put demons to flight and multiplied bread,
are now, alas, transfixed by nails
and stained with Blood.”
This article is an excerpt from Bob and Penny Lord’s book, “Miracles of the Cross” Published by Journeys of Faith.