The holy cross has a tremendous value in Christian tradition. Although some see the holy cross now days as simply an ornament to put on around their neck or on their fingers, the Church sees it with much weight, as the instrument the Lord employed to pen the script of salvation. Jesus died on the holy cross and has drunk the fullness of the cup of passion upon it. He came down from the holy cross to resurrect out of the death and the grave. St. Paul says: ‘For the message of cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God (I Cor 1:18). Therefore, the Orthodox Church venerates the holy cross. It will be interesting to think deep into these ideas.
Holy Cross in the Old Testament
There are mainly three symbols that depict the holy cross in the Old Testament, two of which are from the life of the Children of Israel in Egypt as well as their sojourn to Canaan and one from the life of Jacob, the Patriarch.
As commanded by God, Moses asked the Israelites to put a mark on the lintel and of the doorposts with the blood of the lamb that was killed at the feast of Passover on the eve of smiting the firstborns of all Egyptians (Ex 12:13, 22, 23). This mark with blood of the lamb has served as symbol for the destroyer of all Egyptian firstborns to leave aside the Israelite families. The Christian tradition identifies this incident to comprehend the importance of holy cross. Old Testament understands the blood as carrier of life (Lev 17:11-12, 14) and the marks made of blood carried life for the Israelite firstborns. In other words, the blood of the lamb that carried life has given life to the firstborns of Israelites and that blood took the sign of the cross, if we see the marks stretching from the lintel down and from both sides of the doorposts. Similarly the blood of the Lamb of God that hung from the holy cross has given life to all the Children of the Church. Blood of the Lamb of God has taken the shape of the doors of Israelites in Egypt, namely, one mark behind the head of the Lord to flow down until His feet to remind the lintel and one mark each at the end of both palms that were connected by the stretched hands of the Lord to remind the doorposts. In Egypt the Lord asked Moses to instruct the people of Israel to make the sign of the holy cross with the blood of the lamb. In order to gift salvation to humanity, the Lord Himself, the lamb that carries the sin of the world (Jn 1:29), hung on the holy cross to reveal the salvific cross.. One statement by St. Paul attests this reality, namely, ‘and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross’ (Col 1: 20).
Secondly, when the Israelites were smitten by the venomous or fire serpents while they set out from Mount Hor by the Way of Red Sea to go around the land of Edom, for they complained against the Lord for the food. When many of the people of Israel died by serpent bites, the Lord Himself asked Moses to make a serpent of copper and Moses has put it one a signal pole. This copper serpent is seen as the crucified Jesus and therefore, the signal pole symbolizes the holy cross on which Jesus was crucified. ‘When a serpent bit any one and he looked at the copper serpent, he lived’ says Numbers 21:9. Interestingly it was venomous serpents that caused death among the camp of Israel and it is also a serpent of a different kind, which had the image and likeness of the venomous serpent itself that saved the Children of Israel! We can compare this situation with that of the Garden of Eden. A treacherous serpent crept in to deprive the inhabitants of the Garden of Eden their privileges. The image and likeness of God that the humans had from creation onwards was marred and distorted by the transgression of commandment by Adam, which was initiated by a serpent. Interestingly the second person of the Holy Trinity took to Himself the image and likeness of the fallen human and it is in this fallen human image that He killed the death. Therefore, those, who looked at the raised serpent on the holy cross on Golgotha, were saved. Again the serpent that Moses raised at the camp of Israel was made of copper but it looked like a venomous serpent. The one hung on the holy cross looked fully like a fallen human but He was God become human! It is this God, who hung on the cross effected salvation and the signal pole on which the copper serpent was raised therefore ante-typed the holy cross. In this very context we can read Psalm 34:5; ‘Come to Him, and be enlightened, And your face shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried and the Lord heard him, And saved him from all his afflictions.’
.There is this song that we sing during the Good Friday services, that is to say:
Thazhuki vanangiyathaam dandam
Sleeba thannude drushtaantham”
This song refers to Genesis 30:25-43. Jacob, the Patriarch, has served many years his maternal uncle Laban, who in turn, according to Jacob himself, ‘has cheated him ten times’ (cf. Gen 31:7). Therefore, Jacob wanted his share and wanted to take his family his own so that what he sweats would belong to him and not to a personwith vicious interests. He came into a deal with Laban that sheep, goats and lambs with spot, speckle and black color would belong to him. Now it was for Jacob to see that there are a good number and enough sheep, goats and lambs with spot, speckle and black color, namely, his reward. Jacob devised a technology, which can be compared to the modern genetic engineering in its utmost raw form though, if wanted. When healthy sheep and goats of Laban’s herd come to drink water they see fresh rods of poplar, almond and plane with peeled streaks in them, exposing the white of the rods. He set the peeled rods in front of the flocks in the troughs, that is, the watering places,