Monday, 29 March 2010

The Cure for Pain and Death

The erudite Anglican priest Fr. Hunwicke* today has a post pertinent to this blog, due to its connection with the Scripture verse from which the title of the blog is taken:

"Ancient Jewish tradition held that the tree of life standing in the midst of the garden of Eden was an Olive, from which came the oil of mercy that cured both pain and death. That is why patristic sources insistently associate the Chrism [oil for anointing] of Confirmation with immortality and resurrection.

There is evidence that for the 'hippolytan' writings, the tree from which this oil flows is the tree of the Cross. It seems to me that here the images of scripture and tradition merge and mingle. The Cross, the New Tree in the New Garden, is the true tree of life, and the Anointing (Chrisma) which makes and marks us as Christians unto everlasting life flows from that tree. And it is the tree of which Venantius Fortunatus in his Pange lingua teaches us that it is itself soaked, anointed, through and through, with the blood of the lamb (...quem sacer cruor perunxit fusus agni corpore) [hymn for the Adoration of the Cross, Good Friday].

A pre-Christian Jewish writing pictures Adam begging to be given of the oil that flows from the tree in garden. He is given for anwer: 'It shall not be thine now, but at the end of the times. Then shall all flesh be raised up and God will give them of the tree of life'. Praise be to God, who, here in the end-time, gives us to be marked with the anointing of eternity."

(*Caveat for observant Catholics: Fr. Hunwicke is one of the few Anglican priests I have no problem calling "Father", since he is in fact an impeccably orthodox Catholic Christian who just happens to labour under the factual error that the Anglican Church is a schismatical church rather than a heretical sect and has valid Holy Orders.)

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