Katavasia 9th Ode: Elevation of the Cross

Μυστικῶς εἶ Θεοτόκε Παράδεισος, ἀγεωργήτως βλαστήσασα Χριστόν, ὑφ’ οὗ τὸ τοῦ Σταυροῦ, ζωηφόρον ἐν γῇ, πεφυτούργηται δένδρον· δι᾿ οὗ νῦν ὑψουμένου, προσκυνοῦντες αὐτὸν σὲ μεγαλύνομεν.

Mystic Paradise are you, O Mother of God, who untilled brought forth Christ, who planted on the earth the life-giving Tree of the Cross. And so as it is raised today, we worship it and magnify you.

Our Most Holy Mother of God is described in many patristic writings and hymns as the Paradise from which Christ came forth. In this ninth ode of the καταβασίες of the Elevation of the Holy Cross, St Kosmas of Maiouma contrasts Panagia the “mystical Paradise”, with the created Paradise of the Garden of Eden.

As the Garden of Eden was created without human effort or intervention, but was spontaneously created through the word of God, in likewise fashion the Virgin Mary Herself, though being “untilled”, brought forth Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. The book of Genesis tells us that “out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Gen. 2:9)

In his commentary on the Book of Genesis, St John of Damascus explains that even though the First Created humans lived in communion with God, through disobedience they partook of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and thus being expelled from Paradise, were not able to partake of the Fruit of the Tree of Life. Now, Christ himself, the Incarnate Word of God, through His Blood, waters the wood of His own Cross, thereby transforming it into a “Life-giving Tree”.

Through the Life-giving Cross which we raise “today”, that is on the Feast Day of the Elevation of the Cross (September 14th), we bow down and worship Christ Himself, at the same time magnifying His own Mother who through her obedience allowed Christ’s saving works for humanity to be completed. The use of the verb, “magnify” links this hymn, being the ninth ode of the Feast, with the Biblical ode of the Mother of God: “And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Luke 1:46).


Source: Lychnos August / September 2016