The role of the cross

In Dream of the Rood, the cross is obviously the central figure. But what surprised me is just how active a role the cross seems to play in the crucifixion and in the salvation of man. The cross says “they mocked us both together” and “They pierced me through with darksome nails”, both suggesting that the cross is just as actively involved with the salvation of man as Jesus is. The cross even tells how it refused to bow or break at any point during Christ’s Passion. And for its role, the cross is adorned in gold and jewels. To read a text, religious or otherwise, that would give glory to anyone/thing besides Jesus for the salvation of man is just odd. It seems to suggest that Jesus is not solely responsible for salvation and that he never could have been. There needed to be a strong, willing, and able supporter, which would contradict the idea that the Son of God is all powerful.

I was hoping that writing this post would help clear up my own confusion on what the role of the cross says about the Passion and salvation, but I am honestly more unsure now than I ever was.

3 thoughts on “The role of the cross

  1. I really enjoyed this piece because of the fact that the cross served as a speaker in the poem. And I thought it also played a very beautiful role where it, in the words of the introduction “is a loyal retainer who is painfully and paradoxically forced to participate in his lord’s execution.” The poem has certain hints of common Christian language; I found lines 103-109 to be very similar to the words of the Lord’s Prayer (which as the daughter of a Presbyterian minister I’ve uttered and heard one too many times). But what I liked the most is that while it contained familiar language and information, it was so different than anything I’ve ever read from the Bible. Like Ethan mentioned, the cross seemed to be almost as important as Christ himself in the poem, which I found very interesting. And I also enjoyed the way it ended on a cheerful and hopeful note, which is not what you would expect a retelling of the crucifixion to do.

  2. I didn’t read the ‘unifying’ language that the Cross used when describing his and Jesus’s experience as suggesting that the cross is equally responsible for salvation. Instead, I appreciated the unique perspective on the situation. I think that the Cross speaking in such an active role is meant to elicit a strong sense of sadness and tenderness from the reader. The Cross experienced the same pain of being “pierced through” and “mocked”, to pawn off the examples that you provided, and thereby is an excellent narrator as it experienced what Jesus experienced, although traditionally does not get the glory that Jesus gets. I appreciated the triumphant end for the Cross. I believe it is meant to suggest that pain in life is universal, and yet anyone is capable of surpassing that pain and reaching salvation, not just the Son of God.

  3. I agree with Taylor’s reading of the Cross in Dream of the Rood. There is obviously a lot of devotional literature in Christianity that is devoted to the sanctity of Calvary given the events of the Crucifixion, so I suppose it isn’t too surprising to see that extended to the cross itself. Besides, we are also talking about an era of faith where objects associated with the lives of saints were said to possess spiritual power – if the tooth of a saint could be said to be worthy of attention, how much more so would be the actual cross on which their savior died?

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