Crux fidelis, inter omnes arbor
Nulla talem silva profert, flore,
Dulce lignum, dulces clavos, dulce
Faithful Cross! above all other,
one and only noble Tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom,
none in fruit thy peers may be;
sweetest wood and sweetest iron
Sweetest weight is hung on thee!
—from Pange Lingua
Venantius Fortunatus (530-609)
To arrive at a meditation on the beauty of the Cross of Christ, requires the over-throw of our natural, creaturely idea of what is beautiful and what is good. This reassessment, this conversion, this deep work, shines through Fortunatus’ poetry, conveying not only a love of Christ, but also a vision for the sanctification of the material world.
In his book, The Beauty of the Cross, Richard Viiladesau speaks of this conversion quoting Saint Augustine: “to us who can discern, he is everywhere beautiful: beautiful in the hands of his parents, beautiful in his miracles, beautiful in his flagellation, beautiful giving up his spirit, beautiful carrying the cross [pulcher in patibulo], beautiful on the cross [pulcher in ligno], beautiful in heaven.” And this discernment is, I would say, a sweet gift.