Lord of Heaven and Earth

From “Homily for the Beheading of John the Baptist” (ca. 730)

The lifting up on the cross, which was carried out in public, in the sight of the entire populace, clearly denotes the increase in importance of the one who comes from earth and is above all. When lifted up on the cross, he held his head up toward heaven and stretched out his hands over all lands, toward the north and south, so that by the very posture of his body, he might figuratively show that he was the lord of heaven and of the whole earth, and that all the heavenly powers were subject to his authority. The bottom of the cross went down into the hidden depths of the earth to signify that the kingdom of the lower world was pierced and destroyed in his passion.

The bystanders, Jews, Greeks, and Romans, read from an inscription written on the cross that this was the King of all who believed, so that it might appear that his sovereignty was to be extended to all nations. Paul included all this briefly in one sentence, saying, “He became obedient even to death, death on a cross. Therefore, God has exalted him, and given him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven, on the earth, and in the lower world, and every tongue confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.”

The Venerable Bede (ca. 673-735) was an English monk, teacher, and scholar, one of the most influential figures of the early Middle Ages. He was famed in his lifetime for his Biblical commentaries, and is best known today for his great history of the English church and people. His feast day is May 25. This translation is from Lawrence Martin and David Hurst, eds, Bede the Venerable: Homilies on the Gospels (Cistercian Publications: Kalamazoo, MI, 1991), 2:229-240.


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