solomon's house of the forest2

Inventio sanctae crucis dicitur, quia tali die sancta crux inventa fuisse refertur. Nam et antea fuit inventa a Seth, filio Adam, in terrestri paradiso, sicut infra narratur, a Salomone in Libano, a regina Saba in Salomonis templo, a Iudaeis in aqua piscinae, hodie ab Helena in monte Calvariae. inventio sanctae crucis post annos CC et amplius a resurrectione domini facta est, legitur enim in evangelio Nicodemi quod, cum Adam infirmaretur, Seth filius eius portas paradisi adiit et oleum ligni misericordiae, quo corpus patris perungeret et sanitatem reciperet, postulavit. cui apparens Michael archangelus ait: “noli laborare neque flere pro oleo ligni misericordiae obtinendo, quia nullatenus illud assequi poteris, nisi quando completi fuerint quinque millia quingenti anni,” licet ab Adam usque ad passionem Christi anni tantum quinque millia centum nonaginta novem fluxisse credantur. legitur quoque alibi, quod angelus eidem ramusculum quendam obtulit et iussit, quod in monte Libani plantaretur. in quadam vero historia Graecorum licet apocrypha legitur, quod angelus de ligno, in quo peccavit Adam, eidem tradidit discens, quod, quando faceret fructum, pater sanaretur. qui rediens et patrem mortuum inveniens, ipsum ramum super tumulum patris plantavit, qui plantatus in arborem magnam crevit et usque ad Salomonis tempora perduravit. utrum autem haec vera sint, lectoris iudicio relinquatur, cum in nulla chronica vel historia authentica haec legantur. Salomon autem arborem tam pulchram considerans ipsam praecepit incidi et in domo saltus locari. nusquam tamen, ut ait Iohannes Beleth, locari poterat nec alicui loco apta reperiri valebat, sed modo aut excedebat longitudinem aut deficiebat nimia brevitate, si quando vero secundum loci exigentiam ipsam rationabiliter decurtassent, adeo brevis videbatur, quod omnino incongrua habebatur. ob hoc indignati artifices ipsam reprobaverunt et super quendam lacum, ut esset pons transeuntibus, proiecerunt. regina autem Saba cum venisset audire sapientiam Salomonis et praedictum lacum transire vellet, vidit in spiritu, quod salvator mundi in ligno suspendendus fuerat, et ideo super illud lignum transire noluit, sed ipsum protinus adoravit. in historia tamen scholastica legitur, quod praedictum lignum regina Saba in domo saltus vidit, cumque ad domum suam rediisset, intimavit Salomoni, quod in illo ligno quidam suspendendus esset, per cuius mortem Iudaeorum regnum deleri deberet. Salomon igitur praedictum lignum inde sustulit et in profundissimis terrae visceribus illud demergi fecit. postea probatica piscina ibidem facta est, ubi Nathinaei hostias abluebant, et non solum ex descensu angeli, sed etiam ex virtute ipsius ligni traditur ibi fieri et aquae commotionem et infirmorum curationem. appropinquante vero passione Christi praedictum lignum supernatasse perhibetur. cum autem illud Iudaei vidissent, ipsum acceperunt et crucem domino paraverunt, ipsa autem crux Christi ex quattuor generibus lignorum fuisse perhibetur, scilicet palmae, cypressi, olivae et cedri. unde versus: ligna crucis palma, cedrus, cypressus, oliva.
(Jacobus de Voragine, Leg. Aur. 68)

This feast is named for the finding of the holy cross because, it is said, the cross was found on this day. It had been found earlier by Adam’s son Seth in the earthly paradise, as we shall see below, by Solomon in Lebanon, by the queen of Sheba in Solomon’s temple, by the Jews in the water of the pond; and on this day it was found by Helena on Mount Calvary. The finding of the holy cross occurred more than 200 years after the Lord’s resurrection. We read in the Gospel of Nicodemus that when Adam became infirm, his son Seth went to the gates of paradise and begged for some oil from the tree of mercy, with which he might anoint his father’s body and restore his health. The archangel Michael appeared to him and said: “Waste no toil or tears trying to obtain oil from the wood of mercy, because there is no way you can acquire it before 5,500 years have gone by!” . . . this although it is believed that only 5,199 years elapsed from Adam’s day to Christ’s passion. Elsewhere we read that the angel offered Seth a shoot from the tree and ordered him to plant it on the mount of Lebanon. In a certain admittedly apocryphal history of the Greeks we read that the angel gave him a branch from the tree under which Adam committed his sin, informing him that when that branch bore fruit, his father would be made whole. When Seth went back and found his father dead, he planted the branch over Adam’s grave, where it grew to be a great tree and was still standing in Solomon’s time. Whether any of this is true we leave to the reader’s judgment, because none of it is found in any authentic chronicle or history. Solomon admired the beauty of this tree and had it cut down and used in the building of his forest house. John Beleth says, however, that it was not possible to find a place where the trunk of the tree could be fitted in: it was always too long or too short. If it did not fit into a place too narrow for it and it was carefully shortened, it was immediately seen to be so short as to be completely useless. Therefore the workmen would have nothing more to do with it, and it was thrown over a certain pond to serve as a bridge for those wishing to cross. When the queen of Sheba came to hear Solomon’s words of wisdom and was about to cross this bridge, she saw in spirit that the Savior of the world would one day hang upon this very same wood. She therefore would not walk on it but immediately knelt and worshiped it. In the Scholastic History, however, we read that the queen of Sheba saw the wood in Solomon’s forest house, and when she returned home, she sent word to Solomon that a certain man was to hang upon that wood, and that by this man’s death the kingdom of the Jews would be destroyed. Solomon therefore had the wood taken out and buried in the deepest bowels of the earth. Later on the pond called Probatica welled up at that spot, and the Nathineans bathed the sacrificial animals there. So it was not only the occasional descent of an angel of the Lord, but also the power of the wood, that caused the motion of the water and the healing of the sick. When Christ’s time to suffer was drawing near, the aforesaid wood floated up to the surface of the pond, and the Jews, seeing it, used it in making the Lord’s cross. It is said that the cross was made out of four kinds of wood, namely, palmwood, cedar, cypress, and olivewood. Hence the verse: Ligna crucis palma, cedrus, cypressus, oliva. (tr. William Granger Ryan)

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