“Every action of Christ and all His working of miracles were truly great and divine and wonderful, but of all things the most wonderful is His honorable cross. For by nothing else except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ has death been destroyed, hell plundered, resurrection bestowed, and power given us to despise the things of this world and even death itself, the road back to the former blessedness made smooth, the gates of paradise opened, our nature seated at the right hand of God, and we made children and heirs of God. By the cross all things have been set right.” John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith, Bk 4, Chap. 11., trans. Frederic H. Chase, Jr., The Fathers of the Church vol. 37 (New York 1958), p. 349-350. [Emphasis added]
John of Damascus (d. 749) wrote this work on the Christian faith and against heresies (false teachings) in the eighth century. This particular chapter on the Lord’s cross demonstrates how early medieval Eastern theologians praised Christ’s redemption and venerated the images and relics of the Cross. However, John lived under Muslim rulers who rejected and attacked the Christian teaching on the Cross and Resurrection.
John defended this teaching against Muslim critics in another work, On Heresies, in which he identified Muslims as Ishmaelites or Saracens. He, then, seeks to refute the main teachings of Mohammed, whom he identified as a heretic (false teacher). Especially, John defends the practice of venerating the cross against Islamic accusations of idolatry: “They…accuse us of being idolaters, because we venerate the cross, which they abominate.” John of Damascus, On Heresies, trans. Frederic H. Chase, Jr., The Fathers of the Church vol. 37 (New York 1958), pp. 156.