New arrivals to Alabama will often hear some enthusiastic well-seasoned resident share the unnerving fact that the state they now live in is home to a number of venomous snakes. Even more disconcerting than hearing this statement is the queasy feeling that begins to grow as one thinks: I wouldn’t know what to do if bit by a snake! - while wondering the distance to the nearest hospital. The passage from Exodus that chronicles the Israelites’ plight and rescue from seraph serpents in the desert displays a similar drama in its darkest form. Israel had begun to grumble, and with ‘their patience worn out by the journey’ (Num 21:4) they lost sight of God’s providence and unfailing faithfulness. The ‘serpent’s’ whisperings, manifested in their thoughts and complaints, suddenly were seen, as it were, in the flesh. God sent among them the visible consequence of their unbelief. The result was suffering from the serpent bite and the ultimate evil – death. While these most cunning of all the animals destroyed God’s chosen ones, the Lord himself intervened and saved those who succumbed to the father of lies. The problem with ‘the serpent’ of course began in the Garden. Eve, seduced by the tempter’s words, tasted his ‘poison’ – the poison of death as she took the fruit – her first act of mistrust and disobedience. In Lent we keenly feel the residue of this venom in our very selves. The poison of sin and selfishness has corroded our relationship with God and we often do not ‘do the good [we] want (Rom 7:19).’ And yet the remedy for our foolishness far exceeds the damage we have incurred. While we have often tasted the forbidden fruit, choosing to live for ourselves, - the Cross, the Tree of Life offers us salvation in the One lifted upon it. He draws us to taste this Fruit, which is Himself given up for us in the Eucharist. Here at the Tree of Life we find the Woman who will (and does!) with her Son, crush the serpent’s head. Let us stay with her as Holy Week approaches and as we take part in the great drama of our salvation.