X is for the Cross
The great symbol of our faith, the cross, is one that is so familiar to us, as Christians, that sometimes we do not see it properly. It is on the outside of churches, and on the inside - on altars, processional crosses, vestments, prayer books, altar linen and banners. The place where I have seen the most crosses is the great war cemeteries of France and Belgium, where there are hundreds in front of you when you visit.
We know immediately that lots of stone crosses means many dead people are buried there. But the crosses were put there to symbolise hope, faith, and life beyond the grave. In the cross, which was the means of a painful death for Jesus, we put our faith in his death and in his resurrection.
Holy Week and Easter are our most solemn and joyful times. It is because of what happened on that first Good Friday and Easter day that there is a church at all, that we exist at the Church of the Ascension. God took on human form at the nativity of Jesus, and he took on human suffering in the passion. The cross speaks of the love of God - content to be Himself wounded, so as to save wounded humanity. The cross speaks of God’s way, not ours - we would probably want a crown, a sun, or some other triumphant symbol. The cross speaks to sinners to draw close and marvel at how our God has gone to the limits for us.
Just think of the way we use the “sign of the cross” in church. We “sign” people with the cross on their foreheads in baptism - for we speak of dying and rising with him in our baptism. We make the sign of the cross in giving and receiving absolution the forgiveness of sins is bestowed on us by the cross of Jesus. We make the sign of the cross in giving or receiving a blessing - again, the blessing is of the crucified and risen Lord. And the sign of the cross is made over bread and wine at the altar, when we ask God to make these elements “for us the body and blood of Christ” - the body nailed to the cross and blood spilt there.
When you see or wear a cross ponder on its meaning: how it is central to our worship, our faith, and our wounded world.
Christ of Saint John of the Cross (Detail) Salvador Dalí (May 11, 1904 – January 23, 1989)