The Cross. It’s simple.
The sign of suffering. But also, a sign of our salvation, a sign of triumph, a sign of the victory of life over death.
An ordinary reminder of history but also of deep theology – with a perspective of hope.
They are various. Different sizes: from the smallest to hang on the chest through to those hanging the wall, those outside churches, in cemeteries, to huge ones meant to be visible to everyone from afar. Made from various materials: from wood, stone, iron but also silver and gold. Simple and modest, rich and ornamented; the most ordinary reminder of a fact, but also rich in symbolism. With a figure of Jesus hanging on it or not. Crosses. Always reminiscent of the most important cross: the one on which Jesus Christ died.
The cross in two lines. The vertical, as though joining earth with heaven; man with God, and God with man. The other – horizontal. Like open arms, all standing before this sign are equally ready to receive. Together like two bridges to connect the universe, the Creator with creation and the created with each other. Like two fasteners to return everything to holding together. There is in this sign an echo of the saying of Jesus: “Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:31-32).
Is it by chance that Jesus died for our sins on a cross? Perhaps. However, it’s known that chance is more in the domain of gambling 😉. In this world nothing happens by chance. Everything has its own meaning. It is hard not to see it as in the form of an instrument of torture, on which hung our Saviour. And although everything in the cross of Christ may seem obvious and straightforward, there is in it some mystery. Visibly clearer when it is entered into.
The cross – the sign of suffering. Especially when the corpus of Jesus is fixed to it as though contorted by pain. Do you suffer? Jesus knows what suffering is. God knows what suffering is. Not because in His omniscience He knows everything, but because of suffering, the cruel suffering, He had experienced. When you suffer, you know you are not alone. And you trust it makes sense. Even if it does not ennoble you, lead to heights but beats you into the mud. Trust. That seemingly senseless Death – not at all majestic – and humiliatingly painful, among a few close ones but largely surrounded by an abusive crowd, makes a great deal of sense. It was the culmination of faithfulness to the Father unto death; even a vision of this painful death did not shake Jesus’ faith in the Father. And so, it is with this obedience and faithfulness unto death that all our disobediences were corrected. Beginning with the one in Eden, when losing trust in God, man decided to check what God was hiding from him, and up to the last sin man would commit before the end of the world. Every one of them. You trust as well, that although you don’t see the sense, your, and your loved ones’ suffering has some meaning from God’s perspective. God, though sometimes you may not see it, has no liking for suffering. He had prepared a much better destiny for man. In heaven, where there will no longer be illness, suffering and death. Where He will wipe away every tear.
The cross reminds you of the Eucharist. Especially when the figure of Christ is dressed as the priest who celebrates the Eucharist. Or when the blood gushing from His side is collected in a chalice. As often as we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim the death of Jesus, at the same time expecting His coming in glory. The cross reminds you: if you want to have a share in the fruits of His passion and death, you have to reach for them, feeding on His Body during the Holy Sacrifice.
The cross the sign of victory. Especially when the figure of Jesus hanging on it doesn’t seem to be suffering at all, but rather is triumphant. Sometimes not with a crown of thorns but a king’s crown. The cross, after all, is not the end. “It is accomplished” were not the last words of Jesus. On the third day to the women, who came to His tomb, He said “greetings”. And then not only talked with but also ate with His disciples – until He ascended into heaven. Those two crossed beams remind us that death is not the end. For those who trusted Christ there is resurrection. There is victory – over every evil, among them suffering and death – and eternal happiness in heaven.
For the cross is a sign of new life. Yes, on the cross “death kills life, but from this death life gushes forth” (from the song “The King raises up signs”). Most evidently, when in artistic visions it becomes the Tree of Life. Green leaves burst out, giving fruit, in its shade creatures find rest and in its branches birds nest. “On a tree of paradise death began, on the tree of the cross new life arose, and Satan, who won a tree (the tree of paradise of knowledge of good and evil), on a tree (the cross of Christ) was also defeated. After the cross, began the new, the better, the more beautiful”.
The cross is also the school of love, the school of fidelity. For what would unfaithful be? The cross teaches us to accept what comes to us and cannot be avoided without betraying love. Is it uncomfortable? Does it hurt? If it leads you from the path of truth and love, don’t go . . . . A fathomless mystery.