Thursday, September 14, 2006

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Meaning and Direction

Reading: Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 77; Philippians 2:6-11; John 3:13-17

One thing I’ve observed in this ostensibly atheist society in which I find myself is the number of people who adorn themselves with religious objects. It seems as though every other person on the street has a bracelet of Buddhist prayer beads around the wrist or a cross hanging from a chain around the neck. I’ve been told that for most these objects serve a purely cosmetic purpose. They have no religious significance, no spiritual meaning. As we celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, we Christians might reflect more deeply upon the meaning that the Cross has for us.

I don’t know French, but I’ve been told that the French word for meaning (sens) also means direction. For the French something that gives meaning also gives direction. Isn’t this also what the readings tell us about the Cross? When the psalmist reminds us to never forget the wonders the Lord has done for us, is he not inviting us to consider the meaning of the Cross, so that we might find in it direction for our lives? Is he not inviting us to move in two directions: to think back, so that we might move forward?

And the meaning of the cross that our readings present to us today also has to do with movement in different directions. Like the bronze serpent in the desert, Jesus is lifted up on the cross. But, as the letter to the Philippians reminds us, this lifting up signifies movements in two different directions. It signifies the upward movement by which God raised up Jesus, giving him the name that is above every name. And this movement is the result of a prior downward movement, by which Jesus emptied himself. True glory, fullness of life, upward movement, comes through self-emptying, compassionate service, downward movement.

On this special feast-day, we might consider carefully the significance that the Cross has for us. We might examine ourselves to see the extent to which the different directions signified by the Cross of Christ find an echo in our own lives. Otherwise, what a tragedy it would be if the Cross became purely cosmetic for us Christians as well.

1 comment:

  1. The Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross will always have a special place in my heart because I firmly believe that when I come face to face with my Creator, the Holy Cross will be my vindicator and advocate. No matter how scarlet my sins, no matter how many good works I have done, all these lie in the all-comforting shadow of the Cross of Christ.

    If you think about it, that piece of wood has no meaning in itself, except the dubious honor of bearing up its Creator. Christ's death on the Cross by itself is of no redemptive value but for Christ Himself, Who came "to give us life, life to the full". That, to me, is the be-all and end-all of the salvific mission of Christ Who taught us how our lives should be lived. In the process, he upset the religious establishment and paid the ultimate price for sticking to His mission. God, in His divine wisdom, made use of Jesus' horrific death on the Cross to advance the cause of salvation.

    The Passion and Death of Jesus will forever remain a mystery to me, although one that always evokes a deep sense of awe and gratitude.

    "We adore You O Christ and we thank You, because by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world".