Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Cross. The literal translation of the wonderful Greek name of this day is “The Feast of the Raising aloft of the precious Cross.” This date marks the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 335. This famous Church was built by St. Helena (mother of Constantine) in Jerusalem to celebrate the discovery of the True Cross. Yet it is not on this building that we are meant to focus our attention; rather, today our thoughts and hearts are directed toward the Cross as the instrument of our salvation.
The Cross is the central symbol of the Christian faith. We undoubtedly use it far too often. We see it so often that most often we no longer really see it; it becomes just part of the furniture or the ‘logo’ of the Church. Sometimes we ought to allow ourselves to be offended by it – for the power of the Cross as a symbol derives from the fact that it evokes so many paradoxical meanings for those who believe. For the cross represents a cruel instrument of death, which we look towards in the hope of fullness of life. The cross represents ultimate failure, yet we turn to it in the hope of salvation and blessing. The Cross is a reminder of suffering, the end of every possibility, and yet it holds out to us the promise of freedom and new life. The Cross is ugly, but we know it as a sign of what is most beautiful. The Cross is a thing of evil, of vengeance and violence, but we know it as the seat of grace, forgiveness, and love.
If we allow the symbol of the Cross to work in us, we will never grow complacent. The Cross is where human history and salvation history intersect – as on a Cross Road; it is where God gathers up evil, death, ugliness, failure, hopelessness, and transforms the dead end of mortality into eternal life. But it is also the sign for us that we cannot move directly from triumph to triumph; for death must come between life and new life; the dark night must come between our desire and God’s fulfillment.