Wishing you all a Happy Feast of the Cross!
What is the Cross?
Geometrically speaking, the Cross is a symbol that is about as simple as you can get. Two perpendicular straight lines. And yet, within that simplicity lie profound layers of meaning, meaning that became attached to it ever since that fateful day on the Golgotha nearly 2,000 years ago. Those two simple lines contrast the attitude that looks upwards, seeking more to life (vertical), to that which is content with the one-dimensional life of the material here on earth (horizontal). They cross at 90 degrees; the maximum possible separation between two lines, implying that the two attitudes towards life couldn’t be further apart. And yet, they avoid the excesses of fanaticism, for if they increased the angle on one side, the angle on the opposite side would necessarily decrease. So also those who go to fanatical extremes of religiousity on the one hand often find themselves inevitably falling into worldly sins of pride and lust for power on the other.
The Cross represents an event, a real, historical, well-documented real-life event. And that event too is laden with meaning.
The Cross represents that totally unfair burden laid upon One who had already suffered enough. By the time the Cross had been laid upon the shoulder of Christ, He had already been subjected to humiliation and taunts, beatings and a barbaric whipping, blood loss, sleep deprivation and dehydration. The added pain and humiliation of carrying a heavy wooden cross through the streets of Jerusalem was a totally unnecessary and inhuman punishment for One who was about to die anyway. And yet, He bore it with grace and patience, and without a word of complaint. He bore it as far as was humanly possible, and after that, one was provided to bear it for Him, that He might complete His journey.
And we too are charged to take up our cross if we wish to be His disciples (students). Do not be surprised, then, if your cross turns out to be heavy or if it seems unnecessary or unfair. To follow Christ means to share with Him the total humiliation of injustice, and to bear it with grace and patience. Do not expect your cross to be fur lined for your added comfort, or electronically balanced for smooth driving. It will be, by its very nature and purpose, burdensome, unwieldy, ugly and agonising. When we have already suffered ‘enough’ – that is the point at which we are called to take up our cross … if we truly wish to follow Him.
It is at this point that faith becomes real. If faith is to mean anything, it must be trusting when all the evidence points to the contrary. “My God, My God; why have You forsaken Me?” He cried from the agony of the Cross. And yet, He did not bring Himself down. He did not say, “If My Father has forsaken Me, then I too shall forsake Him.” The Cross is faith that crosses the boundary of simple reason, that trusts when there appears to be very little reason to trust.
But this faith is not unreasonable. Probe deeper, and you will find a reason so compelling that it cannot be honestly escaped. “For the Father loves the Son,” – twice He says it in the Gospel of St John, as if to confirm its truth, so that we should not doubt it when we see Him later suffering on the Cross. It is faith in this love that makes this unreasonable, unjust, unbearable cross become our joy – and our salvation.
For without this trust, without this utter surrender into the hands of the Father, accepting whatever, whatever mind you, may come; without this trust we will never experience what the love of God really means. The seed cannot grow into a plant and bear fruit if it does not first surrender to gravity, fall to the ground and die. The Cross represents our surrender of the ego, and our submission to having it broken, however painful that may be, however unfair that may seem. The injustice becomes bearable because it comes from the hand of the Father, who loves us.
That is not the whole story. There is a happy ending:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”