The scandalous triumph of the Cross

Today the Christian world celebrates the Triumph or the Exaltation of the Cross.

It may seem strange to celebrate an instrument of torture and capital punishment. It was a scandal for the early followers of Jesus.

But in Jesus, the Cross has become a sign of life.

In the church of San Clemente in Rome, the Cross is the center of a vine that reaches to the corners of the apse. The cross is the source of life.

In the church of San Apolinare in Clase, outside Ravenna, the cross is in the center of a blue field full of stars.

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Such glorious images might lead us to forget the revolutionary scandal of the Cross. But as Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon write in Resident Aliens (p. 47):

The cross is not a sign of the church’s quiet, suffering submission to the powers that-be, but rather the Church’s revolutionary participation in the victory of Christ over those powers. The cross is not a symbol for general human suffering and oppression. Rather, the cross is a sign of what happens when one takes God’s account of reality more seriously than Caesar’s. The cross stands as God’s (and our) eternal no to the powers of death, as well as God’s eternal yes to humanity, God’s remarkable determination not to leave us to our own devices.

The Cross is the promise of God’s saving love and so  so today I pray the pray of St. Francis of Assisi before the Cross of San Damiano:

Most high and glorious God,
Enlighten the darkness of my heart.
Grant me right and true faith,
Certain hope, and
Perfect charity,
Feeling and understanding,
Lord,
To fulfill
Your holy and just command.

 

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