MEDITATION OF THE DAY
Exalting the Cross
At the center of Christian vision and imagery stands a great and enigmatic sign, the sign of the cross. Like the brass serpent held aloft on a pole by Moses in the desert, the cross has drawn and fixed the gazes of men ever since it was raised. It is there at the center of Christian vision because it is there at the center of the divine drama…unfolded on the stage of our history in the sequence of Annunciation, Nativity, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension….
The difficulty we mortal men have in the presence of the events that make up the Gospel is that, while the events themselves are straightforward enough for any peasant to understand (the angels appeared to shepherds), the significance of those events exhausts the efforts of the most sublime intellects to grasp them. The plain Gospel story is told, century after century, to peasants, children, and philosophers and calls forth adoration and faith from all alike….
The cross attracts the unceasing efforts of man’s intellect and imagination and affection to respond…. It is carried in procession with great pomp in Rome and hangs on a string around the neck of an Irish farmer. It glimmers from a plaque next to a child’s crib and shines from the pages of Aquinas. It is hailed in sorrowful chants (O vos omnes…videte si est dolor sicut dolor mei) and in hymns of contrition (“When I survey the wondrous cross”) and of triumph (“Onward, Christian soldiers”). There are gold crosses, plastic crosses, wooden crosses, jeweled crosses, and stone crosses. There are huge crosses towering in the Alps and the Andes and tiny crosses on dashboards and shelves. There are crosses on spires and crosses on gravestones. There are Celtic crosses, Crusaders’ crosses, crosses of Saint Anne, and Coptic crosses. There is the bare cross, the crucifix, and the Christus Rex (Christ crowned and in royal robes on the cross). And of course there is no counting the frescoes, mosaics, icons, and oil paintings that have for their subject the crucifixion scene…. Christians see themselves, then, as a people under the sign of the cross. It is the sign of their salvation; it is their ensign, their banner, their cover, their plea, and their glory.
Thomas Howard is a convert to Catholicism and the author of numerous books. He taught literature for many years. [From The Night Is Far Spent: A Treasury of Thomas Howard. © 2007, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA. www.ignatius.com. Used with permission.]