Lift High the Cross

Posted by James Hahn on

Thursday September 14th – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

John 3:13-17

Responsory from Evening Prayer
O glorious cross, on you the King of angels was victorious
-O glorious cross, on you the King of angels was victorious

And he has washed away our sins in his own blood
- On you the King of angels was victorious

Glory be to the Father…
- O glorious cross, on you the King of angels was victorious

The cross is not pretty. It is not jewelry nor is it decoration. It is a symbol of a form of brutal, merciless capital punishment. Yet I venerate it with my very being. In fact, today I kissed the reliquary holding a piece of the True Cross at a local parish. I may kneel before a cross or crucifix lost in prayer for hours. It seems absurd. It seems ridiculous, like a man saying prayers, lifting heart, mind and soul to the Almighty, and moved to do so at the sight of say, an electric chair or hypodermic needles.

I suppose this is why Saint Paul says “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” For those who have not yet come to understand the power of the cross it is all foolishness. They may ask, “how can two pieces of wood have power?” or “how can a torture device reveal the power of God? Does it not destroy power, destroy life, rather than give power?”

Life itself hung upon that cross yet it was death that died. Truth incarnate hung upon that cross yet it was falsehood that died. The true Way hung upon that cross and for those who wish to live and live forever, the cross is our “way.” It is the eternal paradox of Christianity – he has lifted up the lowly and cast down the rich, blessed are you who hunger for you will have your fill, unless you die to yourself you shall not live and so on.

Today in the Gospel I read the words of Our Lord, “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” The people with Moses were cured of poisonous snake bites by looking at an image of the very thing that may have killed them, a snake. We to, when we look upon the Holy Cross, we may find ourselves cured by an image of the very thing that may have killed us, eternally, sin. “…God sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh and of sin, hath condemned sin in the flesh…” Now that is power!

Christ is on the cross, His throne, not to judge but to draw all men to Himself. The cross is power. It is Christ’s throne. It is the true center of the earth, a true pole. It is the battering ram with which the gates of Heaven were open and the gates of Hell will be destroyed. Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim til all the world adore His sacred name!

There is perhaps no word in the English language that is more often used and more often misunderstood than the word that rang out from the Pulpit of the Cross on that day: The simple word, love. Love as the world understands it means to have, to own, to possess: To have that object, to own that thing, to possess that person, for the particular pleasure which it will give. That is not love; that is selfishness; that is sin. Love is not the desire to have, to own, to possess. Love is the desire to be had, to be owned, to be possessed. Love is the giving of oneself for the sake of another. Love as the world understands it, is symbolized by a circle, which is always circumscribed by self. Love as our Lord understands it, is symbolized by the Cross with its arms outstretched even unto infinity to embrace all humanity within its grasp. As long as we have a body, then love can never mean anything else but sacrifice. - Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

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