This week, on 14 September, the Church celebrated the Feast day of the Holy Cross. There are several days during the year devoted to thinking about and venerating the cross, the most sacred symbol in the Christian faith, most importantly Good Friday in Holy week.
The Feast day of the Holy Cross, also known as ‘The Elevation of the Cross’ or ‘The Triumph of the Cross’, relates to St Helena, who was the mother of the Roman Emperor, Constantine. St Helena went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 326 AD where tradition has it that she found the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and the cross which Jesus was executed on. St Helena had a church built on the original site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection.
This church was finished in 335AD and dedicated by her son, Constantine, on 13-14 September. The church is named the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and it is the holiest site on earth for all Christians. It is still believed that inside the church lies the remnant of the one true cross on which hung the saviour of the world. This site is therefore of extreme importance to Christians from around the world and people travel from all the corners of the earth to this place – I myself have been fortunate to have been there three times and I know our Headmaster has also been there.
Whether or not you are interested in pilgrimage, relics and, indeed, the historic city, Jerusalem, the Feast day of the Holy Cross is an invitation to pause and ponder the fact that this symbol of execution, darkness, isolation, death and defeat that has become a symbol of hope, forgiveness and love.
We often think of suffering or sadness as something to be quickly overcome. We want to get over it and let it go so we can be happy. But the journey of the cross tells us that we must avoid superficial overcoming of suffering. Supressing hurt does not lead to forgiveness and joy. It leads to depression and anger. Sharing pain or helping others to share their pain can lead to healing. If we ignore our pain there can never be any true healing and resurrection. This is truth. This is the way of the cross.
The cross is not about God pleasing an angry God. The Cross, which is in every church and is the centre of the Christian faith, is about God sharing the pain with us so that we can truly heal; so that we can live the life of resurrection. We are never fully alone. Even when we think we alone in our suffering and loneliest moments God is with us sharing with us.
The way of the cross is essentially about solidarity and compassion It is standing with another in pain and joy. It is weeping with those who weep. It is living with a totally open heart.
For some the cross is pure foolishness. For Greeks and Jews, at the time, it was foolishness. For many today, the notion that God would suffer is still folly.
But for Christians, the cross is the paradoxical sign of hope. For we believe that even in loneliness, betrayal, darkness and pain, there is the hidden presence of the unknown God, made known to us in the midst of pain. If we follow the way of the cross, we believe that we will be led to resurrection and fullness of life.
May God bless you all and I hope you have a great break.
Rev’d Hans Christiansen