Above: Icon of Jesus at Golgotha
The Cross: From Emblem of Shame to Symbol of Triumph
The Assigned Readings for This Feast:
Psalm 98 or Psalm 98:1-4
Philippians 2:5-11 or Galatians 6:14-18
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
This feast commemorates the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on September 14, 335 C.E., a date designed to align with the anniversary of the dedication of the first Temple by King Solomon. That is a summary of the history of the feast. Now for the interesting part.
A symbol carries only the meaning(s) people assign to it. Consider the cross. The ruling classes of the Roman Empire used crucifixion as a means of capital punishment reserved for those considered the worst of the worst. It was public execution meant to make an example of the victims. And this constituted annihilation of the crucified. Under normal circumstances the body remained on the cross while animals and decomposition took their tolls. The ultimate purpose of crucifixion was terrorize would-be rebels and reinforce the power of the Imperium.
Yet the Resurrection turned the original meaning of the cross on its head. The cross became a symbol of God’s victory over death, evil, and the designs of the Roman Empire and those who collaborated with it. The cross, once a symbol of fear and terrorism, became an emblem of love.
That “will preach.”
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JUNE 13, 2010
THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C