Holy Cross Day

You Must Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me

Mark 8: 34

The cross, on which Jesus suffered and died during Holy Week, is the most important symbol of our faith. All Christians use it world-wide.

Death on the cross, or crucifixion, was a humiliating, but fairly common, form of Roman execution. Two criminals were crucified at the same time Jesus was, which means it must have been a common group event.

Today, in countries where the death penalty is still used for some crimes, the convicted criminals are executed one at a time.

On this Roman hill in Jerusalem, Golgotha, or the Place of the Skull, the upright portions of the cross were probably set permanently in place. Each prisoner would carry his own cross bar to the hill, where the Roman centurions would fix it on the upright standard. The prisoner may have been attached to the cross bar and hoisted up with it. The finished cross may have looked like a capital T, or the tau cross, rather than the symbol we usually make.

Because Jesus made this symbol of humiliation and death into a symbol of triumph and rejoicing, we make crosses in many forms from many materials.

Many of us make gold and silver crosses encrusted with real jewels as a symbol of triumph. And there are many shapes and forms: the Byzantine cross includes the bar of the nameplate, Jesus the King of the Jews, as well as a footrest.

But remembering that the original cross was made simply of two pieces of wood, let us make crosses today anywhere along the spectrum, from simple to ornate, from wood to precious metals.

The dancing cross celebrates the triumphant risen Christ about whom we sing in "Lord of the Dance."

And let us take a field trip through the church proper, seeing how many shapes and materials of crosses we can find in our own worship environment.

Mark Bangert's Symbols and Terms of the Church includes many of the forms of crosses used by Christians today, as well as descriptions of their histories.

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