Triumph of the Cross

The Cross: Sign of God’s Life

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A Good Friday meditation on the Cross by commenter Greg Mockeridge.

Out of all Christian symbols, the sign of the Cross is by far the most significant. In the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths, the blessings given by priests, which are believed to convey actual grace, are given with the sign of the Cross.


The Cross also symbolizes one of the cruelest forms of capital punishment ever inflicted in human history. So it should be no surprise that this “sign of contradiction” is seen by many as the largest “stumbling block” of the Christian faith.


Such reaction, while superficially understandable, ignores a foundational truth of human experience large and small as attested to by history: the greatest of life’s triumphs and successes have always come on the heels of the worst failures and horrors.


This truth finds it fulfillment in the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Our Lord.


While believing firmly in the truth of this great paradox, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the Cross symbolized something more than just a paradox, a deeply profound paradox though it may be.


In reading what then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now pope emeritus Benedict XVI) had to say regarding the sign of the cross in his book Spirit of the Liturgy, I believe my hunch was vindicated. The sign of the Cross is the sign of God’s mark on creation prior to being a sign of crucifixion.
He states:
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Triumph of the King

zechariah

(This is my regular post for Palm Sunday which I repost each year.  Have a happy and blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week.)

“9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: BEHOLD THY KING will come to thee, the just and saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. 10 And I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim, and the horse out of Jerusalem, and the bow for war shall be broken: and he shall speak peace to the Gentiles, and his power shall be from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the end of the earth.”

Thus did the prophet Zechariah, writing half a millennium before, predict the entry of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  How many such glorious entrances into cities have there been over the ages?  Every civilization I am aware of has such ceremonies, either parades in peace time or entrances of conquest or liberation in war time.  The Romans turned this into an art form with their triumphs, with the reminder of the slave to the imperator of  fleeting human mortality: “Respice post te, hominem memento te”.

Few such triumphs have turned into utter disaster as quickly as that of Jesus:  Jerusalem at His feet on Sunday, and Christ dead on a Roman Cross before the sun had set on Friday.  Small wonder that no contemporary historian or chronicler at the time took note.  However some sort of official report probably was filed after the crucifixion.  Writing circa 116 AD, and relying heavily on official records for his history, in regard to the great fire at Rome under Emperor Nero Tacitus states:

“15.44.2. But, despite kindly influence, despite the leader’s generous handouts, despite appeasing the gods, the scandal did not subside, rather the blaze came to be believed to be an official act. So, in order to quash the rumour, Nero blamed it on, and applied the cruelest punishments to, those sinners, whom ordinary people call Christians, hating them for their shameful behaviour. 15.44.3. The originator of this name, Christ, was sentenced to torture by Procurator Pontius Pilate, during the reign of Tiberius, but although checked for a moment, the deadly cult erupted again, not just in Judaea, the source of its evil, but even in Rome, where all the sins and scandals of the world gather and are glorified.” ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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