“May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)
Does it surprise you that one of the “red letter” days on the Church calendar is Holy Cross Day? These days are usually reserved for the likes of the original disciples of Jesus and the four Gospel writers, the days of Holy Week, and the Day of Pentecost. But the Holy Cross gets its own red-letter day - this day - September 14. The date goes back to the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on 14 September 335, after the church was built on the site where the True Cross was believed to be found in 326 by Helena, mother of Constantine, after she made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to discover historic Christian sites.
On this day, we remember that an instrument of “shameful death” became an instrument of life and salvation. The cross was not the last word; Jesus was raised as the Christ, thus assuring victory over death. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32)
The cross also reminds us that dying is a necessary part of this life. We die to thinking that life revolves around us. We die to the ego... the False Self... so that we might be given new life in Christ. Every time we choose to love someone, and - in the process - make ourselves vulnerable, we experience a certain kind of dying. If you have ever been married or a parent, you know what I am talking about. If you have ever sacrificed something for a close friend, you know what I am talking about.
The cross reminds us that dying is not only part of life... dying is the pathway to real life.
Paul wrote, in the quote above, that it was by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ that “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” When we decide to become disciples of Jesus and call him our Lord, then everything else falls back... everything else takes a (distant) second place to Christ. We have died to all these things: family, country, being right, possessions, worldly views of success, being our own highest authority... any and all of it. It is the cross before all of these things.
We - like Jesus at the time of his Passion - are willing to let others act upon us, and even kill us, “... because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Philippians 3:8)
The cross not only reminds us of God’s amazing love for us. The cross also reminds us that in dying, we live. (see 2 Corinthians 6:9). The cross reminds us that suffering is part of life, and that there is indeed such a thing as redemptive suffering.
I will conclude with the Collect for the Tuesday of Holy Week:
“O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.’
(The Book of Common Prayer, p. 220)