Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Exaltation of the Holy Cross
We have all written letters, and sometimes when we write them we put the little “X’s” and “O’s” at the bottom to signify our hugs and kisses to show our affections for the other person. Did you know that originally, during the time when there were kings and emperors that they used the same markings on their letters? When a king or emperor would write a letter or document at the end of the letter, he would put the sign of the cross at the bottom next to his name and then he would kiss it signifying that he is making a pact with God to uphold whatever was written in the letter or document. This kissing of the cross was his way of promising to keep his word. Eventually, the cross turned sideways and became the “X” that we have today signifying the kiss.
Today, we exalt the cross as a symbol of victory, a symbol of life giving and love. The cross was a way that Christ showed His love for us. Originally, the cross was a symbol of pain and suffering. The cross was a symbol of terror to dissuade the citizens of that time not to do crime punishable by it. The victims of crucifixion were stripped naked, hung on the cross and would suffer for days before they would suffocate and die. In the mean while, as they suffered, they also suffered from embarrassment because on-lookers would gawk at them. Jesus would eventually make enough waves that He too would be crucified to try to silence Him from His message of peace and love. The cross was His “love letter” to us to show us that He would do anything to bring us closer to Him and His Father. He sacrificed His life to give us ours.
One of the biggest reasons that Christ was crucified, was that others were jealous of His success. The Sadducees and Pharisees had the corner on the market with the people. They made a lot of money and had plenty of power. The things they taught the people to do, in the back of their minds, made them feel that they were above the less educated everyday people. Pride and arrogance filled their very being and Jesus’ message pierced their hearts and His words made them feel guilty. So in turn, they wanted to take care of the problem and get rid of Jesus. But, it was not enough that they wanted to kill Him, they also did not want to get their own hands dirty with the task, so they manipulated their enemies into killing Him, using the law as a justification. It is interesting that they feared the Romans, however, it is the Romans they sought out to become their scapegoats.
The Pharisees and Sadducees had no integrity or humility. Their self-centeredness and pride was the only thing that led them to “do the right thing.” They said it was better for one man to die than a whole nation. It was their choice to have Christ executed, however, it was Christ’s choice that allowed it.
Today, we have the same problem... do we not? Everyone in our modern world is out for themselves. They have one person in mind and the idea of self-sacrifice is foreign. The path to the cross is one of suffering, and most people do not want suffering in their lives. We want the easy road; we want life to be free from tribulation.
I am not going to lie to you, the path of the cross is one of constant trials. The closer we get to God, the more we find adversity in our lives. Life is a constant struggle. We pray, we come to church and we look to the cross.
Today, we see the cross everywhere. So many see the cross, but forget what it means. People wear the cross as necklaces, earrings, on their shirts, even as tattoos. We see the cross as a decoration around the house or in our cars. The cross is a normal everyday item that is seen, but not reverenced. At one time the cross was a symbol of power.
Emperor Constantine had the vision to paint the cross on the shields of his men and he was told that victory would be his if he did so. That day, not only did the emperor have victory, but it was a great victory in the world of the Christian. That day, Constantine learned of the power of the cross and the Roman Empire was changed forever. The battle that was fought that day was only one of the battles that would be fought throughout history for the freedom of our faith. The cross would lead men into battle throughout the crusades because they believed that the sacrifice of Christ was real. They turned that once terrifying symbol of death into a symbol of eternal victory. The understanding of death changed in the minds of the soldiers of God. Death was no longer the end, but the beginning. Christ changed the world and its thinking.
Throughout the ages, the Christian was threatened and lived in fear. The Christian was a person who was looked at as strange and a scourge of society. Then when Constantine came along he made Christianity the faith of the known world.
Isn’t it strange that today in the modern world, we Christians again are the scourge of society. We are the “odd man” out and we are the ones who are strange. The Christian precepts such as love and humility are foreign concepts. Our hearts have grown cold. The main reason why most do not become Christians is because we as Christians are poor role models. Where is our humility? How about respect for each other? How about common decency and love? It is hard to tell others that our faith is the heart and soul of our lives when we are too busy stealing from each other. We stab each other in the back, we commit adultery, we murder…the list goes on and on.
The only saving grace is Christ and His self-sacrifice on the cross. We need to remember that all that He asked us to do, HE DID FIRST. He led by example. He lived a life pure and perfect. Christ asked us to try, and move forward in our faith, not to move backward. When we profess to be Christians we need to live by the example of Christ.
We need to stop lying and cheating and tell the truth. We need to stop talking behind peoples backs and be courageous enough to tell others the truth—in love. We do not want people to think less of us, so we do not tell them the truth; however, we are not afraid to talk about others behind their backs?
Christ spoke boldly every day with the truth. He acted with humility and kept the message of his Father alive through His actions. He knew He was going to be betrayed—He loved Judas still. He knew He was going to the cross—He spread the gospel still. It did not matter how anyone felt about Christ—He did the right thing. That is also what we need to do. We are called to be like Christ. When we talk about each other, or hurt each other—would Christ give us a nod of approval?
We celebrate the cross as a victory of love. Christ showed us the path to salvation, and that entails following after Him in his path. We must shed off all of the unneeded parts of our lives and pick up the cross and follow Him. We must learn to love each other as Christ loved us. Look at the person sitting next to you on the left and on the right, they are our neighbor. Look at the person, who has betrayed you, they are who we must pray for. Look at the person who has hurt and persecuted you, they are the ones who need saving.
There was a short poem that Mother Theresa had hanging on her wall. I would like to share it with you. It goes along with an adage that I attempt to live by, that my grandmother would tell me: “Demetri, you do what is right, it does not matter what the other person does, it matters what you do.”
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered—Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives—Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies—Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you—Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight—Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous—Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow—Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough—Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; It was never between you and them anyway.
When we are judged on the great and terrible day, we will stand alone before Christ who paved the way to eternal life by His blood. He will judge us by the intentions of our hearts, not by how much money we have. He will Judge us by the amount of love we shared by being honest and having integrity, not by who we impress here on earth. Let us remember, the cross is a symbol of love and self-sacrifice. We need to pick it up and fully give our hearts to God and follow him.