Recovering the Lost Symbols of the Church — Holy Cross Day
Wednesday, September 14, 2011 marks the celebration of Holy Cross Day in the church. Sadly, across Christendom, we are abandoning our symbols and reinventing ourselves so as not to offend those outside the church. Campus Crusade for Christ dropped “Christ” from its name because research showed that 9% of Christians and 20% of non-Christians were offended or alienated by the name of Christ. His NAME was getting in the way of accomplishing their mission. Christ Community Church in Spring Lake Michigan removed its cross and changed its name to C3 Exchange to be more inclusive. Click here to read the story and see the video of the cross being removed. The cross, according to C3’s pastor, has become a negative symbol for people. He compared to the church’s use of the cross to remember the work of Christ akin to using a bullet to remember Martin Luther King, Jr. A British church removed a 10 foot tall crucifix from the outside of its building a couple of years ago because it was scaring young children. It was considered a horrifying depiction of pain and suffering and putting people off. You can read the story here.
It used to be that we proudly displayed the symbols of our Faith. Often these symbols draw us closer to the Faith and the story of the cross. That is how the Feast of the Holy Cross began for the church. It is traced back to Helena, mother of Constantine the Great who made it safe and legal to be a Christian in the Roman Empire. His mother was a devout Christian. Around 320 A. D., Helena made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to recover the holy sites of Christendom. She began an excavation around the site of what she believed to be the tomb of Christ. It was rumored that the true cross had been buried in a ditch. One of the few people who are said to have known exactly where the cross was buried, a man named Judas, coincidentally, was inspired to point the location out to Helena. Not one, but three crosses were found in the excavation. Pilate’s inscription was not on any of the crosses. To determine the true cross, people who were sick were brought to the crosses to touch them. It is said that when they touched what was believed to be the true cross, they were made well. One report states that a dead man was brought back to life. Upon this discovery, Helena commissioned the construction of the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, which stands in that spot to this day. Holy Cross Day was instituted as a Feast Day in the church to commemorate the dedication of the Holy Sepulchre which is said to have occurred on September 14, 335 A. D.
There was a time during the course of Christian history when our symbols, our heritage inspired us to do great things. They moved Helena to find the holy spots where Christ walked and lived and mark them for all time. To this day what she did lives on and provides us with the opportunity to visit places where God Himself incarnate walked the earth, where He lived, and where He died. Certainly, pious superstitions and cult like rituals and observances grew up around the stories of our holy symbols and have littered the path through time. Yet there is fact that anchors these stories, and makes them timeless. That fact is the fulcrum around which all of human history turns: Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son, became flesh and blood like you and me, lived on this earth, died on a cross, and rose from the dead.
The Cross will always be a scandal for humanity, the worst scandal in history. For with the bloody Cross, we physically nailed the Christ to a piece of wood and killed the God of the universe. One cannot deny that death is man’s reality, for it is certain that this life on this earth will end one day. Yet for the Christian, the True Christian, the Cross is our reality. For it is there that God meets man in death. The Son of God died in the flesh and, in that death, unites our flesh to His, leading us into life eternal. The Cross is and always will be the symbol of Christianity, defining who and what we are.