The Cross of Christ
Simply put, the cross is the ultimate symbol of God’s love for man. God the Word before the ages, out of unfathomable love for His creation, deigned to take upon Himself the flesh of His creation by being humbly born in the flesh amid dumb beasts as a helpless babe. In this way, He dwelt among His creation, ministering to it even unto suffering an unjust crucifixion, sacrificing himself for us sinners in order to redeem us and reconcile us to God the Father. By this He saved us from the eternal curse of death as only the true sacrificial Lamb could.
The ancient hymnography of the Church refers to the “life-giving” power of the cross as being a protection against temptations, a wounder of demons and an ensign of victory for those redeemed by it. The cross is the foremost symbol of the Christian who has been directed by his Lord to “take up your cross and follow me.” It is not just the actual wood of the true cross that holds within it the power of the living God, but even in the representations of the cross in the ages before and after the life-saving crucifixion of our Lord.
Before the cross of Christ was revealed and made manifest, as with Christ Himself, its coming was prophesied through all of the Old Testament scriptures, such as with Moses at the Red Sea and Jonah in the belly of the whale, being realized and fulfilled on the day of the Lord’s passion and continuing to endure as an active symbol of man’s salvation, retaining its saving power even now until the end of time.
If some are offended by the sight of the Lord on the cross then let them remember that his voluntary death on the cross was the ultimate act of His love for all mankind which was unto our salvation. “No greater love hath a man than this: That he lay down his life for his friends.” This is exactly what the Lord has done for us. Can we react to this in any other way than with humble gratitude and joy?
It is no slight to, or denial of, the Resurrection of Christ at all that the Church should remember and honor the Lord’s crucifixion. The Holy Orthodox Church remembers all the significant revelations of God upon the earth. One does not imply a denial of the other, rather, each one serves to magnify the other to the glory of the risen Lord. The Resurrection is celebrated, the Nativity of the Lord is celebrated, His Conception, miracles, His glorious Ascension, etc., all are commemorated, depicted on icons, and kept in remembrance in the life of the Church, and they all go together to make up the plan of God’s dispensation for man.
As one who truly took up his cross and followed the Lord, the Holy Apostle Paul said, “I bear in my body the dying of the Lord Jesus Christ,” and “God forbid that I should glory in anything save the cross of Christ.” May this sentiment be shared by us as well. When beholding the life-giving cross let us see in it the glory of God’s divine love for us and all creation.
By the power of Thy holy and precious and life-giving cross, O Lord Jesus Christ, Our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen.