The cross symbol has been a vital influence in the worship and lives of Christians. Here are seven historical forms of the cross explained and interpreted for today. Each page includes the history of the particular cross, a meaningful devotion and suggested daily reading for personal meditation. The sign of the cross series can serve as the basis for Lenten devotions, sermons, worship, or study.
"Go... make disciples of all nations, baptizing... teaching... and lo, I am with you always." - Matthew 28:19-20
Lent is a meditative season arid a time to deepen our awareness of the Cross. In ages long past many legends and incredible tales were told about the cross Such imaginative Stories were invented to nourish and satisfy an unsophisticated faith that was charmed by mythical and mystical narratives As a result it is sometimes difficult to know where many legends leave off and history begins.
For instance, there is a fanciful story told to credulous believers for centuries which identified the Cross of Calvary with an unbroken series of events back to the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. It was said that from one branch of this Tree came the staff which Moses used. Solomon had the tree cut down to make a pillar for his temple Thus were many famous biblical characters Connected with the Tree which eventually became the cross upon which Christ was crucified.
The Celtic Cross
Considerable doubt has been cast upon this story by modern writers but from the lime of its discovery and for centuries afterward people apparently never doubted the authenticity of the cross St. Helena found, Indeed, as the message of Christianity spread and eventually established itself as a state religion. the relics of the cross proved to be considerable influence in converting pagans to the new faith, Doubt and conlecture will continue but no one can deny the effect of establishing a place believed to be where the actual cross was reputed to have been buried.
Since Constantine the Greet first issued his Edict of Milan In 313 declaring that Christianity would be tolerated, the Gospel has been rapidly carried to every part of the world. It continues to be a missionary religion and a faith with a mission, The Celtic Cross is the emblem usually associated with a sixth century.
A Celtic missionary named St. Columbia. Raised in a noble Irish family and trained in Irish monasteries, Columbia’s zeal to share and extend the faith finally impelled him to leave his country. In 563 he and twelve companions established a monastery on the small island of lona. It later became the center of Celtic Christianity, learning and retreat in Scotland and Northern England. All 0ver the British Isles there are familiar Wayside Crosses in the form of the Celtic cross. Wherever the mission of the church spread, such stone and wooden crosses encircled with a ring symbolizing eternal life, were erected. Along roadsides they became shrines beside which travelers might stop. face east and devoutly pray. Similar designs known as Irish, Ionic, Runic and Gothic Crosses were also used to mark the four boundaries of churchyards. Centuries later they became the common model for Memorial Crosses on the graves of dead Christians.
The Story of Finding the True Cross
Perhaps the most engaging mixture of legend and history involves the finding of the original cross by Constantine’s mother, the Empress Helena. in the fourth century. At Constantine’s request his devout mother was persuaded to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the year 326 to find the actual cross upon which our Lord died. The pious woman, almost eighty years old, eagerly accepted the mission in spite of her advanced years.
The Christian lady was aided by St. Macarius, the Bishop of Jerusalem in her holy search for the exact place 0f the crucifixion and burial of Christ. It was the custom always to bury the cross after a crucifixion in a deep trench and to cover it with stones and dirt. Three centuries before, great care had been taken to conceal the place the cross was buried so that no followers of Christ should discover it.
Knowledge of the secret place, however, was handed down in the families of certain Jews and from one of these descendants the hiding place was revealed. Under a heathen temple to Venus. erected two centuries earlier by the Emperor Hadrian. Saint Helena began excavation. Very deep clown she unearthed the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea in which Christ was buried and nearby she also found the three crosses. Near them, but separated, were the tour nails and the inscription ordered by Pilate identifying Jesus as "the King of the Jews."
Meditation and Further Reflection
O Lord I long to feel the same spiritual enthusiasm which motivated Christian witnesses to travel and extend thee faith Inspire file with a sense of mission and an inclination to share my faith with others If l can’t fulfill the attraction of some foreign land in which lode religious work, then tot my witness be to those nearby Help me to make my evangelism genuine and honest, truly helpful to all I meet.
On the Celtic cross I see the cosmic circle around the intersection 0f the two bars and I recall the timeless revolving sun wheels in ancient cultures which represented perfection and immortality. For me it communicates a halo of glory, a shining ray signifying the resurrection and the redemption secured by your death.
Thank you Lord, for the ministry of faith cried on by saints and unknown souls throughout the history of the Church Many may be forgotten, others may be remembered with only a weather-worn cross to mark their early places of work We are grateful for their contribution and for a living tradition of memories, relics and aging artifacts to recall an unbroken zeal of missionary concern which still prevails in your world today. Amen.