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.
"And Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness." - Matthew 9:35
As Christians we yearn for health In all of life’s parts. We know the quality of life is dependent on a total interrelated wholeness. Health includes physical and mental well-being. But it is more than freedom from disease and involves something that is beyond mere biological, pharmacological and psychological therapy.
Many medical stories on television hint that healing is concerned with more than surgery, pill prescriptions or even the sympathy of the physician. Health is spiritual and assumes the awareness of and capacity for being grasped by the Spirit, that source and meaning of life which transcends us and yet is immediately available to our innermost apprehension of faith.
The scriptures abound with instances of Jesus’ ministry oP healing. Miracle stories point to the fact that all health and wholeness are gifts of God. The Christian understanding oP “savior’ is that of the universal healer one whO heals life in all its dimensions, The cross, then, is a reminder that God’s nature is salvation, healing that which is ill or “dis-eased” and making whole what is broken, handicapped or impaired.
The T-shaped crutch is the basis for the Five-Fold Jerusalem Cross. It is corn- posed of four Tau Crosses which meet in the center plus four small crosses which appear in the four corners. The large Cross Potent, which is formed and so named because of its resemblance to an ancient crutch, symbolical of our Savior’s power to heal the diseases of our body, mind and soul.
One tradition relates that the large square cross represents the, wound in our Lord’s side: the smaller crosslets refer to the wounds in His hands and feet, or the four quarters of the world for which He died, Others say perhaps the five crosses represent the five principalities which made up the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem during the Crusades. And others contend they stand for Christ and the four Evangelists and the four corners of the earth to which His missionary commission spread.
Crusaders and Healing Concern
The Jerusalem Cross, or Crusader’s Cross as it is also known, was the coat-of- arms adopted by Godfrey de Bouillon, the first Christian ruler of Jerusalem In 1099. Godfrey organized the Knights of France, Normandy and Flanders in what turned out to be the second crusade to conquer Jerusalem from the Moslems, He was successful in rescuing a fragment believed to be from the original cross from the possession of the infidels. Still another interpretation contends the five crosses symbolize the five nations which eventually went on the crusades to free the tomb of Christ — England. France. Italy, Spain and Germany.
Christians maintained the liberation of the Holy City and were in possession of the sacred relic OP the cross for nearly a hundred years. Then a great army of Saacens led by Saladin laid siege to Jerusalem. The Christians, believing the revered fragment of the Cross had mysterious and miraculous power and would give them victory, carried it into battle upon the plains of Galilee, The Christian Knights and Templars rallied around the sacred relic and fought desperately and bravely but the Saracens were victorious. The fragment of the cross fell into the hands of the unbelievers and was carried away never to be seen again.
No one knows how or why Godfrey came to choose the Jerusalem Cross. Some believe that one day he saw an Armenian Crutch cross and adapted It to his use giving it richer symbolism Perhaps Godfrey liked the old design, symbolic of pilgrims who lean on their crutches as they pray, We do know, however, that eventually Crusaders established the Knights Templar to protect such pilgrims and that the Knights Templar were concerned about caring for pilgrims who became ill on their tourneys to Palestine.
Meditation and Further Reflection
0 Lord, we appreciate the crutch of the cross to lean on and Support us as we face the forces that fragment life We look back on our history and are embarrassed about the numerous Holy Wars of the cross that have been fought in the name of Christianity We contemplate the symbol and sense its potency. It is an enabling cross because we can rest upon its strength and have our faith renewed as we worship.
Heal us, 0 Lord, from all our mistakes Make whole and save what is broken and insane In body and soul Help us to experience the divine power of recovery and the presence of God’s rule in our everyday lives. Make up for our in. inadequacies in nature and history Teach us to see there is no difference between your work and the natural laws and processes of medicine, Through faith we can appreciate that they share an intimate connection and common source in your restoring activity.
Let this Lenten season be an opportunity for renewal of life in all its parts Inspire us at all levels of functioning that we may be refreshed in our view of the world and our commitment to ethical values. Deepen our self-image and enrich our relationship with fellow Christians as the power of the cross mobilizes our bodily, psychological and spiritual resources Amen.