The way of the cross in the world

The way of the cross at Ely Cathedral

Dear colleagues,

The church calendar today calls us to commemorate Holy Cross Day. Wait, you might say, isn’t that what Good Friday is about? Holy Cross Day originates in the fourth century, following the conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine to Christianity. He directed that a new church be built in Jerusalem on Golgotha, site of Jesus’ crucifixion. There, workers found a large beam thought to be part of the cross on which Christ died. The relic and the connection to the historical fact of Jesus’ death are important. But this year I hear Holy Cross Day speaking to me in a different way.

Crucifixion is one of the central facts of Christianity: “he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,” we affirm in the creeds. When the love of God incarnate in Jesus Christ meets the brokenness of the world, the result is the cross. We don’t need to look too hard to see that crucifixion is around us in the world today. It’s a kind of crucifixion when the burden of a pandemic falls most heavily on those least equipped to deal with it. It’s a kind of crucifixion when human action upends our natural environment with catastrophic results. It’s a kind of crucifixion when a Black person or an indigenous person or a person of colour is killed by state violence. Each of these is an example of the destruction of the relatedness and communion that God calls us to—a crucifixion.

As Christians, we know that the cross is not end of the story. Easter follows Good Friday. The risen Christ reforms relationships and community when all hope seems lost. Holy Cross Day remind us of this. But it also comes a time of year when Christians begin thinking about the end of the church year and the future towards which God is calling us. Holy Cross Day reminds us that just as Christ was raised up on the cross so too will he be raised up in glory at the last day. Our world of crucifixions will be transformed.

Christians live in this in-between place, between the crucified Christ and risen Lord who will come again in glory to fulfill all things. Christians are people of the resurrection in the midst of crucifixion, who witness to the hope and possibility that can come out of every moment of death, no matter how difficult and improbable that may seem.

If we were able to be together to celebrate the Eucharist today, we would hear the words of St. Paul: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Cor. 1:18) I hope on this day we can see and recognize the crucifixions in our own lives and in the world around us—and also be agents of the saving power of God.

Faithfully yours,

This message was written by Principal Jesse Zink for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community.