From the staked plains of the Llano Estacado to the rugged hills of Mount Calvary, and all places in between, there is only one symbol that has withstood the test of time. Once a symbol of despair and shame; now a worldwide symbol of hope to those who continue to believe some 2,000 years after his death and resurrection.
What other symbol has united so many people across the globe? What other sign, so simple and yet so powerful, has influenced the forming of nations, guided families through their lives and united millions and millions of people across the globe under a common name of Christianity?
Crosses are everywhere. On jewelry, buildings, walls, inside cars, on clothes, by roadsides, on mountain tops and erected in front of most graves. They can be crafted in the most elaborate of styles, made out of gold, marble and other precious stones, or in the most simple of styles, with a basic criss-crossing of two sticks. But it’s not the construction, it’s the meaning of the cross that comes to my mind on this Good Friday, the day we observe the passion of The Christ.
I have a collection of crosses given to me by friends and family over the years, ranging from a handmade grapevine cross adorned with plastic grapes and wheat that was given to me by a friend in Abilene, Texas, to a white porcelain cross with my topaz birthstone in the middle, given to me for Christmas by my sister, Nana.
I also have a cross that I accidentally left behind in Abilene when we moved. It was probably my favorite one. It’s a simple wooden cross that my one and only nephew, Bobby, made for me while working with a cabinet company in Albuquerque.
When I taught catechism in Abilene, I placed this cross in a prayer corner that my friend Cindy and I erected in our classroom and I think it’s still there. I meant to take it with me when I left, but now I won’t feel right going back to reclaim it.
Maybe that cross wasn’t meant for me to enjoy. But I do know the cross that we crucified Jesus on was meant for me.
And for you!
I just love the first two verses to the timeless song, “The Old Rugged Cross.” It says, “On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame; and I love that old cross, where the dearest and best, for a world of lost sinners was slain. So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown.”
I especially love the words to another timeless song about an old wooden cross, “La Cruz de Madera,” made famous by Michael Salgado and also recorded by Portales’ own Los Huracanes del Norte.
When translated, the first verse goes like this, “A wooden cross, made out of the most common of woods, that’s all I ask for (on my grave) when I die …” The song says he also doesn’t want fancy little platforms of adobe on his grave or a lot of sadness, just that simple wooden cross. Of course, it sounds so much more poetic in the Spanish version.
I’ve heard it said that Christianity is the biggest myth ever told, but I find it hard to believe that billions of people could be so easily fooled. I find it hard to believe that anyone could have constructed the stories in the Bible themselves with such wisdom. The very sign of the cross, made with a simple motion of the hands, has been known to ward off evil, regardless of what the movie “The Exorcist,” tries to show otherwise.
For many of us, the cross seems so much more real this year after standing in long lines to see Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ.”
Every year, thousands of people flock to the famous Santuario in Chimayo in northern New Mexico to participate in the annual Good Friday walk. Some people do this on their knees or barefoot, with many carrying crosses like Jesus did.
We’ve all got our own crosses to bear in life, and some of us have made small sacrifices such as this during our Lenten journey, but of course, nothing can compare to the sacrifice Jesus made for us.
My tocaya or “namesake,” St. Helena, is believed to have discovered the true cross of Jesus in 326 A.D., near Jerusalem where many pilgrims also flock every year. I’d love to go to The Holy Land someday and I know that is Mom’s dream, too.
But I also know the way of the cross does not require me to hop on a plane and cross oceans. It begins at home. And while we should contemplate Jesus being nailed to the cross today, we should also look forward to his glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday!