Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Linglestown, Pennsylvania, USA
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 . . . For since,
in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided,
through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ
crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but
to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of
God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1.18, 21-24
Holy Cross Day is an occasion for the Church to consider what Luther called the "theology of the cross," the divinely chosen way of humility and service, of death as the path to life and salvation.
Until the time of Constantine (fourth century), the symbol of the cross was rarely used by Christians because of the need for secrecy and also because of the shame associated with crucifixion. In the fifth century in Syria there is evidence that the cross was placed on the altar during worship, but this use did not appear in the West until much later. During the 5th and 6th centuries the use of a glorified cross, studded with jewels, is common. It is portrayed as splendid and royal, a throne for Christ, triumphant over the shame attached to the cross in the first centuries. The first representation of the body of Christ (corpus) on the cross is found in the 5th century; Jesus is usually portrayed as alive, clothed in the priestly and royal vestments, reigning from the cross (NOTE: as in the cross over our chancel). By the 6th century processional crosses were employed and were set up at -- but not on -- the altar.
Devotional attention was drawn to the cross, which was treated as a living thing, a tree of life that corresponded to the tree in the Garden of Eden by which death entered the world, a creature that could be addressed and asked to bear gently the body of Him who hung upon it. Always throughout these centuries, the cross is a sign of salvation and victory. The crucifix increased in popularity during the Middle Ages and the figure of Christ was shown in the agony of death, which emphasized Christ as the Suffering Servant of God (NOTE: as in the cross hanging on our east wall).
The use of the sign of the cross was already customary in the 2nd century
in private devotion. By the 4th century it had come into wider use in
the liturgy. The meaning of this sign is variously interpreted: a recalling
of the sign made at Baptism, a "sealing" (for protection) with the sign
of Christ, and an invocation (a calling upon) of God's grace.
from Festivals and Commemorations
by Phillip Pfatteicher
"The Cross is the abyss of wonders, the centre of desires, the school
of virtues, the house of wisdom, the throne of love, the theatre of Joys,
and the place of sorrows; it is the root of happiness, and the gate of
Heaven. Of all things in Heaven and Earth it is the most peculiar. It
is the most exalted of all objects. It is an Ensign lifted up for all
nations . . . (in the cross) we may see God's goodness, wisdom and power:
yea, His mercy and anger displayed. There we may see man's sin and infinite
value, his hope and fear, his misery and happiness. There we might see
the Rock of Ages and the Joys of Heaven. There we may see a Man loving
all the world, and a God dying for mankind . . . It is the Root of Comforts
and the Fountain of Joys. It is the only supreme and sovereign spectacle
in all Worlds. It is a Well of Life beneath and in which we may see the
face of Heaven above: and, the only mirror, wherein all things appear
in their proper colours: that is, sprinkled in the blood of our Lord and
Saviour . . . Here we learn to imitate Jesus in His love unto all.
-- from Centuries
by Thomas Traherne
Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself. Grant that we who glory in His death for our salvation may also glory in His call to take up our cross and follow Him; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN
-- Pastor Stickley