The Cross: the great mystery of our faith, so powerful an image that the Protestant poet John Milton couldn’t bring himself to write about it in his sequel to Paradise Lost, the epic poem Paradise Regained. The closest moment for Milton to the Crucifixion which he felt he envision was the temptation of Christ, for at that moment, when Christ rejected the temptations of Satan, the Crucifixion was a foregone conclusion. And yet the Exaltation of the Cross, unlike Great Friday in which we encounter the rearrangement of all the universe in the Crucifixion, deals more specifically with the reality of the Cross. Far from some rehashed myth of the dying and rising god, no Attis nor Thammuz nor Odin, the God-Man Jesus Christ died an actual death on an actual cross on an actual day in history, rooted here in the true reality of our existence and not in the realm of dream and legend. Likewise, He resurrected that Sunday, not as a tale but as a historical event. The Olympians may perform their deeds in timelessness and so like all fiction we may encounter them at our leisure, with no more difficulty than pulling a book off a shelf, but Christ in His Glory reigns and has reigned and will reign, and this reign encompasses all of creation, space and time. In the True Cross we encounter real wood across which flowed real Blood and our Lord’s promise to make all things new–not in a Gnostic unreality, where we finally perceive past the world of shadows into the truth, but literally that all things in their materiality and spirituality will find themselves transfigured in the glory of God. Nor is this a distant promise, but an ongoing project of theosis in which the whole of the world groans for its final realization in Christ.
With that in mind, we proudly hold up the Cross in remembrance of the overwhelming Love with which Christ loves us and in doing so recall the words of St John the Theologian: “And just as Moses lifted the serpent up in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
“O Lord, save Your people and bless Your inheritance. Granted victory to our Country over its enemies; and protect Your community by the power of Your Cross.”