I’ve written this column over 12 Holy Weeks now. And there is never an easier column to write than the one that is scheduled for the Good Friday edition. There is always something to say about the cross. It is the centerpiece of Christian faith, the inescapable lens through which God looks at us, and through which we may gain the eyes of the soul that look at Him. There are certainly many important elements to our faith, but the cross is the axis on which they all turn. Calvary is the hill of hills, the rocky climb of every soul who seeks to ascend to the face of God.
The cross of Jesus Christ is an inexhaustible ocean. It is the wood that strikes forth living water from the rock of sin and death. It is the point at which all human history converges, and the hinge on which the door of humanity’s eternal destiny swings. The cross of Christ is the steady needle of the divine compass that points the way to God. It is the divine embrace, stretching to encompass both what has been and what will yet be. Yet it hangs in the present moment as a window through which we may gaze, as a door through which we may enter into the life of God Himself.
The cross is the sign of how we became who we are. It is the beginning of Christian life both here and in eternity, the mark with which we are baptized and under which we are commended to the angels when we die. The cross is the Tree of Eternal Life. The fruit which hangs from it is the very Son of God, ripe for all who hunger for righteousness, holiness, and love. In it, we taste the sweetness of God Himself. By it, we are led to heaven. From it, we draw strength for earthly life.
The Church stands always at the foot of the cross, in gratitude, in sorrow, and in trust. Like Mary, she knows that to bear Christ is to carry His cross. To follow Him is to suffer with Him, and to know that in that suffering that He suffers with us.
Above all, the cross of Christ is mystery. We can never reach the depths of what happened on that dark Friday afternoon, nor the lengths to which God has gone to share His life with us. We can ponder the gift of the crucified Lord for a lifetime, or over the course of two millennia as the body gathered in His name, and still there is more. There will always be more. Why? Because the teachings, the healings, the signs and wonders Jesus performed all led those who followed Him to one place--His cross, the altar on which He offered Himself simultaneously to the Father and to us. All wisdom and compassion is summed up in that one supreme act of love without limits, love to the last drop of blood.
Traditional cathedrals and churches were often built cruciform, that is in the shape of the cross. For me, that has more than just artistic significance. The Christian life of faith and discipleship is meant to be cruciform, shaped by the cross. We who hope to live the life of Christ, are called to follow Jesus to Calvary. It is not that we are to go about seeking suffering. But that when suffering comes, as indeed it will, we are to find in the midst of it--even because of it--a hidden well of mercy and redemption. We do so when we embrace the cross in our own lives. For ultimately, there is no embracing Christ apart from the cross on which He stretches out His arms to welcome the whole world.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an author, speaker, musician and serves as Faith Formation Coordinator at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Lynnfield.