Today we celebrate a Feast of one of the most unlikely events in history. Perhaps not even an event in itself, but a symbol of the event: the Cross. Today is the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross. Isn’t it like glorifying the One Ring from the Lord of the Rings?
And yet, as Christians, we exult the cross. How weird. And even…grotesque?
As a symbol of that which meant death – gruesome agonizing death – we take the symbol of the cross and mark it everywhere. We place it in churches, we wear it as jewelry, we take the holy name of our God in three persons and apply those names to our body in the shape of it (the sign of the cross). We anoint ourselves continually with this symbol of pain and agony.
All About Perspective
The twist is that it does not actually only symbolize death and agony, but victory over death and agony. Victory over that which is defeat. Just like the One Ring symbolized death and destruction to the world of Middle Earth, once the third age had passed it took on a new symbol – that of triumph over evil and separation from all that is good. As Christians we take that symbolism further – it means our eternal salvation.
Through the cross, Jesus became our sin and fell. To the people around him, he was a disappointment. A disgrace. For how could God’s anointed one die in such a shameful way? God could never stand for such shame. His followers were fools. We are fools. Who places such faith in humans? It is ridiculous.
Jesus died, fully and humanly on the cross. That is to say, he died scared, exploited, and vulnerable, as any of us would be hanging on that wood. He did not grasp at his divinity on the cross (Philippians 2: 6-11, today’s second reading) – he did not know how things would be worked out, but he trusted his God. He trusted that his faith was not misplaced and that God is faithful. This is how Jesus died: shamed, exploited and vulnerable, still trusting that God would be faithful.
And God did not disappoint. Jesus the Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God through the Holy Spirit on Easter morning.
Why We Celebrate
The cross should be shameful. It should be a disgrace. The strength of God’s love has added a new dimension to this – despite that which the symbol typically represents, God has given us hope and salvation through the cross. It no longer means just shame and failure, but hope, love, and that our faith is God is never misplaced.
When we place ourselves in vulnerability, when we, like a hobbit, feel insignificant in our tasks and too small to make a difference, when we accept humiliation on behalf of Christ, we are not weak, we are strong. We are strong because it is only God who can take immense weakness and completely change it. Only God who can take our shame and bring his glory out of it. Only God who can take the cross and bring eternal salvation out of it.
Today is the feast of the Exultation of the Cross. Today we celebrate our weakness made strong through Christ because Christ has truly risen. The One Ring has indeed been destroyed.