Taking Up Your Cross

September 3, 2017

Jesus in the Gospel gets to the heart of the matter.  To be a follower we have to take up our cross, we have to be willing to deny our very selves.  He is very straightforward.  We are all aware of our crosses.  We are all aware of the suffering of the world.  We at times feel it is cross after cross we are picking up.  It seems in the fast paced world, the cross is what we know the best.  Deep peace seems to have been taken from our world.  The violence of the world causes fear and uncertainty.  The cross is ever before us.

Yet Jesus, while wanting us to take up the cross each day, does not view the cross as a destination.  The cross is what we take on the journey to get to resurrection and new life.  Resurrection and new life, as well as happiness and peace are the destination.  So often when we hear that we are to take up the cross, we think of it as the destination.  It is where the suffering leads us and where the Lord wants us to go.  In the Holy Land, in the old city at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, people come to the doorway having carried crosses from the Lion’s Gate entrance and leave them at the doorway of the church.  It is a very symbolic opening to a church.  From there you proceed to the place of the nailing of the body of Jesus to the cross and then to the place of crucifixion.  But the pilgrimage does not end there.  Housed in the same church is the empty tomb.  Our journey is to take us to all of these places.  While we are to take up our cross, we are also to follow the Lord through the cross to the place of new life.

During the liturgical renewal a while back, many liturgists suggested that the cross carried by the altar server in the entrance procession of Mass should not have either a crucified or resurrected corpus upon it.  They suggested it should just be a cross.  It was the symbol that as the cross was brought up in procession, it was the community joining their crosses to this one cross being carried up.  In the beauty of the liturgy, it was that cross leading the assembly to the altar where the resurrected Lord is received in His Body and His Blood.  It was a symbolic gesture of our opening ritual giving life to where we begin the liturgy and where we go forth from.  We gather with our sinfulness, our pain, our suffering, our crosses and we bring them to the Table of the Lord.  After being nourished by the Real Presence we once again pick up our cross and go forth into the world knowing our suffering has meaning and knowing that our life has worth in the eyes of the Lord and there we are led through our crosses to renewal and new life.

The beauty of the liturgy speaks and symbolizes this just by a server carrying a cross in and out.  Simple things have profound purpose.  The cross is not the destination, it is what we carry with us to new life.  May this life find us in prayer for one another.

Reverend John J. Ouper