Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Feast of the Holy Cross - September 14th

Bishop Eric Menees

“Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world unto himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.”
Crosses are an interesting thing. This past weekend I was with the leadership at St. Francis, Stockton, and learned of a beautiful cross given to them by parishioners. It is a "Franciscan Cross" (the Cross of San Damiano, from which Jesus spoke to St. Francis and commissioned him to rebuild His Church). The cross is beautiful - the colors are vibrant, and the figure of Jesus is both haunting and inviting at the same time.

It is one of those truly amazing distinctives about Christianity - that the instrument of death and destruction could be redeemed into an instrument of life and grace. To be crucified was a shameful and very painful death in the first century. The cross was a symbol of the Roman Empire’s domination and rule. When entering Rome, the Appian Way had hundreds of crosses lining the road so that anyone who entered into Rome passed by this very clear threat: "You mess with Caesar, and this is what will happen to you." Jesus, the only truly innocent and perfect man, was wrongfully and painfully put to death on a cross on Mt. Calvary. However, three days later He rose from the dead and that instrument of death was redeemed into an instrument of life.
If memory serves, it was St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, who made the journey to the Holy Land in search of relics and returned with pieces of the Cross of Christ. This would have been especially poignant for her, as her son's conversion involved a vision of the Cross of Christ. While the Cross had been associated with Christianity prior to the conversion of Constantine (martyrs often crossed themselves as a witness to the audience in the amphitheater or circus, in order to indicate that they were being put to death for their faith and not because they were criminals), after Helena returned to Rome from the Holy Land the Cross became the single most identifiable sign of a Christian and a Christian Community. One would be hard pressed to find a church that did not have a cross. This transformed symbol of death to life is not worshiped, but is seen as a symbol of God's divine mercy - that by Jesus' death and resurrection, reconciliation was offered to fallen man.
Equally, as we recently heard from our Sunday Gospel readings, Jesus challenges every Christian: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Mt. 16:26)  This is not always a challenge to martyrdom, but it is always a challenge to live a life that is sacrificially offered to the Glory of God, for the benefit of others.

My prayer for you and my prayer for me is that on this the Feast of the Holy Cross, we may marvel in the fact that Jesus died for us - that by his death we have life and we are called to offer our lives for the sake of others. And to that I say, AMEN! 
Catechism Questions 14 &15

1.How may a person repent and place faith in Jesus Christ?

Anyone may repent and place their faith in Jesus Christ at any time. One way to do this is by sincerely saying a prayer similar to the Prayer of Repentance and Faith given above. (John 15:16; Acts 16:31-34; Romans 10:9; Hebrews 12:12)

2.What should you do once you have turned to God for salvation in repentance and faith?

If I have not already been baptized, following proper instruction, I should be baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and thus into membership in his Body, the Church. (Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 12:13)

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