Sunday, March 21, 2010

Holy Cross

Angel’s Bell

Holy Cross
Fr. George Varghese Vayaliparambil

Word for the Day:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing; but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians. 1:18)

Story about the Cross: Queen Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century A.D., pledged to search for the cross, if her son the Emperor Constantine came to believe in Jesus Christ as the redeemer of humanity. She prayed continuously day and night, accompanying it with fasting, and gave alms so that the Lord would answer her plea. God willed that and showed Constantine the sign of the cross in the sky in the middle of the day and with it wrote the saying, “In this sign you will conquer.” So Constantine took the sign of the cross as a banner for his army and conquered his enemies. He became Christian and his mother fulfilled her pledge in the year 326 A.D. and went to the Holy City, searched for the cross and found it. She was assured by a miracle that it was the real cross that the Lord Jesus hung on at Golgotha when the cross was placed on the body of a dead young man, immediately when it touched the body life returned to that young man and he was resurrected and the bishop of the city blessed the people with the holy cross of Christ.

Since then we use the cross as the banner of Christian church.

What does the cross signify?

A cross signifies the essence of the gospels. We make a sign of the cross by bringing down the hand from the forehead to the chest and from chest to the left shoulder and then to the right shoulder. Moving your hand from forehead to the chest signifies that Jesus came down from heaven to earth for our sins, and moving the hand from chest to the left shoulder says that his beloved people were under the sins of Satan, and by moving from the left to the right shoulder signifies that Jesus liberated us from the shackles of Satan to the status of children of God.

This practice of signing ourselves with the cross did not develop in the church over a period of time as is alleged. The early church members had this practice.

Tertullian (AD 155) “We take anxious care lest something of our Cup or Bread should fall upon the ground. At every forward step and movement, when coming in and going out, when putting on our clothes, when putting on our shoes, when bathing, when at table, when lighting the lamps, when reclining, when sitting, in all the ordinary occupations of our daily lives, we furrow our forehead with the sign of the cross.” (367)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 315 - 386) St. Cyril who was the Bishop of Jerusalem has written about the cross on which Christ was crucified and was discovered by Queen Helane from Jerusalem. “The Holy wood of the Cross among us seen to the present day and now fillings almost the whole world by means of those, who in faith, take away from here portions of it.”

St. Jerome who was the contemporary of Queen of Helena says “Prostrate before the cross, she worshipped as though she saw the Lord hanging thereon.” The Biblical Encyclopedia says that it is certain that the Christians made the sign of the cross on themselves in the 2nd century.

Mar Baselious (AD 329-379) says that ‘the apostles established the practice of crossing themselves. Before dining they used to draw a cross on the food. Soldiers would cross on his forehead. When we pray or when we read the Bible or when we preach we will do a cross. During the time of Baptism we draw a cross on the forehead and chest. Also one would do a cross in our prayers (Majority of the modern churches do not sign themselves a cross). Eusebious has stated that there were crosses with jewels embedded in it during his time (4th century).
· Mt. 10:38 - "He who does not take the cross and follow me is not worthy of me."
· Luke 9:23 - "If any man would come after me let him deny himself and take up the cross daily & follow me."
· Gal 6:14 - "Our glory is on the cross of the Lord."
· 1 Cor. 1:17 - “The cross of Christ is God's power over us."
· Phil. 3:18-19 - “The end of the enemies of the cross is decay."
· Eph. 2:14 - “The enmity is stopped and we are reconciled in the Cross.”
The cross reminds the church that it is the basis of Christianity and all of the sacraments. When we bow and kiss the cross, it is a kiss in respect to Jesus Christ who died on the cross for us.

When we should the Sign of Cross

When we pronounce the name of the Holy Trinity (God the Father, Son and Holy Trinity).
When we see the Holy Cross or enter into the Church
While we kiss the cross or the hand of the Bishop or Priest
When we say the word Cross/ Sleeba during our prayer.
While the priest and bishops bless us with cross