Today is Holy Cross Day which, as its name suggests, is a feast day remembering the cross on which Jesus died. So what makes this different from Good Friday? The answer is not ‘because it’s Thursday’…
Holy Cross Day relates to the cross itself, whereas Good Friday is about what happens on that cross. Holy Cross Day has been commemorated since about the 7th Century, but is actually rooted in the quest by Helena, the mother of Roman Emperor Constantine I, to locate the site of Jesus’ Crucifixion. She was a Christian, and was among the first Christians to begin travelling on pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the 300’s AD, to the places associated with Jesus’ life. Overseeing excavations in Jerusalem, Helena discovered what was believed to be the Cross of Christ. Subsequently a basilica (church) was built there and dedicated on the 14th September 335AD, which today forms part of the massive Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
In 2016 I visited the church there, which is built over the sites believed by many to be the places of Jesus’ crucifixion and his burial and resurrection. It is a fascinating place – thronging with people – literally bus loads of Christian pilgrims from all over the world and from a multitude of denominations and traditions all poring over the site with their guides. Thrown into the mix is the regular worship that happens there everyday, often from different traditions in different parts of the building at the same time. It is a heady, noisy, confused – and wonderful – concoction of chaos where the peace and tranquility we might often associate with pilgrimage is nowhere to be seen. Moreover, to get to church, if you are following the Via Dolorosa (the route that Jesus took in those final hours on Good Friday) you follow a trail through the steep and narrow streets of old town Jerusalem, which is a bustling marketplace of everything from traditional crafts and wears, groceries, to every form of Christian tourist must have you can imagine.
And it is this assault on the senses, and crowds, and urban chaos, that for me is why thinking about the cross, as the cross, is important in its own right. Because it is human.
The cross is the very symbol that reminds us not just about what Jesus did for us, but what we did to him. It is the symbol of our darkest and most broken capabilities; that appallingly, in full sight and concordance, we are able to reconcile the destruction of our own umbilical.
And it is also the very symbol that reminds us that whatever we throw at God, he will overcome it not because he must, or needs to, but because he can. Because he loves.
Approaching the cross, in the chaos of humanity then and now, brings home that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, is not a fabled past that we refashion to modern purposes – but is a past, present, and future reality.
Perhaps you might like to take some time this week to think about the cross. What does it mean to you? What does it tell you about yourself? And about God?
SERVICES & READINGS FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS:
Sunday 17th September – Trinity 15
Readings: Genesis 50:15-21; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35
Harvest Readings: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Luke 12:16-30
10.00am: Morning Worship. St Stephen’s, Winsham
10.30am: Holy Communion & Sunday School. St John’s, Tatworth. Sunday School meets in the church rooms from 10.15am.
11.30am: Harvest Festival, followed by lunch. St Mary Magdalene, Cricket Malherbie.
6.30pm: Service of Light. St Mary’s, Thorncombe
Tuesday 19th September
9:30am: Morning Prayer. St John’s, Tatworth
Wednesday 20th September
9:30am: Holy Communion. St Mary’s, Thorncombe
Sunday 24th September – Trinity 16
Readings: Jonah 3:10-4:end; Philippians 1:21-end; Matthew 20:1-16
Harvest Readings: Deuteronomy 8:7-18; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Luke 12:16-30
Patronal (Chaffcombe): Genesis 28:10-17; Revelation 12:7-12; John 1:47-end
8.00am: Holy Communion. St John’s, Tatworth
10.00am: Harvest Festival & Communion. St Mary’s, Thorncombe
6.30pm: Patronal Festival (Holy Communion); St Michael & All Angels, Chaffcombe
6:30pm: Service of Light; St Stephen’s, Winsham
Tuesday 26th September
9:30am: Morning Prayer. St John’s, Tatworth
Wednesday 27th September
9:30am: BCP Holy Communion. St Stephen’s, Winsham. Followed by Coffee Morning.
Please hold in your prayers all those who will be ordained to the Diaconate and Priesthood this Petertide.
Please hold in your prayers all you know who are struggling in any way, in body, mind or spirit. We are asked to pray by name for:Dave Boyland; Wendy Cotton; Mary Marsh; Tony Taylor; Margaret Bandy; Di Nicholls; Hester Down; Stella Hutchison; Oskar Lee; Margaret Shields; Andrew de Pury; Cyril Larcombe; Lynn Ranson; Keith Legge; Margaret Golesworthy; Peter Harper
We also pray for the people of North Africa, particularly in Morocco and Libya in the aftermath of the devastating natural disasters there recently.
The prayer of Collect for Holy Cross Day:
who in the passion of your blessed Son
made an instrument of painful death
to be for us the means of life and peace:
grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ
that we may gladly suffer for his sake;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.
The Reverend Philip Butcher
Rector – Two Shires Benefice (Tatworth, Thorncombe, Winsham, Chaffcombe & Cricket Malherbie)
3 Home Farm
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