When we see a crucifixion today, we can’t help but reflect on the most memorable crucifixion of all time. You would think that in these "progressive" times, mankind would be more at peace with each other and have progressed beyond torture. But, like our Lord, even today innocent people are being nailed and hung on a cross. They are not being hung just to be executed for their faith, but because they think that using the symbol of the cross will deter us from venerating the cross.
God chose a time in history when the cruelest way to kill someone was used to sacrifice His son. To this day, it is the only way to execute in which there can be a sign to those who look upon it. To this day, the cross is still a sign of suffering and a sign of hope. Those who use it today think they devalue the cross. They don’t know, when they use it, they elevate its glory.
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem expressed this thought in teaching that when the angel at the Christ’s tomb declared, “We know you seek Christ who was crucified”, the angel could have said, “I know you seek the Master”. But, instead he pointed to the cross as the symbol for Jesus rather than to a title for our Lord. This is because “the cross is a crown, not a dishonor”, Saint Cyril wrote.
Crux is Latin for the “cross”. It has evolved in English to mean “to be at a pivotal point”. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was a pivotal point in history. It put into proper context the suffering and hope of mankind. It exemplifies the worst suffering and the highest hope. They are intimately linked only because Christ rose from the dead. Rising and death were incompatible actions of body and soul for God’s people until Christ showed us that death and rising are interdependent.
Human beings are always at a pivotal point, swaying between suffering and hope. We pivot daily. We venerate the cross and we talk about the crux of matters that can help us stop pivoting. We want to always be at the hope end of the matter. The crux is the only means to bring us to that end.
But, there is a process in the means. Our Church tells us we have to carry our crosses, to suffer first. There is always a passion before the resurrection. Our Church tells us to focus on the resurrection and the crux of the matter will not seem like such a cross. The crux of the matter will reveal the answer. We can stop pivoting for a little while, but the cross will always be with us in some way. If it is not our cross, it is our friends and family and the world at large. If we have empathy, we will help them carry their cross. Their cross will be our cross, too. We talk about our crosses. We look to teachers and pastors to help us find ways to carry them with peace of mind. We share our daily pivots of suffering and hope through news and books. We don’t need to progress beyond the sign of the cross because we’ve taken away the cross as a method for murder and we keep it as a sign. They can kill us on a cross, but they can’t take away its merit and meaning. When they do, they only make it shine.