Armodoxy for Today: Elevating the Cross
The Cross is the symbol of Christ and Christianity. This devise of torture became the expression of victory over suffering and death. In the symbol of the Cross we find the expression of victory over defeat, life over death and the power of love to overcome hate. It is the symbol of Christianity because in Jesus Christ we see and understand the same, that is, victory over defeat, life over death and the power of love to overcome hate.
The Exaltation of the Holy Cross refers to an event which takes place in history. But Armodoxy demands that we take ownership of the events we celebrate. In traditional churches, such as the Armenian, Catholic or Orthodox Church, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the beauty of the event and lose sight of the purpose. The Exaltation of the Holy Cross points to the Cross of Christ.
In the town of Gyumri, Armenia, there is a church dedicated to the Holy Asdvadzadzin St. Mary. It is called Yot Verk, that is, “Seven Wounds” of St. Mary. One of those wounds refers to the Blessed Mother learning that her son is Crucified. Today, we are invited to stand as a witness to the Crucifixion, a witness to the awful and painful Cross.
Jesus is not an abstract figure in history. To St. Mary, he was her Son and Savior. In the Gospel of St. John we read that the Holy Mother was a witness to the Crucifixion from the foot of the Cross. (19:25) The excruciating pain of a mother watching her son being tortured along with criminals, is only a part of the story. Jesus was tried on trumped up charges; he became a scapegoat for humanity. The exercise today is to walk in the shoes of Jesus’ Mother, Mary. Can we sit at the foot of the Cross and look up. Against the backdrop of heaven, we imagine our brother, our sister, our mother, our father, our friend, our enemy, our son… who is being tortured, having life slowly drained from his body. The cries of Jesus are directed to all of us, “I thirst.” “Why have you forsaken me?” “Where is my mother?” Listen very carefully, and you’ll hear the same cries from Artsakh, the Congo, Darfur, from your back street, wherever injustice has taken charge. “I thirst.” “Why have you forsaken me?” “Where is my mother?”
For three hours, we sit and watch, only to note the innocent blood dripping next to us. We hear humiliating mockery from people that don’t even know us or our loved one. “He had it coming to him!” “He freed others, let him free himself.” “He said he believed in God, well where is his God now?” Finally, we hear the final gasp for breath and the words, “It is finished! Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.” A silence which later will be referred to as deafening encircles us, forcing us to come to terms with the tremendous magnitude of our loss and the loss for humanity.
And now we open our eyes wide and understand that Jesus is not abstract. He does not belong to history but to all time. The refugee, the poor, the lame and blind, the weak, the downtrodden, the suffering and the oppressed are on the cross today and with our eyes wide open, we look up against the backdrop of heaven to see it is the same Christ on the Cross.
The Exaltation of the Holy Cross is a Feast of the Armenian Church because it pulls us in and connects us to Jesus and His Mission of caring for the lost, the lonely, the lame, the broken hearted and the suffering.
Let us pray, O Christ, You conquered the Cross and turned the instrument of torture into the symbol of our Salvation. You invited us to pick up the Cross and follow you. May we be inspired by the love and life you gave to all of us on the Cross, and in turn may we share the gift of life with others.