By Gina Gaudet
By the time this is read, Easter will almost be over. After Easter, once the eggs are all found and chocolate is consumed, the festivities become happy memories. For Christians, Easter is the holiest, most important day of the year, but it isn’t the end of the Jesus story because it is the beginning of a new life, powered by spirit and lived in service to the divine.
Jesus knew when he prayed the night before his crucifixion that God’s promise was not that he would be saved from being killed, but that he would be saved from the permanence of death. Through his resurrection, he would reveal to all the eternal life that allows us to live in courage, joy and pursuit of peace. The Gospel stories tell that at the moment of his death on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn in two. This veil separated the sanctuary part of the temple from the Holy of Holies, the most sacred, ‘off-limits’ part of the temple. In this moment of death, heaven joined earth; any concept of separation was null and void.
The cross on which Jesus died and all it symbolizes is the central axis of the Christian faith. It is the symbol used on altars, candles, steeples, jewelry, vestments and paraments. In some churches, it is a sign we draw upon ourselves. Forehead to solar plexus, shoulder to shoulder.
There are a few definitions of the significance of crossing oneself. One is that the vertical line signifies the self, and the horizontal represents Christ within who, in effect, “cancels out” the self (meaning the ego). Another definition is that the vertical line represents God coming down to the self, and the horizontal movement represents the individual, now one with God, reaching out to the world. Indeed, when we reach out to our neighbors on both sides, our bodies take the shape of the cross!
Hanging on a cross is a painful, torturous death way to die. To draw a cross upon oneself gives honor to the one who bore it. For the Romans, the shape of the cross meant death. For Christians, it is the symbol of life: life beyond and in spite of death. Hallelujah!