The Message of the Holy Cross
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved,
it is the power of God.” /1 Corinthians 1:18/
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ redeemed us by suffering and giving us His life for us on the Holy Cross. The Holy Cross is an instrument of our salvation. After the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, His crucifiers buried the Holy Cross under a pile of dirt so that many would not become Christians because of the miracles manifested by it.
The mother of Emperor Constantine, Queen Helena travelled to Jerusalem to find the Holy Cross. After a long search and prayer, she was advised by a righteous man in Jerusalem, Kyriakos to light a bonfire with incense. On the 16th day of the Ethiopian month, Meskerem, Queen Helena burnt a bonfire as advised, and the smoke from the burning pile of branches with incense went up and descended to the place where the Holy Cross was buried.
We celebrate the founding of the Holy Cross by lighting bonfire with prayer to commemorate the founding of the Holy Cross every year on the 16th day of the first Ethiopian month–Meskerem (September 26). The right half of the Cross later come to Ethiopia and rests at Gishen Mariam, a mountain with the shape of a cross.
Why do we venerate sign of the Cross?
The Romans in the early century used to punish anyone condemned to death on a cross. But, because our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ redeemed us by on a cross, this symbol of death became a symbol of life and love.
The Holy Cross is a sign of our salvation: During their exodus from Egypt to Jerusalem, the Israelites used to disobey the Lord God often. Once, the Lord God sent a venomous serpent among them, and many died of the serpent’s bite. They pleaded with Moses to pray for them, and after Moses’ prayer, the Lord God commanded him to make a serpent from a brass and hang it on a pole. The Lord God said that whoever was bitten by the venomous serpent, would be healed if he/she looked at this brass serpent on a pole. /Numbers 21/. Likewise, when we focus on the Holy Cross, we see the crucified Jesus Christ who gave up His life so that we can have eternal life. It is on the Cross that we were redeemed from our sins and from death.
The Holy Cross is a sign of love: Our Lord Jesus Christ said that there is no greater love than giving one’s life for another. He showed us that ultimate love by giving His life on the Cross for our sake. It was not because He was powerless that He was crucified, but it is because He loved us that He willingly endured unimaginable pain and suffering on the Cross. The hatred of his crucifiers, the pain and affliction He endured was intolerable, but He tolerated all that because He loved us, including those who crucified Him.
The Cross is a sign of the Power of God: The Lord’s crucifiers considered it a weakness when the Lord Jesus Christ accepted every act of hatred without resistance and with silence. But, in their hatred, they failed to see the power of God manifested on the cross:
o He was silent on the Cross, but powerful, for His love was enduring and it spoke much more than words could explain. The Prophet Isaiah spoke of His silence in his prophecy saying, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth.” /Isaiah 53:7/
- Surrounded by hatred, His love was powerful even on the Cross: Those who crucified our Lord Jesus Christ mocked Him saying He could save others, but could not save Himself. But He was Powerful in His love, for His Crucifixion on the Cross was a result of His redeeming love. No one had the power to crucify Him, if He was not willing to give up Himself for our salvation.
o In His affliction, He was powerful for every pain He endured was redemption for all our transgressions. His hands were nailed to the Cross to pay for the hands of Adam and Eve that picked the forbidden fruit. His feet were nailed to the Cross to pay for their transgression in walking to commit sin. He put in His mouth a mixture of vinegar and gall to pay for their mouth that ate the forbidden fruit.
o With His hands nailed to the Cross, He looked weak and vulnerable, but He was powerful for those outstretched hands are calling us and drawing us to Him. “I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, who walk in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts.” /Isaiah 65:2/
- The devil thought that The Lord on the Cross was merely a man no different from any criminal who was condemned to die on a cross in the past. However, he quickly learned that he was wrong when he was seized by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ as he approached Him to take away His soul to Hades just the way he did with all mankind since the fall of Adam and Eve until this day.
- The power of the Lord Jesus Christ was disguised from the devil and his crucifiers, yet, the criminal crucified to the right of the Lord Jesus Christ was able to see it and asked for forgiveness and for the Lord to remember him in His Kingdom. Our Lord Jesus Christ said to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” /Luke 23:43/
The Cross is a sign of discipleship: Our Lord fulfilled the work of our redemption on the Holy Cross, but we are also called into a life of discipleship by this sign of the Cross. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me.” /Matthew 16:24/
The Holy Cross is an integral instrument of our salvation and it is a sign of the love, and power of God, and of our salvation. Therefore we bear the sign of the cross in our daily life and in our life of worship. For we are called to follow Christ bearing the cross.