The Cross Today

I will soon have to stop posting at the current rate. But, first, the BBC website has a very interesting feature by Michael Symmons Roberts about the meaning of the symbol of the Cross in an increasingly secularized Europe. The story contains excerpts of interviews with, among others, a fashion journalist, a lightning strike survivor, and a “maker of chocolate crosses.” In the final excerpt, the film director Mark Kermode says, “The point of all this is no matter how poppy or trashy one’s sensibility of the cross becomes, thanks to the Madonna videos and it turning up in horror videos and gangster movies, there is behind it, still, an absolute anxiety that it means more than that. … People are more reverential about the symbol of the cross than perhaps the secular world that we live in would suggest.”

Here are a few more quotes:

Writer and historian Ann Wroe
I don’t believe it shouldn’t be a piece of jewellery. But if you have either no idea why it’s important, or if you simply want to wear it because it looks nice with that particular dress, that’s appalling to me, because there’s a huge cosmic significance in the subject.

Otherwise, you may as well just wear a gibbet round your neck, or an electric chair. And in fact if you look back at the history of the cross – that is what you’re doing. So it has to mean something a good deal more than that to be something tolerable at all.

Mother Claudia, Tyburn Convent
In recent years there seems to have been a tendency to use the cross as a fashion ornament. I can only say that you cannot, you can never judge an individual person’s reason for doing things. Because God is God… we can’t hurt Him; He’s beyond that. But He’s always thinking of us and in human terms, if people in any area or any religion or belief take something that’s sacred to a group or a religion and mock it, and use it in a sacrilegious or blasphemous way, then that’s not a good thing. And it has repercussions – not so much hurting that group or religion – it hurts that person in their soul, in a way they’re probably not aware of. That’s why the Christian tradition would be quite wary of people maybe using it as a fashion symbol in a profane way.

[Roberts then takes us to 1940, as the Anglican clergyman Philip Wales picks over the rubble of the bombed Cathedral in Coventry]

Mary, daughter of Coventry Cathedral clergyman Philip Wales
It was later exploring the ruins by himself that he found lying on the ground, under the burnt out beams, the enormous medieval nails which had held these beams in place – they are extraordinary – they are so large. I would say the one I’m looking at the moment are about 18″ long and some are bigger than that. They are beautiful in their own right, as if a craftsman had made them.

My father brought a handful of them home. Moving these nails around on the kitchen table, they seemed to move easily into place as a cross. My father found a firm in Coventry who were able to weld these nails together and another firm who put a coat of silver to cover them.

When the designs were made for the new cathedral, it was decided right from the very beginning that these nails must have a special place in the new Cathedral.

[Roberts writes, “The Coventry cross of nails came to symbolise not just the suffering of war, but also the hope of survival, of resurrection. Now, the Cross of Nails community at the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral takes its distinctive symbol to war-zones around the world, to inspire peace and reconciliation.”]

Canon Justin Welby, Cross of Nails community
In that sense, the cross within Christian thinking marks the end of disruption of a relationship, and of a new future. And we see, in the work we do now in the Community of the Cross of Nails and in our reconciliation world-wide, that the cross is a powerful way of demonstrating hope. Because it speaks of the possibility of new harmonious and peaceful relationships. First with God and then with others.

I work very often in areas of conflict. And you take people round the cross, or you talk about the cross of nails or allow them to hold the small cross of nails that we wear round our necks, you begin immediately to find a transforming of attitudes. There is a power within the cross which reaches deep into the human heart and into the human emotions, that challenges hatred and challenges unforgiveness, and challenges a commitment to violence.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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