The veneration of the cross.
A very strange practice for most of us Protestants: seems a bit idolatrous or, at least, misplaced. Yet, the lectionary reminds us of Holy Cross day with powerful scriptures and a significant portion of Christendom will take time to spend time with the cross. And more than once during the year they will stop and adore the cross and the one on it—as the lectionary reminds us: who is "the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:24 REV). Gives one pause.
Most of us, I think, prefer the shiny gold or silver cross, especially if it is empty. It is so much less troubling and reminds us of the glorious end of the story rather than the even more glorious yet demanding journey to and through the cross. Paul uses words like "offensive" and "foolish"; I think I might add the words "troubling" and "demanding"— "in your face." I suppose over the centuries there has been a great deal of foolishness about it; I think, for example, of the number of pieces of the True Cross that still exist today across Christendom. If those pieces were all brought together in one place! Nonetheless, I think it would be a good practice if we revisited this powerful moment more than once a year so that our collective and individual gaze would "take in" the "very dying form of One who suffered there for me; And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess: The wonders of redeeming love and my own unworthiness" (Elizabeth C. Clephane. "Beneath the Cross of Jesus").
The cross is hard to dismiss, no matter how hard or creatively we try to redirect our gaze. There is something profoundly compelling and deeply attractive. Of course, the theories of atonement abound--all of our efforts over millennia to explain a mystery. We love to explain a mystery! I find myself more convinced by the teaching that it is in the adoration of the mystery of the cross that we come to see the love of God, the true face of God, and are drawn to want to be part of such a deep and wide love. That awareness that God did this—condescended—for me to reveal how great the love of God is. Sitting at the foot of the cross on this day, the truth of who I am and the truth of who God is, and the hope of what that intersection means! In that contemplative state, I see who I am in my sinfulness, I see the love of God as for me, and I seek to be with God, confessing who I am and who God is and find in that restoration. All of the other theories of atonement, for me, fall short and display something less (sometimes far less) than the God revealed to the world on the cross.
Of course, it is all Mystery and all theories fall short and so I also pray
"Lord, have mercy;
Christ, have mercy;
Lord Jesus Christ,
who takes away the
sins of the world,
have mercy on me,