Lent is traditionally a time to reflect on the difficulties and even suffering in our lives. In my recent studies, I read more about the cross, this horrible instrument of death still used in our world today. I had thought of the cross as primarily physical torture but it is more than that. Those killing others on the cross meant to show eternal suffering and damnation.
The essential symbolism of the cross lies in the position of the person suspended above the Earth and beneath Heaven. The symbolism told others that this person was rejected by the Earth and out of reach of any human help. The accused person was no longer supported by the place that gave birth to him or her.
The cross was also meant to show that God rejects him or her. The killers were proclaiming that the person was moving into an eternal no-man’s land of everlasting oblivion. He or she would never know God or goodness or love again. The dying person would not be received into heaven. Even to see someone dying on the cross was a curse intended to terrorize the unhappy spectator.
Yet Jesus broke the terror and curse of the cross. He too was lifted on the cross and while dying, answered the thief, promising him an eternal place in his Father’s kingdom. Indeed, Jesus went to the place of eternal cursing so others may be blessed.
Every Christian will know times of suffering, and Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” How can we take up that which curses us? Christ gives us the grace to do this. We love in the midst of cursing and do not run away in fear. When we feel suspended above places of human help, Jesus Christ hears our cries. When others cry out in suffering, we answer them. As faithful people, we trust Christ strengthens us and His grace reaches us into all situations, even places of cursing.
-The Rev. Dr. Nancy Carol James