|Christ and the Cross, from Santa Maria Sopra Minerva|
I can’t fail to mention that today is the Feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a celebration centered on what is perhaps the most puzzling (apparent) contradiction in Christianity, and something that lies at the very heart of the Faith: our Salvation is only through the suffering and death of Christ on the Cross (and, by extension, through our embrace of the suffering in our own lives). This, St. Paul assures us, is “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23).
One of the most striking artistic representations of this Mystery is Michelangelo’s Christ from the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (depicted above), in which Jesus is literally embracing the Cross. A beautiful statue modeled on this one surmounts the baptismal font in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception here in Portland where, as it happens, we attended the vigil Mass for today’s feast last evening. The Mass was celebrated by our Bishop, and attended by members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jersalem [more info here], in full regalia, which consisted of long capes (white for the knights, black for the ladies) decorated with the Jersalem cross, along with black lace veils for the women. The Order is the only lay institution of the Vatican State charged with the task of providing for the needs of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and for all the activities and initiatives which are necessary to support the Christian presence in the Holy Land.
The presence of the Equestrians was quite appropriate for the occasion, as Bishop Deeley pointed out in his homily. He started by observing that “we see the Cross in the whole life and mission of Christ”; we see a precursor in bronze serpent in the first reading, where what had at first brought sickness now brings healing, but Jesus on the cross not only “returns us to health, but to life, eternal life.” We also hear “the very heart of Jesus’ message” in the hymn St. Paul quotes to the Phillipians: that “Jesus emptied himself” for our sake. The Cross leads us to Humility and Service. That’s where the Equestrians come in: the Bishop pointed out the Jerusalem Cross over their hearts, a large blood-red cross in the center surrounded by four smaller crosses which represents the wounds of Christ. Through their support of the Patriarch of Jerusalem they are both a sign and a tangible means of our support, our service, on behalf of the Christians of the Middle East who are sharing so deeply in the suffering of Christ right now. This is a mission in which we all have a part, and, as Bishop Deeley said in closing: “Jesus never leaves us alone: if he gives us a mission, he also gives us the Grace to do it.”
There. Now on to the snippets themselves:
Monday – At one time it was understood that liturgical music should lift us up from this world and direct our hearts and minds toward The Lord. Is that asking too much? “William Byrd – Sanctus (Mass for 4 Voices) [here]
Wednesday – Even minor Saints can teach us Major Lessons: “Resist Him, Steadfast In Faith” [here]
Thursday – If we worked harder at building good character, we wouldn’t have to worry as much about the law: “Hidden Law, Society, And The Church (Throwback)” [here]
Friday – A reflection on John Sobieski’s rescue of Vienna in 1683, and the fate of Christian civilization today: “We came, we saw, God conquered” [here]
Saturday – Shutting out Christian groups on campus may not be mass murder, but does it really have to be in order to provoke a response? “It Doesn’t Need To Be As Bad As Iran To Be Bad Enough” [here]