At Liturgy last Sunday, I caught site of a father holding his infant daughter in his arms. As I blessed the congregation, he made the sign of the cross over himself and his daughter, sweeping his arms over his little girl to touch his forehead, his chest, and his two shoulders. It was a simple gesture, so filled with tenderness and love.
Immediately, I thought of a short prayer from our Orthodox tradition: “Surround us, Lord, with the power of your precious cross, and protect us from all evil.”
From the cross, Jesus stretches out his arms to embrace all of us with his co-suffering love. He ascends the cross to take upon himself all of the shame and pain, all the remorse and alienation, that our sins stir up. Christ takes up all of this so that we do not have endure it ourselves.
Jesus calls his crucifixion his great moment of glory. The cross was once as symbol of ultimate shame and defeat. Romans used crucifixion to send a clear message: anyone who tries to resist the Roman Empire will pay dearly for his folly.
Through Christ, the message of the cross is radically transformed: anyone who runs to Christ for forgiveness will receive the reward of wise and faithful stewards in God’s kingdom. When we are surrounded by the power of the Cross we are embraced by what matters most in life–Christ’s co-suffering, unconditional, life-giving love.