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Holy Cross Day

o m i l y    G r i t s
                                                           Holy Cross Day
+ Fiesta de la Santa Cruz
               September 14,  2003
                                            (© 2003 by Grant Gallup -
permission given for free distribution in fair use or quotation )
Holy Cross Day is a Feast of our Lord, and when it occurs on a Sunday may
be transferred to the first convenient open day within the week.  When
desired, the Collect, Preface, and one of  more of the Lessons appointed
may be substituted for those of the Sunday, but not from the Last Sunday
after Pentecost through the First Sunday after the Epiphany, or from the
Last Sunday after the Epiphany through Trinity Sunday. 

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the
cross that he might draw the whole world to himself:  Mercifully grant
that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to
take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the
Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

¶ Book of Common Prayer Lectionary:
Isaiah 45:21-25 Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth
Psalm 98 or 98:1-4 Cantate Domino Sing to the Lord a new song.
Philippians 2: 5-11 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus
 or Galatians 6:14-18 May I never boast of anything except the cross of
our Lord Jesus Christ
John 12:31-36a He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die

¶ Lutheran Book of Worship
Numbers 21:4b-9 Moses made a serpent of bronze and put it on a pole
Psalm 98:1-5 Cantate Domino
 or Psalm 78:1-2, 34-38 Attendite, popule
The Lord has done marvelous things. (Ps. 98:1) - or - God was their rock
and the Most High God their redeemer. (Ps. 78:35)
1 Corinthians 1:18-24 The message about the cross is foolishness to those
who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
John 3:13-17 Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so
must the Truly Human One be lifted up
Hymn of the Day: Sing, my tongue (LBW 118)
Preface: Passion
Color: Red

¶ Roman Catholic Lectionary -  Exaltation of the Cross (takes precedence
over 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
Numbers 21:4-9 Moses made a serpent of bronze and put it on a pole.
Psalm 77 I cry aloud that God may hear me.
Philippians 2: 6-11 Let this same attitude and purpose and humble mind be
in you which was in Christ Jesus.
John 3:13-17 Just as Moses lifted up the serpent on a pole, the truly
Human One must be lifted up.

¶ Al-Hallaj (circa 858-922)  was one of the founders of Sufi mysticism
and its supreme example of surrender and sacrifice.  He was hung, drawn,
and quartered in the main square of Baghada for proclaiming, 'An'al
Haqq,'"I am the Supreme Reality."

"Kill me, O my trustworthy friends,
 For in my being killed is my life.
  Love is that you remain standing
In front of your Beloved.
 When you are deprived of all your attributes,
Then His attributes become your qualities.
 Between me and You, there is only me.
 Take away the me, so only You remains.
  I am the Supreme Reality."

[from: The Essential Mystics, Selections from the World's Great Wisdom
Traditions, edited and with an introduction by Andrew Harvey.  HarperSan
Francisco 1997.]  

¶ A  reading from the Prophet William Stringfellow
from An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (1973).
"A Christian says no to the power of death but in the same breath he
bespeaks the authority of life freed from bondage to death.  He exposes
the reign of death in Babylon while affirming the aspiration for new life
intuitive in all human beings and inherent in all principalities. He
confounds the wiles and stratagems of death by insistently, defiantly,
resiliently living in no less and none other than a human being;  he
enjoins the works of death by living in human fulfillment now.  He warns
of the autonomy of God's judgment while rejoicing in the finality of
God's mercy.  He suffers whatever death can do as he celebrates the
resurrection from death here and now. " 

¶ Buddhism. Sikshasamuccaya 280-281, Vajradhvaja Sutra.
"I take upon myself the burden of all suffering; I am resolved to do so;
I will endure it.  I do not turn or run away, do not tremble, am not
terrified, nor afraid, do not turn back or despond.  And why?  At all
costs I must bear the burdens of all beings.  In that, I do not follow my
own inclinations.  I have made the vow to save all beings.  All beings I
must set free.  The whole world of living beings I must rescue from the
terrors of birth, of old age, of sickness, of death and rebirth, of all
kins of moral offense, of all states of woe. . . My endeavors do not
merely aim at my own deliverance.  For with the help of the boat of the
thought of all-knowledge, I must rescue all these beings from the stream
of Samsara, which is so difficult to cross.  I myself must grapple with
the whole mass of suffering of all beings. " 

[from: The Essential Mystics, Selections from the World's Great Wisdom
Traditions, edited and with an introduction by Andrew Harvey.  HarperSan
Francisco 1997.]  

At the beginning of Lent, I found myself worshipping  with Mar Gewargie
Sliwa, archbishop of the Church of the East and of the Assyrians  in the
Church of St. George in Baghdad, surrounded by clouds of incense and
crowds of priests, deacons, religious, and laity.  Though the archbishop
speaks Arabic and English, the Eucharist was sung entirely in Aramaic,
the language of Jesus, for it is the oldest Christian community in
continuous existence in the Middle East.  I rejoiced to have connected
once again with this venerable Church, whose then patriarch Mar Eshai
Shimun XXIII I had met when he had been an honored guest at the
Anglo-Catholic Conress in Chicago in 1954, as I prepared to enter
theological seminary.  The Church is more than old--it is ancient,  and
goes back to a time earlier than the 5th century Nestorian controversy,
which it survived,  and it was a striking feature of their worship that
their church building had no icons, but only a great Cross, which is
veiled and revealed from time to time, and the Sign of the Cross is of
course used constantly in blessings.  This was ten days before the
crucifixion of Iraq at the hands of the kings of the earth, Bush and
Blair.  I have been unable to reach Archbishop Gewargie since then, and
commend him and his people to your prayers.  The clear centrality of the
cross to their liturgy is symbolic of the centrality of the Holy Cross to
their life as a Church, and of the fate they have shared with the Iraqis
of every faith community. 

In the last century, a French archaeologist went around measuring all the
relics of the True Cross of Jesus that are housed in church reliquaries
around the world and found a total of 4 million cubic millimeters.  He
estimated that the real cross on which Jesus was murdered would probably
have been much larger--178 million cubic millimeters, in fact, so it's
quantitatively possible that all those slivers and snippets are after all
part of the Cross that was found in the year 326 in Jerusalem and
identified as the one that Jesus was hanged upon, although archeological
science was not so sure as mathematical.  It was found by an excavation
team led by Helena, the mother of Constantine the Emperor who built a
church there and chose the date of September 14 in the year 335 for its
dedication.  She thought it was the date of the dedication of Solomon's
Temple, hundreds of years before.  Today, almost every Christian church
proudly displays a cross, or many crosses.  Christians and even those
with no particular commitment like to wear crosses.  I wear one of the
Episcopal Peace Fellowship, in which the cross surmounts the Peace
symbol.  The Cross as an ornament of jewelry became popular as a fad, or
a trinket, in the Soviet Union, a few years before that government
disappeared into the dustbin of history.

Until the time of Constntinue, there wasn't much interest in the cross as
a Christian ornament.  It was shameful, it was a symbol of the most
ignominious kind of capital punishment; so it would be like wearing a
little model of the electric chair around your neck, or a hangman's noose
done in silver filigree.  Curcifixion was used in Phoenicia only upon
rebellious slaves, like lynching, and the Romans and Greeks took it up,
but only for their subject peoples.  Men were crucified with their backs
to the cross, naked, except in Judea, where the Jews had won a special
indulgence allowing them to be  crucified with a loincloth,  and women
were crucified facing the cross, because of their religion's horror of
nakedness.  It was a shameful way of dying.  There was nothing glamorous
about the cross.  It was not used liturgically or in Christian symbolism
until the Emperor Constantine made it the symbol of imperial conquest,
"In Hoc Signo Vinces",  and it began to replace the FISH--the "IXTHUS"
whose letters are the initials for the Greek words Jesus Christ of God
the Son Saviour.  And they used the symbol of the Shepherd.  The Cross
was too horrible to think about.   Segundo Galilea, the Chilean
theologian I heard lectures from at St Bernard's Institute in Rochester,
New York some years ago, writes that "A certain type of Christian piety
is inclined to separate Jesus'cross from the events of his life. . . this
honors the suffering of our Lord and his death, in isolation not only
from what was to come--the Resurrection--but from what had gone before: 
the manner and content of the gospel, which of course is what actually
brought Jesus to that cross." 

The Stations of the Cross which I had given to St Andrew's Church in
Chicago my last year there were copies of the work of
Nicaraguan campesino artists, which I got from the Antonio Valdivieso
Ecumenical Center in Managua,  and depicted Jesus and his disciples in
the context of their own life in the revolutionary struggle.  The Roman
soldiers were shown uniformed as the Somoza Guardia Nacional, and the
Crucified One was the image of Dr. Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the Argentine
physician who gave his life for the Revolutionary struggle in Bolivia. 
Jesus and his two fellow revolutionaries (whom later readings gave the
name of bandits) were depicted hanging naked under the superscription
"SUBVERSIVO."   It was not the Spanish word that offended some of the
faithful at St Andrew's, but the visible genitalia of Jesus and his
fellows.  So when I returned to Chicago after my first stint in Nicaragua
I found the Stations had been descended from their places and gone to
storage with some of my packed up books in the church undercroft.  The
moral outrage and censorship was aimed at nudity,  not at crucifixion, 
just like the modesty of the Jewish concordat with the Roman Empire.  I
packed up the Stations and donated them to the Chicago Peace Museum,
which gladly accepted them and hangs them for public display each year. 
And the particularly offensive crucifixion scene hangs in the Oratory at
Casa Ave Maria in Managua as well.   "Is it nothing to you, all ye that
pass by?  Behold and see if there is any sorrow like unto my sorrow." 
Yes, Jesus embraced the death of the poor, and dies the way the poor are
put to death.  He dies still at the hands of the military, who almost
everywhere in the world act as agents of the rich and powerful.  He is
labelled "subversive" as indeed he was, and still is.  For to 'sub-vert'
means to turn under, to uproot and de-throne the present unjust order. 
To embrace the Cross, to take up one's cross and follow Jesus in the way
is to get in the Way, as Christian Peacemaker Teams have illustrated in
their lives.  To follow Jesus is to deliberately risk the suffering,
pain, rejection, punishment and death that are the daily and hourly lot
of the poor of history.  Paul says to the Church at Philippi, "Let your
bearing towards one another arise out of your life in Jesus who did not
snatch at the equality he had as his right, but made himself nothing."  
He made himself a nobody, a slave.  He made himself a dispensable
person.  The way we put that now is to say he took an option for the
poor, and he did this 'though even his own disciples urged him not to do
that and Peter, the bravest, berated him for considering the option.  But
Jesus chose it, for he "emptied"himself, in Paul's word.   Peter the
bourgeois businessman died as a poor man too.  In our own struggle on
behalf of the poor, have we ourselves this mind in us?  If the rich were
to win, and they always do, in the short run--many people might be more
comfortable:  this is the Bush campaign theme, and it's begun already.  
It's the argument of those opposed to the Palestinian Jesus,  and is the
theme of Israeli "development" on the West Bank -- it's not an option for
the poor, it's option for the rich and powerful.  

Holy Cross Day celebrates Jesus' own option for the poor, and it
celebrates not the option of the Church for conquest with the Cross as
trinket, trophy, or weapon,  but it celebrates the option of the God who
draws all creation to rescue and resurrection in the shadow of the

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