When I was five my dad hit me in the head with a corn shovel. Dad was out in the corn crib shoveling corn into the back of the truck. He was taking a load of corn to the elevator to have it ground up for the cows. Being five I knew dad needed my help so I went into the corn crib, climbed to the top of the pile of corn and once there just started kicking corn down to him. I got a little too close and bang! The shovel hit me just to the right of my nose. There was lots of blood and lots of crying and dad almost passed out. He could never handle blood. Dad carried me into the house and Mom fixed everything. I think Dad felt worse than I did (I know he did).
Now following that accident, I had a linear scar next to my nose about an inch long. It’s very visible in all my elementary school photos. With time, however, it faded and now you can barely see it. But when I was younger every time, I saw that scar in the mirror I was reminded of that accident in the corn crib. I’m sure many of us have scars that remind us of some past incident.
Now just as our body may be marked by permanent scars that last a life time our soul too is marked, permanently marked, for all eternity, a mark lasting long after our life here on earth has ended. Everyone who has been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has had their soul indelibly marked, marked as belonging to Christ for all eternity. You could also say that this indelible mark is a mark of the Cross of Christ; we, the baptized, are marked with the sign of Triumph. But unlike a scar on our body that we can see, this indelible, permanent mark on our soul isn’t something visible. So, to remind us of this baptismal mark of the Cross the Church gives us fonts of holy water by all the doors. And as we enter, we dip our fingers into the water and mark ourselves in the sign of the cross saying, “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and Holy Spirit.” As we pray this simple prayer, we remember our baptism we remember the triumph of the Cross and its direct impact on the life of our soul. In baptism we die with Christ on Calvary but we also rise with Christ in the Resurrection. We are made sons and daughters of God. All sin is forgiven both Original and personal.
Now as another reminder the Church has decreed that above each of her altars there should be a crucifix. So that whenever we enter a Catholic Church the crucifix will be one of the first things we see. And it has to be a crucifix, not an empty cross, but a cross being used to crucify to crucify the one man who never sinned, the one man who didn’t deserve to die. For the first nine centuries of our Church artists rarely depicted the Cross, it was just too brutal. But on that Brutal Cross we see the divine light.
St. John in his gospel often refers to Jesus as the light of the world and on the cross this divine light shines fully on all of humanity’s sinful ugliness. On that cross we see betrayal by a friend; we see cruelty, scapegoating, fear, stupidity, anger, mistrust, murder, and corruption. On that brutal cross we see all of humanity’s sinful ugliness. The cross revealed and brought to the divine light all human dysfunction. In the light of the cross all sin is revealed.
The cross is a sign of judgment on the world, but on the cross we also meet Divine Mercy. Our Lord is just but also merciful and loving. Taking all sin upon himself our Lord swallowed it up and rising from the dead conquered it. The instrument of His death is the cause of our eternal life. God is able to bring good out of evil, even the greatest good out of the greatest evil.
St. Andrew of Crete once wrote, “Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be canceled, we should not have obtained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled.”
In all the sacraments we receive, the healing grace of the Triumph of the Cross is given to us. In baptism our souls have been beautifully and eternally marked by the sign of the Cross. This is not a scar, but a beauty mark that we must never hide.
Pax et Bonum,
Fr. Christopher J. Ankley