Sign of the Cross

It’s often remarked upon how strange it is that Christians wear a cross or crucifix as the sign of their faith and hope since, of course, it represents a means of execution. In the 2nd century some Christian converts were even given the nickname ‘adorers of the gibbet’ – certainly not a title I want to embrace.

Perhaps pondering another basic meaning of a cross might help. In school we first encounter the cross when learning the addition sign, the ‘plus’, that connector which joins one thing to another; 2 + 2. The cross as a plus sign we often automatically read as ‘and’; this and this; those and those.

Jesus’ cross is similarly the great connector. The vertical beam can be seen as connecting earth and heaven. Jesus becomes human – God and human – and dies on his cross so that God will no longer be separated from the people he created and whom he loves. We are connected once more, through Jesus, to our maker; God with us, God and us.

And the horizontal beam can be seen as reaching out left and right, east to west, symbolising our connection, through Jesus, to one another. Jesus draws all people to himself; no more divisions into Gentile and Jew, slave and free, male and female, chosen and outcast. By Jesus all are called and all are welcomed. No one’s excluded. There are no limits or caveats when Jesus tells us to ‘love one another as I have loved you’. The plus signs are endless: ‘love him andher, and her and him, and them, and them, and them….’.

The cross also symbolises that God is now forever with us, in life and death. To those who are without faith, death seems the ultimate full stop. After death there are no more ‘ands’, there is nothing left to ‘add’; but if we have faith, there is no final ending. Even at our death there is still yet more to come – plus, plus, plus……  Jesus, on his cross, opened the way to heaven, and heaven is an infinity in which to love and be loved: more, more, always more.

So, if you wear a cross, or cross yourself to pray, do it joyfully this Easter. It is our sign not of death, but of infinite life and love.

Revd Kate McFarlane