Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Paradox of the Cross

September 14, 2011

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

By Colleen O'Sullivan

Brothers and sisters: Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11)

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. (John 3:16)


And when My hour of glory comes

as all was meant to be,

You shall see Me lifted up upon a tree.


Behold, behold the wood of the cross

On which is hung our salvation.

O come, let us adore.

(from “Behold the Wood,” Dan Schutte)


Everywhere we look, from the vast riches of the universe to the intricate workings of a single cell, we see the handiwork of our God. Glorious, majestic and wonderful are the splendors of creation. God, who brought all things into being, is all-knowing, all-powerful, holy, just, merciful and eternal. Jesus, as God’s Son and the second person of the Holy Trinity, shares in the full glory of God together with the Holy Spirit.

Yet, because he loves us with an infinite love, Jesus was willing to empty himself of divine “privilege” and become one of us, sharing our humanity in every way but sin. He came to be servant to sinners, the poor, the sick, and the outcast. For our sake, he suffered the most degrading punishment the Roman Empire could hand out – death on a cross – a form of execution usually reserved for non-citizens and the most heinous of criminals.

Paradoxically, it was in surrendering his life in such an ignominious fashion that Jesus and the Cross were exalted. God bestowed on his Son “the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

So much of the Gospel is a reversal of what the world teaches and how we live. Power, prestige and wealth are not the tickets to eternal life. Emptying ourselves of these in service to our brothers and sisters in Christ is the true way of the Cross, the path to salvation.


Spend some time today in prayer at the foot of the Cross.

"How splendid the cross of Christ! It brings life, not death; light, not darkness; Paradise, not its loss. It is the wood on which the Lord, like a great warrior, was wounded in hands and feet and side, but healed thereby our wounds. A tree has destroyed us, a tree now brought us life." (Theodore of Studios, a theologian and monastic reformer of the Byzantine church)