Today we celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. We all are ever grateful for what was won for us on that Cross. And yet, sometimes I wonder if we become a little too familiar with the oddity of the Cross, with the great and terrible mystery of our salvation.
Jesus, foreshadowing His Passion in conversation with Nicodemus, compares His being raised up on the Cross to the strange event of the people of God in the desert and the venomous serpents. (John 3:13-14) They had grown weary of obedience to God, these people whom He had rescued and saved from death through repeated miracles, and they grumbled and complained in disobedience. God sent serpents to attack them and then, when they were humbled into repentance, He instructed Moses to create a staff that carried the very visage of the creature that had brought them death to heal them and bring them life. (Numbers 21:5-9)
It both strange and wonderful, the tale, and when we read it, we find it a bit strange and still marvel at it.
Yet, the tale of the Cross is no less strange or wonderful, and far too often, we forget to stop and behold the wildness of the tale that won our salvation. We forget the real story of a God who became one of us, took on our visage, and bled and died the death we deserved to heal us from the poison of sin and the price it had exacted, our very lives. And the Cross is no temporary victory, no foreshadowing of salvation, but the very real action, the final grotesque and beautiful mystery that puts the venom of sin to death once and for all.
Today as we ponder this Holy Feast, let us ask for the scales of familiarity to fall from our eyes, to truly behold the wonder and strange beauty of the Cross—of the scarred and beaten body of our God uplifted as a banner of triumph, of blood and death as the vision of ultimate love. We have a faith that cannot be taken in easily, swallowed down sweetly. We have a faith that forms a lump in our throats even as we wave our banners high in victory. The Cross deserves at least that much.
Let us look to it today in triumph but in earnest awe of its fierce and holy wonder.
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Colleen Mitchell is wife to Greg and mother to five amazing sons here on earth. They serve in Costa Rica where they run the St. Francis Emmaus Center, a ministry that welcomes indigenous mothers into their home to care for them pre and postpartum. She is the author of Who Does He Say You Are. Find out more about her here.