25 March [Palm Sunday]
….At three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, "Listen, he is calling for Elijah." And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down." Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last….
M. Kaeler described the gospels as "accounts of the death of Jesus, preceded by long introductions." The essential Christian proclamation is, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again." The primary interest was the manner of his death, and that God raised him from death, giving us hope of rising with him.
The Cross of Christ has been a potent symbol throughout the ages. Its vertical axis, it has been said, joins heaven and earth, and its horizontal axis joins all ages and races of humankind; everything meets in the broken body of Christ.
The Christian faith without the Cross is nothing. The Cross tells us that our goodness is not good enough. We cannot 'achieve' God by our own efforts: that would be to try to possess God as a sort of ornament on a life of achievement. Our ego would indeed love to do this, and is always ready to imagine that it has done so in fact. A popular writer of spiritual books that never mention the Cross of Christ said in an interview that for him the Cross was like a question-mark, or a giant hook, reaching up to heaven for an answer. Christ is not necessary to such a spirituality. It is well to explore the aesthetic aspects of the faith, but "we preach Christ crucified," wrote St Paul (1 Cor 1:23).
The grave is a narrow place, and to suffer is distressing. But this is the narrow road that leads to life. First of all, the Scriptures, and then the saints and mystics, vouch for this. First the narrow way, then the opening out. Here are a few of the many texts that could be quoted to illustrate this:
A Christianity without the Cross has never worked, and it is never likely to do so. It takes a crucified Church to bring a crucified Christ before the eyes of the world.
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