Toppled Cross

I make the sign of the Cross…

“I believe…in the resurrection of the body.” I grew up in a Presbyterian church where the preacher focused on interpreting the Bible, expository preaching plain and simple. The physical space had very little adornment. The windows were rose-colored stained-glass (ironic, I always thought)The video linked is of Petra’s “Rose-Colored Stained Glass Windows.” The words of the chorus always struck me, “Looking through rose-colored stained glass windows Never allowing the world to come in Seeing no evil and feeling no pain And making the light as it comes from within So dim…So dim.” and behind the pulpit and the choir, a large stained-glass window with a Celtic cross and abstract angels. In the center was a table with an open Bible and a large metal Celtic cross. The table would be brought forward once a quarter to hold the elements of communion, grape juice and crackers.

When I started attending Episcopal church services, perhaps the most foreign element to me was making the sign of the cross. It was very “papish” and I did not immediately begin using the gesture. Even genuflecting (going down on one knee before the altar) was something that felt a bit too…well, foreign to me. Now, over thirty years later, I am still probably much “lower church” than many when it comes to making these physical acts. Yet I do appreciate them and have learned that what we do with the body often leads the heart and spirit. Posture and position have an impact, which is why in that Evangelical church, everyone assumed the “crash position” when praying.

The one moment in the service where I was particularly confused about the making of the sign of the cross was when we recite the Creed. In Morning and Evening Prayer it is the Apostles’ Creed and in the Eucharist it is the Nicene Creed, but in both cases many will make the sign at the phrase I believe “in the resurrection of the body” (Apostles’ Creed) or “We look for the resurrection of the dead” (Nicene Creed). I asked one of the priests who was overseeing my formation why we made the sign at that point. He replied,

“Because someday we will be dead and our hope of the resurrection is in the Cross.”

It is a holy gesture that I make every time now. There is no doubt that the death of our son has made this more poignant for me, a connection to when I will see him again. It is also an outward and visible sign of the source of salvation, tied to the articulation of the faith: Christ died, rose, therefore so shall we.

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