Monday, 14 September 2015

14th September – Holy Cross Day

Hill of Crosses, Lithuania
The feast of the Cross commemorates the cross used in the crucifixion of Jesus. While Good Friday is dedicated to the Passion of Christ and the Crucifixion, this day celebrates the cross as the instrument of salvation.

The cross became the universal symbol for Christianity, replacing the fish symbol of the early church. After the end of the persecution era, early in the fourth century, pilgrims began to travel to Jerusalem to visit and pray at the places associated with the life of Jesus. Helena, the mother of the emperor, was a Christian and, whilst overseeing excavations in the city, is said to have uncovered a cross which many believed to be the Cross of Christ. A basilica was built on the site of the Holy Sepulchre and dedicated on this day in the year 335.

The Hill of Crosses, Lithuania, has been a place of pilgrimage for many years. It grew in significance during Soviet times and became a place of anonymous but surprising resistance to the regime. The Soviet government considered the crosses and the hill a hostile symbol. Wooden crosses were broken and burnt, metal ones used as scrap metal and stone and concrete crosses were broken and buried. Several times the hill itself was levelled by bulldozers. Tactics became more subtle: crosses were removed as having no artistic value, different “epidemics” were announced forbidding people to come into the region and roads were blocked by police. At other times, the hill would be flattened, crosses destroyed and excrement sprayed over the area. The Hill was guarded by both the Soviet army and KGB. In 1978 and 1979 there were attempts to flood the territory. Despite all these endeavours crosses would reappear, each marking a personal and public tragedy. Today, visitors leave a cross or a rosary or make one from pebbles, twigs or grass.

Collect for today …..
Almighty God,
who in the passion of your blessed Son
made an instrument of painful death
to be for us the means of life and peace:
grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ
that we may gladly suffer for his sake;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.