Today we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. For an outsider looking in, it might seem strange to celebrate what appears to be a symbol of defeat – the Messiah hanging dead on a cross, mocked and jeered at.
For Christians, however, the cross is a symbol of our salvation in Christ and a symbol of life eternal. For not only does God empty himself and become human in Jesus, uniting himself with us in all things but sin, but he humbles himself even to the point of accepting death (and an ignominious one at that).
If the story ended there, the world would be quite right to wonder at our celebration of the cross. But what begins with a death on the cross ends in Resurrection – the Resurrection of Christ, and through Him, the resurrection of all of us. So the cross becomes a sign of our everlasting life with God. The Son of Man is “lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal light.”
Immediately following those words from John’s Gospel, we hear the comforting, so oft-quoted words, “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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
When we exalt the cross, we at one and the same time reverence, celebrate and marvel at incarnation, death and resurrection. And that is something worthy of being exalted.