In the ancient Roman world, the cross was such an ignominious way to die; the early Christians never really used it as a symbol of their faith nor as part of their rituals. They used the fish (in Greek, ἰχθύς) or the Chirho. The Greek word for fish was the acronym for ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. Chi and Rho are the first two Greek letters for ‘Christ’. I have learned from Fr. Barron that “For the first nine centuries of the Church’s life, Jesus’ cross wouldn’t be depicted.”
God has a rather wicked sense of humor. He loves to dumbfound human wisdom with divine folly. To set right Adam’s ‘happy fault’, He sent His only Son to redeem us. Then he used the cross, the worst possible way to die during those Roman times, to become the sign of ultimate victory.
On the cross, Jesus was stripped of everything He had. They stripped Him of his garments. he would die not only penniless but also naked. They stripped Him even of His humanity as they subjected him to all kinds of insults and humiliation. And yet, in His nakedness and emptiness, He only had forgiveness for his oppressors and torturers, mercy and compassion for those crucified with Him, care and concern for those He was leaving behind, obedience and love for the Father who sent Him. No one is so poor that he has nothing to give and no one is so rich that he has nothing to receive.
On the cross, Jesus taught us that the ultimate test of our humanity is our capacity to give even when we are totally empty and our humility to receive when we believe we have self-sufficiency. When we give, we multiply our gifts and make ourselves grow. When we receive, we enable others to grow and ourselves to glow.
When I think about it, the cross is a natural part of being human. And to be fully human, we need crosses in our lives. Most people would want to see their life paths moving along a straight and narrow road. But sooner or later, some persons or events or circumstances cross our path. And in that intersection is a cross, either forcing us to stop, take a detour or to simply take up the cross. And in hindsight, it is these crosses that have given us the most fulfillment, have led us to our greatest accomplishments and have been the prelude to our greatest joys and happiness.
Indeed, it is in taking up our cross that we find salvation, in dying on the cross that we come into new life and in giving up our life on the cross that we receive our new and better life.