United at the Cross by Anthony Esolen


United at the Cross

The good Sir Bors, one of the knights on the quest to behold the mysteries of the Holy Grail, enters a strange chapel with someone in the guise of a monk. Sir Bors has asked him for advice on two dreams he has had, which he does not know how to interpret. But when he looks around, he does not see the Cross. And sure enough, the monk gives a lying interpretation of the dreams—accusing Bors of pride in his chastity, and urging that he "serve" a beautiful lady who is dying for love of him. It is an interpretation that buries the Cross.

We in our time bury the Cross, too. We say that Jesus does not want us to suffer, though he himself has said that we must take up the Cross and follow him. I've been in churches where nary a Cross is to be seen. For many years, Catholic churches in the United States, embarrassed by the Crucified, preferred representations of the risen Christ. "We are an Easter people," they said, but there is no Easter without Good Friday. Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone.

We do well, then, to recall the pilgrimage of St. Helen, the mother of Constantine, who traveled to Jerusalem to unearth the Cross of Jesus. Her discovery has been memorialized in the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, celebrated on September 14. The Cross is the Tree of Life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations—and for our healing, too. Christians may not be one in the journals of theology, but we should all gather beneath the Cross, and if we do not do so on our own, our enemies may do the favor for us.


Anthony Esolen is the author of over thirty books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House). He and his wife Debra publish a web magazine, Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com), on poetry, hymnody, language, classic films, and music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!

personal subscriptions

Purchase Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!

RENEW your print/online

Online Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives including pdf downloads for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!

RENEW your online subscription

gift subscriptions

GIVE Print &
Online Subscription

Give six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for the reduced rate of $29.95. That's only $2.50 per month!

RENEW your gift subscription

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

kindle subscription

OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)

Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.

more on hymns from the online archives

more from the online archives

26.5—Sept/Oct 2013

More than Schooling

The Perils of Pragmatism in Christian Attitudes Toward the Liberal Arts by Robin Phillips

21.10—December 2008

Savior in a Manger

Early Christian Teaching on the Incarnation & Redemption by Patrick Henry Reardon

32.1—January/February 2019

Role Reversals

Sex, Women's Ordination & the Rejection of Hierarchy & Equality by James A. Altena

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone