United at the Cross by Anthony Esolen

Illuminations

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.

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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.

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