The circle was probably the first image used by man as a symbol; the second was probably the cross. They say that the vertical line of the cross represents the descent of spirit into matter and that the horizontal crossbar represents the world.
I sometimes hear people criticize the use of the religious cross with Christ hanging on it. Why look at something so cruel, so gruesome? Why focus on his suffering; why not emphasize his resurrection with the empty cross?
Christ on the cross is the symbol for Everyman because everyone who is born at some point experiences pain and death. To me the most human part of the whole story of Christ is when he asks why the Father has forsaken him. After all, hadn’t he done everything right? Hadn’t he been the perfect son? Why did he have to go through this horrible torture and shame?
Don’t we ask that too when we get sick, when we see an innocent child die, when we see the unbelievable suffering in the world today? What did we do to deserve this? Isn’t there some way to change things, to escape, to let this cup pass from our lips? Isn’t the eternal question that Christ asked our question too?
In Christ’s story, he asks the question but he is not answered – at least as far as the Gospels report. Instead, he stops asking why and accepts things as they are; in fact, he embraces his situation when he says, Thy will be done. This is the act of ultimate surrender – a surrender not to death but to Life.
Once we can accept we do not understand the larger picture, that we are not in control of our destiny, once we can accept that our life does not belong to us but that Life/God/All That Is is living through us, once we can surrender, although our bodies may die, we will, as they say, be born to a greater life.
People often wonder if there is life after death and demand proof. At the same time they are unwilling to believe in the story of the resurrection; they are unwilling to believe the stories of saints and those who had near death experiences; they are unwilling to believe in visions. In other words, because they have not experienced the Light themselves, they doubt or deny its existence. But that doesn’t change the truth.
All of us, in our own way, carry a cross and one day we will ask God why we are abandoned and suffering. That is the day when Christ and the saints and prophets and angels will be beside us to help us say Thy will be done and our hearts will be opened. If we humbly ask God’s grace, He cannot deny us.
“ I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me, together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was. “ John 17: 4-5