The mid-point of our Great Fast journey calls us to venerate the Holy Cross in a special way as it lays adorned on the tetrapod or small altar in our Churches. We bow and kiss the cross with deep reverence. It is a profound act of humility. Meditating on the significance of the cross, the instrument of Christ’s death and resurrection, confronts any feelings of superiority or attitudes of entitlement. Jesus Christ’s supreme gift, freely given, offers freedom from the bondage of sin. We hear the striking words of Jesus, “Whoever wishes to follow me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt: 16:24).
We are continually refreshed with this challenge to deny our own preferences in favor of that which is pleasing to God and to God’s creation. When you and I bless ourselves with the sign of the cross, we affirm our faith in the deepest mysteries of our faith, namely the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the saving work of Christ on the cross. Blessing ourselves with the sign of the cross is a very intimate affirmation of our faith. Tradition says that when we Eastern Catholics touch the right shoulder first, we are reminded of the two thieves who were crucified alongside Jesus. The thief on the right was the “good thief” who professed faith in Christ and whom Christ promised “This day you will be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:43). Next time you cross yourself, ensure that it reflects your profound humility before God, and your expectant faith in your salvation in Jesus Christ. St. John of Damascus teaches: “For wherever the sign shall be there also be He”.