Aardvark Alley

Lutheran Aardvark

Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

21 July 2005
  Double + Crossed
"Signs, signs, everywhere signs ...."

The Five Man Electrical Band sang in lament over the posting of too many laws in their 1960s hit Signs. The Christian Faith is also filled with signs. Unlike the world's tokens, however, God's most powerful signs bespeak His grace and mercy. Chief among these is the cross. The cross is a thing — a specific instrument of torture and death upon which Jesus died. The cross is also an event. Because of these, the cross likewise is a sign: It indicates that God in Christ makes right the wrong of sins which keep us from Him.

In the baptismal rite, the pastor says to the candidate, "Receive the sign of the holy cross, both upon your forehead + and upon your heart +, to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified." Baptism is a participation in Christ's death (cf. Romans 6:3); thus, the "mark" we wear is no mere symbol traced upon us by our pastors. We are marked, imprinted, covered by the cross and by the redemption which Christ purchased upon it.

In light of this marking, the Church developed outward expressions designed to remind us of our participation in Christ's cross-borne gift of salvation. With our own fingers we can trace from forehead to heart and from shoulder to shoulder the image of this holy sign, remembering both Christ's death for us and our own death to sin in Baptism. The Church also encouraged its artisans to cast, carve, paint, and otherwise craft images of our Savior nailed to the cross in earthly shame, yet divine glory.

With these in mind, I commend to you Xrysostom's comments on The Sign of the Cross, Tim's self-examination of his understanding of the crucifix, and the survey that essay invoked. Just as we were "double-crossed" in Baptism, so the cross clings to us and we to it throughout our earthly days.

Too many signs? Not when they point to Christ!
 
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