week the Christian Church celebrates Holy Cross Day.
This day reminds us that the cross stands at the centre of the Christian faith.
The story of Jesus tells us that he met his death by being fastened to a wooden cross, which was a brutal form of punishment imposed by the Roman authorities at that time.
Since that event, the cross has become the sign by which the Christian faith is identified, replacing the fish symbol of the early times, and we now find crosses in churches and at many other places which are holy to Christian people.
The cross also stands at the heart of the services of the Church of England.
For example, at a Christening service, the priest makes the sign of the cross in Holy Oil on the forehead of each candidate.
In that way the cross becomes the ‘ badge’ of the Christian faith, which each person wears for the whole of their life.
Even though the oil soon fades away, the mark that is made lasts forever, always reminding us of the challenge of following Jesus who was obedient to death, even in such a painful and humiliating way.
The cross is at the centre of Christian worship.
At the beginning of the Communion service the sign of the cross is made as the priest says, ‘ In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’.
The priest also makes the sign of the cross as the prayer of forgiveness is prayed, and also over the bread and wine as they are blessed.
At the end of the service, the sign of the cross accompanies the words of the Blessing.
The cross is, perhaps, both the most simple and most profound of symbols.
Its shape is the meeting of just two lines.
These cross at right angles to each other – in that sense, it could hardly be simpler. But in the story of the Christian faith, it symbolises the meeting of the pain of the world and the love, mercy and healing of God.
When we think about the parts of our world which are in need of healing and restoration today, the message of the cross becomes a huge source of hope and transformation.