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The Rose And The Cross

Feast of the Holy Cross, St. Matthew’s Orthodox Church, Baton Rouge, La.

Today is the Feast of the Veneration of the Cross [1]in the Orthodox Church. It marks the halfway point in Great Lent. On the feast, the cross is displayed in the center of the church, usually surrounded by flowers, basil, or some kind of greenery that reminds us that the Cross is the Tree of Life. Today, our priest Father Joshua began his homily by noting that one of the choir members said last night, when the rosy cross was presented at vespers, that there were “too many roses.”

“You can’t see the cross,” the choir member said. It was true. They took a few of the roses off so the cross would be clear.

Father Joshua said that the roses have to be there to represent the joy and the life that comes from the Cross. But you also have to be able to see the Cross clearly amid the life and the joy. “You cannot have real joy without the Cross,” he said.

His point is about the balance that Christians have to have in their lives. Too much starkness and suffering, and you distort the message of the Cross. It’s all crucifixion and no resurrection. Christians are supposed to fast, but we are also supposed to feast. The suffering of the Cross was not the final word.

But if everything is always coming up roses — in the prosperity gospel heresy, for example, or Moralistic Therapeutic Deism — you obscure the suffering and sacrifice at the heart of our faith, and create an idol. That is, you end up worshiping the roses, not submitting to the Cross, because everybody wants to get to heaven, but nobody wants to die. Cheap grace tells Christians that they can have joy without the cross — and that is why Bonhoeffer called cheap grace “the deadly enemy of our church.” [2]


6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "The Rose And The Cross"

#1 Comment By John Burzynski On March 19, 2017 @ 4:13 pm

Amen. There is no Resurrection without the Cross, and the Cross has no meaning without the Resurrection.

#2 Comment By James C On March 19, 2017 @ 4:32 pm

Amen. Christians in the West have tended to veer too far in one direction or another. Once upon a time excessive asceticism was a more common problem, but the days of ‘Babette’s Feast’ are long gone. Laxity and frivolity are de rigueur now. The problem with many of our shepherds (Pope Francis included) is that they haven’t noticed this.

This balance is one reason why I like climates with real seasons: summer isn’t really summer without winter.

#3 Comment By cermak_rd On March 19, 2017 @ 8:25 pm

All I can think of from that image is a line from a song, I loved so much that I could see, his blood upon the rose. Which line is (but not the song), I think, from a poem by Joseph Mary Plunkett.

#4 Comment By Charles Cosimano On March 19, 2017 @ 9:38 pm

My first thought was that Rod had become a Rosicrucian.

#5 Comment By Elijah On March 20, 2017 @ 8:13 am

My wife and a friend were recently lamenting that their (our) Evangelical church is unwilling to give any ground to the ideas behind the BenOp, that believers are facing dangerous times from within the church as much as they face outward pressure.

And I think my wife put her finger on the nub of the thing. She said that our church had spent the last 20 years knocking down barriers to worship: formal dress, formal liturgies, old hymns, etc. without considering that some barriers are good and useful things. The result? An atomized congregation where everything is about individual experience and feeling. Any sense of unity is assumed (e.g. shared beliefs), because it’s rarely expressed (in terms of common prayers, creeds, or rituals).

Balance is indeed critical.

#6 Comment By mrscracker On March 21, 2017 @ 11:42 am

James C,
In some climates, the summer is enough of a cross to balance out the virtual lack of winter. Two seasons of that intensity might be too much.