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Why I Wear a Cross, Visibly

A number of months ago, I decided to start wearing my cross in a visible manner. Meaning, for years I’ve worn one, but under my shirt. Now, at work I wear it outside my shirt, but under my tie. The rest of the time, it’s outside of whatever casual shirt I’m wearing that day.

There were a number of factors that went into this decision. I have a friend who until a few months ago worked mentoring men recently released from prison. He always wore his cross on his chest. I also read an article about clergy wearing the collar in public and how it consciously affects the person wearing it and the one the people who see clergy wearing one.

I also reflected on my own response to seeing people wearing a cross openly. Granted there are many situations where it is fairly obvious the cross isn’t intended as a display for religious reasons but as a fashion statement, a trinket worn with other symbols: a heart, a star, a yin and yang, and maybe a unicorn. In those times when I saw someone wearing one in a serious way, I did perceive that person differently. Was their behavior out of line in my mind, or were they kindhearted and gentle?

In the United States, and most “Western” countries generally, there does not exist a distinct method of dress for Christians. In more predominately Eastern Orthodox counties the women may be veiled or wear a head covering of some kind. Additionally, in predominately Muslim countries, the Christians generally live in close proximity to one another. They are then distinguished by how they don’t look and behave like the majority religion’s adherents.

So I tried wearing it outside my shirt. I discovered I am quite conscious of it. It triggers an immediate sense of “dear Lord help me!” My Lord and Savior died on a cross. Because of that atoning sacrifice, He was resurrected and ascended into heaven. He has called me to himself, relieved me of my burden of sin and set me free to live in and through Him. I am one of his ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5 18-21). For me then, it focuses my mind on how I behave.

At the same time I am aware of a stereotype. The sneering, judgmental usually old person typecast in movies as the bigoted or hypocritical “christian”. Nearly always there’s a large cross either worn around the neck or placed someplace prominently in the home. This person is cold and callous. This person usually appears to have ice water running through their veins rather than any sort of life giving red blood. I certainly don’t want to be this person nor do I wish to be associated with them in anyone’s mind.

So, as I thought about it, I realized I have no control over how others see me. And just because I have a particular stereotype stuck in my head doesn’t mean others have the same imagery floating around in their skulls. So I went with wearing it on the outside. It helps me to live in a manner worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27). There is a phrase used commonly in Anglican circles, usually around whether to go to confession with a priest (I tried finding the origin of the phrase and was unsuccessful): “all may, some should, none must.” So, for me, this is a I should. If it stirs me this much to desire to act in a manner of the upward calling, then I shall.

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If I were to ask you “What is the Gospel?”

What would your short answer be?

Or

What question would you ask about the question itself?

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The Eucharist by Alexander Schmemann – finished reading it

I had no idea what I was getting into by reading this book. It was recommended by my mentor, several times actually. Since my dad loves buying books, I included it on the list of suggested items for Christmas gifts for me. I must confess I opened it before Christmas to start reading it.

So, here I am about six weeks after starting it and I finished it up a few minutes ago. The word that comes to mind is holistic:

ho·lis·tic

/hōˈlistik/adjective

  1. PHILOSOPHY: characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.

Throughout the book Schmemann is disdainful of consecratory formulas. The idea that some particular words or appeals are “the point at which” the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus.

Nothing perceptible happens – the bread remains bread, and the wine remains wine. For if it occurred “palpably,” then Christianity would be a magical cult and not a religion of faith, hope and love.
Thus, any attempt to explain the conversion, to locate it in formulas and causes, is not only unnecessary but truly harmful. Chapter 11, section 6

To sum up a much longer argument, the sacrifice of Christ has been accomplished both here on earth and in Heavenly Places, in the true Holy of Holies. This is a rebuke of the (to my understanding) Roman Catholic theology of the ongoing sacrifice in the celebration of the Eucharist. As an aside: to me the finished work of Christ is essential theology. My only hope of salvation is in the firm assurance that it is already accomplished in and through Christ Jesus.

Schmemann’s main point, in my reading of the book, is this: The Eucharist is the entire service, the whole of the Liturgy. From the entrance, to the reading of the Word, to the preaching/teaching, to the gifts, to the declaration of belief (creeds), to the prayers of the people, to the table, to the prayers said over the gifts of bread and wine, to the distribution, and finally consumption by the body of believers: the church. That all are gifts of God to His people for their growth in the Spirit. That without a church, there is no Eucharist. The Eucharist then, rightly understood, is something the gathered body of believers do.

The conclusion is also carefully calibrated. The final chapter is on communion, the final act of consumption, the eating and drinking of the bread and wine. The Eucharist is, in a way, consummated in the consumption: it is made complete (whole) in the eating.

The Trinity, the Godhead, is in a state of perfect communion within the Godhead. The theological term is PerichoresisA divine inter-dwelling, the Father knows the Son, who knows the Father, who knows the Holy Spirit, who knows the Father, and the Son knows the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit knows the Son. In the consuming of the elements we enter into communion with GOD because the Son joined himself to sinful flesh, redeemed it and joined it to the Godhead. Because western thought has traveled so far down the road of individualism, we miss another larger and powerful truth. By being in communion with GOD, we are also in communion with any and all who have ever been in, are in, or will ever be in communion with GOD. It is a physical symbol of the divine truth of He in us and we in Him.

I loved the book. It was consistently challenging and always interesting. Each section reads as a carefully chewed over thought from a devote man concerned about the health of the church, the body of believers. He had criticisms of modern developments in Eastern Orthodoxy along with the expected ones towards Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. He really didn’t delve too deeply, if at all, into any of the Eastern Mysticism that so typically unnerves westerners. I highly recommend it.

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