Given at Our Lady of the Assumption & Saint Gregory, Warwick Street:
In a few moments we will participate in what, to the world, must seem to be a ritual which is at best peculiar, and at worst perverse. In solemn procession, the very instrument by which our Lord and Saviour was executed will be carried aloft through the body of the church, to be adored and venerated. We will kneel and we will kiss the wood of the cross to which, because of our sins, our Lord was nailed. It is a sign of extreme contradiction, calling the cross the Crux fidelis inter omnes – the ‘faithful cross above all other’, the ‘one and only noble tree’.
This contradiction, though, shouldn’t surprise us: the Christian life is full of such juxtapositions. Today we ‘sing the praise of him who died’; tomorrow we rejoice at the felix culpa, the ‘happy fault’ of Adam’s sin, and at the paschal waters of the baptismal font we even talk about dying in order to live. Such contradictions not only speak clearly of the truths of our religion – the way we understand the fundamental nature of the life we share in Christ – but they are the source of our hope. In the face of inevitable earthly death, we Christians are given the hope of eternal life, and so we look gladly towards that moment when this life will be changed into the life offered to us in Christ. In the face of every human fear and anxiety, we are presented with joy and hope because, in the action of Christ on the cross – the very thing we celebrate today – death has been put to death, and in his resurrection we can join with Mary Magdalene in the beautiful Sequence for Easter Day, as we say, Surrexit Christus spes mea – Christ my hope is arisen.