Rev. Anthony is a Coptic Orthodox monk from St. Shenouda Monastery in Australia. He completed his Master of Arts in Ancient History at Macquarie University and is currently working to earn his Doctor of Philosophy on the subject of the Arrow Prayer. In the monastery, Father Anthony collaborates with many young people to produce Orthodox-inspired books and music.
Leading up to Holy Week, the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, it is important to learn what the cross is and what it means to us. The cross today is a sign of glory and victory to many people. To some it’s a fashion statement. But during the time of Jesus, it was none of this.
During the time of Jesus, the cross was the most shameful way of death. It was so shameful that, for a Roman citizen—which was a very highly privilege at the time—it was never permitted for even the worst of Roman criminals to be crucified. In the Jewish culture it was a curse for someone to be crucified, as it says in the book of Deuteronomy (21: 23)
“Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”
So the same way Jesus chose the poorest way to be born, he also chose the most shameful way to die. Now lets contrast this image of the cross before Jesus’ crucifixion and how we Christians look at the sign of the cross today. We hang it up on our churches. We wear it on our necks. We tattoo it on out hands. We celebrate feasts to commemorate it. And we write songs about it. We give all of this honor to the cross because Jesus was crucified on it.
Jesus took something that is very shameful and made it a sign of power and pride. Can you imagine the disciples going out to preach? Can you imagine the reaction of the listeners when they hear that the God that they are preaching was crucified? St. Paul was very aware of this when he was preaching, when he said, “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”
But this was not the end of the story, as he continues, “but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1: 23-4)
Healing Love of Christ’s Sacrifice
This same principle applies to my life and yours. Think of the aspect of your life that you think is most shameful, whether it is looks, skin color, disease, disability, past sin, etc.—which will not be as shameful as Jesus being crucified—and be assured that Jesus is able to transform this weakness and shame into a power and pride. We are assured of this because of the many examples of people that Jesus transformed, turning their shame into power.
Remember the saints who came from different backgrounds, thieves, adulterers, tax collectors, despised women of the society? He made their weakness and shame become the source of their power and mission. St. Moses the Ethiopian, who spent the hours of the night in sin? After meeting Christ, he spent his nights in prayers. St. Mary of Egypt who lived with the reputation as a harlot? Her reputation was transformed to be the saint of repentance. And St. Pauls’s disease became a source of healing for many people.
Let’s spend sometime this Holy Week looking at what we consider to be most shameful and rest assured that Jesus is able to transform this shame into power for the glory of His holy name.
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