“So great and outstanding a possession is the cross that he who wins it has won a treasure.” – St. Andrew of Crete
This is complicated, isn’t it? Today crosses come in all shapes, sizes, and functions. You can find them encrusted with diamonds around the necks of celebrities. You can find them in stylized wall hangings, set in craft stores alongside distressed wood signs advising us to “Live – Laugh – Love.” St. Andrew of Crete lived in the seventh century. For St. Andrew, the cross would have retained its original, terrible value as a method of execution. Here we come to the great paradox of Christianity: a method of death as a means to life, a “treasure,” and cause of triumph.
Today’s feast, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, reminds us that we’re not only stewards of our gifts. We’re also stewards of our sufferings.
Our cultural approach to suffering is interesting. We recognize its value when we have goals to achieve. We put in extra effort to receive a promotion, push our body to the limit training for a triathlon, and work two jobs to support our families. Yet when suffering creeps into our inner life, we tend to shy away. There’s a reason we hand out participation trophies to every kid rather than let them go home empty-handed. It’s easier to hide from our sorrow than it is to face it.
Deciding to live as an everyday steward doesn’t necessarily make our lives any “easier” in the usual sense of the world. Living as an everyday steward, as a mature disciple, we are committing to following a Lord and Master who said, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
We all face suffering in this life. This feast reminds us that, as Christians, we find our solace in a crucified God. Our suffering is real, but God himself is not exempt. The Light of the World passes through the darkest of nights only to return glorified. The cross is the sign of the starkest of life’s realities and yet, somehow, when you know the rest of the story, it is the most profound of joys.
Today’s Office of Readings contains more from St. Andrew of Crete: “Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. […] Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled. Therefore, the cross is something wonderfully great and honorable.”
As everyday stewards, we are mindful that each moment is a chance to encounter God and offer his love to others. In our own crosses, we are entrusted with opportunities to persevere in love and share in Christ’s resurrection, in the triumph of his cross.