Sunday, February 22, 2015

I Have a Cross...You, Too?

Take up your cross and follow. That's one of the familiar phrases from the gospel reading for Lent 2B (Mark 8:31-38). An image search for the phrase yields many, many (many!) silhouetted figures against a sunset. The icon below offers a different visual as saints take up their crosses and follow Jesus. Like all icons, space is not dealt with realistically. Human figures do get smaller as they recede back in space, but there are only half-figures - no legs extend below any of the cross bars. But the intent is clear in the text in the top right quadrant of Christ's cross: 
ἀπαρνησάσθω ἑαυτὸν ἀράτω καὶ σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι
let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me
The placement and pattern of the crosses calls to mind the pattern of the polystavrion (poly- "many", stauros, "cross"), the liturgical vestment worn by bishops and pictured in the icon below (The Three Holy Hierarchs - Sts. Basil the Great, John Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian). The tessellated crosses and repeated patterns create a bold geometric graphic that looks quite modern. 
But more than just the modern feel, those cross-covered vestments might help us think about the gospel reading in a new way. The icon of those who have taken up their crosses might be merged with the cross-covered vestments. Those wearing the vestments might be helping to carry the crosses of their brothers and sisters in Christ who have taken up their own cross and are following Jesus. While Jesus said that each of us must take up our own cross, is it not true that as followers of Christ, as children of God, we do not follow alone. Rather, borrowing from a well-known rock band, we get to carry each other...or at least share in the carrying of each other's crosses. We get to.


Perhaps a fabric artist in your congregation could help design and fabricate a quilt to embody this idea. People could create "their" cross - perhaps just the cross with their name - in a block that is part of a quilt that moves from one member's home to another, reminding us that we each carry our own cross and share in carrying one another's.

Black and white image from asimplelife Quilts: http://asimplelifequilts.blogspot.com/2014/02/plus-value.html


Check Art&Faith Matters' Facebook page to think about a time when someone helped Jesus carry his cross.

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