My parish has many lovely traditions and displays, but one in particular struck me and continues to strike me every year. There is a wooden cross on display outside our church during Lent, and another inside. Both are handmade at our parish each year — from our Christmas trees.
At the top of the cross is the abbreviated sign: Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum; to the Jews: This is your king. Above that sign there is another, a reminder of what has been done while the wood is green, a reminder of the baby we worshiped in his manger bed not so long ago. To all of us: this is the Christ child.
It reminds us, too, that the parts of our faith are interconnected, that the stories we read and hear are one story. They’re His story. (To say that history is “his story” is terrible etymology, but it’s wonderful theology.)
The road to Bethlehem we take in Advent turns, in Lent, inexorably toward Calvary. The Christmas tree points to the cross. The child born in the house of bread (“Bet Lehem”) offers bread become His Body. The baby laying in a feeding trough becomes our sacred food.
If we follow the star at Christmas, we must follow the cross in Lent. And if we follow the cross in Lent, we can, then, continue on to Easter. Like Christ — in Christ — we endure; we suffer with Him to rise with Him. The Christmas tree leads to the cross, but the cross leads to the empty tomb.
A blessed Triduum to all of you, and a Joy-filled Easter