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Holy Cross: The History and Myths

Holy Cross: The History and Myths 4
A painting of the cross by Salvador Dali.

The omnipresent representation of the Christian faith is the Holy Cross, also known as the Christian Cross is an emblem of Christ’s victory over death. But how many of us are aware of the fact that the Cross was a sign of faith much before Christianity came to existence and was widely used in many areas throughout the centuries.

Research has concluded that the Cross was originally founded in the ancient Babylonian society. Slowly, it spread into countries such as Syria, Egypt, Greece, India, and Mexico.

All About the Holy Cross

The pre-Christian Cross was a religious mark and also used as a mere ornament. The early uses of the Cross were in the ankh or crux ansata, an Egyptian Hieroglyph representing “Life,” the Sun Cross which is a Solar Symbol that denotes the sun chariot, the Swastika earlier found in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism as a sign of good luck and prosperity and historically adopted as the sign of Nazism in the 20th century.

The cross sign also appears in the Roman Numerals, Chinese Rod Numerals, and the Brahmi Numerals.

Holy Cross: The History and Myths 5

                                                          The Sun Cross                                                                                                                                                                                          The first sign of the Holy Cross in rendition to Christianity is around 2nd century AD, and it is known to have its ancient roots in paganism where it was used for worship and sex rites. The pagans even believe that the Christians stole the idea of the Cross from them. The Cross as an instrument of Jesus’ Crucifixion was a T shaped structure that comprised of a vertical wooden beam and on which was added a transom, which is a horizontal wooden beam that ultimately leads to the formation of the “Cruciform.”

John Pearson, Bishop of Chester (c.1660) wrote that the Greek word stauros originally meant “a straight standing Stake, Pale, or Palisador,” but that, “when other transverse or important parts were added in a perfect Cross, it retained still the Original Name,” and he mentioned:

“The Form then of the Cross on which Jesus suffered was not simple, but a compounded Figure, going by the Custom of the Romans, by whose Procurator he was condemned to die, where there was not only a straight and erected piece of Wood fixed in the Earth but also a horizontal beam fastened unto that towards the top thereof.”

In the Book of John in the Gospels, in some translations of Psalm 21:16, it is mentioned that Jesus himself says that the soldiers pierced his hands and feet. Although, physical evidence of the remains crucified victims states that it is not possible to just simply nail a person on a cross as the bones would not be able to support the weight of the body. So, the Romans at least need some sort of rope to tie the victims to the Cross that would eventually lead to the death of these unfortunate victims through suffocation or strangulation rather than loss of blood.

A detailed study of the original Cross that was scattered in the FormForm of relics leads to the fact that it was made from a pine tree. According to some evidence, it can be concluded that the Cross of Jesus Christ was about 11 meters long and 6 inches wide.                      HolyCross                                             The crucifixion of  Jesus Christ                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 It is also mentioned in the Gospel of John that Jesus Christ himself carried the Cross up a hill called Golgotha. Still, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke states that they made Simon of Cyrene carry it for him as he was too weak after the severe flogging. Then again, facts say that Romans usually had the Cross already put up there before the crucifixion and maybe even if the victims did have to carry it, they only carried the horizontal beam.

The Christians were not really proud of using this barbaric symbol as the symbol for their faith and that’s why earlier they preferred to use the Staurogram which was also used in the manuscripts of the New Testaments. By the 3rd century, the Cross had become so famous that Clement of Alexandria coined the term “the Lord’s sign” for it. Tertullian in his book De Corona, says about the extensive use of the Cross by the followers of Christianity. However, the Crucifix which is a Cross with Jesus Christ on it does not come in public eye before 6th century AD.                                                                                                          Holy Cross: The History and Myths 6                                 An illustration of Jesus Christ carrying the Cross The oldest sign of the Lord crucified comes on a jasper gemstone in what appears to be something that can be used as an amulet, and this was presumably from the 2nd century. Before the death of Christ, the Cross was privately used by the Christians. After the death of Christ and Constantine sitting on the throne of Rome, which was about 300 years after that, the use of the Cross gains popularity like never before. King Constantine was a pagan himself, but he converted to Christianity and the practice of using the Holy Cross was widely spread for pagans to easily embrace the Christian faith. According to the Jewish beliefs, the Cross was a sign that was used to ward off demons.                                                  Holy Cross: The History and Myths 7                                                   Constantine the Great                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Catholics, Orthodox Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, Lutheranists and Anglicans, all regarded the Cross as a sign of their faith. The Exaltation of the Cross is one of the Great Feasts that of the Orthodox Catholics. It is celebrated to remember the day when Helena of Constantinopole, who was the mother of Constantine the Great, had reportedly discovered the original Holy Cross on the 14th of September.

The Catholic Church also conducts this feast under the name of the Triumph of the Cross. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican bishops use the (+) Cross in their signatures. The (†) cross is usually used while writing the names of the deceased. In Methodist Churches, the altar cross sits on an elevated platform in a place of importance, and the use of it cannot be traced back before the 13th century. In Baptist Churches, it sits in the Baptistry. Most churches of the various branches of Christianity have crosses carved in their doors, windows, and walls.

Christian homes, schools, hospitals, and various other organisations bear signs of the Holy Cross. The Holy Cross is also carried in processions and this is being done since the time of St. Augustine of Canterbury in the 7th century. Some individuals like to carry it around as an ornament of faith in Jesus or keep it in their pockets for protection.

The earliest ornament of the Holy Cross was in the possession of Queen Theodelinda in the sixth century and it can still be found in the treasury of Monza. Many believers of this faith make the sign of Cross during praying where they touch their forehead, chest, and two shoulders. The sign of the Holy Cross is also used to repel evil forces of nature and it can be seen in many popular works of fiction that how powerfully it destroys the unnatural.        Holy Cross: The History and Myths 8                                                         An altar cross                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     In the early Christian Era, the Holy Cross wasn’t exactly very popular. Some even accused them of mock worshiping the Cross. Later, the use of the Cross came to prominence. Martin Luther, in the 1660s, at the time of Reformation gave importance to the Holy Cross and wrote: Crux sola est nostra theologia, which translates to “the cross alone is our theology”.

In the times of the Great Iconoclasm in the 16th century, a practice of rejection of the worshiping of sacred images and objects started, and the worship of the Cross was not encouraged. A certain group of Anglicans with reformed traditions such as Nicholas Ridley, James Calfhill and Theodore Beza, considered the Cross as one of the “relics of Papacy” and discouraged the use of it by saying it was a form of idol worship. In September 1641, Sir Robert Hurley destroyed the Cross at Wigmore, and the Presbyterian iconoclasts destroyed the historic Ruthwell Cross.

Jehovah’s Witnesses associated with the Bible Student Movement rejects the use of the Holy Cross, saying it is a form of worship. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Mormon Church says that they do not consider the Holy Cross an important part of their methods of worship because it embodies the dying Christ, whereas their main credence is a message of declaration by the living Christ.                                                                                                                                              Holy Cross: The History and Myths 9                                   An ornament consisting the Holy Cross

 

The power of the Holy Cross has fluctuated from the beginning of its existence. Some group of believers accepted and others rejected it strongly whereas there were certain group of individuals for whom the existence of the Cross never really could have made any difference. But till the present, the Holy Cross does have its own share of engrossing history and myths.

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