Why do churches have crosses
The symbol of the cross
Origin - distribution - meaning
One of the oldest and at the same time most important symbols of mankind is the cross. Based on archaeological finds, it is known that the cross was already used by people in the Stone Age as a symbol for a kind of "universal formula". In almost all cultures the symbol of the cross occurs in various variations and folds, be it as an ankh cross (symbol of immortality) for the ancient Egyptians or as a Celtic cross for the tribe of the same name.
The greatest spread of this symbol came from the crucifixion (a popular method of execution for criminals in the Roman Empire at that time) of Jesus of Nazareth. It was then the apostle Paul who made the symbol of the cross the central theme of his theology and thus laid the foundation for further dissemination. The first Christians blessed with the sign of the cross very early, but the first pictorial representations did not take place until the 3rd century (other symbols such as fish and the Christ monogram XP were in the foreground). With the end of the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire and the recognition of Christianity by the Roman state, the public use of the cross began and the cross became an official symbol.
Meaning of the symbol of the cross
Today the cross is the most important symbol for Christendom, referring to the redemption of humanity from suffering and death through Jesus Christ. It symbolizes his sacrificial death. In addition, the symbolism of the cross can also be interpreted as follows: The connection between horizontal and vertical marks the relationship between humans and God (on the vertical axis) and with others (on the horizontal axis).
During Lent and especially on Good Friday, the symbol of the cross or the death on the cross of Jesus Christ is thought and modeled in a very special way.
A very detailed article in the Archives of the Lord's Day explains various forms of the cross such as
- Peter cross
- Andrew's Cross
- Jerusalem cross
- Greek cross
- Pope Cross
- Handle cross
What does the cross mean for us?
Above all, the sign of the cross expresses the atonement which Jesus Christ achieved through his death on this very cross for our salvation and for the salvation of the whole world (see 1 Jn 2: 2 and Rom 6: 9). That act of redemption of Christ ("Passio Domini") must be recalled again and again, and we are also called upon to participate in it ourselves (cf. Col 1:24).
From this mystery we are to draw strength and readiness daily to participate in the mission of the Church by “serving the salvation and renewal of all creatures, so that everything may be gathered together in Christ” (Second Vatican Council, Missionary Decree).
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