Many Protestant churches live up to their name in that they protest against icons. In fact, some of them are even wary of celebrating Communion or Baptism lest they become a tradition of men and lose any meaning. They fear that we will begin to live by works.
We do need to be careful of any ritual becoming more important than the very thing it represents. However, when looking in Scripture, God is pretty ritualistic. Even in the New Testament, Jesus asks us to partake in Communion, be baptized in water and instructs us in the manner that we should pray.
A few years ago, I found a beautiful sterling cross at a tag sale. Not many of my friends wear crosses, but those who do definitely don’t wear this kind. It has picture of Mary and Jesus and two other characters on it. It is beautiful. I believe that each of the pictures depict a different portion of Jesus’ life. For the remainder of the lenten season, I’m going to wear my lovely cross, and by so doing, I hope to remind myself of Jesus’ commitment to mankind, and to me in particular.
One of my writing mentors, Madeleine L’Engle speaks often of icons. She liked to have certain icons around for different seasons of the Christian calendar. For instance, she carried a seed in her pocket during lent. She did this to remind herself that although things in her life may seem dead and lifeless, and although the winter seems to never want to relinquish itself and give itself over to the hope of spring, there is the hope of a seed. But before there is the hope of a seed, there is the sting of death. The seed must first die and find its home in the dark, cold recesses of half-frozen soil. Then and only then, can the seed live up to its potential. Jesus was the great Seed planted in the ground for three days and raising from the dead so that you and I can become everything we can be.
So, for the rest of this lenten season, I will also carry a seed in my pocket.
It’s humorous to me how that people who have grown up around ritualistic religion see very little beauty and significance in it. Mostly because it became something habitual, and therefore not real to them. But to my eyes and heart, a heart that’s hungry for experience, ritual gives an opportunity to experience Christ through the senses. When I need to know that He is near, I can touch the cross around my neck. When I’m discouraged because I think that my circumstances are never going to improve, I can pull out my seed and remember that I must die to my desires and give myself to the DNA of the seed placed in me. When I feel that I am no good, I can take Communion and remember that Christ is in me, whether you believe it to be literally or figuratively.
9 thoughts on “The Sterling Cross and the Seed”
When Madeline L’Engle spoke about icons in Walking on Water, I have seen them in a completely different light. Even though I’m not Catholic, I spent quite a bit of time in mass in 2010. I found all the rituals fascinating and really enjoyed learning their traditions.
I know, me too! I have been raised in a fundamental home, and now attend a full-gospel church. Many of the people there used to be Catholic and because of their background all they see in tradition and ritual is boredom and death. I guess, we just have to make whatever we do “fresh”, kind of like a good marriage.
On another note, I’m so glad to hear from someone who has followed Madeleine down the same road I have! What a kindred spirit. Please keep in touch!
The medal is what I know as a scapular medal. These were traditional First Communion or Confirmation gifts. They are meant to be worn all of the time. In addition to the points you make about icons, the common rituals and icons unite Catholics. A scapular medal, meant that person across the room shares a faith history with me. I miss that symbolism. Keep up the good work.
Thank you so much for telling me more about my precious find. Although I’m not Catholic, I feel like the medal has united us in a way….Once again, I LOVE your blog.
I’m glad someone identified your icon….now you know what you have. It’s lovely and it’s meaning so significant. A few years back I found a lovely basic piece of metal on a cord of leather, one side said “Jesus is Lord” and the other side said the same thing in Latin. I loved it and wore it all the time until the cord broke. I think these kind of icons hold meaning for the wearer…but can also, (I had so many comments on it, from people I came in contact with) that it is also a witness to our faith in Christ and can perhaps encourage others. Because I would wear the Latin side to be viewed, people would ask me, “What does that mean?”…and I could say with a heart of happiness as I turned it over, “Jesus is Lord”.
We need to get you a replacement cord…it should be easy enough.
Sometimes these icons are referred to as “sacramentals”. I understand that because sin many ways they serve as outward signs, and they can be grace-giving. At the very least, your cross served as a beacon of faith. I hope you find a suitable replacement for the cord.
This medal is called a “Four-Way Cross.” Traditionally, the top portion features the Sacred Heart of Jesus, while the bottom is the Miraculous Medal of Mary. One of the “arms” features St. Christopher; the other, St. Joseph. The Holy Spirit is depicted in the center (this could have been a Confirmation gift). More info here:
Thanks for the info Debbie!!! Hope you visit again.