The Sterling Cross and the Seed

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.

What Does The Book of Common Prayer Have In Common With a Hallmark Card?

Surprisingly, I am still finding quite a bit of life while reading the same prayers everyday. This is a new experience for me, and although I know that as I communicate with God that it is more about relationship than it is about ritual, I also believe that there are times in our lives in which we embrace relationship through ritual.

For instance, a wedding is a symbolic ritual which brings forth a new relationship. Two individuals become one. I can see how reading through any book, whether it be the Book of Common Prayer or the Prayers That Avail Much, can either bless or hinder a person. If this is the only form of communication I have with God, it resembles a Hallmark card to which I only sign my name. I let someone else say what I need to or feel like saying. However, if I write a love letter to someone expressing my feelings in my own words, they may not be worthy of a greeting card, but they are treasured as sincere.

So I guess one of the things I’ve found on my journey of liturgy is that liturgy is fine, but I need to add my own personal message before signing off. Otherwise, I’ve handed God a cheap greeting card.