Naming the Cross today

Sandra Palmer reflects with us on recognising the cross in our world today

During the past week a number of people  have posted in our Church Facebook group images of crosses they have at home as well as crosses they see in nature , crosses which have aesthetic value , crosses which link them to a person.

I , too , have such crosses – a brightly coloured one from South America , two Ethiopian crosses, another on the end of rosary beads belonging to my late father, all of which I appreciate in their own way.

But I chose to post a photo of a painting I saw in Donaueschingen in Germany . It is a crude painting in grey and white depicting Christ hanging on the wire fence of a concentration camp.

Does it show God in Christ sharing in the suffering of humanity? an idea expressed eloquently in the novelisation of the life of the medieval monk Peter Abelard by Helen Waddell  and in Carl Jung’s Answer To Job.

Does it say that when we inflict suffering on another being , we inflict suffering on God ?

Sadly  we know that the concentration camps were not the only places of great suffering .
I am currently reading Carmen Callil’s life about her ancestors who were transported to Australia from Leicester in the 1800 s , not so long ago in the great scheme of things . The lives of the poor and the cruelty to children was horrific , as was indeed the slave trade , much of the harm inflicted by good Christian men , though ,of course , Christians were also vocal reformers. Attitudes then to ‘ the poor ‘ are echoed today in the division between deserving and undeserving and the fear that welfare payments will encourage people to idle at home.I have also seen children in Nepal scavenging for food , working on brick camps. Cruelty and suffering is woven into the history of the world.

I have problems with the elevation of death of Jesus to a unique death , cruel above all other.  Yes, truly it was a nasty, painful ,agonising  brutish death , undeserved not only by Jesus but by the two men who hang at his side . They may have been robbers, insurrectionists or even murderers but even they did not deserve such a death. Whatever else it did, the death of Jesus proclaimed that the innocent suffer .

Seeing the cross starts for me in the recognition of  pain , cruelty and suffering in our world.  We are NOT God , we do not have the capacity to bear that pain and suffering on our own , but we can name it and strive to alleviate it .

About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
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