Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Celtic Cross

My sister had a unique problem when she was planning her wedding. With two brothers who are Anglican priests, who would preside at her wedding? I had the distinct honour of presiding and my brother preached and led the prayers. On her wedding day my sister gave me two gifts, a white stole she hand wove herself and a pectoral cross.

The pectoral cross is a Celtic design. Sometimes it is referred to as an Anglican cross or Episcopal cross. Roman Catholics often call it the Irish cross. You might even hear it called the St. Columba cross, the St. John cross or the Iona cross. Regardless of the name, it’s all the same cross.

'Celtic' actually refers to an old European language that pre-dates Christianity. Crosses found in central and northern Europe seem to retain elements of the pre-Christian culture. Many early examples found in Ireland where erected by missionaries. The purpose of the large stone crosses was to mark preaching stations and monasteries.

There is a story about St. Patrick: while he was living with some Christian converts, he took a standing stone etched with a circle that symbolised a moon goddess, and scratched a Latin cross mark over the circle. This was to show that Christianity had replaced their pagan beliefs.

The Celtic cross has several themes associated with it, such as eternity (everlasting life), the world (for which Christ died), the Eucharist, the crown of thorns and resurrection. It is also suggested that it is a Celtic version of the Chi Rho. The circle in the Celtic cross is therefore the 'P' of the Chi Rho. The circle might have originally represented something else but when the crosses were carved by Christians, they did so with their Christian understanding of God.

This Lent we prepare for the great celebration of Easter, and as we do so we will remember the passion of Jesus Christ. When we talk about the passion we usually mean those events that preceded the crucifixion. In reality, the passion of Christ is about the deep love he has for humanity. My pectoral Celtic cross reminds me that, in the face of many dangers, the love of God triumphs and we can proclaim with confidence that Christ is risen! Alleluia!

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