Photo by CRISTIANO DE ASSUNCAO on Unsplash

With the Cross, you shall conquer

By  Angelica Vecchiato, Youth Speak News
  • April 13, 2022

The road to Golgotha is long and arduous. Bewilderment and tension perfuse through the masses, crowding together, eager to catch a glimpse of the blood-soaked figure crouched under the crippling weight of a wooden cross. A Roman centurion, donned in red, kicking up clouds of dust with his sandals, orders brusquely in churlish Latin, “festina, Nazarene.”

These heart-wrenching images depict the anguish of Jesus Christ’s Calvary, an event that young Catholics today find difficult to conceptualize. Since we youngsters are centuries removed from the context and direct implications of Christ’s mystical passion, the fullness of the Easter message can be easily diluted to just another “season” for modern materialism.

But the ultimate sacrifice of the Son of God — relating profoundly to the human experience — should never be haggled for petty economic gain. Analyzing through a spiritual lens, Jesus’ death and resurrection conquered sin, ultimately lighting a pathway to attain eternal life. The occasion to transcend our mere mortal world through the sacrifice of His torturous death is a profession of love, emphasizing the inherent worth of each person.

Although we might be hesitant to admit it, humanity is in a state of bondage. A particular detrimental sentiment of the modern world is to devalue the great magnitude and uniqueness of personhood. Teens, especially scrolling through their social media feed, are inclined to feel “inferior” to their peers, increasing feelings of unworthiness.

However, if God sent His only Son to die for us — a sacrifice commemorated every Sunday at Mass — the ethos of being human is reinforced. Our shackles evaporate because Christ’s sacrifice supports His goodness and divine plan for our lives. This cornerstone idea, professed in the Apostle’s Creed, proves especially relevant in our modern world where life is continually being devalued through secular contrivances such as abortion and euthanasia.

Lesser studied is the temporal connection of the Holy Cross to world history and politics. During Roman times, the Cross elevated as a symbol of victory through Christ’s death. This symbol was integral in establishing the precepts of our Western world.

In the fourth century AD, the Roman empire fell into a great chaos after long-time emperor Diocletian stepped down. Would-be successors quickly began vying for power, fighting gruesome battles for the prestigious title of “Roman emperor.”

The two major players in this fight were brothers-in-law Maxentius and Constantine. Constantine, a pagan, realized he needed divine assistance to help him win his battle and appealed to the “true” God to come to his aid.

The night before a set landmark battle between these two rivals, Constantine, preparing his troops, had a vision of “a cross of light in the heavens” which bore the inscription “in hoc signo vinces,” namely that “in this sign you shall conquer.” Unmistakably understanding this vision as a revelation from the Christian God, Constantine, donning the symbol of the Cross in battle the next day, decisively conquered Maxentius.

Through the fateful skirmish now known as the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (Oct. 28, 312), Constantine gained undisputed power throughout the whole Roman empire.

In the year 313, through the edict of Milan, Constantine legalized Christianity. Effectively, his decree made Christianity the dominant state religion, which influenced lawmaking and politics throughout the expansive Roman empire, upon whose ancient constitutions forged our modern world.

The word cross derives from the Latin word “cruciatus,” meaning suffering, an emblem which by all means, should be considered in the light of dread. Unquestionably however, Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice conquered the Cross — and the world.

(Vecchiato, 17, is completing her Grade 12 year at Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School in North York, Ont.)

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