Thursday, June 9, 2011

Crosses


Crosses have been on my mind lately. The new cross I wear, wall crosses, crosses on baby ribbon for baptisms, crosses safety-pinned on baby's clothes, crosses on graves, invisible crosses that we carry. We are surrounded by crosses and sometimes take them for granted.

Focusing on one specific cross, the cross that we wear, I would ask, why do we wear it? We're given a cross at baptism and generally wear it for the rest of our lives (replacing as needed when baby yanks it off your neck). Is it a symbol of Christ? A sign to others that we're Christians? A good-luck charm to keep accidents away? A pretty pendant?

When we were getting ready to bury Innocent, the morning of the burial I came across a small gold cross with a broken loop at the top. It occurred to me to put it in the casket with him to be buried with. I wavered back and forth - wanting to because he never was baptized and didn't have a cross but hating that the broken loop reminded me that his body was broken. In the end I didn't put it in. We buried him and there is a beautiful carved cross marking his grave. That cross is a symbol of the resurrection. One day Innocent's body will be resurrected and joined with his soul.

So why didn't I put the cross in the casket with him? Well, I looked again at why we give crosses at baptisms. These crosses remind us that we will carry the cross of Christ throughout our lives. "As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ, Alleluia." We put on Christ when we wear the cross. We remember his suffering, death and resurrection, acknowledging that we too will suffer for and with Christ, will die and be resurrected with him. At baptism we are grafted onto the Church of Christ. We are given the tools to struggle to live an Orthodox life so that eventually we may enter the Kingdom of God.

So what of Innocent? He didn't have to struggle. He didn't have to fight the temptations and trials of this world. He received a card, "Go directly to Heaven. Do not pass birth. Do not collect troubles, fears and temptations." He was born directly into the Heavenly Kingdom - he did not have to 'put on Christ', put on armour to fortify him for life in this fallen world. His path was not that of the cross.

This also helps me not to feel irrationally bad that he 'didn't get to be baptized'. Being baptized would not have put him into some higher level of Heaven when he died. For those who must live in this world, we need the church and its resources and tools (in the form of communion, confession, etc.) to help us. For those who will not live in this world, this is irrelevant. Their unblemished souls arrive in Heaven, no worse for the (lack of) wear and not stigmatized by the lack of baptism.

If you had a child who died before birth and thus was not baptized, do not despair. Your beautiful child is waiting for you in Heaven. And struggling to live on without them is now another golden cross around your neck. Be worthy of that cross!

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