Sunday Reflection, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14): Freedom of the Cross

“[I]n spite of the profound readjustments that are being made in our phenomenal vision of the world, the Cross still stands; it rears itself up ever more erect at the common meeting place of all values and all problems, deep in the heart of mankind. It marks and must continue more than ever to mark the division between what rises and what falls back. But this is on one condition, and one only: that it expand itself to the dimensions of [today]. — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  The readings can be found here. This week’s reflection comes from David W. Parsons, author of the outstanding blog Elias Icons.  (Mr. Parsons’ blog was inspired by Teilhard de Chardin so I feel like he is a kindred spirit). I encourage you to read the entire reflection here but set forth below is an extended excerpt:

“The cross plays a key role in Teilhard’s approach to the Sacred Heart as the symbol of  God’s  evolutionary design for His creation. . . . Teilhard wants us to  see the Sacred Heart in a new way.  He wants us to look deep into the image and get beyond what we see.   We have to get into the Sacred Heart ‘within’ the image.  And furthermore, he believed  that by doing this  – seeing differently and more intensively – the Sacred Heart could serve to become a symbol which could embody a more forward looking vision of Christianity which would take account of  what we now know about the world and the cosmos.   It could serve as a way of promoting  a Christianity which is open to what science  and research can tell us about God’s creation and the place of Christianity in the modern world.

* * *

Teilhard also wants us to penetrate the appearance of THE most important image in the Christian faith : the Cross.  It is, of course, primarily, as he admitted,  a symbol  of atonement and expiation.  But the cross means so much more than this, and if Christianity was to be relevant to the modern world it had to explore the deeper meaning of the Cross we see being exalted in the icon.

* * *

What this means is that when we look at the cross we see ‘suffering, dying, freeing’.  But we should look again. Look deeper. Look at the cross from a cosmic  perspective.  We now see Christ as not just bearing  the weight of our sin: he is bearing the weight of the pain and suffering that is the consequence of a universe that is evolving.  When we see the cross in this way we see the enormity of the truth of the redemptive Cross but it now becomes ‘much more true’. (219)   When we see the Cross  as a symbol of God who has humbly become flesh to progress and advance OUR evolution and the evolution of the universe itself we better understand  the scale and immensity of what the Cross represents.   So just as we have to EXPAND our understanding of the Sacred Heart, we have to expand our understanding of the cross.

* * *

We now see the Cross as raised to new and  awesome heights: a dynamic and complete symbol of a God who has entered fully and completely into the pain of being a conscious and reflective member of the species homo sapiens.  On the cross we see the Word of God made flesh who out of love has penetrated fully and completely human history and evolution.

Read Full Reflection

Elias Icons Blog
Creighton Online Ministries
Fr. Robert Barron Sermon

About William Ockham

I am a father of two with eclectic interests in theology, philosophy and sports. I chose the pseudonym William Ockham in honor of his contributions to philosophy, specifically Occam's Razor, and its contributions to modern scientific theory. My blog ( explores Ignatian Spirituality and the intersection of faith, science and reason through the life and writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (pictured above).
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5 Responses to Sunday Reflection, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14): Freedom of the Cross

  1. Thank you. The cross as “bearing the pain and suffering of the universe that is evolving”. Also a symbol of the meeting that is life, the points that join and intersect. Perhaps if milo Wolff is right and that material is simply the points of concentration in the vast wave network that is the whole connected universe.. The. Does the cross as symbol in this sense not become entire real. Our God made material, joining us as Love and dying to save us.

  2. I’ve never considered the Holy Cross in the context of our evolution. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Michael says:

    I really like the way Teilhard, as described here, was a writer and thinker willing to go into the symbols of Christiantiy and broaden their depth– bring their meaning to a richer, fuller field of view. Even in these glimpses here they take on a superposition of meaning that is at once lighter than, deeper than, and more accessible than the experiences I had of these symbols when I first encountered them.


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