The Cross Leads Our Way
Originally the concept of tradition, from the Latin meaning “something handed over”, was almost equivalent to inheritance, according to Nelson H.H. Graburn in his work, What is Tradition?. Graburn further tells us tradition was both the means of making a living and the symbols, stories, and memories which gave one both identity and status. Tradition continues to be central and important in society today. Tradition reinforces values such as faith, freedom, integrity and personal responsibility. Tradition celebrates things that are important to us in life. Tradition is important,especially when we look at the Anglican traditions within the Episcopal Church.
Part of the Anglican tradition includes a crucifer or cross bearer carrying a processional cross, which is a long staff topped with a cross, to lead participants into the worship space and at the conclusion of the service, the crucifer leads the participants out with the processional cross as well. Processing behind the cross is an ancient Christian practice found to have been part of worship services prior to the third century according to the writings of M.L. McClure and C.L. Feltoe in The Pilgrimage of Etheria.
As an Episcopal school, our weekly chapel services follow this tradition. A student is selected to have the honor of leading our students to chapel as a crucifer leading our procession across the bridge and into the church sanctuary. The idea of this procession is simple. Holding true to the description given by Greg Goebel in The Processional in Anglican Worship, our students gather outside of our classrooms and school community to follow the cross into a worship space where they are leaving the cares of the world behind and they can focus on drawing near to God. This is why the cross goes before us. When we leave the service, the cross leads our way as we are sent out into the world.
This school year we have a beautiful new cross to use for our worship services. Jake Squiers and Cecil Hunt, St. Cyprian’s church members, designed and crafted a beautiful cross specific to our school. It is a sturdy staff topped by a cross that is a true work of art.
Centered in the middle of the cross is an emblem of the letters IHS. These letters are called a Christogram.In the third century, Christians shortened the name of Jesus by using only the first three letters of His name as written in Greek. In the early centuries of the Church, it was a secret cymbol, often etched on tombs of Christians, according to Philiop Kosloski, author and historian.
What makes this cross unique and especially meaningful is that it is made from wood reclaimed from the St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church organ original to the building located on John Redditt Drive. The church was recently blessed to be able to update and improve their music program by adding a new instrument to their sanctuary.
This repurposed wood has historically heard prayers and praise, sensed joy and sorrow, and looked out at children and their families celebrating and worshiping since 1974.
Tradition is defined as an inherited, established or customary pattern of thought, action or behavior. The tradition of building on our past to connect to our future continues in our Episcopal school. It is an honor for our school’s weekly chapel service to include this symbolic cross. We will continue the customary action of following it into our worship service seeking a time to learn and grow in Christ and allowing it to lead us into the world prepared for the future He has planned for each of us. Thank you Mr. Squires and Mr. Hunt for your thoughtfulness and artistry.
Dr. Sherry Durham