Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Beauty of Orthodoxy: Carrying the Cross a "Socio-Cultural" Reality

[For those unfamiliar with the series of reflections that I've recently posted under the heading, "The Beauty of Orthodoxy": orthodoxy refers to "right" belief with regard to a particular religious confession, Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, etc... It is a term that is especially important with respect to organized religions that are based on revelation and the dogma and doctrines that flow from it. "Rightness" of belief is not merely precise and correct articulation, but, more importantly, an appreciation for the breadth of what makes up our faith. For example, it is correct to assert that Jesus is Son of God, but without a corresponding appreciation for the fullness of his humanity, one would not be very orthodox. This series aims to "expand" our appreciation of what makes up our Christian faith by pointing out areas of the faith that have been overlooked or under-appreciated and that are in need of being recovered to meet the challenges of the 21st Century]

Very often when we hear the phrase that Christians must "carry the cross" we think of the Cross as a personal or interpersonal symbol. A "personal" cross might be a bout with an illness that we've come to believe is meant to draw us into closer communion with Christ. An "interpersonal" cross might be struggling to show compassion to someone we are in relationship with who is a bit challenging. Without a doubt the cross is a symbol which not only points to the passion and sacrifice of the Lord for the sake of others but equally points to how our life is meant to be united to this self-same passion and sacrifice in a very personal and interpersonal manner.

On the other hand, the cross is also a symbol that has dynamic implications for the social and cultural realm of life. Consider Paul's letter to the Ephesians (today's first reading from Mass, c.f., http://www.usccb.org/nab/101910.shtml). In Ephesians 2:12-22, Paul elaborates how Christ broke down the "enmity" (hatred, animosity) between Jew and Gentile through his blood and Cross in order to reconcile both and create peace and unity. What this ultimately implies is that the Cross is a symbol which points to the profound initiative of God in Christ and Holy Spirit to unite all persons regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, party affiliation, etc...

Part of the tension and conflict that has plagued humanity throughout the ages, and that afflicts us now, is the tendency to try to delineate who is "in" versus who is "out". Many separate, divide, and label others based on skin color, economic well-being, class, religion, ethnicity, immigration status, citizenship, etc.... Such separation creates unnecessary division, tension, and eventual conflict.

To bear the cross in our day and to be a disciple of Christ, it is essential to not only bear our personal and interpersonal "crosses", but to also follow the Apostle Paul's example by bearing the "socio-cultural" cross. It means putting our faith and discipleship at the fore of our self identity (rather than citizenship, social status, party affiliation, etc....). It also implies seeing all persons as sister and brother with one God as Father and Jesus Christ as brother, regardless of their difference from us. Pat, TOR