"Behold the word of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world". These are the words said by the priest or deacon on Good Friday as the Holy Cross is shown to the people.
Good Friday is a day that is filled with moments that give us pause. It is the day that the Church gives us to enter into the mystery of Christ's death. On Good Friday we are given the chance to sit with the uncomfortable fact that for our salvation Jesus, the Son of God, died for us. Not only did he die, he died in a most horrific way.
One of the hazards of Good Friday is that we overly individualize the action of Christ. Of course, he died for each of us and in doing so won salvation for each of us. But I think it is also worth remembering that we are told he hung on the cross for the salvation of the world. When we look at the Cross on Good Friday we need to see not just our own salvation, but the salvation of the whole world.
The Church, as she so often does, gives us a chance on Good Friday to meditate on that as well. Before the Adoration of the Holy Cross, we pray the Solemn Intercessions. Here, on Good Friday, the Church remembers the whole world: we pray for the Church, for the Pope, for the faithful, for the catechumens, for the unity of Christians, for the Jews (where we ask God that he "may grant them to advance in love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant), for those who do not believe in Christ, for those who do not believe in God, for those in public office, and for those in tribulation. In other words, we pray for everyone. It makes sense then that after we remember the needs of the whole world, we adore the Cross that brought salvation to the whole world.
If you're anything like me, sometimes this is a very hard thing to accept. "But what about…" and we (or at least I) fill in the names of people that I think are so horrible that I cannot imagine that God would want to save them. It is easy to look at the evil in the world and think there is no way God could save those responsible for it. Or perhaps it is that we look at the world and think that God has forgotten the world entirely. Thank God, Christ's act on the Cross is bigger than me and what I can imagine.
Saint Augustine said, "The death of the Lord our God should not be a cause of shame for us; rather it should be our greatest hope, our greatest glory."
In the Cross we see not just our own individual salvation, but the salvation of the whole world. We see that we have a God who was willing to be handed over not just for the best of us, but for the worst of us. In the Cross we see the salvation of the whole world.
"We adore your Cross, O Lord, we praise and glorify your holy Resurrection, for behold, because of the wood of a tree joy has come to the whole word".
Rebecca Spellacy is the Associate Director of Liturgy for the Office of Formation for Discipleship at the Archdiocese of Toronto.