Easter Message from W Bro Rev'd Aled Lewis, Provincial Grand Chaplain

W Bro Rev'd Aled Lewis, Provincial Grand Chaplain

 

As Freemasons we are very well acquainted with the potency of symbols, how something tangible can say so much to us in our understanding of the greater truths represented.  While they can say so much to us, those symbols which are most effective convey more than can be put in to words, and offer us a focus for our thoughts and meditations when we return to them time and again.

 

Symbols also have the benefit of being widely recognisable to one degree or another.  The Square and Compasses for example are recognised symbols of Freemasonry to the uninitiated world.  Quizzes based on symbols and logos can be quite fun, as you rack your brain trying to put the name to the company of organisation represented by the image.

 

The most important symbol in my life, and one which I have been meditating on a lot this last week in particular, is the Cross.  I think that it is fair to say that for most, the Cross is the primary symbol of Christianity although there are many other symbols for the religion.  Whenever I think of the Cross I am always amazed and wonder at how the Cross has become such a powerful symbol.

 

The Cross is of course the cross of Calvary on which Jesus Christ died.  Last Friday, on Good Friday Christians kept the annual memorial of Jesus’ death.  On Good Friday we cannot escape or hide from the horror of the Cross, the terrible pain and suffering Jesus endured as he died on the Cross between midday and three o’clock in the afternoon.  It is not a pretty sight, it churns the stomach thinking about it.

 

This is the Cross which Christians venerate!  How on earth can that be?  The instrument of suffering and death…  The conundrum was immediately evident to the first Christians.  The Apostle Paul writing in his First Letter to the Corinthians expresses the starting point

“The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. …but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

 

Jesus’ death makes no rational sense, Jesus’ death on the Cross makes even less sense.  It was a challenge to the Jews, Greeks and Romans at the time and it remains a challenge for us today.  How and why does God choose and intend this from the beginning of time?  The cleverest academics and the most devout Christians have puzzled over this and continue to do so as we try to understand the ways of God which can be so different to our ways.  We have no single answer that silences our questions, and so we can but continue to ponder the mystery of the Cross, and perhaps that it was is intended.

 

Notwithstanding this, the actual Cross has been very important to Christians since early times.  Legend has it that the three crosses of Calvary were discovered in Jerusalem by St Helena (the mother of the first Christian Roman Emperor Constantine – who incidentally abolished crucifixion as a means of execution) and a miracle identified the Cross of Jesus.  From early in the 3rd Century a special service has been held in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre (the preferred site for Jesus’ burial and resurrection) commemorating the day on which the crosses were re-discovered.  It is questionable to what extent this legend is true, but it does not in any way deter from the importance of the Cross. 

 

The truth is of course that the Christian Cross is not only the Cross of Good Friday.  Christians are Christians not because of Good Friday but because of Easter Day, the joyful day celebrated today, when Jesus defeated death and rose to life on the third day after he died on the Cross.  That is what gives the Cross its glory.  The Cross is seen in a new light, in the light of Jesus’ resurrection.  The Cross becomes the tree of life.

 

Perhaps the great potency of the Cross is that it speak of both at once – it speaks of the suffering and death of Good Friday and at the same time it speaks of the joy and new life of Easter Day.  These are realities of this life, and during this season of Covid-19 the message of the Cross has so much to offer us and help us, as indeed it does at all times.  Jesus died in agony on the Cross.  When we suffer, God knows what we are enduring, because of Jesus’ suffering on the Cross.  God transforms the instrument of pain and death in to the tree of love and life.  God can take the worst of human invention and cruelty and transform it to his greater glory.  

 

Personally I always carry a cross with me in my pocket, and usually wear one in my lapel.  I find it to be a source of comfort and strength, a crutch to help me as I limp through this life.  A reminder of all that God has done for me, and what he has promised in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  A reminder to me, and a sign for others.

 

This hymn must be one of the best known and most well-loved, written in 1912 by the American George Bennard.  Popular at funerals but also in services and acts of worship across the whole Christian family.  It speaks of the final transformation when each of our several crosses will be exchanged for a crown…

 

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged Cross
The emblem of suff’ring and shame
And I love that old Cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

 

So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown.

 

Oh, that old rugged Cross so despised by the world
Has a wondrous attraction for me
For the dear Lamb of God, left his Glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

 

So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross…

 

In the old rugged Cross, stain’d with blood so divine
A wondrous beauty I see
For the dear Lamb of God, left his Glory above
To pardon and sanctify me.

 

So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross…

 

To the old rugged Cross, I will ever be true
Its shame and reproach gladly bear
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away
Where his glory forever I’ll share.

 

So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross…

 

A prayer for Easter:

O God, who through the mighty resurrection of the Son Jesus Christ hast delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of thy love: grant that as he was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we may also walk in newness of life, and seek those things that are above.  Amen.

 

I wish you and those dear to you the Peace and Joy of Easter.

 

Aled

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