That looks very medieval,” someone said to me. He was looking at my lapel, where I was wearing a pin of what’s commonly called the Jerusalem Cross—actually, five crosses that, symbolically, represent the five wounds of Jesus Christ.
I admit it does look like something that might be worn by a knight on a crusade. And maybe, at times, I do feel like I’m crusading for something—everything from good grammar to the salvation of souls—but, for me, the Jerusalem Cross has a deeper, more personal reference.
In 2000, during the Jubilee year, my wife and I had the good fortune of making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Rome. We visited many of the sites that are holiest to our faith, walking the same ground and seeing the same landscape as Christ. We walked along the Sea of Galilee. (My wife even picked up some pebbles to bring home!) We prayed a rosary in the Garden of Gethsemane. We touched the rock that held the cross.
It was a deeply moving, deeply humbling journey, and Siobhain and I came away from it with many unexpected graces. One of them, I believe, is my vocation.
And in that vocation, there is a distinct connection to Christ and His cross.
In his ministry of the altar, the deacon has a particular relationship to the chalice. He prepares it for the Eucharistic sacrifice, elevates it during the doxology, offers it to the faithful at communion and purifies it afterward. In that way, the deacon shares a unique bond to the blood of the Passion—the blood that poured from the five wounds of Christ on Calvary, the wounds that are immortalized and memorialized in the Jerusalem Cross.
When I wear that cross, it serves to remind me, and others, of my connection to Christ’s suffering and death. (In fact, after ordination, I chose to begin wearing that emblem on my stole, where it will cross my heart—binding me more deeply and more intimately to a ministry of sacrifice, service and love.)
This Easter Sunday, we will celebrate a resurrection and our own redemption—salvation that comes our way because of the empty tomb and the glorified savior. It is the greatest feast of our calendar, and a source of unending wonder and joy. It’s astonishing to think that what began on Easter has spread around the globe, multiple times, and in every language imaginable.
But let’s never forget: It’s rooted in the rock that I touched in Jerusalem. It is tethered to a cross that held a battered body and the blood that stained the ground from five deep wounds. One man’s pain has opened to us the gates of Paradise.
See that when you see the Jerusalem Cross—and you’ll see something more than “medieval.” You just might see something miraculous.