Cross and Linen
- This is in response to Msg #20555 posted by Rev. Fr. Fr. George Thankachan.
you raised two questions in your post.
1. How we could justify our act of veneration of the holy Cross on the Good Friday service in the light of 2 Kings 18: 4.
2. Why is it so that we use 'Cotton stuff' clothing for wrapping the holy Cross for the entombing service on Good Friday?
I will attempt to answer you within the realms of my ability.
Before answering your first question, we must understand why Hezekiah did what he did. Wasn’t it a rash act to destroy such a sacred object as the bronze serpent? Yes, it was. But the act is justified. The people of Israel have turned the bronze serpent into an idol and have made it a practice to worship it. Hezekiah found it to be in violation with Gods commandment and acted to rid his people of this practice. Hence, we see that Hezekiah’s motive was to uphold the commandment.
According to Orthodox teaching, the cross is a symbol of victory. But during the Good Friday service its significance is greater than before. When we bow f\down before the cross, we are not bowing down to the physical object rather we are bowing down to our God. Here, the cross represents Yeshua. Hence the term Zli;va, not Zki; pa ,is used in our service at this juncture. This is not an act of idol worship, but an act of worship of the living god.
Hence we can justify our act of veneration of the Holy Cross during the Good Friday Service.
Before answering your second question, we must know some background information.
Linen and wool were the most common fibers used for making textile in ancient Rome and Egypt. Cotton and Silk were generally imported from India and China and hence were more expensive than locally made linen. The priests used linen because wool was made from animals and as such not allowed. Because of these two reasons, i.e., availability and acceptability, dead Jews were covered with linen. Therefore there is no “special” significance to linen. It was simply a combination of socio-economic factors. This is recognized by our Church and hence the non-insistence of wrapping the Holy Cross with linen. If linen was common in Kerala we might have used linen. But it so happens that cotton is common. It is immaterial whether we use linen or cotton or polyester. Orthodox tradition gives more importance to the symbolism involved rather that exact physical reenactment. It must be noted that Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church use linen in their altar.
I hope that I have answered your questions clearly.
Zach George Arapura
Member # 3083
- Dear Zach George,
Many thanks for your reply. I am quite aware of the theology behind the adoration of the holy Cross. But my humble doubt is on the matter with regard to the view point of Hezekiah over against the act of Moses. Why is it that Hezekiah could not understand the Mosaic theology behind the lifting up of the bronze serpent? Wasn't his an over ruling of what Moses introduced? What is the line of demarcation between the adoration of icons or cross and the idolatory pracised by the pagons? To what extend can we go in venerating the holy articles? What exactly makes the difference between the idolatory of the Hindus and the adoration of cross or holy relics by the chrisitans? Is Cross a synonym of Christ or just a symbol of His love?
In the order of worship for good friday, especially during the elevation of Cross focusing to North direction, the prayer goes thus: " Karthave! bahumanyavum jeevadayakavumaya ninte sleebayk athmavilum satyathilumulla yadhartha aaradhana arpikkuvanum, ninte sleebayudeadayalthinte munbil nirmala mansakshiyodukoodi vedippulla sthostram muzhakkunnathinum njangalk kripa nalkaname....." Taking this prayer for granted, how could we blame the hindus for their kind of veneration offered to a statue of Krishna or Siva? Can you honestly point out any nuance in comparing both practices of worship.?
To my conviction, the hindus too treat their idol in temple as the symbol of the invisible and transcendant God. Just a medium to reach the intangible God. They never treat it as God himself. But they believe that the presence of God is always there in an idol to be a blessing to them . What they do is not squeezing the mighy God into a limited space. To my understanding, it is a replica or minature form of God for the benefit of the human with limitations. Just like a toy to a boy.
This I ask you to edify my faith in our orthodox practices. Don't think otherwise. No one is beyond doubt. To me, doubting is a stepping stone to deepening of faith. I am neither a scholar nor a saint. I am still a student who seeks after the truth. I think it is the responsibility of the church's scholars to clarify the doubting minds of the faithful like me with regard to the significance of the time honoured practices in our holy church. I live in a world where I am encircled by many a friend of mine who are hard core reformists(Pentecostals) and who very often criticise what we have been practising in our church. I believe that this kind of discussion and exchange of thoughts would enlighten people like me.