The symbol of the cross is more popular now than ever before, thanks to a proliferation of celebrities such as rappers 50 Cent, Eminem and Jadakiss, who flaunt the symbol as part of their “bling” in their music videos. Others like Disney star Miley Cyrus, actress Nicole Richie and singers Mary J Blige, Rihanna and Justin Timberlake, have taken things a step further, tattooing the religious symbol onto their bodies. Then there are those like hip hop superstar, Lil Wayne, who have opted to do both. In the Christian faith, the cross is sacred. It signifies Jesus Christ’s ultimate sacrifice in which he was crucified on the cross to save the world from eternal damnation. However, many religious leaders lament that the significance of the cross is fast becoming blurred in today’s modern society.
While the cross appears in much of pagan history and represents many different things for different people, for the Christian community, the Easter Cross is the symbol of life over death, triumph over evil.
As Christians around the world join hands in celebrating Easter, the cross and what it really represents has once again catapulted into the spotlight. According to Roman Catholic Priest, Father Gregory Augustine, Easter is “the highest point” of the Christian faith and the cross is the ultimate demonstration of God’s power and should be given the reverence it deserves. “The cross was the symbol of degradation. It was the means by which the Romans used to execute people. So in modern language, Jesus was in fact executed. But now, it becomes a symbol of our salvation. That is why Easter is the most important point of the Christian life. It’s an even bigger feast than Christmas,” he said. “If there was no sacrifice we would not be saved ... There would be no reason for hope, no reason to live. But through the cross our salvation was won.”
Father Augustine, the principal of Fatima College and Provincial of the Holy Ghost Fathers, also pointed out that today there seems to be a lack of understanding for the symbol of the cross, which he described as a “very dangerous thing.” “It’s just like with Christmas and Santa Claus. People lose the true meaning of the faith. In spite of all the stories we hear now, Easter and the cross signifies the fact that Jesus triumphed. He died, He rose again and He lives.” Noting that many young people are now viewing religious symbols as a fashion statement, Father Augustine believes that the time has come for Christians to make a greater effort to help keep the youth on the straight and narrow path. “I see that there is a popular move with people using rosaries around their necks too. I have to tell my boys, a rosary is not a chain. It’s a means by which we pray. They mean something. Everything is just losing its significance. The young people are influenced by what they see on TV. We have to steer them in the right way,” he said.
According to Anglican Bishop Claude Berkley, while the significance of the cross is not being lost, there are attempts to “sanitise its effect.” He concurred that the cross and other religious symbols, were being promoted as fashion accessories and “the in thing.” “We live in a world of style and cosmetics so there is some attempt to make it stylish. But the regular processes like perseverance, toil and sacrifice will not allow the message of the cross to be lost,” he said. While there was a pre-Christian understanding of the cross, Bishop Berkley said, for the past 2,000 years it had been the cornerstone of the Christian faith. “It is the gateway which led us to see that those who supported injustice, power struggles and humanity’s brokenness, were wrong. By the process of sacrifice we will have redemption. The last word is God’s,” he asserted. “The cross is essential to what we are about. The cross has been a premiere symbol of the sacrifice that was offered for the salvation of humanity. That is the means by which Christ surrendered his life to give us salvation. At Easter we see the aftermath of the cross. It’s a reminder that God isn’t finished with us yet.”