“All crosses had their tops cut and became T’s. There was also a thing called God.” Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
When Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine, traveled from Caesarea to Jerusalem in the early AD 300s, the ink on the Edict of Milan was barely dry. In theory, the document provided respite and restoration to Christians who were being tormented and killed on a daily basis by the Roman Empire.
Theory meant little at this point, however, as beautifully fictionalized in Davis Bunn’s retelling of Helena’s pilgrimage in search of the literal cross on which Jesus died. Helena and a tattered but ever-growing band of fellow Christians faced death at every bend in the road.
And, when they lived to see another sunset – at least as Bunn tells the story in his book, The Pilgrim – there was no question as to how they would mark the milestone. The group celebrated the Eucharist, took Communion, observed the Lord’s Supper.
Whatever you call this symbol and sacrament of the faith, they did the very thing that reflected their reality.
Their physical lives were in dire and constant peril. There was simply no other way to bear up other than to continually focus on the death and resurrection of Christ. His work on the cross was their only hope.
And, so it is today — whether we like it or not.
It’s true even though much of the world (including some Christians) would prefer to ignore the cross — the blood, the grisly horror, the revealed price of sin — and focus on “good teacher” Jesus. One whose advice can be taken, or not taken – as the era and fashion dictates.
But, that is not what Christianity is. Nor is it the Jesus of the actual gospel. The gospel’s Jesus is Helena’s Jesus. Sinless, yet a blood sacrifice for sin. Human, yet also the fullness and glory of God to the point death lost its grip.
Death. Lost. Its. Grip. That’s something needed in AD 2019 as much as in AD 313.
The world is still a bloodthirsty place. We might be in the literal peril Helena faced. We may be crushed under the weight of sin or sickness. Either way, we face the same reality.
Without His blood, we are spiritually anemic to the point of death, in fact. But, with it, we have hope to live by. Day by day by day. Night by night by night. Around every bend of every road until we see Him face to face.