Our weekly newsletter has gotten a reboot of sorts as we begin this new triennium with Rev. Dr. D. Richard Stuckwisch now serving as the District President for the Indiana District. This reboot includes a name change for the newsletter, now known as “Earthen Vessels.”
Lutherans love the Holy Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we thank and praise His Holy Name for the life and salvation He obtained for us by His Sacrifice upon that Cross. But we’re not always quite sure what to make of “Holy Cross Day” on the 14th of September, although it is one of the oldest and most widely spread observances of the Church. The origins of this festival day can seem rather convoluted and even suspect, and questions are often asked as to how the occasion differs from Good Friday.
As Lutherans, we’re not especially concerned with traditions concerning the historical artifact of the Cross (whether actual or mistaken), since we are blessed to receive the very fruits and benefits of the Holy Cross in the preaching and ministry of the Gospel, in the waters of Holy Baptism, and in the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. Nor is Holy Cross Day observed among us as a repetition of Good Friday, even though we are, of course, always concerned with the preaching and confession of the Cross of Christ the Crucified, proclaiming His death until He comes in glory for the final judgment (1 Cor. 1:18—2:2; 11:26).
Holy Cross Day is rather an opportunity to revel in the glory and victory of the Cross, in spite of how it looks and feels to the world (and to our own fallen flesh!). Outside the sober penitence of Holy Week, we are able to exult in the triumph of the Cross as the self-sacrifice of the Son of God for our salvation. For by His death He conquered death, atoned for sin, and trampled Satan’s vile head beneath His feet; and as He was lifted up in death upon the Cross once-for-all, so does He call people from all nations to Himself by the preaching of His Cross, to die and rise with Him by faith in His Gospel of forgiveness.
“O Tree of beauty, Tree most fair, ordained those holy limbs to bear: Gone is thy shame, each crimsoned bough proclaims the King of Glory now. To Thee, eternal Three in One, let homage meet by all be done; as by the Cross Thou dost restore, so guide and keep us evermore” (LSB #455).