‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.’ (Matthew 18:21)
This week we celebrate the Victory, or the exaltation of the Cross.
It has often seemed to me a matter of great wonder that an action of such pain and suffering and brutality should have become the subject of some of the most moving artworks, and some of the most poignant music in the history of humanity.
In the first few centuries, Christians were so appalled by crucifixion that they never portrayed it in art. Yet the cross was a constant theme of prayer and reflection. St Paul talked of glorying on the cross of Christ. St John, sees the cross, the resurrection, an the ascension all as one - the raising up of Christ. In the second century, St Justin, points out how the plough, the ship's sail and even the form of the human body echo, in God's creation, the form of the cross.
And in the fourth century it was Constantine, the Emperor, who discovered that in bearing the standard of the cross he was victorious, so Christian went from being a persecuted minority faith to the religion of the empire.
Yet this Victory of the Cross is not a military victory, or a victory of numbers, or even a victory of right thinking over foolishness
The cross is sign of hope, sign of redemption, sign of victory because it welds together two interwoven truths of our faith - suffering and salvation.
And this is the great mystery of forgiveness. The overcoming of hurt and pain. The healing of hatred and division. Forgiveness which never gives up, but perseveres even seventy times seven.
The little crosses of our hurts and grievances, are but faint images of the deep shadow of His cross.