The Jerusalem Cross

The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on Saturday, November 4, at the Solemn Eucharistic Liturgy and Ceremony of Investiture for the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, at St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington.

Sometimes, a symbol can become so familiar to us that we run the risk of forgetting its profound meaning for our lives. As Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, we wear the Jerusalem Cross, also called the Crusaders' Cross. This afternoon, as we gather to participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice, wherein Jesus renews in our midst His dying on the Cross and His rising to new life, I invite us to reflect on the significance and meaning of the Cross we so proudly wear on our insignia as Knights and Ladies.

The significance of the Jerusalem Cross in explained in several ways. It can represent Christ, Who missions His disciples – you and me – to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Therefore, the four small crosses can be understood to represent the four corners of the world with the large cross representing Jerusalem, from which the proclamation of the Gospel began. Closely connected with this first explanation is the following: the four small crosses can symbolize the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, with the large cross symbolizing Christ, who commissions His disciples to go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them. Finally, the five crosses together can represent the five wounds of Christ, the four small crosses for the wounds of His hands and feet, and the large cross for His pierced Heart.

With the Jerusalem Cross clearly set before our eyes and proudly worn on our insignia, let us once again reflect on its meaning for us, precisely as Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre.

Are we not commissioned to make more visible and present in our world the Kingdom of Christ and to extend the Church whose mission is the proclamation of Christ's Kingdom? During the investiture ceremony, we hear the words: "In our time, being a Knight or Lady of the Holy Sepulchre means engaging in the battle for the Kingdom of Christ and for the extension of the Church." Yes, as Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre, we must be partners with Christ in making His Kingdom truly present and active in the society in which we live: "a Kingdom of truth and life, a Kingdom of holiness and grace, a Kingdom of justice, love and peace" (cf. Preface for the Solemnity of Christ the King).

Accompanying this part of our mission will engage us in a battle, a struggle, because the evangelical work in which we are involved in truly counter-cultural. This should not surprise us, though, because our second reading reminds us that from the beginning, the Church, symbolized by the woman, contends with the powers of darkness and evil as she seeks to make the Light of Christ's Gospel visible and effective. Therefore, with our eyes on Christ's Cross, from which comes spiritual strength, both by personal witness and public involvement, we will not cease to make the Truth known and to persuade our contemporaries to uphold the common good by ensuring the human dignity of every human person from conception to natural death and everywhere in between. In doing this, we shall be proclaiming the Gospel of Christ to the four corners of the world.

Another aspect of our mission is to undertake works of charity. This revealing of Christ's love in ways that are tangible and effective engages us at the local level and especially in the Holy Land where Our Blessed Lord lived, died and rose again. As we hear in the Investiture Ceremony, "Let your actions and your mind be turned to the Land of the Redeemer and take care that His Holy Name be spread and loved everywhere." In reaching out to the poor and the needy, to all those troubled in mind or spirit, are we not imitating the scene in today's Gospel account? Are we not following the example of Mary, who traveled in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was six months pregnant and in need? Are we not, like Mary, bringing Christ, the source of loving compassion and mercy, to those in need of His reconciling and healing touch? Are we not revealing that love which flows from the pierced Heart of Christ on the Cross?

If we are to be faithful to our mission to proclaim Christ's Kingdom, to extend the Church and to undertake works of charity, we must be rooted solidly in the Lord. This means that we must be Knights and Ladies of prayer, at home in personal prayer and in our churches in liturgical prayer. Our ancestors in the faith, going back to the first community of disciples, were rooted in prayer as we see so clearly in today's first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. "Together they devoted themselves to constant prayer."

Finally, we turn to Our Blessed Mother. She stood by the Cross of Christ, her Dying Son, reminding us that she is forever linked with Jesus in the work of redemption and salvation. She is the first and best of all disciples, joining her prayer to ours as we continue our pilgrimage of faith, hope and love. She is the Mother of the Church, strengthening us for our battle with the powers of darkness and for the ultimate victory of good over evil, of grace over sin. She is the Woman of charity, who accompanies us as we reveal Christ's love to all in need. Yes, we go to her and seek her motherly assistance, so that we can be – every day – faithful Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre, who proudly wear the Jerusalem Cross.

I conclude, echoing these words of that Servant of God, Pope John Paul II: "Dear Knights, Ladies and Ecclesiastics of the order, I entrust you all to the motherly protection of Our Lady of Palestine. May she help you in your special task."

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