The Victory of the Cross

Terrorism is nothing new. It’s probably as old as the human race.

In fact the cradle of civilization, now Iraq, was the home of the most infamous terrorists of antiquity, the Assyrians. Their goal was to conquer their neighbors in a way that would minimize initial resistance and subsequent rebellion. To do this, they knew fear would be their greatest weapon. Simple threat of death for those who resisted was not enough because many would prefer death to slavery. So the Assyrians developed the technology to produce the maximum amount of pain for the longest amount of time prior to death. It was called crucifixion. This ingenious procedure proved to be very effective terror tactic indeed.

It was the policy of the Roman Empire to adopt from conquered peoples whatever appeared useful. They found crucifixion an excellent tool of intimidation. The humiliation of being stripped naked to die in a public spectacle was particularly loathsome to Jews for whom public nudity was an abomination. Incidentally, crucifixion was deemed so horrible that Roman law forbade that it be carried out on a Roman citizen, even a traitor. It was reserved only for slaves and conquered peoples.

Non-Christians have often asked a very good question: why do Christians adorn their churches, homes, and necks with a symbol of abasement, terror, and torture? Why build an entire religion around the cross?

St. Anselm (12th century) explained it this way. Our first parent’s sin was all about pride, disobedience, and self-love. Deceived by the serpent, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in defiance of God because they wanted to exalt themselves as His equal. The results were catastrophic–loss of communion with God, each other, and the created universe. The history of the human race has been a story in which each one of us, weakened by the impact of this sin on our nature, have followed its pattern, proudly refusing to obey God and love our neighbor.

Anselm pointed out sin constitutes an infinite offense against the goodness and honor of God.  Having been created free and responsible, bound by the law of justice, our race is obliged to offer acts of love, humility and obedience to God powerful enough to cancel out the long legacy of disobedience, pride, and un-love and restore our friendship with him.

The problem is, our wounded race could not begin to attempt such a task. So the Father sent His Eternal Word to become man and accomplish the task in our place, to substitute for us. For the immortal, infinite God to empty himself and unite himself to a limited, vulnerable human nature was already a feat of unimaginable love and humility. But for redemption to be complete, the hero would have to withstand the greatest fury that hell and fallen humanity could hurl against him–the cross.

Surely, after the crowds he had healed and fed cried “Crucify him!” and his own apostles fled, Jesus would realize it wasn’t worth it. Surely he would curse the ingrates and use his divine power to free himself as many suggested in their taunts. But no. His was love to the end, love to the max (John 13:1).  His death was the clear and undeniable manifestation of the triumph of obedience over disobedience, love over selfishness, humility over pride.

Good Friday was the D-Day of the human race. Since Pentecost, the power of Christ’s obedient, humble, unstoppable love has been made available to all who are willing to share it, producing martyrs and saints in every generation, down to the Maximilian Kolbe’s and Mother Teresa’s of our own era.

So the cross is not only victorious, it is fruitful. It bore the fruit of salvation in the loving act of Christ but has kept bearing new fruit throughout the ages. That’s why, if you go to the Church of San Clemente in Rome, you’ll see one of the most stunning mosaics in the Eternal City. The ancient instrument of subjection and death, wrapped with verdant vines supporting fruit of every shape and size, the triumphant cross become the tree of life.

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas.  For more of his resources or for info on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, call 800.803.0118 or visit

Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For info on his resources and pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit or call 800.803.0118.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • Pat

    Such a powerful concise explanation of who we are and who Christ is.  Well done Dr. D-Ambrosio!
    We adore you oh Christ and we praise you.  Because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world!

  • chaco

    Our Lord couldn’t reach any deeper into the abyss of darkness / sin.  To anyone, he can say; “Been there – Done that.”  In the Divine Mercy prayer we pray that no one can resist His compassionate, Merciful yearning for us to accept His Love ; “For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

  • To the point….we need to see the reason as well thanks

  • Thank you God!

  • The fruit of the tree in lush Eden, cracked our relationship with God. The fruit of the tree in barren Golgota, glued it back. The fruit of the first tree was Sin and the fruit of the second tree is Salvation.

  • Kikowhitney

    There is something I still find difficult to accept with this “theology” of the cross. You say that for St. Anselm ”
    our race is obliged to offer acts of love, humility and obedience to God powerful enough to cancel out the long legacy of disobedience, pride, and un-love and restore our friendship with him.” What kind of a God is this, expecting “payment” from us? And  the payment he wants is to see us on the cross? Ok, so Jesus “did it for us”. This is what God wants? …to see his son up the cross? How do I explain this to people who suffer–like someone in the family is terminally ill or there is injustice incurred on the famiy? Will I say, “God wants you on the cross, so accept your fate…Jesus showed you how to do it”. 

  • chaco

    Kikowhitney, I know, It’s tough at times – isn’t it ? For me, it has to start with a real – heartfelt experience of The Risen Lord. Try Paul’s “Recipe” Phillipians 4: 6-7;  “…with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God; And the peace that surpasses understanding will guard your mind & Heart.”  Once we’ve experienced Jesus’ Love, little by little (baby steps) we can start to understand more & more how it works. I recommend this “SHORTCUT”: Only one part of christianity ((Catholic / Orthodox) places central significance onThe Eucharist (Catholic communion) & Mary as Mother of “The Body of Christ” (Church). This is empasized in a revelation to St. Don Bosco that showed a large ship with the Pope at the helm, being chained (kept afloat) to two giant pillars; one with The Eucharist on top and a smaller one with Mary-Our Mother on top.  No other Christian church teaches that our lives are a continuation of Jesus offerring His life (Joys – Works & Trials). WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST and our beleif in receiving the Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity of God in The Eucharist completes that understanding. [The closest Protestant churches can come to this INTIMACY WITH JESUS is to teach that Jesus is always with us.]  BUT WHY TRIALS ?  An athelete who endures excercise & practice enjoys a win much more than the winner of a “rigged competition”. 2 Corinthians 12: 9 speaks of JOY MADE PERFECT through trials. [We can MAKE LEMONADE OUT OF LEMONS – Jesus is the “Sugar” and nothing is sweeter to Him than His / our Mama’s smile.]  Note: Not every cross is a Christ cross; we can over-do it. Lucia from Fatima revelations says; “The trials God expects of us is 1) our daily duties  &  2) live in accordance with Christ’s Chuch     (Sacrifice means to make-Holy. Our Joys can be an offerring as well.   see: Psalm 50: 14  & 51: 17  King James version)