When visitors enter the main door of our renovated chapel for the first time, they are sometimes puzzled by the large cross at the opposite side of the worship space. The upright beam of rough hewn wood rises from floor to ceiling edging a narrow opening through which daylight filters. Only one side of the heavy cross bar is visible. Supported solely by the upright beam, this arm points toward the center of the circular seating area where the altar stands. The unseen arm extends into the meditation chapel on the other side of the long narrow opening. Drawn by the light into the Meditation Chapel, the visitor discovers this arm framing the simple wooden tabernacle on the wall.
This cross is pivotal to the design of the chapel just as it is a pivotal symbol to all those who follow Christ. The cross stands rooted in the earth and extends to the heavens. St. John of the Cross reminds us that it is both our pathway to union with God and the staff upon which we lean as we journey through life.
It is a Carmelite custom for each sister to have a plain wooden cross hanging in her room to remind her that she is called to ascend the cross with Christ and join him in the great work of redemption. As Lent moves on to the climax of Holy Week, we contemplate Christ moving resolutely toward the inevitability of his death on the cross. When we venerate the cross on Good Friday his invitation to take up the cross and follow him rings in our ears.
We don’t need to invent the cross. It is there, intersecting situations and relationships, work and play, society and family, community and solitude, just as the cross in our chapel intersects the spaces of common worship and quiet prayer. As the cross both joins these spaces and divides them one from the other, so the cross both draws us to Christ and challenges us to love one another as God has loved us.