Rebuilding the Cross
Posted on Apr 12, 2023 by Heather Lewis
David Hellwege built this beautiful cross for Salem in 2017. It is hand carved to hold 190 taper or tea light candles, and we use it for prayers and memorials on All Saints’ Sunday and Good Friday. I like this description of a candle: it connects your space to celebration and memory, to relaxation and peace. I can tell you that one of my most meaningful moments in Holy Week is when the Good Friday service is over, the lights are out, and I sit and stare at this beautiful candlelit cross.
On All Saints’ Sunday, the first Sunday in November, we pray for all of the saints in our congregation who have died or been baptized in the previous year, and we are invited to come up to the cross and light a candle in memory or celebration of a loved one. On the Friday before Easter, we begin our Good Friday tenebrae service with seven lit taper candles, symbolizing the seven last words of Christ, and we extinguish them as the choir sings the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross. Then, we again come to the cross to light a tea light candle, as we contemplate God’s love for us, and our love for each other.
David came up to me after the Good Friday service last week and gave me his beautiful theology behind what he had just witnessed during our service: we began with Christ’s perfect cross, then, one by one, the candles representing His light were extinguished. Then again, one by one, we rebuilt the cross with our light, imperfect but shining. At the end of most Good Friday services, several people come back to the cross to light the candles that weren’t lit during the service, and then complete the cross around the original candles that represent Christ’s light.
I think this is a wonderful image of how we extend Christ’s light to each other. We begin by thinking of the individuals for whom we light the candle, and it becomes our beautiful witness of God’s love surrounding us. I hope you continue to light the way for those who have trouble seeing God’s grace and mercy for us all.
In Christ’s love,
Director of Worship and Music