People often comment on the pendant I wear. It's pretty, they say.
And then they realize that it's a cross. Or,
if they already knew that it was a cross, sometimes I tell them that
it's a war cross. Either way, the expressions on their faces change.
Only one person so far has recognized it for what it is: a retired
priest in our congregation who also happens to have fought in Vietnam.
It's made of silver, and was heavily tarnished when I found it in
a box of stuff from my late grandfather's desk. It's round, and
probably about two centimeters in diameter. Sort of like a
communion wafer. A cross divides the circle into four parts, and in
each quadrant there's a smaller cross. On the horizontal axis of the
larger cross is written "CHRIST DIED" and on the vertical
axis "FOR THEE"
It looks a little like this:
.oooo.- ''''' -.oooo.
oo.--. | . | .--.oo
o / ++ \ | F | / ++ \ o
o |++++++++| | O | |++++++++| o
o \ ++ / | R | \ ++ / o
o '--' | . | '--' o
o .-------------- --------------. o
o . C H R I S T . D I E D . o
o .-------------- . --------------. o
o .--. | T | .--. o
o / ++ \ | H | / ++ \ o
o |++++++++| | E | |++++++++| o
o \ ++ / | E | \ ++ / o
oo'--' | . | '--'oo
.oooo._ ''''' _.oooo.
As far as I can tell, the words - "Christ died for thee" -
come from the place in Rite I of the Holy Eucharist where the
priest invites the congregation to the front of the church for communion, holding up the bread and wine and saying "The gifts of God for the
people of God. Take them in remembrance that Christ
died for thee, and feed on him in your
hearts, by faith, with thanksgiving."
On the back of the pendant is written:
The Church War Cross
As if the Episcopal Church were the only one worth mentioning. Or, if you're feeling less cynical, because we are all one in Christ, whether we like it or not.
Apparently, the War Cross was given by the Episcopal Church to soldiers to wear
on a chain with their dog tags. I think the "II" on the
back indicates that it was issued during World War II. There aren't a lot of soldiers in my family. I come from a long line of Episcopal priests named John. My mother says that even though the cross was in my grandfather's desk, it most likely belonged to my grandmother (who volunteered for the Red Cross during World War II) or her father (who was a missionary).
I found it a few weeks before September 11, 2001. I had been looking
for a cross to wear, so I cleaned it up and strung it on a silver
bead chain. I never imagined how appropriate it would turn out to
be. It has rarely left my neck since then. It reminds me of my belief that we are all one, regardless of our religions. It's a comforting belief, but also a sobering one. It doesn't matter who we are fighting, or who we believe the enemy is. We are only hurting ourselves.