The Jerusalem Cross occupies a prominent place in the sanctuary at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert as witnessed by the simple stained glass window, located high above and behind the altar, pictured above. A similar window is located high above the pews and balcony above the narthex and twice a year at roughly 8:30 in the morning the sun projects the image, in full color, on the aisle leading up to the altar – a breathtaking sight for some. The Jerusalem Cross has been adapted by the church and appears as part of its logo in many forms including being carved into the wood at the entrance to each pew.
It is certainly a dominant icon in the life of this parish. I suspect there are very few parishioners who identify or could relate the history of this particular cross but then, how many parishioners of one of the many St. Peter’s churches around the world understand the significance of the “upside down” cross of St. Peter?
The Jerusalem Cross has taken on an iconic and at times dominant position in my life since I began my life at St. Margaret’s eleven years ago. There was the initial tension it created early in my service as a chalice bearer and had to be sure I arrived early to be able to wear one of the service crosses as there were only one or two crosses and often six to eight Eucharistic Ministers. Being unfamiliar with the Jerusalem Cross I finally found the courage to ask about its significance. (No, I had not yet become a slave to Google.) The historical significance at St. Margaret’s seems limited to it being the cross selected by one or more of the founders.
The significance for me is clearly that the Jerusalem Cross called me into service beyond the sanctuary and into the Outreach Center, where I encountered Christ in the faces of the needy and in Thursday worship with the homeless and destitute, some of whom clearly know more scripture than I will ever master. It is this icon that has carried me through difficult times as it helped me feel the presence of the community of St. Margaret’s, the support of that community and the power of the Holy Spirit. This was never more apparent than the day that one of the parishioners arrived for Thursday worship with a handmade Jerusalem Cross made from vine/tree branches painstakingly tied together with hemp. This has become an important icon reminding all of the presence of our Lord at worship services but also as we distribute hope, groceries, clothing and love each Tuesday.
It is through a better understanding of my call to serve Christ that I discerned my call to the Diaconate. The Holy Spirit truly opened my eyes to respond to that unanswered call that was strengthened through the power of this cross in a loving and serving community.
I love the feeling of being part of the Body of Christ that this cross means to me. It is a reminder of the importance not only of our Savior who died on a cross, but the origins of our faith emanating out of Israel and Jerusalem.