Yesterday while visiting a relative in the nursing home, I came across a “fun and unique way of saying ‘Happy Easter’.” It came in the form of an Easter card with a 1 ounce real milk chocolate cross attached to the front of the card by a hard clear plastic container. The card itself was printed on heavy card stock paper. Five white doves flew above the milk chocolate treat, and below this was the prayer – “May His Light Shine Upon You!”
And below that was an insignia proclaiming that the cross was indeed “Real Milk Chocolate” with an actual net weight of 1 ounce along with a metric conversion of 28 grams for those with faith in the metric system. Inside the card printed amongst rainbows, and white silhouettes of doves and Easter lilies was the blessing “Happy Easter”
A check of amazon.com indicates that Beauty Place sells the card for $10.95, which seems kind of pricey for 1 ounce of chocolate. Amazon also offered another version of the card geared towards those who are more into rejoicing than bathing in the light, and butterflies rather than doves, with a front greeting of “REJOICE IN THE WONDER OF THE DAY”. If you’re compelled to order the card, you best hurry as there was only one left in stock at the time I checked.
I have spent my Easter thinking about this card, wondering how that cross would taste. I thought that it was a good idea to make the cross out of milk chocolate rather than a dark bitter chocolate; for I think bitter chocolate might leave a bad taste in my mouth. I imagined that the creamy sweet milk chocolate would be much easier to swallow.
And then I wondered if the Roman Emperor Constantine struggled with these same types of issues in his dream where he was advised “to mark the heavenly sign of God on the shields of his soldiers…by means of a slanted letter X with the top of its head bent round, he marked Christ on their shields” as told by Lactantius. Or if Eusebius slogan was what he bought, “In Hoc Signo Vinces” which translates to “with this sign, you will conquer”.
Whichever version it was, it was likely Constantine’s infantry’s victory over Maxentius’ troops who were slaughtered and drowned in the Tiber river that sold him that the emblem of an instrument of torture was indeed worth reinvesting in as a way to keep the empire intact. He also got down in the river himself to be baptized and embrace the full power of the cross.
It seems that Constantine had forgotten about the meaning of the original sign of the cross when he conscripted it for his purposes. Over three hundred years had passed since legend has it his predecessors had used three life-sized wooden crosses to torture and eventually kill a trinity of enemies of the Roman Empire. One of them namely Jesus, would go on to be the role model of new Roman religion of Christianity.
Back in the day, they called the process crucifixion, where the condemned person would either be tied or in the special occasions nailed to the cross, and left to hang until they suffocated or bled to death. In some instances where the victims had a lot of stamina or special connections in higher places, the Roman guards would stab the victim with a spear in the side to speed things along. For the crowds seemed to lose interest in the spectacle if it took too long – they had chores to do, kids to feed, and the guards had guard duty to perform besides crucifixion duty.
Back then, the primary purpose of crucifixion was not so much as an instrument of death, or a form of punishment, but a marketing campaign designed to instill the fear of the empire in the people who would gather to watch. And to make sure the citizens got the message, the Roman’s would precede the event with public trials and a parade where folks could chip in and help to torture the condemned with shouts of ridicule, sprays of spittle, and if you were lucky enough, you might even get to be called in to help the condemned to carry the cross.
Unlike the humane and secluded forms of capital punishment practiced today – like lethal injection, the high tech electric chair, or the less lethal technique of truth seeking water boarding – the goal then was barbaric, the more blood and guts the better, and the more folks you could crowd into an event the bigger the selling potential. Besides inscription on his military shields, Constantine also came up with the great idea of forging the symbol unto the coins of the empire.
After all of this, I came back to my sickeningly sweet thoughts of yesterday’s milk chocolate cross. And I wondered about how much else we had forgotten over the millenniums that have passed since crucifixion was the sign of the times. And then I remembered what the prophet George had to say on this in his own three part torturous sermon on the topic …
... In the Name of the Father ...
... the Son, ...
... and the Holy Spirit