Lift High the Cross

Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
Till all the world adores His sacred Name!
Led on their way by this triumphant sign,
The hosts of God in conquering ranks combine.

Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
Till all the world adores His sacred Name!
Each newborn servant of the Crucified
Bears on the brow the seal of Him Who died.

George Kitchin and Michael Newbolt (1916)

In today’s first reading, we find Moses leading the Chosen People in war against the soldiers of Amalek. He sends Joshua ahead with the troops, while he and his two trusted aides — his brother Aaron and brother-in-law, Hur — assist Moses in intercession. Moses raises his arms in prayer, and as long as he maintained this position, the Israelites were successful in battle. Each time Moses lets his arms down, the enemy gets the upper hand. So Aaron and Hur stood alongside Moses and physically held his arms in place until the battle was won.

Why had Moses chosen these two in particular — apart from the fact that they were related? Aaron was known for his eloquence; when God commanded Moses to speak to Pharaoh, the prophet urged God to send his silver-tongued brother instead. According to the Hebrew commentary known as the “Midrash,” Hur was killed while trying to stop the people from bowing down to the Golden Calf while Moses was up on Mt. Sinai, receiving the law.

Eloquence and faithfulness; wisdom and integrity. These were the qualities embodied in the two men closest to the first leader of the Hebrew People after they were liberated from bondage. While his successor, Joshua, was at the front leading his people in battle, Moses remained behind to inspire and intercede. So long as he persevered in his efforts, God was with them.

Lift High the Cross

The classic Christian hymn quoted at the beginning of this reflection (to hear it, click on the header and “Cyberhymnal” will strike up the tune) ties in well with this intercessory theme. It reminds us that the battle is not yet over. All around us, enemies of good seek to destroy us, or at least silence us. The “40 Days for Life” campaign is but one recent example of how Christians are banding together to stop the holocaust.

However, we need to be fighting the good front at home as well. In response to my article at CE yesterday, someone wrote to thank me for expressing the struggle some adoptive parents face. “I used to pray, ‘Lord, take my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh,’ and God in his goodness answered my prayer,” she said. That answer was painful at times; and yet this dear woman had chosen to lift up her arms in supplication … and take up the cross that had been entrusted to her.

In our war on the culture of death, we need our young warriors facing down the enemy. Some protest. Some counsel. Some even take the casualties — damaged and hurting children — home with them. We need prayer warriors, like Moses, to intercede. And we need the faithful and the articulate to take the message of life to those who need it most. And yet if we are going to be faithful to this calling, we must be prepared to suffer as well.

Before we can hope to win the war, we must resign ourselves to the fact that victory is not cheap. The battle is going to cost us something, for our enemy is not without power. And yet,

“Led on their way by this victorious sign,

The hosts of God in conquering ranks combine.”

Lift high the cross, my friends!

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