Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Significance of Mid Lent and Golgotha


We are half way through the holy lent. The Church has instituted a service for mid lent, when Golgotha (cross placed on a big decorated cross like stand covered with a red cloth) is set up in the middle of the Church during Holy Qurbana. This service – the order of adoration and exaltation of the holy cross – is rooted in the scripture where Jesus tells Nicodemus “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life [John 3:14-15].

If anyone has been lax in their observance of the holy lent (fasting, prayers, almsgiving, etc.), then this is the time to begin. Everyone who enters the Church sees the cross erected in the middle of the Church, and is reminded of the importance of the holy lent. It is also a warning to depart from the old ways and adorn a life of repentance.

We kiss the Golgotha when we enter and leave the Church. Candles on the Golgotha are lit in the same order as the candles on the altar. The same cross on the Golgotha is used on Good Friday and Easter services also.

The Brazen Serpent, as in Numbers 21:1-9, illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company
The Bronze Serpent [Numbers 21:4-9]
We often wonder if the Old Testament is relevant anymore, yet we see Jesus and the apostles referring to the Old Testament time and time again. We read in Numbers 21: 8-9 “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’ So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.’ The cross on Golgotha signifies the serpent of brass which Moses placed on the pole for the healing of the people. That specific incident pre-figured Jesus’ crucifixion, but it was hidden from the eyes of the Israelites.

The concluding hymn in the Holy Qurbana for mid lent sums up the importance of mid lent and Golgotha:

Moses raised the serpent in the tent and gave comfort to the people who sinned.
When the faithful see the cross, the sign of victory, inside the Church, it gives life to them.
We shall confess and bow down before the cross which is the sign of life and salvation.”