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The Cloth on the Cross

Written by Danny Castiglione

Christ is Risen!

When you walked into the crowded sanctuary on Easter Sunday you might have noticed that a white cloth was draped on the cross. For the six Sundays before Easter a purple cloth was there, and last Friday and Saturday, a black cloth. That white cloth will remain for six Sundays and then be removed, and we will not place another cloth on the cross in the sanctuary until next February.

Why do we do this?

The tradition of draping the cross or following “The Stages of the Cross” as a symbolic depiction of the Easter season, goes back hundreds of years in Church history. We practice it at Waypoint because we believe it annually provides us with a visual way to reflect on and remember the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

What do the colors mean?

There are typically 3 colors used by the local churches that practice this tradition: purple, black, and white. The purple cloth represents Christ as King, reminding us that Christ is our Savior and King, and we are mere mortals saved only by his grace and mercy. The purple cloth remains on the cross from Ash Wednesday to Maundy Thursday (this is the season of Lent). The black cloth represents the mockery, suffering, crucifixion, and death of Christ. The black cloth remains on the cross from Good Friday, through Holy Saturday (the day Jesus was in the grave). The white cloth represents the resurrection of Christ. The white cloth remains on the cross from Easter Sunday through Ascension Day when the cross remains bare until next Lenten season.

How can we use this tradition in our own worship and reflection?

As you enter the sanctuary over the next five weeks, look up at the white cloth on the cross. Take some time to reflect on the beauty and glory of the Resurrection of Christ. Think about the 40-day period it represents, when the risen Jesus walked on the Earth teaching and loving his people, preparing them for the coming of His Holy Spirit.

Then after Ascension Day (May 18 this year), each time you look at the empty cross, give praise to God that the risen Jesus has ascended and is seated at the right hand of God the Father, reigning over the Earth. Praise the Father and the Son for sending the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us, His Church, as we worship Christ and build His Kingdom!

“This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth.

16 Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith:

Christ was revealed in a human body

and vindicated by the Spirit.

He was seen by angels

and announced to the nations.

He was believed in throughout the world

and taken to heaven in glory.”

1 Timothy 3:15b-16 (NLT)

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