“On a hill far away, lies an old, rugged cross . . . ”
Italians panic after a 6.3 earthquake strikes the area of L’Aquila in central Italy.
Just days before Easter, amidst debris and disaster, a crucifix hangs like a misplaced Christmas ornament from a piece of wreckage caused by today’s earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy. Perhaps the only recognizable object in a pile of rubble in the village of Onna, the crucifix cannot be ignored. It seems as if it was strategically placed for the world to see.
A sign maybe? Coincidence? Perhaps a simple reminder of the Easter message-—hope for the wrecked, ruined and despaired. Salvation.
Elsewhere in L’Aquila, another cross hangs boldly on a lingering section of collapsed wall-—a wall that symbolizes a place of healing and wellness—that of St. Salvatore hospital. Beneath it patients sit stunned, ironically gathered together by tragic coincidence at the one place where true healing takes place—the foot of the cross.
In the village of Castelnuovo, yet another cross is seen-—this one on the cracked wall of a ruined house. Under the decorative cross lies a picture of Jesus carrying His cross with Mary beside Him. Outside in the rubble riddled streets of Castelnuovo, nothing looks normal or recognizable except one thing—-a tall pillar with a cross on the top.
In the village of St. Elia, a statue stands defiantly amidst the wreckages of a church. On a wall hangs a huge portrait of late Pope John Paul 11. Symbols of hope? Idols? Not for us to judge . . . Personally, I see them as visuals of individual hearts that might be seeking-—and maybe have not heard the full story of where their hope lies.
In the village of Paganica another damaged church-—with its cross held high.
An earthquake, debris and crosses holding their own amidst chaos.
The earthquake should have come as no surprise. Giocchino Guiliani, a seismologist, predicted it a month ago. He even went as far as to publicly broadcast his doomsday prediction via loudspeakers in the region where the earthquake took place. But no one listened. Now doesn’t that remind us of the parable of the great banquet where the people refused to heed the call to come to the banquet before it was to late (Luke 14:15-23)?
I know Italy. I lived just hours from the Italian/French border for two decades. I have sipped many a cappuccino with those beloved, warm-hearted Italians. I know them well. They like crosses. They even like Jesus, although few know Him personally. Their belief system is steeped in superstition and dead religion. Their Jesus still hangs on a crucifix. Few have grasped the impact of the resurrected Christ. At least, not yet. But in spite of religious symbolism, the Italian heart is open to the Gospel.
Now, wouldn’t it be just like God-—the Majestic King of Redemption and immeasurable mercy, the Lord of compassion and grace, He who turn pain into divine purpose—-to consider the Italian temperament and use the tragedy of an earthquake to point them to Him? Wouldn’t it be like God to leave the cross standing in tact for a people who might find something deeper in the symbolism?
That is my hope and my prayer for the Italian people in the wake of mourning. May God heal their broken hearts, bind their wounds, rebuild their lives, redeem their sorrow—-and turn their faces to see an empty cross—-and the Savior who hung on it for their redemption.
In central Italy, amidst chaos and rubble,
Like an out-of-place ornament
Hangs a crucifix,
In Aquila, on a broken hospital wall,
Where broken people await their healing,
Hangs a cross,
In village streets strewn with debris,
Nothing can be recognized—-except
An upheld cross.
Oh Italy, your mountains are in ruins,
Your people cry for loss of hope,
But the cross cries out,
It beckons you to see,
The truth of Easter:
“There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where our dear Lord was crucified,
He died to save us all.”
Poem by Janey DeMeo (copyright © April 2009)–except last stanza which is borrowed from the famous hymn by Cecil Alexander.
Janey L. DeMeo
Copyright © April 2009
Note—the photographed pictures referred to in this article were from the Associate Press and seen today on AOL news.