This cross may have been the thing that moved me most when visiting Rome. I still get a little choked up thinking about what it signifies.
The Roman Empire is long gone. Latin as a language is dead. Ironically, it was kept alive by the church for centuries, then abandoned with the move to the vernacular Mass after Vatican II. But the Colosseum still stands.
It is a cliché to say they don’t make them like that anymore, but they really don’t. This building though is the template for the 21st century sports stadium and arena. The Colosseum has been standing for almost two millennia. Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre is not yet 25 years old and is considered too old by its owners. They want to replace it. Knock it down. Nothing will ever replace the Colosseum.
The place was an engineering marvel. They could, if they so desired, flood the main bowl and hold mock sea battles to entertain the crowd. Today we could conceivably build a floor over a pool, but not in a major league sporting facility, at least not one that I am aware of.
It was here that Roman emperors gave thumbs up or down to gladiators fighting for their lives. It was here that Christians were thrown to the lions as the Empire tried to crush the spirit of the young movement. You probably know how successful that was.
That may be why the cross in the picture affected me so much. It was placed there by Pope John Paul II in memory of those who died in this arena rather than renounce their faith in Christ.
These people were the spiritual ancestors of the young Copts that ISIS terrorists paraded onto a Libyan beach a year ago. Given the choice of renouncing their faith or dying as Christians they did not hesitate. They chose to die. As the Apostle Paul says, “to live is Christ, to die is gain.”
The cross in the Colosseum though is a reminder that we should bring God’s perspective on time to our problems. When the game was beginning, the score ran up quickly: Lions, 1,000; Christians, 0. Yet today a cross overlooks the Colosseum, a symbol of faith where people died for their faith.
Christians take a long view of things, or at least we should. After all, we serve an eternal God.
The church is under siege worldwide. There is perhaps more persecution that ever before. We are not being thrown to the lions in an arena for the entertainment of thousands, but people are dying every day for their faith.
The cross in the Colosseum is a reminder that while the Lions may seem to be in the lead the game is long from over