Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Matthew 16: 24
In Zuiho-in, a Zen temple within the Daitokuji Monastery in Kyoto, Japan, there is a place called The Garden of the Cross. There, rocks placed irregularly on a bed of sand form an asymmetrical cross. Under a stone lantern below it, a statue of the Virgin Mary is buried. The garden honours the patron of the monastery, Otomo Sorin, and his conversion to Christianity shortly after dedicating the temple in 1546. It is a cryptic meditation on the hidden Christians whose faith survived Christianity’s brutal suppression, and the two hundred years during which Christianity was outlawed.
The cross is very hard to make out. But if you are truly looking, you will see it.
“Take up your cross and follow me” may seem like grim advice, coming from a man who died by crucifixion. But in truth, each of us is already carrying a cross. If your cross is hidden to you, it may help to recognise it, and to name, for yourself, the things of which it is composed.
Then Jesus’s challenge becomes a heartening one. “Come on! Don’t lose heart! Take it up—that sorrow, that disappointment, that fear, that inadequacy, that illness—and follow me!”
Then, carrying our baggage, we will be on the road to somewhere, with the Companion who is both the journey—the Way—and the destination.
The Garden of the Cross, Zuiho-in Temple, Daitokuji Monastery, Kyoto.