Las Vegas and the Celtic Cross

It is fitting that we take a moment to turn away from politics and reflect on the awful carnage that has unfolded in Las Vegas.  The brokenhearted grief that all Americans feel at the cruel and senseless taking of life transcends all boundaries of politics and social divisions.

Words fail in their adequacy to reflect the horror of the killings and our feelings of revulsion.  The bright light of hope springs from the heroism of those on the scene and our shared national sense of rage.  The murderers only win in bringing us to our knees as a nation when we accept these things as the norm and stop feeling stunned outrage at the magnitude of the injustice.  That has not happened in America, a testament to our fundamental goodness and selflessness when faced with such horrific crisis.

I just returned from Ireland and was struck by the resilience of their people as well.  Ireland’s is a history of invasion, occupation, marginalization, exploitation and hardship.  Yet those people, like we Americans, have overcome historical adversity and maintained a spirit of optimism and strength that forever defines them.

While there I was taken by the image of the Celtic cross, a uniquely styled Christian crucifix marked by the distinctive proportions of its limbs, a unifying circle around its center, and ancient Celtic designs on its facets.  The iconic image is well over a thousand years old and is seen today in churches, town squares and graveyards.  It is said to date to the time of conversion of the Celts by St. Patrick, its unmistakable symbolism incorporating elements of the Christian crucifix and traditional pre-Christian Celtic religious images.  As such, the symbol to me stands for a melding of the best of the old and new, a reverence for past traditions and a beacon of hope for the future.

Celtic Cross

In dealing with the tragedy in Las Vegas, it seems appropriate to reflect on the meaning for our sense of resolve of the Irish Celtic cross: our own foundations from which we derive our strength and character as a people when confronted with adversity.  And one cannot miss the imagery of the unifying circle binding together the separate members, a metaphor for America’s unity in times of trouble.

God take and bless the innocent victims in Las Vegas, and grant us the grace to emerge stronger as a nation.

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