Hill of Crosses

hillofcrosses2

This is referred to as the Hill of Crosses in the small industrial city of Siauliai in Lithuania. For many years people have made pilgrimages to the hill and placed hundreds of thousands of crosses in acts of Christian devotion.

Over the generations, the place has come to signify the peaceful endurance of Lithuanian Christians despite the threats they faced throughout history.  After a fierce struggle Lithuania became part of the Russian Empire by force in 1795.  Lithuanians unsuccessfully rebelled against Russian authorities in 1831 and 1863. These two uprisings are connected with the beginnings of the hill.  As families could not locate bodies of perished loved ones, they put up crosses in remembrance.

When Eastern Europe fell apart in 1918, Lithuania declared its independence. The Hill of Crosses became a place of refuge and Christian devotion.

Yet, the story continues. From 1944 to 1990 Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union. While people still traveled to the Hill of Crosses they faced great resistance.   Three times, during 1961, 1973 and 1975, the hill was leveled, the crosses were burned or turned into scrap metal. Following each of these desecrations locals and pilgrims from all over Lithuania rapidly replaced the crosses.

In 1990 when Lithuania once again declared its independence, there was an estimated 55,000 crosses on the hill. Today the crosses number in the hundreds of thousands.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18

Paul makes it simple. There are only two kinds of people in this world – those in the process of perishing and those in the process of being saved. The difference between the two?  The power of the cross.

Since the very beginning the cross stood out as the Christian symbol. Why? Because it provides a stark contrast between the way of the world and the way of God.

Why did Jesus die on a cross?

At face value … He died on a cross because that is the way the Romans executed hardened criminals and those they regarded as a threat to their power.

At a deeper level … He died for the salvation of sinners.

The cross was once a symbol of shame. Jesus made it a symbol of power.

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