Worshipping within the walls of Valpo’s chapel as a student, I was often drawn to one of the building’s smallest symbols – a “Cross of Nails” made from the rubble of Coventry Cathedral in Coventry, England – a cathedral which was bombed by the German Luftwaffe in 1940. The cross is not very big – maybe only six inches by eight inches or so. It is positively dwarfed by the bigness of the symbols all around it. The large ceilings, tall walls, and massive windows make the cross look tiny by comparison. The large altar with a towering cross at the front, make the small cross formed from war torn debris look insignificant in comparison. The stained-glass windows fill the chapel with color and magnificent imagery from the front, while the nail cross is about as gray and drab as you would expect. Even the organ at the back of the chapel, the largest in all northwest Indiana, dominates the space with massive sound whereas I doubt you would even hear the Cross of Nails from one end of the chapel to the other if it happened to fall off its stand. The tiny cross is made to seem even tinier by all the bigness that surrounds it.
Yet, that small cross, which is made to seem so much smaller by all the largesse which surrounds it, is a glorious symbol of the endurance of faith. The nails held the sanctuary together in England for centuries before it was destroyed. The nails formed sacred space for prayer and worship. They held the walls and structure together that secured the faithful within, guarding them as they sought out safety and spiritual rest from the outside world. The nails helped to surround the faithful for generations, before finally succumbing to violence from the sky in the last century. Still, despite the destruction these nails suffered at the hands of the Nazis, they endured and were redeemed in profound ways that the magnificence of Valpo’s campus chapel will never match. They kept their form to remind us that the broken, sinful forces of the world can only win out for a moment. The foundations of our faith will stand forever.
No matter what devastations, disruptions, and death we encounter in this world, the cross of Christ stands above and beyond it all. Even in the rubble of our lives, the love of God provides the greatest hope of all.