Monday, April 28, 2014

Beneath the Cross: Update on the CCS Crosses Booklet Published for Easter 2014

[If reading this on the school webpage, it is recommended to read at the original site at this link.]

During the weeks leading up to Easter, our personal focus is quite naturally on our Lord's final days with the first disciples. Our thoughts turn to the cross during the same weeks when it preoccupied our Savior's thoughts. The cross was on His mind in Jericho (Matthew 20) days before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We know it was on his mind during the Last Supper. The cross grieved Him hours later in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His trial. The significance of His crucifixion is evident in every word Christ spoke from the cross itself.
It is true that the empty tomb of Easter signifies new life through our risen Lord, but it is the empty cross that depicts the sacrificial work referred to in His final words: "It is finished." It is understandable, therefore, that the empty cross has been a reminder of atonement and a symbol of  faith for nearly two thousand years.

A few weeks before Easter, 2014, I had an unexpected encounter with the cross. It was not a mystical spiritual experience as much as a moment of jaw-dropping wonder associated with the more common use of the word epiphany: "A sudden, intuitive perception... usually initiated by some simple... or commonplace occurrence....  We always knew there were some cross-like architectural features of our building; some were subtle; some were obvious; but one was enormous and is most noteworthy in that it had gone unnoticed for the first fifteen years of our building's existence. It was this last discovery that prompted the small booklet in the photograph above.

Within days, 800 copies of the booklet were printed (in the school's volunteer print room) and provided to our CCS families, friends, and community. Copies were at restaurants, doctors' offices, Family Christian Bookstore, etc. A copy was also sent to the Muskegon Chronicle and the editors chose to make it their feature story on the front page of the Easter Sunday Edition. It was also in this Mlive version posted on Good Friday, which received nearly 7,000 views in its first week. During which time the various versions of the video below received over 1,000 views on Youtube.

There may someday be a second printing of the booklet, but because copies are only available at Family Christian Bookstore at this time, we are providing this on-line abridged version.

If you arrive early to Calvary Christian Schools, before the rising sun has chased off the moon, the crosses the front entrance are likely to catch your eye. In all, there are sixteen window-crosses in the rotunda, but only seven can be seen at a time from outside.

The rotunda is more than a gathering place before and after school; more than the spot where seniors say goodbye after their last chapel; more than a resonate chamber for the choir’s Christmas carols; more than a place of ceremony or hand-held circles of prayer in times of need. In this particular building design (discussed later) the rotunda’s form serves a higher function.

In historical-architectural terms, the rotunda would be called “the crossing” of a larger feature called the “transept.” The crossing is often surmounted by a spire, a dome, or a tower to provide a vertical emphasis intended to draw the eyes and ears heavenward.
This vertical emphasis is integrated in all we do at CCS, but it is symbolically suggested by the tall columns and high dome of the rotunda.

Upon entering the building from any point, you may notice that you are stepping through double doors that form a stylized cross. You may also notice the small manufacturer’s label at the bottom of each door (enlarged to the right). The choice to use a door company called CROSS was intentional. We have spoken with a long-time employee of this family-owned business, and he assured us that it is no coincidence that company's motto is "The only way to enter." The founding family and much of the work force are Christians who want to give God the glory for all they do. Their Cross products are sold around the world, and their label on each door at CCS underscores the theme of crosses throughout the building.

The significance of this particular spring in the history of Calvary Christian Schools (CCS) will become more evident as we anticipate celebrating our 35th Anniversary in the 2014-2015 school-year. This year marks our fifteenth in the building since relocating here in the fall of 1999.

Past, present, and future students of CCS will be forever grateful to the donors, congregation, and leadership at the time of this building’s design and construction. Calvary continues to be a setting where the Creator God, the Truth of His Word, and the Gospel of Christ are the foundation upon which parents and the school partner to build a well-rounded Christian education.

Neither a church nor a school is defined by bricks and mortar and buildings. They are defined by the people who gather within their walls (and by their desire to serve God and others beyond them). That being said, a school building’s needs are unlike a church in that schools must meet special codes, zoning requirements, and construction considerations. It is a blessing that the CCS facility satisfies those conditions while also turning our eyes to the cross in small and large ways. May this booklet be an encouragement to the thousands of friends who brought this facility from vision to reality.

The shadows created by the high rotunda windows  move down the wall and across the floor throughout the day like a giant solar kaleidoscope.

Beneath the Cross of Jesus                                     
By Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1830-1869 
1. Beneath the cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand,
the shadow of a mighty rock
within a weary land;
a home within the wilderness,
a rest upon the way,
from the burning of the noontide heat,
and the burden of the day. 

2. Upon that cross of Jesus
mine eye at times can see
the very dying form of One
who suffered there for me;
and from my stricken heart with tears
two wonders I confess:
the wonders of redeeming love
and my unworthiness.

3. I take, O cross, thy shadow
for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than
the sunshine of His face;
content to let the world go by,
to know no gain nor loss,
my sinful self my only shame,
my glory all the cross. 

Shadows of the three windows 
between the rotunda 
and cafeteria reflect 
Luke 23: 32-33 (ESV):

“Two others, who were criminals,
were led away to be put 
to death with him. 
And when they came to the place 
that is called The Skull, 
there they crucified him, 
and the criminals, 
one on his right
 and one on his left.” 

Near the Cross
Frances J. Crosby,  pub. 1869

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
bring its scenes before me.
Help me walk from day to day
with its shadows o’er me.

There are no stained-glass windows in the CCS building, but there are moments when observant students may notice the next-best thing. Each of the eighteen large exterior windows in the educational wing (including one in each classroom) frame an outstretched cross. In the early morning or late afternoon light, depending on the location of the window, the sun’s position casts the window's shadow upon the colors of the carpet below… the effect is almost like stained glass.

Just across the rotunda from this shadow of a cross on the floor is the chapel where another photograph of a cross-like image was taken through the window looking up (a ceiling light behind the transept of the cross creates the glow).The following photo and poem are from page 10 of the booklet is a photo-enhanced image of the grout lines in the floor tile of the entry way. The poem is exactly 100 words (20 of which are in the words "all else" used ten times). The full meaning of the short lines may be best understood with the help of the links in the red text below. 
“Who else but the wholly shattered can make the broken whole? What else but sorrow-spattered love can drench the soul? When else but dark can light be willed? Where else but at the brinked abyss are ancient echos filled? Why else all this? How else can it be spanned?” He sighed and raised His hand. "All else Is disregarded hint, Scribbled reason, mumbled rhyme. All else amounts to pocket lint in time….No other else— on that He does insist.” His hand went to His heart to point the way. Like stones they missed all else He had to say.

The 16-page booklet contains many other pictures, but the one that prompted the jaw-dropping moment of awareness is the one depicted in the second half of the video above and depicted even more accurately in the aerial photograph below (used with permission of Marge Beaver of Photography Plus. Check out her portfolio of National Landmarks.)

As explained in the booklet and Mlive article, I was doing some work with Google satellite images of CCS (zoom in at that link) related to future considerations for the school, when all of a sudden, the image created by the silver (metal) roofs of our building standing in high-relief from the surrounding black rubber roofs of the building. I had never seen what I saw in that moment, and I have talked to hundreds of others equally familiar with our building who also had no idea what could be seen from above. We have indeed been walking in the shelter of a 306' by 154' cross. That's bigger than a football field.

This design is not a miracle. It was part of the architect's plan from the very beginning. It is called a "cruciform design" and it has been used in church/cathedral construction for more than a thousand years. We just didn't know there was a large cruciform design at the heart of the CCS building. From below, we must think very vertically, our perspective must change, to imagine the magnitude of this cross. Tens of thousands of people have passed beneath it unaware that it hovered over them. There are now tens of thousands of people who know this story, but we dare not miss the most important point as we share it with others:

Just as this roof design was part of the architect's plan from the beginning, so was the cross of Christ part of God's plan from the time of man's fall through Adam's sin (as explained in Romans 15:12-21). The plan is not seen by all, and in fact, “...the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”    I Corinthians 1:18   Until we see the Truth of the Gospel... we cannot wrap our faith and understanding around it, but once the Holy Spirit reveals how Christ's finished work on the cross applies to each of us, we are humbled and lifted up at the same time. We are broken and fixed in the final blink of our Savior's eye. As Newton's hymn says once we realize we are "lost" we understand we've been "found." He further explains the paradox with:  "'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fear relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed." 

The conclusion of the booklet includes an explanation of the cruciform design used in Christian architecture through the centuries. It can be seen in simple structures (such as this sketch of an old Norman Church.  It is also executed in a grand scheme in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

What makes the CCS use of the cruciform unique is that it is not executed within the building's place of congregational worship but rather as the central floor plan of an entire building. It is essentially the main traffic area with the chapel occupying the place often called the "chancel" of a cathedral. 

To measure this large cross, I used the athletic department’s “rolotape” (a wheel with a long handle and an “odometer” that counts feet as you walk in a line.) As I rolled the wheel through the rotunda, someone said, “Doing some surveying?” I paused for a minute and smiled, “You know that great hymn ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’? Well, I am actually doing that. Someday soon I’ll explain what I mean.” 
The video above was also put to the music of "When I Survey" at this link.  
(Original version by Isaac Watts  1674-1748.)
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Galatians 6:14

The empty halls and rooms depicted in the booklet do not reflect the thousands of lives touched by this ministry through the years. Other materials about this fully accredited K-12 school are available. This booklet and the accompanying video found at the website below highlight some architectural features that reflect this setting’s intention to be a place of both spiritual and academic formation. The cross itself (actual or emblematic) is not the object of our worship. The cross is a reminder that Christ’s sacrificial atonement for sin is a life-changing subject worthy of study and praise.

The place where congregants sit in historic cathedral-like buildings is called the “nave,” from the Old French noun for “ship.” (The word “navy” comes from this.) That term was used because the high vaulted ceilings of those architectural masterpieces often  resembles the hull of a ship. We have no vaulted ceilings at CCS, but our overarching “ships” include: worship, discipleship, scholarship, stewardship, leadership, fellowship, friendship, sportsmanship, etc.  The word “equip” is derived from an Old French verb for ship— “eschiper” to be exact—which means “to prepare for a voyage or long journey.”  Such preparation is our goal for all who enter the way of the cross at Calvary.

Mission Statement: CCS exists to provide an exemplary Christ-centered education, led by teachers dedicated to assisting the home in equipping students with the truths, knowledge, skills, and values that advance the pursuit of God’s purpose for their lives.
Calvary Christian Schools
5873 Kendra Road, Fruitport, MI  49415
Phone: 231-865-2141

The printing of this booklet was donated to CCS. Additional copies may become available if a second printing is warranted. Donations welcome. All proceeds help defray future printing costs.

Project Update: The previous photo of the building from above was photo-shopped to fill in the missing silver space. A week after this story was published in the Muskegon Chronicle, ten gallons of aluminum paint was donated to the school. When the weather permits and the volunteer help is available, the black rubber room between the rotunda and the grand foyer will be painted to complete the full cross as seen from above. When asked why the steel roof was not designed to complete that gap, the architect explained that to get the full vertical effect of both the foyer and the rotunda there had to be a low spot in between. 

The architect shared with me that he is humbled by the "object lessons" CCS is drawing from his work. I will close with one more derived from his explanation of the low roof we intend to paint silver. It is that same low roof area under which the three cross-like windows form the three shadows on the floor (see photo on left in middle of this story). Just as there are mountains and valleys in life, it is often after passing through a low point that we most appreciate the high points. It is when we are most consumed with the low "horizontal" aspects of life that we most need the uplifting "vertical" relationship with our Heavenly Father. When walking the 306' cross toward the chapel, it is just after the "low point" of the three shadow crosses on the floor (suggesting Good Friday) that one steps into the rotunda which turns the eyes heavenward. 

© April, 2014, Tom Kapanka,

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