The sign of the cross has come to represent an entire religious tradition, because it symbolizes the scaffolding on which Jesus was crucified and, according to Christianity, died for our sins. Over the centuries this simple symbol has been elaborated and interpreted in a variety of ways; perhaps the most resonant on a spiritual level is that Jesus was the son of God, the Holy Spirit made flesh, the intersection of the horizontal human dimension and the vertical heavenly realm.
For those of us who don't believe in the unique redemptive power of Jesus, the cross can be understood and directly experienced as a symbol of our own spiritual journey: the vertical line represents spirit or consciousness expressing itself through this human form, and the horizontal represents our unfolding in time and space. Like Jesus, each one of us exists at the intersection of the vertical and the horizontal, the timeless and the movement through time, absolute and relative, universal and individual, divine and human, which join in the Now.
Most of the time, of course, we're caught up in the headlong horizontal current of this earthly human life, which constantly calls on us to react and do, to accomplish and produce, to relate with others, take care of our loved ones and our own needs, and meet our obligations in the material world. In the process, we keep forgetting about the spiritual dimension, the energy and inspiration behind this seemingly solid manifest reality, the impersonal source beneath this apparently personal human life. This dimension is always already available to us if we're willing to stop, rest in silence, and open ourselves to the inspiration, literally, the influx of spirit.
Like Jesus, each one of us is spirit appearing as flesh. Though we've been assigned these human forms and the karmic bundle that accompanies them, we can remember and abide in who we really are, our essence, our source, the timeless, boundless mystery that infuses and animates each moment. This is the deeper meaning and invitation of the holy days that approach us, whether we celebrate them as Hanukkah, Christmas, or Solstice: to remember that the light that informs and illuminates the darkness is not separate from the dark, that this illumination is always available as what we essentially are, and that spirit is endlessly pouring itself into form, not on special days and in special places only, but right here and now.