The cross was an inspiration that Mother Antonia had years ago. The original one was made by a prisoner. He is now free & continues to make the crosses for the order.
It combines the Old & the New Testament – the Star of David & the Cross. The cross consists of 3 nails, one down & two across, representing the nails that held Jesus to the cross & His suffering & destruction of the flesh.
The nails are bound together because Jesus was bound. The Hebrew Star the sign of the majesty of David’s kingship & the inheritance of his Son, the long awaited Messiah, the King of Kings & Lord of Lords. The Star of David is also to ensure that we never forget the holocaust.
The cross is never worn on a chain. It is worn by the Servants on a shoestring, to remind us to untie the shoes of the poor & to wash their feet.
MY CALL TO PRISON
Many years ago, I had a dream. I was a prisoner at Golgotha, “the hill of skulls”. Calvary!
I remember how I looked, the modest dress I wore, the dream images are as clear to me as a familiar photograph. I must have been a Jewess, as I was dressed as one, but I did not know Jesus. And I still recall the terror that jolted me when a Roman guard pronounced my sentence: “Woman, prepare to die—death by crucifixion!” Then he turned his back & walked away.
I ran from one person to the next, begging them to tell me why I was to be crucified. But one by one, they turned their backs to me. I fell to my knees & begged God to let me die instantly. “I’m not afraid to come to You, but please don’t let them crucify me. I’m willing to die, but not like that! I can’t bear it, I know I can’t! Take me now.”
The Roman guard returned & said, “You don’t have to pray. There’s a man here who wants to take your place. . . that man.” My eyes followed the direction of his finger & I saw Christ, wearing a white robe, standing in a cart, His face serene. He conveyed a message with His eyes: “I’ll die for you.” Pure love flowed out from Him. He was willing to give His very life for me & in return He expected. . . nothing! Guilt flooded over me & my eyes turned away. It was not my wish that this innocent & holy man should die for me, but I was so weak. Unlike me, He was strong & brave–& willing. And I was willing—to let Him die the death intended for me!
“He wants you to stand by Him. They’re ready to nail Him to the cross,” the guard said. “Oh, no! I can’t!” I answered. “I can’t stand violence! How could I possibly watch a man being nailed down on a cross?” The guard sternly reminded me, “Woman, He’s there in your place!”
I turned & looked again. There was my Lord, stripped & stretched out on a cross. All action was suspended. He & the soldiers were waiting for me.
Suddenly love, so intense that it vaporized my fear & sent it drifting into the surrounding mists, washed over me. I ran quickly & knelt at His head. I took His sweet face into my hands, but it was no longer the face of Christ – the face was blank – it was the face of no one, & everyone. I did not speak, but He could read my thoughts: “I’ll stay with You. I’ll hold You. It won’t hurt as much when I’m holding You.” I knew then that I could never be parted from Him, so much did I love Him, & I spoke the words aloud for all to hear: “I will never leave You! Never! Not ever!”
As I said these words, waiting for the blow of the hammer that would drive the nails. . . I awoke. I went into the kitchen & looked at the clock; it was exactly 3:00 a.m.
I sat down & wrote this poem:
On the hill of skulls, I was to die
The sentence was to crucify
And all that I could say was, “Why?”
But none would give me their reply.
I sent to Him a frantic plea:
“Oh, my God, please spare me.
Don’t let them nail me to the tree,
To hang there ‘til the hour of three.”
The Roman guard then did say,
“Woman, you don’t have to pray.
That man, He wants to take your place
To pay for your, & man’s disgrace.”
I turned & looked into His face
And such a face I have not seen
In waking hour or in dream.
For, oh, such love was that of He,
The God-man Who would die for me
Standing, white-robed, in a cart
His innocence tearing at my heart.
And yet, my character so weak
I did not even chance to speak.
“‘Tis easier for Him than me,
He’s very brave, all men can see.”
“He wants YOU to stand by Him,
He’s paying, woman, for your sin.”
“I can’t, I can’t,” my body shook,
But somehow I turned back to look.
And He that is the only good
Was stripped & stretched upon the wood.
And as my heart began to pound
I knelt behind Him on the ground.
“Savior, Who dost take my place,
In my hands, I’ll hold Your face.”
“Oh, love that is divine,
Your agony, too, is mine.”
And as these words, thank God, I spoke,
I startled &, thank God, I woke.
– Mother Antonia Brenner
When I went to La Mesa prison, each time a prisoner was stabbed, or shot, or a woman prisoner was having a baby, they would be lying in the infirmary. There would be guards, doctors & nurses surrounding them. Each time, I would hold their heads & comfort them. They would say, “No tevais! No tevais!”, “Don’t leave me! Don’t go!”.
And I would say, “Leave you? I’m NEVER going to leave you!”.
Then I would say, “Look Lord, I’m holding your face again.” Then I knew why His face was blank in the dream . . . because it would be filled by each person I would come in contact with.