Monday, September 19, 2011

Saintly Saturday on a Monday: Holy Cross

The first cold brought home from school by the kids is always tough (being sick while also being a primary caregiver is never easy), but this year it kicked my butt. I was in bed most of the weekend with a splitting sinus headache, barely able to see straight, let alone write anything coherent. Therefore, this week I'm having Saintly Saturday on a Monday.

In the Orthodox Church, September 14 is major feast called the Elevation of the Holy Cross. This celebration lasts a whole week. This past Saturday and Sunday are officially called the Saturday and Sunday after the Holy Cross.

About the year A.D. 325, St. Helen (mother of the first Christian Emperor St. Constantine) went to the holy land and did a bunch of groundwork to figure out where various events recorded in the Gospel actually happened. She discovered that the Emperor Hadrian had erected a pagan temple over Golgotha. She had the temple razed and beneath discovered three crosses. She was convinced that one must be the True Cross, but was at a loss as to which one it might be.

At the urging of St. Macarius, the bishop of Jerusalem, a woman who was deathly ill was brought to touch the three crosses. As soon as she came near the True Cross she was completely healed. Therefore, Marcarius lifted up the True Cross in the church for all to see as they all cried out "Lord have mercy!" This event is commemorated every year at this time.

One of the things I never tire of emphasizing is the irony of the Cross. It has gone from being seen as an instrument of one of the most heinous, tortuous, humiliating and awful ways to die to having this said about it:

Let us venerate the holy resurrection of Christ. For behold, through the cross joy has come to all the world. Blessing the Lord always, let us praise His resurrection. For enduring the cross for us, He destroyed death by death.

This is one of the reasons I have never given much credence to conventional wisdom, because it (as St. Paul implies) sees the Cross as foolishness. It is also one of the reasons that I get such a kick out of the OSR. It tends to turn gaming conventional wisdom on its ear.

For example, newer is not always better — otherwise why would so many of us get such a kick out of playing with rules from circa 1974-1981 (whether in their original form or an emulation) and largely turn our back upon the latest and supposedly greatest version of our favorite FRPG?

The OSR is chuck full of things like this. JB over at B/X Blackrazor recently reminded us that the simple d6-per-side initiative is not only easier to run, but it speeds up combat and can make the game more fun to play. For myself, I am a firm believer that the "limitations" of rolling on random tables or of rolling character stats in order are actually liberating because they allow us to think outside the box and therefore be more creative than living with no limitations at all.

This, of course, is not to say that the OSR is never wrong, that older is always better, that you can never have any fun playing with individual initiative or that it is impossible to be creative with a point-buy character creation system. All I am saying is that (like me this weekend) conventional wisdom needs a good kick in the butt every now then and the OSR is very good at doing that.

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