The Ancient Modern
The Floating Crucifix / Joshua Alan Sturgill
When I lived in Colorado, I used to drive down from the mountains twice a month to visit friends to share a meal and a beer in Colorado Springs. Occasionally, I pass through again, traveling from Santa Fe to Denver on the stretch of Interstate 25 that skirts the Southeast ranges of the Rockies: the Sangre de Cristos, the Wet Mountains and the Spanish Peaks.
Five years ago, on one of these chance trips, I called some friends to see if they had time for a beer at our favorite brewery downtown. My time was limited; I could leave early from Santa Fe and arrive late in Denver, but I couldn’t stay the night as I was due for an early appointment. Denver traffic is notoriously congested.
We decided to meet at the brewery, grab a meal and a pint, and go for a walk around Acacia Park.
Evening was coming on, beautiful dusk. We felt the lift of our beer, we laughed and talked and watched all the people out on the street. Acacia Park is always full of interesting folks taking in the views, the air and the art.
When one of my friends stopped suddenly in front of me, I bumped into him and started to make a joke of it—but I noticed that he wasn’t looking ahead. Nor was he looking around at something or someone. He was looking upward—into the sky. The street around us had gone quiet, and I noticed, too, several heads upturned and fingers pointing at something I hadn’t seen.
It was a moment before I discovered what had made my friend stop so abruptly and the people around us break off their conversations. I thought it was a parade ballon, and I suppose it might have been something like this, except the edges were too sharp and the appearance of metal and wood were much too real—glinting and textured.
It was a huge Crucifix, floating over the sidewalk ahead of us on the other side of the street. It’s a parade balloon, I thought, it’s a promotion for a Church or an Evangelical group. But I’ve had enough interaction with Colorado Springs Evangelicals to know they wouldn’t associate with something so bluntly Catholic.
It came toward us at a slow, steady pace. It didn’t look as though it was floating from a tether. It looked exactly like it was hanging from an invisible line, hanging out of the sky. I looked around for a crane or pole, but there were too many trees in the way.
By this time, there were a lot of people gathered around, and conversations had broken out about it—lots of laughter, some sounds of disgust, a few “wow” and “cool” and “that’s weird.” Several people just looked up for a moment and continued on their way. One man in a suit, cell phone in hand, looked right up as he passed below, but continued his way and conversation as if he didn’t see it, or that it didn’t matter to him.
When the Crucifix was directly across the street from us, I saw a woman walking underneath it. So many people were looking up, I don’t think they made the connection. She was crying softly, and didn’t seem to be paying attention to what was happening. But the Crucifix hung over her, moving at her exact pace. She passed by us, and moments later turned around a corner and the Crucifix followed her out of sight.
I could not see her face clearly. The light was fading, and the street between us was full of passing cars. But the tears were unmistakable. She kept raising a hand to her face to wipe them. And, her grief seemed intense. I am sure of this, though I don’t know how. Did she lose someone? Was she moved by some deep compassion? Was the Crucifix a genuine apparition—or was this all some kind of promotion or gimmick? I don’t know.
And my friends, who are very thoughtful people, didn’t say much about it. For awhile, we walked in silence before stopping for a second round at another pub. We wanted to toast what we had seen, but we couldn’t find the words. There was a silent pause after we raised our glasses. Then, someone said, “to unexplainable things: beauty, faith and friendship,” and we repeated these words. Our glasses clinked, and we spilled a little beer. The conversations around us seemed to swell again and carry us back into the evening we had planned.