God bless Troy Polamalu and his witness for Orthodoxy. I’m amazed that companies spend millions on 30-second Super Bowl ads knowing full well that most people who watch them aren’t going to run out and buy their products. Instead I watched Troy Polamalu bow his head in prayer or cross himself at least a dozen times during yesterday’s Super Bowl. That’s the kind of “advertising” that’s beyond price; that says faith is something of value; that men of true character aren’t ashamed to be labeled as Christians. The combined advertising/outreach budgets of the Orthodox Church in America, the Antiochian Archdiocese and the Greek Orthodox Diocese of America couldn’t have produced even one Super Bowl ad spot as powerful as Troy commanded with a simple sign of the cross.
I know making the sign of the cross is a personal act, that it’s done out of personal piety and for unselfish reasons, but it can’t be anything less than a publicly visible symbol. With the simple swipe of his right hand, folded into a living expression of the mystery of the Trinity and the nature of Christ, Troy witnesses for the theology and fullness of the Orthodox faith. It’s there for everyone to see, but as effortlessly and unselfconsciously as he does it the act never comes across as cheesy, forced or phony. Just as it is meant to be. It is a sign of someone who has submitted himself to the mercy of Christ and his Cross during every waking moment of his life.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catechesis (Lecture 13) cannot have made it any more clear when he insisted that
Let us then not be ashamed to confess the Crucified [Christ]. By the cross our seal, made with boldness by our fingers on our brow and in everything; over the bread we eat and the cups we drink, in our comings and in our goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we awake; when we are traveling, and when we are at rest.
Making the sign of the cross should be as basic to everyday living as breathing and I am so happy to see a godly man who isn’t afraid to make this most visible expression of faith. And for one day Troy Polamalu wasn’t a convert or cradle-born, Greek or Russian or Syrian Orthodox, but an Orthodox Christian representing American Orthodoxy in which all of us were united by the common sign of our faith.
For more on Troy Polamalu’s faith, read today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story.