Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"The Cross at Cahuenga" - Shining God's love down upon Hollywood

By Hope Frances

This week God led me to a Hollywood landmark. And boy was I "wowed" by what I discovered

For the past month or so I have driven by a white cross on a hill in Hollywood. I was interested in finding out more about it until one night I drove by and saw it illuminated. That's when I knew that I had to experience it up close. I felt such a commanding presence from simply looking at the cross from the street below.

So, with my curiosity piqued, I asked my boyfriend to join me in a hike up the hill to view the cross in person.

We made our pilgrimage up the hill last Friday at the height of rush hour traffic on the 101 freeway below. The closer we came to the cross, the more peaceful the air became. Walking up the steep hill to the cross I started to get out of breath, but it was nothing compared to how breathtaking it was once we reached the apex.

Standing in front of the cross and seeing Hollywood in the background was such an awesome sight. What was more awesome, though, was the sense of calm and peace that we felt in front of the cross - a stark contrast to the busy population of 4 million below. It felt as if God was truly looking out over the city of Hollywood, protecting and guiding it.

We spent some time up there just taking it all in and feeling God's powerful presence. It's definitely something to experience firsthand.

The cross stands alone on the hill. There is nothing else up there. It is a testament to God's love shining down onto Hollywood. It is unwavering and unshakable in its protection of the city.
Although the cross doesn't have an official name, it is commonly referred to as the cross on Cahuenga - named after the Cahuenga Pass running between Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.

The history of the cross dates back to the 1920's when an heiress, Christine Wetherill Stevenson, who was instrumental in building the Hollywood Bowl, wanted to build a theater specifically for religious pageants.

She purchased 29 acres of land across the street from the Hollywood Bowl and built the Pilgrimage Theater. The theater became the home of Stevenson's "Pilgrimage Play" written about the life of Jesus Christ. When she died in 1922, Christine Wetherill Stevenson was remembered with a stone cross, which stood atop the hill over-looking the Pilgrimage Theater.

In 1931 a brush fire destroyed the theater and another one was built in its place, this time constructed from concrete. The cross stood tall and was lit only during Easter when the "Pilgrimage Play" was performed. The public soon grew to appreciate the cross illuminated at night.

For a while, Southern California Edison footed the bill that kept the cross lit. Then in 1941 the cross was given to the county and the Pilgrimage Theater was renamed the John Anson Ford Ampitheatre. In 1964, sparked by lawsuits over the religious uses of the theater, performances of the "Pilgrimage Play" ceased. The following year the cross was damaged by fire and was replaced by a new cross, made of steel and Plexiglas.

By 1980 church and state politics again got in the way of the county's support of the cross. This prompted Hollywood Heritage to step in and purchase the site. Within four years the cross suffered the detrimental effects of vandalism, followed by a windstorm, which knocked it over.

The following year, 1985, volunteers erected a new cross 17-feet in height. In 1993 High Adventure Ministries built the current cross standing 33 feet tall. Finally, in 1997, the Church on the Way took over the care and maintenance of the cross on the Cahuenga Pass.

The most amazing part of our pilgrimage, however, happened on our descent. As we made our way down the hill we spotted a deer in the brush. We thought it was neat to see a deer blending in so well with the landscape.

But, it was more than just a deer. We realized it was symbolic to our pilgrimage and more importantly to the site of the cross. In the BIBLE a deer represents the desire of the soul to be in union with God.

Psalm 42:1-2 says:
"As the deer pants for streams of water, So my soul pants for you, O God.My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?"

How appropriate and symbolic it was to have seen a deer at the site of the cross on Cahuenga. It made our experience so much more profound and deeply spiritual. It represented our own soul's desire - as well as the desire of all you readers - to walk with Jesus on the path of life.

Truly… God shines brighter than all the stars in Hollywood.


ann said...

Thank you Hope, for your beautiful piece "The Cross at Cahuenga".
I have had a similar experience with that cross. There is something about it that still draws us near.

His Servant said...

I love that cross and you did such a wonderful job describing both the history and the experience. Every time I drive by I feel the urge to hike up and see it in person. Now I know I have to.

Aaron said...

I have to say, I'm not a religious person at all, but this was an extremely informative blog post. My commute takes me by that cross everyday and I've always wondered what it was and where it came form. I scoured the Internet looking for information on it. Thank you for teaching me something new today.

Connie said...

I been taken pictures of the cross from diifeent vantage points. How do I access the cross from the back? From the theatre?


Anonymous said...

I live near this cross and it causes nothing but trouble because it attracts all kind of crazies. Homeless folk have built many camps there over the years and they make campfires which is really bad for our high risk fire zone neighborhood-- they have started a brush fire at least twice in the 5 years we have been here. Haven't you seen the burnt hillside? It's all black. I thank the LA fire dept for getting here so quickly. A few years ago a half naked man ran down from the cross, covered in black dirt, yelling that the people at the camp have buried him alive. very nice, huh? Every year the police have to do a sweep and get rid of the camps-- so between the fire dept and the police, we are just wasting city money. Also, it is on private property, so when you take a little trip up there you are Trespassing.

Anonymous said...

I live up there also, and it's peaceful and quiet. No problems at all. We love looking and praying near the cross.