Friday, July 9, 2010


One might think that the cross is such a simple thing. It is basically two lines – one longer than the other – one vertical and the other dissecting a bit above center horizontally – a symbol of the device upon which our Savior died. But there is in actuality a dazzling display of different varieties of crosses that come down to us to this day many with an interesting connections and history.

To begin one must make the distinction between a crucifix and a cross. The cross is a representation of the device alone or with the tell tale “INRI” plaque nailed to it signifying that it is indeed the Cross of Jesus. It is the form most commonly used by Protestants but has its fair use in the Catholic Church as well. The Cross is venerated by Catholics on Good Friday. This instrument of torture and death in God’s hands has become the tree of salvation – the very key to heaven! It is also used widely to mark the Christian world as it appears particularly on our churches, schools, and other buildings.

Often distinguishing them from most of the Protestant world however is the Catholic and Orthodox use of the crucifix. The crucifix, of course, has a corpus or body of Christ represented upon it. It is mandated by Church law that a crucifix and not a cross alone should be present and visible near the altar during Mass.

There are suggestions in Protestant circles that this is not good idea the basic gist of their reasoning being that we do not worship a dying Christ but a Resurrected Christ. Well, true enough. So do Catholics. But we also call to mind that the greatest event in all of history is Christ’s suffering and death for us on the Cross. That is what won our Salvation. The Resurrection is the great evidence of that victory but it was His action on the Cross that accomplished it.

Scripture bids us quite emphatically to pick up our cross. What exactly does that mean? How far must I go? Gaze upon Christ on the Cross and that will give you the answer! How much did Christ love you, look upon His suffering and that will tell you. Look not on the shiny gold, clean cross for your inspiration but behold the wounds in His Hands, His Blood upon the Wood; know love and be resolved to love as boldly. Here is the true act of your salvation! Here is what your God is willing to do for you.

What can we do but gaze in awe?


bill7tx said...

When I think that doing something Jesus has told me to do, or to not do something that He has told me not to do, is "too hard," I imagine crawling up to the foot of the cross, looking up into that suffering, blood-streaked and dying Face, and telling Him that it's "too hard" to do what He asks.

Whenever I do this, suddenly it's no problem at all to do whatever he tells me. Lord, help me to always remember to make that crawl over the rocks to the foot of Your cross.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Beautiful post Father, Also, a reason that I don't like the bare Cross is that Jesus rose from the tomb, not the Cross :)

Anonymous said...

I always remember the crucifix that was in our main vestibule of the Parish where I grew up. It was painted with red blood on the wounds. It definitely made more of an impact of Christ's sacrifice than any plan cross ever could

A picture of the Crucifix is here, it's in the bottom row, the Crucifix on the brick wall that is priced at $1,000.

Mary B

Laura Berry said...

Very good blog, Father!

Margaret Comstock said...

For centuries Catholics have meant 'crucifix' when they said 'cross' - it has been an issue since the so-called 'Protestant reformation'. At that time, led on by Calvin, the iconoclasts destroyed the interiors of 300 churches in the Low Countries. Veneration of the Cross has meant kissing the feet of the corpus on the crucifix up until the rubrics of the 1962 Roman Missal and, indeed, even now. I have a picture of John Paul II doing exactly that. I can't understand the trend of using a bare cross.