St John's Q&A

Monday, September 10, 2007

The meaning of the crucifix

“WasWondering” wrote, “In Protestant churches the cross is empty because they believe that Jesus resurrected. How come we don't believe this also in this way?” Your question is a good one. Obviously, the Catholic Church firmly believes in the Resurrection. But, the Resurrection doesn’t deny the Crucifixion. One of the main reasons that crucifixes have the image of Christ’s body is so that we will have a visual reminder that Jesus suffered and died for us. Even though many of them have been “cleaned up” so that they don’t show too much blood, crucifixes help us to remember that Christ really suffered, shed real blood, and died a real death in his human nature.

Please keep in mind that we see the Death and Resurrection of Christ as one event: the act of Salvation. This point is brought out in the following which is an excellent reflection on the meaning of the crucifix from Father W. Thomas Faucher, a pastor in Boise, Idaho:

“Are we too accustomed to the crucifix, too comfortable with it to remember its meaning?One purpose of the crucifix is certainly to remind us of the terror and pain of Christ's suffering and death. But there is more to the crucifix than that.

When we are the ones suffering, the crucifix is also a reminder of our union with Christ.We live in difficult times, fearful times. The threat of nuclear war seems to have faded, only to be replaced by a much more imminent threat of terrorism. There seems to be so much more cancer and so much more of other diseases, and those affected seem to be younger.

Older people who thought their children were raised and out of the home increasingly are taking these children back after a destructive divorce. From the fear of bird flu to actual job loss, the number of people truly suffering physical, spiritual and psychological trauma is getting larger and larger…

The simple crucifix is often a means of great solace and peace for such people. There is something about looking at a crucifix -- or especially holding one -- that brings a sense of unity with Jesus.

"You made it through this, Lord, and so can I" is one of the best prayers ever uttered.What gives the crucifix its power is the reality that it is not the end of the story. The crucifix is a temporary point in the life of Jesus.

The end of the story is Easter. The end of the story is resurrection. The end of the story is the triumph of good over evil.

The reason Catholics prefer the crucifix to the bare cross is that we unite not just with the action which took place on the cross, but with the person of Jesus. We unite with Jesus, we share with Jesus, we live with Jesus. We know we will triumph with Jesus.


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