Monday, August 6, 2012

Cross or Crucifix?

The following is a post I wrote for the Tumblog Introibo Ad Altari Dei

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Why do we need a Crucifix in Churches and Chapels, rather than an empty Cross?

Sometimes we see Churches and Chapels without a Crucifix.

Niko, from Niko' s Nature said about a week ago that, “the difference between Protestantism and Catholicism is the difference between a cross and a crucifix.” This is so true. Not only do we - unlike our Protestant brothers and sisters - have the grace to be able t receive the actual Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ because we have the continuity of the Episcopy and the Presbyteriate, we also are the True Church, the Body of Christ; the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ who is the Head of the Body, as St Paul tells us. (Col 1:8)

Why then, is it important to have a Crucifix. Well, the Crucifix instead of just the Cross reminds us that our sufferings aren’t just on our own; that when I suffer the Body of Christ suffers and when the Body of Christ suffers, I suffer. An empty Cross implies that I have to take up my own Cross separate of apart from Christ when this is not the case. In fact, when I take up my own cross, in a sense it’s not my cross that I’m taking up but Christ’s. Just as when Christ took up His Cross, He took up mine.

The Eucharist, Sacrosanctum Concilium tells us, is the source and summit of our Christian life. The Eucharist is none other than the Body of Christ; “the Body, Blood together with the Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ,” as the Council of Trent put it. (Session XIII, Canon I)

Sometimes in order to justify why there’s an empty Cross instead of a Crucifix people say, “Well, we believe in the Resurrection, not just the Crucifixion.” Quite frankly, I’m hurt by that. The Church has always believed in the Resurrection; I have believed in it ever since I entered the Church. The Resurrection doesn’t come without the Crucifixion; yet, the Crucifixion doesn’t happen without the Resurrection. To say either would be akin to blasphemy.

This saying, “We believe in the Resurrection and therefore need an empty Cross instead of a Crucifix,” is in a sense saying that we want to ignore the suffering of Jesus Christ. It was by His sacrifice on the Cross, St Paul tells us, that Christ redeemed us. “Dying He destroyed our death.” It is true that, “rising He restored our life,” yet, we know and can see this in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We know that although the Sacrifice of the Mass is the Sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross, a re-presentation of Calvary to the Father, it does not and cannot exclude the Resurrection. In the same way, the Crucifix reminds us of this: the Crucifixion does not and cannot exclude the resurrection, in the same way that the Mass can’t because they are inextricably linked.

Why, then, can’t we just have a blank Cross? Because the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross I primary; it is God and Man suffering together in order to bring about Salvation. St Paul says to the Galatians, “Was it not before your eyes that Christ was publicly portrayed, and Him Crucified?” It does not say “and Him Resurrected,” but “Him Crucified.” As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “Very simply, what the Mass is, reaching to Calvary and laying hold with your hands the Cross of Christ with Christ on it and you plant it down here, today.” For this reason, the General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM) states that “Also on or close to the altar, there is to be a cross with a figure of Christ crucified.” (117) This is to remind both the Faithful and the Priest what it is that is happening on the Altar, to Whom the Sacrifice is being directed and why; Who it is that’s being offered and Who it is that is doing the offering. It is easy with a blank Cross to forget Whom it is that is doing the offering. It is much easier to think, “Well I’m taking up my Cross and I’m offering it to the Father,” or, “I’m offering Jesus to the Father.” It’s simply not the case.

Jesus Christ is offering Himself - His Whole Self - to the Father. Christ the Head is expressed with Christ the Body; Christ the Priest and Christ the Victim. This must be remembered. For this reason, Holy Church mandates a Crucifix on or near the Altar; not a blank Cross.

Pax Christi vobiscum.
-Kelly (doubleplusgoodful)


Thomas Clarke said...

Clearly I've been under-thinking this.

Kelly said...


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