Monday, April 21, 2008

The Crucifix

Recently, I read a post on a message board where a Catholic woman was the target of an insensitive comment by a Protestant man. He saw her uncle wearing a crucifix and said something to this effect, "Why do Catholics insist on wearing a crucifix? Obviously, they don't know where He is at this moment but we do."

In other words - don't bother me with the suffering of Christ because I'd rather focus on the resurrection.

This gave me some pause. When I left the Catholic church in 1982, I quickly discarded any Catholic symbols, imagery, and doctrines while embracing a more Evangelical perspective. I remember having several gold crosses on chains that I would wear constantly. Yes, the focus was different in a Presbyterian or a Baptist church. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, rose from the dead. It wasn't until years later that I started to realize the imbalance of an emphasis on the resurrection to the exclusion of the crucifixion.

I heard a saying that I fell in love with during those years: Everyone wants to rush through the Crucifixion to get to the other side. But without the Crucifixion, there is no other side.

Catholics have the unique position of focusing on these sufferings by remembering them in the Mass. It isn't just during Lent and Holy Week that the sufferings of Jesus are remembered. The Paschal Mystery confronts the sinner during each Mass of his need for a Savior, his need for salvation, and God the Father's need for justice.

The crucifix is not an easy piece of jewelry to look at. Sure, it's much easier to see a plain gold cross than the figure of Jesus stretched out upon the wooden beams. But I'm starting to realize we need to look at Him hanging on the cross. We need to meditate upon His sufferings because it reminds us what He went through in order to deliver us from sin, to purchase our souls for the eternal glory of God. He went through such unspeakable anguish and pain so that we may join Him in full, Holy Communion with His Father through the power of the Holy Spirit. We get a taste of that communion during Mass when we receive the Eucharist. We will receive it in whole when we are fully accepted into Heaven.

I think the crucifix is one of the "hard truths" of Catholicism. Some people think it is a focusing needlessly on suffering when (in their minds), clearly Christ suffered but it's over, done with. The empty tomb eclipsed Calvary. But what the crucifixion does for me is allow me to think upon my sins and how it was my sins that nailed Jesus Christ to the cross.

I'm going to be thinking upon the crucifixion more because I believe my soul needs it. I need to understand on a deeper level what Christ has done for me. His suffering places my sins squarely before me. And who really wants to face their sins?

Not me. Which is exactly why I must do it.

1 comment:

Rosemary said...

Insightful post. Your points are so true.