Do you have a favorite Crucifix? Maybe it was one handed down from a grandparent or received as a gift at a key moment in your Catholic Christian life. Maybe it is very simple or very ornate. Perhaps, it was picked up when you visited the Holy Land or Rome on pilgrimage. Perhaps, it was made by a family member talented in wood like St Joseph. There is one hanging in the hallway of my parent’s home – I never remember it not being there. I’d pass it a hundred times a day. It was only touched to be dusted or to replace the palms each Lent that were tucked behind it. Personally, I have several crucifixes of my own. The one on my office wall is a small replica of that which hangs in the St Thomas Aquinas Chapel at Saint Meinrad School of Theology. I spent hours and hours in prayer and worship with that crucifix before me – challenging me to lay down my life out of love for Christ’s people. I have a small 3-inch crucifix that was gifted to me by some friends and fellow parishioners at my home parish. It had belonged to their son, who tragically took his life. I keep it and pray for him, for them, for all who struggle with the darkness of depression, despair, and dilemmas seemingly beyond them, but never beyond the power of Good Friday. I have one over my bed that is a sick call set, which thankfully I’ve never had to use for myself. I’ve another over the tabernacle in the rectory chapel that was gifted to me; the wood of the cross is repurposed 100-year-old kneelers from a previous assignment – think of the prayers said by the many faithful kneeling upon that wood! You have your own Crucifixes. Each has its own personal connection and import. Each representation of Christ’s agony is unique. Each shines a different light upon the agony and sacrifice. Some are mundane, inexpensively made. Others are ancient, expensive, irreplaceable. Think of the Crucifix of San Marcello which was once again made famous when Pope Francis utilized it on 27 March 2020 in an Urbi et Orbi (City & World) prayer in St Peter's Square, which was empty due to the COVID lockdown. The Crucifix alone and desolate in the dark and rain with Francis interceding for relief and salvation from a new plague – not the seemingly perennial plague of sin – but the current scourge of a world-wide pandemic. It was the Crucifix and prays united. The Crucifix is central to Catholic Faith and Worship.
The Crucifix – a Cross with the Corpus (body) of Jesus still present, is central in Catholic Church as focal point in every church building. The presentation of the great saving work, the suffering, the death of Our Lord, hanging there, bloodied, bruised, exhausted, weak, weeping, dying, dead. Blood dripping from the hands, feet, brow, and pierced side. The presentation is intended to move us, to stop us in our ordinary routine, to shake us from our stupor. Yet, it is so very common to us Catholics, we have grown comfortable and complacent with its sight. We would notice if it were taken down, or when during the Passiontide (14 days prior to Easter) it is shrouded in purple as we do here at Holy Family and many other parishes, but largely it is just there. We need to see it again in all it harshness, in all its tenderness, in all its spiritual & bodily reality.
Sometimes our Protestant & separated brethren bring it to our attention. They question, “why we keep Jesus on the Cross!? Don’t you know that He is raised from the dead and lives forever?!?” Of course we do. In fact, many a Catholic Church has a stained glass window or statue of the exalted, glorified, and risen Jesus as well. But we are keen to keep this stark, sorrowful, and stirring image before us always. It was my sins and yours for which our Lord lovingly laid down His life and died. Even Saint Paul was quick to point out, teach, and remind all who would listen of the Crucifixion of Jesus. “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is Tuesday, September 14
How will you see, remember, and exalt the Cross of Christ?
Holy Family, Suffering with and for Christ, Pray for us.
~ Fr Jeremy M. Gries