Thursday, September 15, 2011

exultation of the cross...

... I have never understood the protestant aversion to the image of Christ on the crucifix. I know they like their Jesus triumphant and risen and all, but it will always baffle me why they wouldn't find it a meditative visual reminder of Christ's mercy as we Catholics do.

I'm quite fond of this quote by Fr. Groeschel; "People can relate to a crucified Christ displayed in Catholic Churches, as each one of us has a cross to carry. None of us can relate to a risen Christ, as none of us has ever risen from the dead."

It seems simple enough and makes perfect sense don't ya think?

Two anecdotes. Well, one anecdote and one musing.

Once, before I even converted to Catholicism, I had a protestant friend who brought her daughter over to my home for a play date. Her daughter was a very precocious four year old, God love her. She was an astute and clever child who asked unabashed questions and noticed things. Things like the time we were all at the pool and when I bent over to remove my shorts she remarked how big my bottom was. Her observation didn't bother me, I've lived with this Puerto Rican posterior following me around all my life. I know it's back there. I simply told her that when you get older and grow up you get bigger. What was this precious little child's remark, "my mom is older than you and her butt is no where near that big!" She had me. What can you do?

Anyway, this sweet little tart became visibly upset at the sight of a crucifix hanging on my living room wall. She said Jesus looked hurt and sad. I told her that was His sacrifice for us so we can go to Heaven. She seemed satisfied with that response; however, her mother never allowed her to come over again claiming the sight of it gave her daughter nightmares. So much for ecumenism. Eh.

Sometimes when we see something over and over again it loses it's impact. Like the crucifix. Us Catholics hang it around our necks, have one in every room of our homes and see Him every Sunday in church. The dramatic shock of seeing Our Lord pierced and dying in agony on the cross becomes another part of the decor.

One evening I found myself complaining to a girlfriend about a particularly dreary evening I spent with a fellow. We had just met and all he could talk about was how awfully his ex-wife had treated him and how evil his ex-mother-in-law was to his children. No matter where I steered the conversation he inevitably brought it back to his miserable lot in life. This man was a victim of The Shrew. I could empathize... to a point. After two hours I felt like I should have billed him for my time, like Lucy in her little "The Doctor is in" booth. I was emotionally exhausted by him before the appetizers arrived! I was going to need another drink.

Several weeks had passed when I thought about this man again, almost quite suddenly. A saw a priest slipping out of the confessional after having heard confessions that evening. He mopped his brow and looked like a man who just ran a marathon. He looked exhausted. Emotionally exhausted. Probably a lot like I looked that dreary evening many weeks ago.

This priest had just endured and forgiven our deepest sins. He, in persona Christi, had carried them on his shoulders to rid us of our burdens. It makes perfect sense, the wave of relief we feel at absolution. Like a weight has been lifted and we are made light of our burden. Because we have been. We've been freed of this load. And while making my penance I looked up at the cross and saw Our Lord crucified... carrying with Him all our sins. I was given just a tiny glimpse of the magnitude of the crushing weight of it all and the extent of His mercy and love for us, when I needed it most. When I was in danger of viewing the cross as just part of the furniture. Sometimes we need to have our eyes opened wide like children so we can see how sad and hurt Our Lord looks.

The Crucifixion, by Francisco de Zurbarán


Lydia McGrew said...

The mother said the crucifix gave the little girl nightmares or gave the mother nightmares?

Smiley said...

It never gets old to see a crucifix, to realize again and again that it is my sins, yes MY SINS that are responsible for the death of God. It is humbling.

Kay said...

What a thought-provoking, true, and beautiful post. Thank you Kat.

newguy40 said...

Thanks. That was a very astute post on how we may get used to seeing Christ Crucified. I also think that your reflection helps ALL of us to remember why He is up there and how...

To be honest with you I am the same way... I have a few holy cards and a small St Jospeph statue at my desk at work. One of the cards is of my patron saint, St. Bartholmew. Marytology tells us that St. Bartholomew was skinned alive. This particular holy card has St Bartholomew lacking quite alot of his skin. Having this card close by reminds me of what many saints and faithful have suffered for Christ.

Kimvandapool said...

Sure protestants love the risen Christ, but they still have the plain cross displayed everywhere. As if the cross alone has any power or significance without Christ on it. It's kind of akin to someone going around wearing a necklace with a little noose on it or hanging a guillotine on their wall. The cross was simply one the preferred methods of capital punishment in the 1st century. We should never remove Jesus from it.

The Crescat said...

"As if the cross alone has any power or significance without Christ on it."

Excellent point!

B. Hold said...

I've wondered about Protestant objections to images of Christ on the crucifix, too. I recently interviewed a priest in a Rastafari commune in Jamaica who shares the same feelings as Protestants, though perhaps he is even more passionate in his opposition than any Protestant I have ever known, and I grew up in a Protestant church. I wonder if the removal of the image of Christ from the cross has more to do with a rejection to iconography in general. As the story goes (I think), some of Martin Luther's anti-Roman contemporaries engaged in somewhat violent iconoclasm, but Luther himself insisted that the crosses in churches not be destroyed along with the rest of the iconography. I'm not sure if images of Christ disappeared from the crosses at that time, but my hunch is that this Protestant position may have more to do with their opposition to iconography depicting Christ and the saints in general, not specifically because it is His suffering depicted.

Then again, I have heard one or two Protestants who object on the grounds that "He is no longer on the cross! He is risen!" Of course, but I would not jump from that to an argument that this important event not be depicted in iconography. Also, this is an interesting reaction coming from a Protestant, as the theological emphasis I hear from most Protestants I know is the cross, not the resurrection.

By the way, I love PR posteriors. And your writing.