Monday, September 19, 2005

I have a papal crucifix pin on a jacket that I wear on chilly days. I've been asked a couple times why we still have a dead Jesus nailed to the cross.

What good is a bare cross? Sure, it could evoke the Resurrection, but it could just be seen as an instrument of torture.

Jesus puts the cross in context. A crucifix is not just any cross, it is The Cross. And it implies the whole of the Paschal Mystery: Jesus' life and Resurrection are inseparable from His death.

I was in a gift shop a couple weeks ago and spotted a glass cross with a hummingbird etched into its center. How is it that acceptable, but a cross with the body of the Lord is not? I think the hummingbird cross is not only kitschy, but also offensive, and maybe even sacrilegious.

Contrast that with the 16 inch crucifix I saw in the woodcarving shop the other day. Jesus was falling forward, the weight of death tugging at His nailed arms. The carving marks lent a sense of power even in the greatest moment of fraility and darkness.

It took my breath away and showed me something of the Savior I'd hadn't seen before. It was a moment of prayer that took me out of an Estes Park gift shop to the foot of the Cross at Calvary.

That's the purpose of the crucifix, and with it all Christian art.