The Crucifix and the Cross are two very different symbols. The Crucifix is a very important icon to the Catholics while it is true that other Christians fondly and proudly display the cross, it is the crucifix that is largely unique to the Catholics. So why is the crucifix, (A cross which holds an image of the crucified Jesus) so important in our Catholic tradition?
The reasons for crucifixes over crosses are numerous, deep and beautiful just like the whole of the Catholic faith. With crucifixes, we see sacrifice, commitment, redemption and most of all God’s love to humanity.
The crucifix represents our pledge to live fully as Christians, and our wiliness to make all sacrifices required to fulfill the vocations to which God calls each man.
However, in the Catholic thought, the barren cross, while perfectly acceptable, does not complete the understanding of what happened on that first Good Friday. The open arms of our Savior on the cross who gladly welcomes and recives us into His Presence. After all, we are saved by Jesus, and not by a cross. Therefore, the cross represents the “lite” version of the death and resurrection of Christ. However, Catholics are not “lite” Christians in any sense of the word.
A lot of non-Catholic Christians disapprove of the Crucifix. This is very common in Protestant theology. they rather prefer the cross without the form of the crusified Jesus. In that case, they use a bare cross. They say that Jesus is risen and having an image of the suffering Jesus on the cross takes away from the power of the Resurrection while others argue we are keeping Jesus on the cross. But, Catholics are no more keeping Jesus on the cross than all Christians keep Jesus an infant when they display statues or figurines of a baby Jesus in a manger at Christmastime.
The Catholics Faith agree with all Christians that God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to take away the sins of the world. He was crucified and died to fulfill His father’s will. The fact that Christ suffered and died in the most horrific way imaginable serves as a lesson that our sins are no small thing. Indeed, our salvation is the result of a willing sacrifice by the very Son of God Himself who chose to endure so much suffering freely because He so loved the world.
what the crucifix reminds us of – Sacrifices, Commitment, Redemption, Love
Catholics know that the crucifixion of Jesus was a one-time event. But it is an event that should never be forgotten. The crucifix reminds us that the Christian journey is not all comfort and success. We believe in the Resurrection and that we too will be with Jesus in heaven one day. Therefore, we must make sacrifices here on Earth to serve God, serve our family and to serve humanity. It involves very real sacrifice. Like Jesus, we must sacrifice things so precious to us our time, our money, our possessions, and sometimes even our lives.
The image of the crucifix, whether it is placed in our homes, our churches, our schools or around our necks, makes sure that we are always reminded of His sacrifice. His suffering and dying should not be looked at as a defeat but a triumph.
Christ offered Himself up on that cross and that shows the highest commitment one can ever give. Catholic tradition is soaked in the fullness of commitment. There’s something about the very human commitment of Christ, the whole concept of “Thy will be done,” that echoes through Catholic teaching. Whether we recall the story of Abraham and Isaac, or the words of Mary, Mother of God who said, “Let it be done according to Thy Will,” the crucifix reminds us that the Christian journey is not all rainbows and clouds. The crucifix represents, among other things, our level of commitment to Christ. It can also help us better to commit our lives and live the words of Christ when He said, “deny yourselves, take up your cross daily, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Therefore, When some type of suffering comes our way, the image of the crucifix gives us spiritual strength and inspiration to live out our commitment to Him.
Jesus came as the Lamb of God who took away our sins, thereby redeeming the world. While we, as Catholics, believe that our Lord is risen, you can’t have the resurrection without the crucifixion. We need to be reminded of what Christ had to endure before the Redemption could take place, namely his Passion and Death on the cross. The crucifix helps us better understand and appreciate our theology of redemption.
The use of the crucifix is not insignificant, nor is it a horrible preoccupation with Christ’s Death. With it we are reminded of how much Jesus loved each of us individually as he was hung upon that cruel Cross that was transformed from a sign of torture, to the sign of salvation of all Mankind.
One cannot look at a crucifix without seeing Great Love. For, as Christ said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” -John 15:13. Crucifixes depict this 2000 year old, and yet timeless Sacrifice of Love to save all men.
He loved us so much he endured all of that for our sake! And LOVE is what we are proclaiming when we display and venerate the crucifix.
Due to the reasons above, the crucifix plays a special role in the liturgical tradition of the Catholic Church. The Church requires that a crucifix be visible during the celebration of Mass to remind us of the sacrifice of Jesus on the altar of the cross, which is made present for us each time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist.
The Catholics celebrate the entire ministry of Christ at every single Mass, with special emphasis on the Last Supper, the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. The Liturgy of the Word covers begins with an Old Testament reading accompanies with a Psalm. Then, a reading from the New Testament, often from one of the many letters of the apostles is shared. Finally, a selected Gospel passage is read which shares with parishioners a teaching from Christ Himself.
After the Liturgy of the Word, we enjoy the Liturgy of the Eucharist which involves the reenactment of the Last Supper, a meal to which we are all called to eat the Body of Christ and to drink the Blood of Christ, shed for us that sins may be forgiven.
In every Church the Stations of the Cross are visible. This is a devotion in which the stages of Christ’s crucifixion are recalled by prayer. These stations almost always have artistic depictions of scenes from the event.
St. Paul also make it very clear to the early Christians that the crucifixion itself was integral to the Christian devotion. St. Paul mentioned the fact that Christ died for us all (2 Cor 5:14). In the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, he mentioned that he preached about “Christ crucified,” (1 Cor 2:2) to drive home the importance of the deed of the crucifixion itself.
Finally, at Mass, we are really present at Calvary on Good Friday, and thus, it is the crucifix that intimately reminds us of such an amazing and startling fact. A simple cross doesn’t have the same visual or spiritual impact. In most parish churches, the crucifix is given a place of honor and prominence, usually located centrally above the altar or tabernacle. When you walk through the doors of the church, the crucifix is one of the first things that grabs your attention: The open arms of our Savior gladly welcoming and receiving us into His Presence.
Therefore, every Catholic should have a crucifix in their home, above their bed, or wherever they reside to remind them of the commitment required to serve God.