Monday, August 26, 2013

Why Do Catholics Have Crucifixes?

Q - Are there non-Catholic Churches/denominations which display the crucifix? What reasons are given to favor the cross over the crucifix?

A - Thanks for the questions. Yes, there are others, but not many. The others that use the crucifix are the Orthodox Churches, some Anglican/Episcopalian parishes, and some Lutheran churches. You might find a crucifix in a few other Protestant churches, but they would be few and far between.

There are several reasons why the Catholic Church (and others) use the crucifix as a symbol of our faith and others do not. These reasons include:
  • Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 1:23, "we proclaim Christ crucified." Christ's crucifixion is something we find beautiful, because it is the high point of his sacrifice for us.
  • The crucifix is a symbol of what is happening in our liturgy - the re-presentation of the cross in a non-bloody manner on the altar in the form of the Eucharist.
  • Many Protestant denominations went through a period of clearing out art and religious symbols for fear of violating the second commandment (in the Protestant listing of the 10 Commandments, which differs from the Catholic one) of not having graven images and of appearing too "Catholic".
  • Many Protestant denominations emphasize the Resurrection over the crucifixion. Neither is complete in-and-of-itself, but each place a different emphasis on a part of the whole act of salvation offered by Christ.
Thus, because our belief in what goes on in Mass is very different (The Eucharist), our emphasis and symbols are very different from many of our Protestant brothers and sisters. This does not mean that Catholics fail to see the significance of the Resurrection or that Protestants fail to see the importance of the cross. We all know that the cross is the most recognized symbol of our faith.

There are many benefits to having visual signs of our faith. We are able to focus better in prayer when we have the visual representations of what Christ did for us, all (especially those unable to read) can see depictions of the life of Christ, etc. We are bodily creatures and our prayers should be both bodily and spiritual.

The Catechism says:
617 "The Council of Trent emphasizes the unique character of Christ's sacrifice as "the source of eternal salvation" and teaches that "his most holy Passion on the wood of the cross merited justification for us." And the Church venerates his cross as she sings: "Hail, O Cross, our only hope.""
I hope this helps.

1 comment:

Anne said...

Thank you for this post.