In Exaltatione Sanctae Crucis
“We should glory… in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he is our salvation, our life and our resurrection; through Him we are saved and made free.” [Galatians 6:14] So began the Mass this morning for today’s feast. But how often do Christians really “glory” in the Cross?
Yesterday I posted on my Facebook profile a horrifying picture of a little girl beheaded by one of the factions in Syria to which one of the commentators said, “Dreadful. Why would you post such vileness?” To which I responded, “… because so many people think that by ignoring it or hiding it, they need not think about it… let alone do anything about it… How often was this true in the last century such that Fascism, Nazism and Communism rose to great power through fear! Truth knows no shame, guilt is known only by those who deny Truth and hide behind sin and evil.”
I should add that I had placed a warning “those of a nervous disposition look away” but I wanted people to see, to recognise, to know what is actually going on in Syria, because even though its “on the news” so many people are desensitised to reality living in the easily “turn on and offable” virtual reality of TV, films and the internet and the distractions of their own lives and interests. (I hasten to add that my Facebook is not viewable to anybody under 18 and only people I have vetted can view it.)
Sadly too many Christians feel the same way about the Crucifixion. So often I hear Christians, particularly protestants, questioning or even rebuking us Catholics for using Crucifix’s rather than plain Crosses. “It symbolises the resurrection” or “we don’t focus on death” they say, to justify their use of “a cross without a body on it”, an “empty” cross… Yet in so doing they are actually in danger of denigrating rather than glorifying the Cross…
To focus on the resurrection and an “empty cross” is to effectively deny the ultimate expression of the love of God in Christ on the Cross, i.e. His death. The resurrection certainly is important, it is what gives us hope and indeed faith – but it is Christ’s death that expresses the love of God. The resurrection is the afterglow of that love, it is the aftereffect, the byproduct, but it is ultimately yet to be realised fully by us until that “last day” [cf John 6:40]. However, it is the Lord’s death that we are called to “proclaim” until His coming again [1 Cor. 11:26], it is the emulation of His love that He charges us to live by [cf Luke 9:23] and it is the way in which His Gospel will be made known [cf John 13:34-35].
Sanitising the Cross is rather like ignoring the nasty pictures of dead foetuses and children slaughtered on a daily basis by a cruel world driven by greed, selfishness and sin. “Out of sight, out of mind” and despite overtures of sympathy and self-righteousness, how few people speak up to do anything about it. I remember well the reactions to Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” in which nothing is spared or left to the imagination concerning the real horror of flagellation and crucifixion.
Who could not fail to be provoked or to look away from the director’s portrayal of the barbed hooks in the whips tearing at the flesh of Christ… or how the wood of the cross was dripping and stained with the blood of Christ against a background of Jerusalem…? Yet that was the reality of what Christ endured and by today’s standards is rather tame compared to youtube video’s of Sharia law beheadings and games of gore and war played by a lot of adults as well as children…
You see, my point is, that denying the realities of sin and evil only serves to shield the guilty and protect the wrongdoer… As I wrote a couple of posts ago, “True charity is loving unselfishly, sacrificially – not just appreciating what makes us happy or contented or the reflected self-satisfaction of providing the same for another…” it involves sacrifice. When we hide our eyes from the reality of how God’s love was made manifest for us by Christ on the Cross… we ultimately deny His sacrifice, deny His love and make ourselves contemptible and complicit with the Devil in disguising, protecting and distracting people from the love of God… sanitising and covering up the crucified body of Christ is to cover up the ultimate expression of God’s love.
For us to truly “glory in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ” requires us not to hide His love, but to live and display as well as demonstrate His love for us. For just as we received this life through pain and suffering (childbirth), so too was the opportunity to be reborn into eternal life (baptism) gained for us through pain and suffering. To embrace the Cross is to embrace the love of God – next time you see “Jesus on a cross” demonstrate your love for Him and explain His love on the Cross to another for… “through Him we are saved and made free.”
Sanguis Christi, in Cruce effusus, salva nos.