Gimme back My Crucifix!

This is not a crucifix

Have you ever been in one of those Catholic institutions–maybe a school or hospital where some well meaning, shallow minded sentimentalist has gone through and got rid of all the crucifixes and replaced them with those corny risen Lord crucifixes?

Have you ever wondered why you don’t like them much? Well, I’ve figured it out.

First of all I don’t like them because they smell like a bit of politically correct maneuvering. Somebody somewhere got the idea that the crucifix was too gruesome for our little children in schools. They shouldn’t be greeted with an image of death when they come to school. It would just be too alarming and disturbing. So we’ll give them a happy image instead–Jesus risen from the dead and ready to give you a big hug!

I’ve heard the same argument for getting rid of the crucifix in Catholic hospitals. “We don’t want to put an image of death and suffering in every room. That would be so discouraging for people who are sick! They need an image of hope and life!” So the crucifix is expunged and the risen Lord is put in its place.

But of course that’s a two way street. I’ve never met anyone who has been discouraged or frightened by the crucifix (although I’ll admit there may be some) but I have heard of people in great suffering who have been comforted by the crucifix knowing that their suffering can have meaning. One commenter has added, ” I remember a woman telling me once that it was a terrible torture and so forth, and we had a long discussion about it — I told her what I saw and why I loved it. A few years later, when she went through a terrible illness, she told me she finally “got it” and found the crucifix a tremendous comfort during her suffering.”

Those reasons aside, there are other things that bother me about the cross without the crucified: The first reason it gets my goat is because some well intentioned sincere person with an agenda has inflicted their shallow sentimentalism on me and overturned a Catholic tradition without asking anyone.

But there are other reasons the obliteration of the crucifix disturbs me. Trendy Catholics say they want to focus on the resurrection, not the crucifixion. Hey! that’s the same argument the Protestants use! “Why do you have those crosses with Jesus still on them in your church?” they ask accusingly. “Don’t you know he is risen? He is not dead. Don’t you believe in the resurrection?” Whenever I get that argument I quote I Corinthians 1:23 – ” but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

See, the reason these folks have got rid of the crucifix is because it is a stumbling block and foolishness. But for those who are called it is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Oh, I know they don’t deny the cross as such, but they do deny its importance by getting rid of the crucifix.

There’s another problem. I have to say it. The devil also hates the crucifix. What does an exorcist use to drive out Satan? One of the things is the crucifix, because the death of Christ is the defeat of Satan. The death of Christ is the defeat of death. The death of Christ is the turning point of history and the redemption of the world. So gimme back my crucifix! So I get worried when Catholics start getting rid of the crucifix. It’s too much like playing into the hands of the Old One.

Does that mean we don’t believe in the resurrection? How silly is that? Of course we believe in the resurrection. Our whole year revolves around the celebration of the Pascal mystery. The Easter Vigil is our birthday–the rising of our sun, the dawning of the light, the harbinger of new life. We are an Easter people. Easter is our message and Easter is our mission. Of course we believe in the resurrection, but we know that there is no crown without a cross. There is no light of Easter morning without the dark of Good Friday afternoon.

And this is why I want my crucifixes back, because I’m wary of Christianity without a cross. I worry when the cross is downplayed because I suspect the need for redemption, forgiveness and salvation is also being downplayed. I don’t trust Christians who try to sell an easy to believe gospel without true grit. It’s an easy sell, but it’s a cheat, and yes, I know none of this was conscious on the part of the sincere nuns who confiscated the crucifixes and replaced them with the risen Lord. They didn’t mean to be heretics, and they’re real nice folks, but that describes most heretics doesn’t it? Most of them are real nice folks. Heresy is always sweeter than the fullness of the truth. That’s why it’s attractive.

Pope Pius XII

Besides, Pope Pius XII in Mediator Dei specifically condemned crucifixes that do not show the suffering of the Lord:  When talking about liturgical abuses he said,

…to cite some instances, one would be straying from the straight path…were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer’s body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings…MD. 62

Here ends the rant. Just for the record: Long live Christ the King who died and rose on high and lives eternal life to bring and lives that death may die.

And lest we forget–here’s a crucifixion to remind us of the throne from which he reigns.

Grunewald Crucifixion from the Isenheim Altarpiece

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker

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