Two years ago on Good Friday, I became a little more Catholic by acquiring the first and only crucifix I have ever worn. I bought it from a teenage girl in a coffee shop who was selling jewelry as a fundraiser for her church youth group. Although she was not Catholic, there were a couple of crucifixes among the necklaces she had for sale. What sold me on this one was when she pointed out that it was made of hematite, adding, “It absorbs negativity!” Now, I’m not sure how much stock to put into what people say about magnetic healing properties and all that, but that’s beside the point. It was the Christological symbolism that was irresistible. What better material to represent the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world?
The cross, like all good symbols, is multivalent, signifying many things at once. Any multivalent symbol can of course be distorted toward bad interpretations, but isn’t that precisely the risk taken in the Incarnation? When I see a crucifix, I think: wow – this is the kind of Lord we believe in! A crucified Lord, a suffering Lord, a servant king,
When I attend Mass with ecumenical groups, knowing that this is where we will feel our lack of full communion most acutely, a crucifix at the front of a church takes on another layer of meaning: the broken Body still suffers.
who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8)
I have worn my crucifix to immigration reform marches and prayer vigils for executions, because he too was an immigrant and refugee; he too was a convict sentenced to death (and an unplanned pregnancy, and a supposed national security threat, and a pesky vagabond). It is a visible reminder that I believe in the kind of Lord who has identified himself with all those whose humanity is most easily dismissed.
The Christ I wear around my neck is continually calling me to conversion. Our self-emptying Lord still comes to us as broken bread to strengthen us for this call into embodiment of the same kenosis – and to absorb the negativity that stands in the way.