The Crucifix


I was assisting in a history class one day shortly after my conversion. I was wearing a crucifix and the history teacher, who happened to be a Baptist, commented that crucifixes always bother her. She asked me why we Catholics kept Jesus on the cross when he was risen from the dead. She expressed her offense at the sight of Jesus hanging there 2000 years after the fact.

Prompted, I believe, by the Holy Spirit, I broke into a chorus of an old hymn traditionally familiar to Baptists:

Lest I forget Gethsemane,
Lest I forget thine agony,
Lest I forget thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.

She walked away with raised eye brows and a pensive nod.

Before I had given any thought to being Catholic I had decided I wanted a crucifix in my house. I had been plagued for too long by a pet sin that was draining the life out of me (more literally than I knew at the time) and I knew that part of the problem was that I took sin way too lightly. After all, being a Calvinist, I believed that I was one of the chosen few and that sin like this was only a temporary interruption in an indestructible relationship with Christ that began with my point in time faith in Him, and would not end until Christ himself had seen it to completion. I could not lose my salvation, so sin meant only a temporary loss of “fellowship” with Him.

Or so I thought.

I knew I needed to be constantly reminded of the price my Lord had paid for my salvation so that I would stop this presumptuous disregard for His will in my life. So I approached my (then) Baptist husband carefully and asked how he would feel if I got a small crucifix for the wall by my desk. He seemed unconcerned about it, especially in light of my motivation.

Little did I know that two years later there would hardly be a room in my house without one!

Recently my brother debated Patrick Madrid on the veneration of Saints and the use of images in worship. The crucifix became a central feature of the debate. My whole being was shaken by the look of disgust my brother gave the beautiful crucifix that had been displayed earlier. How could anyone look with disgust on the most self-sacrificing act of love ever known? How could anyone loath the image of one's Savior dying as a ransom for their soul? It was chilling.

As we read the lives of the Saints we find that many times victory over doubt or grace in suffering came as one of those precious Saints of God fixed their eyes on a crucifix. Converts have come home, myself included, because of the encounter with life giving love that a crucifix represents

Could it be that the sight of the price paid for us makes some very uncomfortable? Could it be that as we look upon Christ giving his last drop of life for us we realize that we are called to the very same sacrificial life? Could it be that fixation on the resurrection, made “sanitary” by the omission of the crucifixion, allows us to believe we are called to live in painless power rather than in humility and sacrifice?

Could it be that the sight of the crucifix brings to the surface our regard for sin? Should it not be impossible to set our eyes on a crucifix and allow any sinful thought to linger in the same mind that is filled with that sight? Much like a recitation of the Ten Commandments, does the sight of our sacrificial Lamb make us feel the pangs of every imperfect fiber of our beings?

In 1 Corinthians chapter 1 St. Paul tells us that

“we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.”

To those puffed up with the wisdom of this world, the sight of the Son of God hanging from a cross is a stumbling block, a sign of offense. But to those of us who are being saved, it is the power of God, the wisdom of God, the love of God. And since His strength is made perfect in weakness, the crucifix is the still life caricature of the triumph of Holy love over selfish sin. Far from being the low point of Christ's life and something to be brushed aside or forgotten, the crucifixion is the pinnacle of the Glory of God in Christ Jesus.

So it is with gratitude I wear this crucifix. It keeps my heart focused on the lover of my soul; it keeps me submitted to the cross I must take up daily to follow Him; it reminds me how much he loves the rest of the world and how much he wants me to give to reach them.

Lest I forget . . . Lead me to Calvary.

Patty Bonds

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