Friday, 29 March 2013

Good Friday

What does an empty cross tell us?

I have often gazed upon an empty cross at the front of a church and it strikes me that there is no reason for it.

 It doesn't speak of victory or resurrection.

The cross would be empty regardless of whether Jesus would live again or not.

It symbolises only death - a death to come, or a death that has already occurred.

I think of the cross it is meant to represent. Perhaps others had already died on this cross, maybe it had never been used before, but the likelihood is it would be used over and over until it would become impossible to know who had been executed upon it.

A better sign of victory would be an empty tomb, showing that even death could not hold Jesus down.

Instead we see this empty cross devoid of meaning specific to Christ. The crosses of the thieves were empty too, though they did not rise again.
Drawing of the crucifixion, by John of the Cross

My preference is for a crucifix - a cross bearing a statue of the body of the crucified Christ. Not because I enjoy looking upon his tortured and broken form, but because it holds meaning for me.

Are we not called to "preach Christ crucified"? (1 Corinthians 1:23)

Before a crucifix I am reminded that the cross is irrelevant without Jesus. It is not the cross that saves us, but Jesus' death upon it. It was upon the cross that He spoke the words of His triumph over sin: "It is finished." (John 19:30)

Saint Augustine comments on those who stood at the cross of Jesus: "As they were looking on, so we too gaze on his wounds as he hangs. We see his blood as he dies. We see the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of his resurrection. He bows his head, as if to kiss you. His heart is made bare open, as it were, in love to you. His arms are extended that he may embrace you. His whole body is displayed for your redemption. Ponder how great these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind: as he was once fixed to the cross in every part of his body for you, so he may now be fixed in every part of your soul." (GMI 248)

With a crucifix I am able to witness Jesus' wounds, His death, His love, my redemption. I am reminded of the great price paid for me. I can meditate upon the cruelty and the necessity of His death, for without it I would be a slave to all my sin; I would have no hope of a future; I would be lost.

And if there was no death, there could be no victory over it.

I gaze upon the crucifix, upon Christ's battered and broken body, and I wait with all creation for His resurrection.

"Christ of Saint John of the Cross"
Salvador Dali

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