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The Crucifix, A Reminder of what Christ did for Us

Q. Why do we have a cross behind the altar?
Q. Why do Catholics celebrate the death of Christ more so than the resurrection?


The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states "There is also to be a cross, clearly
visible to the congregation, either on the altar or near it" (number 270). The Latin word
translated as "cross" is crux which to Catholic Christians means the object carrying the body
of our crucified Savior; what is also known as the crucifix, a cross with corpus attached.


The Catholic Church leaves the corpus on the cross not because we worship a dead Christ or
celebrate the death of Christ more so than the resurrection, but as a reminder of what He did
in our behalf. It was through His death on the cross that we were redeemed. In Catholic
spirituality, the cross and resurrection are inseparable for Christ, and also for those who would
be His disciples. To have the light of the resurrection without the cross was impossible for our
Lord and we are all called to follow in His footsteps. We are all told to pick up our cross and
follow Him (Matthew 10:38; 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). Sacrifice, as we are reminded by
the presence of the corpus, is what He did for us and is what we are called to do if we are to
truly be His disciples.


"The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are
children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in
his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." (Romans 8:16-17, NIV).


It is His sacrifice on the cross which we re-present to the Father at each Mass as we join with
Jesus in His eternal presentation of His sacrifice in heaven as was witnessed by Saint John:
"Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne"
(Revelation 5:6, NIV). In short, Jesus couldn't separate His crucifixion from His resurrection,
and neither should we. In the words of Saint John and Saint Paul:


"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life" (John 3:14-15, NIV)


"but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to
Gentiles" (1 Corinthians 1:23, NIV).


Recommended reading:
l Drummey, James J., Catholic Replies, C. R. Publications, Norwood, MA 02062, 1995, pages 249-250
l Father Sheedy's Ask Me A Question, Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN 46750, 1989, pages 68-69

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