February 17, 2008

Is that Cross Missing Someone?

Another in my, I guess it’s practically a series!, of posts about the Cross. You can read my last two here and here.

Back in my dissident days, I never went to parishes that had a Corpus on the Crucifix in the Sanctuary. Well, as I’ve mentioned before, some of these parishes had really poorly done Crucifixes if they even had one at all. But, many lacked the Body of Jesus Crucified.

I, honestly, never thought the lack of a Corpus was a big deal. Now, I think it is.

I’ve always heard and been told that Protestant churches, typically, do not have a Corpus on any Crosses they may have in their church. During my Evangelical phase, we did not even have a Cross in sight. Actually, we did not even have a building. We rented space or met in someone’s apartment building party room. We always had a big area to hear the Word. The preaching seemed to be the main point of being there. Oh, that, and the sound of everyone paging to the Scriptural passage that Mr. Brother was preaching that day. Women never preached in that congregation. Funny, no one had a problem with that, but you hear all kinds of wailing among some “catholics”. Curious, I think I could do a post on how authority seemed to be more accepted in that Evangelical church but so many of us Catholics don’t even want to hear the word "authority" assigned to anyone but themselves.

Well, I’m getting off track…

My Protestant buddies have told me that a Crucifix with a Corpus on it is too Catholic and that’s why they only have a bare cross in their churches. That makes perfect sense to me since the Protestants were not actually at Calvary anyway. Think about it.

I’m not a “fan” of the ultra-bloody Corpuses. I’m not faulting anyone who is. Whatever gets the message across so that YOU understand the implications. But, I do think the message of the Lord humbling Himself to suffer a humiliating and torturous death for our sins is reiterated more firmly with visual help. So many of us either can’t remember, don’t know, or willfully ignore the fact that a living being was actually on the Cross-for us. When you see a visual of that right in front of you at Holy Mass, in your home, around your neck, in the car, at school, it’s easier to remember that we are sinful creatures. We caused that.

Now, I know some of you out there are saying: “Christ did not die for MY sins. I wasn’t there” If He did not die for your sins, then I’d be really worried about dying if I were you. Yes, you were there. You are there every time you go to Mass. It’s called the Holy Sacrifice for a reason. Mass is Calvary , the original. It’s not Christ dying all over again-some say Catholics kill Him again and again-it IS the first and only.

Some religious orders have bare crosses (no corpus) because the idea is that YOU are the one on the Cross. If all of us had a belief like that I would not have problem with the absence of Corpuses on Crosses. The problem is too many of us don’t.

Update: 2/17/08Deep curtsy to my friend Adoro who has a great post on why she prefers a bloody Corpus over a plainer one. Check-it out for her well thought out perspective. She's made me go.hmmmmm...but I still think I prefer the plainer Corpus. I just want to see a Corpus. Period. In the comments to my post (this one), I mentioned that I may, in future do a post on the "Risen Christ" and "Resurrection" Corpuses. I need to ponder it more though.


Blogger Adoro te Devote said...

Although I've not commented, I've been following your series, and tonight I posted my own.

I respect your position with regard to the more "gory" crucifixes, however, I would encourage you to take a second look. And if it leads you to Confession again....GOOD!

That's where it leads me, and all the Saints, too.

February 16, 2008 10:33 PM  
Blogger Tom in Vegas said...

I like what you wrote in the last paragraph, and I completely agree with it. Outside of that, a cross with no Christ is completely exanimate to me (not to mention too Protestant).

I'm not going to offer a rebuttal to this absurdity, but I've heard Protestants (namely fundamentalists and Jehovah's Witnesses) accuse Catholics of worshiping saints and statues. ANYONE who makes that accusation hasn't that foggiest notion of what worship is.

February 17, 2008 1:24 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Tom: Yes, I've heard those allegations too.

Adoro: I said I, personally, don't need to see the visual of the extreme bloodiness on the Corpus. However, I said I don't fault anyone who does. Whatever gets the point across. If you prefer/need to see the bloody corpus criss-crossed with scars then that's just fine by me. My point, and maybe it was poorly expressed, is that, I think, a Corpus needs to be present for many of us "to get" the enormity of the Sacrifice. I could do a whole seperate post on the "Risen Christ" and "Resurrection" Corpuses but I have not formulated a thought around those yet. I don't think I'm in favor of those types at all but I'm still pondering it.

February 17, 2008 12:51 PM  
Blogger Rita said...

Last Good Friday our new pp, full of new ideas, told us that the Veneration of the Cross should be done with a cross without a Corpus. The full horror of this only came to me when at the veneration I could see the nail holes on the wooden cross from where he had removed the Corpus. I went back to my pew in tears.

In retrospect it was a real Holy Week moment...but I wasn't so charitable at the time.

I've been doing my own posts on crucifixes.....I wonder if you will be doing a post on the Paul VI Papal Crucifix? I think I can feel something brewing on that...

February 17, 2008 1:55 PM  
Blogger Adoro te Devote said...

Cathy, I agree with you on the corpus 100%. (Excluding the spirituality of the Carmelites, whose bare cross is represented by their own contemplative suffering - their bare cross is not representative of the resurrection but identification. And I know you agree with that which is why you brought it up). But I digress...I was actually focusing on a smaller point, in that while I prefer the bloody crosses, saving the extreme ones for particular times, I do believe we as Catholics NEED for our own proper spirituality, to see this at least on occasion. And we NEED to understand the importance of that blood.

Some people are just more sensitive and so if they look at a sterile corpus, they can "see" the blood and torture. And we all can, to some degree. But it's a little different when you see the color of the blood, and connect that with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and understand the total significance of the blood.

The more I think about it, the more I realize the beauty of blood. Yup, that's what I said, and I mean it from a theological perspective. We say all the time, "Blood of the Lamb"....but do we really understand what that means?

So I'm not disagreeing with you, but rather just emphasizing a particular point and asking that people at least take time to THINK about the blood of Christ even if they don't want to see it all the time.

February 17, 2008 2:43 PM  
Blogger Adoro te Devote said...

FYI, I've just edited my post to clarify my points a bit...I'm not actually writing an opposing opinion on what you've said here. I'm just taking it to a different tangent which might be a point of disagreement for you. Which is fine. :-)

February 17, 2008 2:50 PM  
Blogger Adoro te Devote said...

Rita ~ My parish uses a cross without a crucifix, and truly, I hadn't considered it before. Thankfully, they had not taken the corpus off...this cross was made this way. And I actually had one of my most powerful moments venerating a cross without the corpus. The church in question was actually a dissenting church (with a core of very holy elderly people who lived in the neighborhood), and the cross was definitely life-sized. They stood it upright in a holder, and when I knelt to kiss the foot of the cross, it was very easy for me to imagine Christ on it, the blood dripping on my head. I was in an early conversion phase, and that experience has never left me.

Never give up on the power of the imagination. But you're right...there should be a corpus on the cross for Good Friday. I must ask my current pastor (who is very orthodox!) about this. And it could be that he wants one but the parish doesn't have the money. (My parish is in dire straits)

February 17, 2008 6:11 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Rita: Offhand, I don't know which is the Paul VI papal crucifix? I could look it up but I'm lazy right now.

Adoro: Good point. I reworded my update slightly. I don't think you were quite in opposition to me.

February 17, 2008 6:42 PM  
Blogger Angela M. said...

Cathy, sterling post, truly one of your best. In fact, so good I am going to bring it in to RCIA.

February 17, 2008 9:25 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Angela: Your RCIA program must be really hard up for materials if you are forced to bring my stuff in as an example of good instruction! :-) I hope it helps in some small way.

February 18, 2008 6:35 PM  
Blogger Melody said...

Cathy, I agree with you; I prefer a crucifix with a corpus, but not so much a bloody and violent depiction. Though I suppose the proverbial "2-by-4 upside the head" might be salutary in some instances to reach a hardened heart. I even think there is a place for a Resurrection crucifix; I believe the San Damiano crucifix is one such.

February 19, 2008 5:01 PM  
Blogger Maureen said...

We never do the Veneration of the Cross with a crucifix. The crucifix at all the parishes I've known is fixed up high on the wall or suspended from the ceiling. You'd never be able to kiss or touch that crucifix. And the processional crucifixes are too small and tall. The kids would never be able to reach. So we have the lifesize rough hardwood cross that's only used on Good Friday, and that's the way it's always been. (I'm really surprised to learn that anybody else does it any other way; but of course, I should know better by now. If there's a different way to do it, it'll be done.) :)

I believe that our Veneration of the Cross ceremony imitates the veneration of the True Cross, as done in Jerusalem in Egeria's time. Obviously, nobody was going to affix a corpus model to the Cross on which Jesus' actual Corpus once was nailed.

This doesn't mean I'm against people doing it another way. It should be done in a practical, non-dissenting, and non-destructive way, and that may well vary from parish to parish.

February 24, 2008 4:18 PM  

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