On Ash Wednesday, people around the world will have a cross traced on their foreheads with ashes. It is a sign of death, but also of new life, thanks to Christ. My favorite crucifix used to hang in Cleveland Benedictine’s St. Andrew Abbey. It showed Jesus on the cross … but he was leaping off it. *
How many crosses do you have in your house? (Don’t forget the one[s] in your jewelry box.) Chances are, if you are a Christian, there is at least one. This symbol has become commonplace and taken for granted. We forget that the crucifix is essentially a gruesome visual: a God-Man undergoing the most hideous and agonizing death humans devised. Yet, the following reflection that you may be familiar with captures its profound significance:
– If you want to know God, look at the crucifix.
– If you want to love God, look at the crucifix.
– If you want to know the infinite, eternal love of God, look at the crucifix.
– If you wish to have a part in giving that same love to others, look at the crucifix.
– If you want to know who you are and your worth, look at the crucifix.
– If you want to know how you were saved from the jaws of hell, look at the crucifix.
– If you want to know how much God wants to save your immortal soul, look at the crucifix.
– If you want to know Who will lead you to Heaven, look at the crucifix.
– If you want to live well, look at the crucifix.
– If you want to die well, look at the crucifix.
Here are some alleged things about the cross that you may or may now know:
- Romans considered execution by crucifixion shameful and reserved it for traitors and slaves.
- Jesus probably carried the crossbar to Calvary, which was then pulled up by ropes to sit atop the stake already planted.
- The crime posted on the cross INRI read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” This was supposed to be mockery, but ironically it is true. (By the way, one of my 4-some religious name choices in honor of Christ the King was Inri. I was given the name Kirene, for the chi-rho.)
- According to legend, Adam and Eve were buried on Calvary and the cross stood over Adam’s skull.
- It’s said that St. Peter declared he wasn’t worthy to be killed the way Jesus was, and so he was crucified upside down.
- The Church requires that a crucifix be present at every celebration of the Eucharist. It may be carried at the front of liturgical processions.
- Blessings are bestowed with the Sign of the Cross.
- The cross is a sacramental.
- Making the Sign of the Cross over ourselves is a prayer. It also signifies that we belong to God.
- There are many variations of crosses as seen in the image here.
During Lent you might enjoy hot cross buns. In the past after a woman made a loaf of bread, she made the sign of the cross with the palm of her hand over the dough. During Good Friday services we are invited to approach the crucifix and bestow a kiss or other sign of love and appreciation. May the six weeks of Lent prior to that make you more worthy of that sign.
* I just located a photo of a photo of a photo of the Abbey’s crucifix:
• What is your favorite depiction of Jesus’s sacrifice?