The Crucifix hangs in most every Catholic Church, a reminder of the Sacrifice made by Jesus which bought salvation to the world. However the Protestant world tends to favour the bare cross as the symbol of hope. Why is this and does it make a difference?
Obviously this is not a primary issue, and both the crucifix and the bare cross have their place. However I do think the crucifix is the better option.
Those who dislike the crucifix (often because it is overtly Catholic) tend to argue that the bare cross is superior because it reminds us of the resurrection. The notion being that he has risen.
However I have always found this a weak argument given that the cross is the Good Friday symbol whilst the resurrection has traditionally been shown by the symbol of the empty tomb.
The other reason I favour the crucifix is that the bare cross requires the observer to know the Christian story and message of Easter. Worst still I fear it points us to the wrong thing, diverting our attention from the true instrument of our redemption. For it was not the Cross that set us free. It was Jesus.
For this reason I feel we should gaze on him, his arms spread out in love, whenever we contemplate the mystery of the Holy Cross, the feast day of which falls today. What good is a cross without the blood of Christ?
This morning we added a short devotion to the Low Mass at St. Anselm’s by singing a post communion hymn: “As I survey the wondrous cross.” We did so whilst gazing on the figure of Christ hanging on the Cross. It was a poignant moment shared by a small group of people which I do not think would have had such force had we gazed only on an empty cross.
Easter is, of course, important. But there is no crown without the cross. No glory without the suffering. And just as modern society tends to sanitise death today by hiding our deceased in sealed coffins at all times (so that most people never behold a dead body) so too is there a tendency to sanitise the horror of Good Friday. To make it a little more nice and less appalling.
That is a danger. There was no neat, clean empty cross at Calvary to sweep our gaze past Good Friday to the wonders of Easter Sunday too quickly. We all of us need to spend more time before the cross, the one with Jesus staring back at us.