Friday, April 10, 2009

The Emblem of True Love

We're going to take a slight detour away from sacraments for a moment, and return to a certain sacramental, something that is above all others associated with Catholicism...that is, the crucifix.

Today is Good Friday, one of the most solemn days of the year. Christ has died, and we await His resurrection. There are no masses today, the only day of the year on which mass is not said. Holy water fonts are dry, tabernacle doors in churches all over the world are left open, revealing their hauntingly empty interiors. The altar lamp signifying Christ's presence in the tabernacle is extinguished. In many churches, statues are covered with violet cloths. In Catholic Churches everywhere today, there is a tangible emptiness, a somberness, a heaviness of heart.

Christ has died.

His passion is recalled with special emphasis in the stations of the cross today. It's a day of both fasting and abstinence from meat, and as mentioned before, when there is fasting there is prayer alongside it. Today above all days, we strive to unite our sufferings with Christ on the cross.

And Christ on the cross is the focus of this whole day. All year long Catholics see crucifixes in their churches, in their homes, many wear one around their necks at all times. The crucifix is a constant reminder of Christ's love for us. I once heard a wise priest say something in a homily that struck me and has remained with me since. He said, very simply, there is no true love without sacrifice. God is love, and he proved it with the ultimate sacrifice, and that is what the cross, and especially the crucifix bearing the corpus of Christ, reminds us of constantly. Today in many churches, crucifixes are taken down from their central location and a tradition from the early centuries is practiced called the veneration of the cross. Catholics come and kiss the foot of the cross, both honoring Christ's immeasurable sacrifice, and reminding ourselves in a very tangible way that as Christ embraced His cross, so, too, are we to embrace our lesser crosses and in this way unite our suffering with His. It is in this way that we proclaim the true love of Christ.

We adore You, 0 Christ, and we praise You.
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up... (Jn 3:14)

O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?(Gal 3:1)

But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal 6:14)

but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles (1 Cor 1:23)

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.(1 Cor 2:2)

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