Thursday, 18 August 2011

Of what use is an empty cross?

None, really. It is just a piece of wood, or two pieces of wood, it signifies a hollow, sanitised Protestant version of.......what?.......certainly not the sacrifice of the Son of God on Calvary...... no sign of the redemptive power of suffering and God's love for us in allowing His Son to be shamed, humiliated, beaten and executed as a common criminal.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen called it a symbol of totalitarian regimes, a cross without the saving Victim has no sacrificial element, it has no saving grace.

Bland, meaningless, insulting!

A number of comments have been made following my post regarding the ten things you would not find in a Catholic home; my tenth item was a wooden cross.
This may have been puzzling to some people so I set about finding Archbishop Sheen's famous talk on the value of the crucifix as opposed to the cross.

I recalled that I gave my CD set to my terminally ill sister in the hope that it would bring her some comfort in coping with her suffering. I do not know if it did. She died some six months later with no acknowledgement, not that I was looking for any.

My next step was to Google the matter and, much to my chagrin, I found that Mundabor had beaten me to it with a post in July. I cannot improve on that post. I wish I knew some Italian swear words.

So, straight from Mundabor's Blog comes part of ++ Sheen's sermon on the cross....

Re-browsing the exceedingly beautiful “Life of Christ” from the great Fulton Sheen (a book that, if you ask me, should be obligatory reading in every RCIA, or confirmation class) I stumbled upon this very beautiful concept which, once again, made on me a profound impression (emphases always mine).
“The modern world, which denies personal guilt and admits only social crimes, which has no place for personal repentance but only public reforms, has divorced Christ from His Cross; the Bridegroom and Bride have been pulled apart. What God hath joined together, men have torn asunder. As a result, to the left is the Cross; to the right is the Christ”. [...] Communism comes along and picks up the meaningless Cross; Western post-Christian civilization chooses the unscarred Christ.”
“Communism has chosen the Cross in the sense that it has brought back to an egotistic world a sense of discipline, self-abnegation, surrender, hard work, study, and dedication to supraindividual goals. But the Cross without Christ is sacrifice without love. Hence, Communism has produced a society that is authoritarian, cruel, oppressive of human freedom, filled with concentrantion camps, firing squads, and brain-washings”
“The Western post-Christian civilization has picked up the Christ without His Cross. But a Christ without a sacrifice that reconciles the world to God is a cheap, feminized, colorless, itinerant preacher who deserves to be popular for His great Sermon on the Mount, but also merits unpopularity for what He said about His Divinity on the one hand, and divorce, judgment, and hell on the other. This sentimental Christ is patched together with a thousand commonplaces. [...] Without His Cross, He becomes nothing more than a sultry precursor of democracy or a humanitarian who taught brotherhood without tears”.

Ben Trovato of Countercultural Father pointed out that Opus Dei members keep an 'empty' cross to remind them that they must be prepared to shoulder it throughout their lives, some religious orders also display a cross for the same purpose. All  that is good and fine.
 But, for those Catholics who put a cross rather than a crucifix on their wall they might like to consider the implications. Is it a denial of Christ? Is it just a euphemistic symbol? Is it a means to avoid meditating upon the shame and the agony associated with the crucifixion? ( Some Protestants believe that we Catholics enjoy keeping Christ permanently crucified without realising that the sacrifice on Calvary was not a one off and that the same sacrifice is made in an unbloody fashion at every Mass celebrated every day throughout the world).

Reflective, saving, poignant and fulfilling!

It is a scandal that, at one of the churches that I travel to for Sunday Mass, a large empty wooden cross hangs over the altar - the ultimate insult to one who made His sacrificial offering on our behalf.


  1. A beautiful post, and one about a fact that always made me pity my Protestant neighbours back in the States. It's a grievous shame when we Catholics turn our backs on the consolations which those separated from the Church are deprived of. And all in the name of an irrational objection! It puts me in mind of this quote from GKC:

    'A renewed shock went through the anti-clerical party on finding that the Cross was a Crucifix...If a man were ready to wreck every statue of Julius Caesar, but also ready to kiss the sword that killed him, he would be liable to be misunderstood as an ardent admirer of Caesar. If a man hated to have a portrait of Charles the First, but rubbed his hands with joy at the sight of the axe that beheaded him, he would have himself to blame if he were regarded rather as a Roundhead than a Royalist.' _the Autobiography

  2. I am reminded of a tragic story of someone trying to buy a small crucifix from a jewellers (who had some, and some crosses, on display) to replace one lost from a rosary.

    The shop girl asked: 'Do you want one with a little man, or without?'

    As we abandon our traditions, so we lose the Faith, and so our witness to the rest of the world is weakened...

    Further to my previous comment, I should make it clear that in the Opus Dei houses, the bare cross is normally displayed outside the oratory; within there will always be a proper crucifix above the altar (and normally several more around the house, too, as well as one in each member's pocket).

  3. i agree and find it both insulting and funny that many people wear the cross as a piece of jewelry but with no meaning or connection to it. how sad

    God Bless

  4. Maybe this will give some more perspective on the value of a plain CROSS.

    Pope John Paul II Presents the World Youth Day cross to 47 Canadian Youth

    Toronto, April 8, 2001 – In a ceremony in St. Peter’s Square today, Pope John Paul II entrusted the World Youth Day WYD) Cross to 47 Canadian youth.

    The Canadians accepted the simple wooden Cross, which is four metres high, two metres wide and weighs 30 kg, and carried it before a crowd of several hundred thousand people in St. Peter’s Square, led by five Inuit drummers from Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

  5. I wear a crucifix, on show, to work. No-one has commented but I see people look. I also have a crucifix above my bed, or I hold it close if I am not feeling well or worried about something.

    A protestant minister on the radio said he had started wearing one aswell. If he went through a hard time, he would touch the crucifix and say to Jesus "You went through this for me, so I will go through (whatever) for you. I liked that idea so I do the same now and it stops me moaning about stuff (a little bit anyway)!

  6. Rest assured we have many crucifixes in our home, but we also display a Carmelite cross. I appreciate the post and the explanation and I agree a cross without a Corpus has no place in the sanctuary of a church. However, I have no reservations about displaying a Carmelite cross in my home, along with a San Damiano and a Benedictine Crucifix, along with others. Thanks Richard.

  7. St. Josemaria Escriva (in one of his little books) wrote about someone asking him about the cross w/out Christ on it. Josemaria wrote that he told the questioner, "That is your cross!" I was raised Lutheran and became Catholic in 1996 and have kept a Crucifix in each bedroom and in our living space ever since . . . however, now I find the "empty" cross an invitation (and not empty of meaning).