Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Crucifix

1. I determined not to know anything among you, wrote St. Paul to the Corinthians, except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:2)

It was St. Paul's boast that, while the Jews were looking for signs and the Greeks were searching for wisdom, he continued to preach about Christ on the Cross. The Jews ask for signs, and the Greeks look for 'wisdom'; but we, for our part, preach a crucified Christ-to the Jews indeed a stumbling-block and to the Gentiles foolishness.

Christian doctrine and Christian living are centred around Jesus Crucified. Unfortunately, in modern times as in the time of St. Paul, the Crucifix is either ignored and forgotten or attacked as a symbol of folly.

There is no need to be amazed at this. When the holy old man, Simeon, took Jesus in his arms, he made the prophecy that this Child would be a sign that shall be contradicted. (Luke 2:34) The world is proud of its scientific and technical progress, whereas the Crucifix is the symbol of the lowliness to which God Himself descended for love of us. The world is looking for pleasure and voluptuousness, whereas the Crucifix preaches to us the spirit of sacrifice and the purifying value of suffering. The world is fond of ease, riches and honours; the Crucifix demonstrates the depths of the love of God, Who became man for our sakes, suffered and died to redeem us from sin, taught us fraternal love, and commanded us to carry our cross daily if we wished to follow Him.

We must choose whether to follow Jesus Crucified or to follow the world. The world can only give us a vain and passing satisfaction, while the Crucifix can give us the peace of a good conscience, even in the midst of sorrow and trouble, and the hope of lasting happiness in the next life.

2. The Crucifix is the open book in which men can read of God's infinite love for them. The Saints wept before the Crucifix because they realised that the sufferings and death of the Redeemer were the result of sin, and so they learned to avoid sin at all costs. They meditated on the last words of Jesus dying on the Cross, words which so clearly illustrated His infinite mercy towards us.

We should follow the example of the Saints in this devotion. Let the Crucifix be the most precious object in our homes, and let us love to hold it in our hands. Let it recall for us the tragedy of Mount Calvary, when Jesus was stripped of His garments and nailed to the Cross, was raised up to suffer indescribable agonies, forgave his executioners and forgave us our sins, pardoned the penitent thief, and bequeathed to us the last treasured possession which was left to Him, His most holy Mother.

Let us weep for our sins and increase in love for our divine Redeemer. When we are oppressed by the weight of our own cross, we shall look at the Crucifix and find comfort. When we are tempted, we shall grasp the Crucifix and turn away with horror from thoughts of sin and ingratitude.

The Crucifix will teach us, as it taught the Saints, the lesson of charity towards God and towards our neighbour. It will teach us to hate sin and to love virtue. If we cherish it during life, it will be our consolation to kiss the Crucifix at the moment of death.