When an aggressive Evangelical challenges me for having a crucifix in church, one of my favorite apologetic one liners is to say, “We believe the Bible. Don’t you know 1 Corinthians 1:23 where Paul says, ‘We preach Christ and him crucified?'”
As a convert one of the stunning eye openers was when I stopped to realize that it is only the Catholic Church (and the EO) who not only preach, but venerate Christ and him crucified.
We have crucifixes. Crucifixes R Us.
That’s why the General Instruction of the Roman Missal stipulates:
Likewise, either on the altar or near it, there is to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, a cross clearly visible to the assembled people. It is desirable that such a cross should remain near the altar even outside of liturgical celebrations, so as to call to mind for the faithful the saving Passion of the Lord.
Notice that the other churches and religions do not have crucifixes or they deliberately denigrate the cross rather than exalt the cross.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses say the cross is a pagan symbol and teach that Jesus was crucified on a stake.
Mormons don’t have crosses anywhere in their temples. They have an angel instead and some actually believe the atonement took place in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Protestants have crosses, but not crucifixes. They give weird reasons for this. Some say “Catholics don’t believe in the resurrection because we have crucifixes.” Others teach that the crucifix is a form of idolatry. I’ve never really understood this as a good old fashioned Evangelical will sing hymns like “The Old Rugged Cross” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” I suspect they do not have crucifixes for two reasons. First, just because it’s Catholic. Second, because there is a strain a Manichean strain within much of Evangelical Protestantism which comes from their Puritan roots and is distrustful of the physical expressions of worship and faith. Their bare empty crosses are part of their functional architecture, denial of the sacraments and denigration of the physical in the faith.
Jews, of course, hate the cross because it for them a stumbling block.
Which brings me to the Muslims: on this feast of the exaltation of the cross we remember that the Muslims especially hate the cross. Today’s feast is a celebration of the finding of the true cross and the building of the church of the Holy Sepulcher by Constantine in the fourth century. That ancient church was destroyed by the Muslims in the seventh century. It was re-built but in the ninth and tenth century the Muslims continued to attack it and burn it. Then in 1009 the church was again leveled by the Muslims before being re-built later that century.
Finally, don’t imagine that the denigration of the cross is limited to Protestants, Jehovah’s Witness, Muslims and Jews.
You will have seen crucifixes with the resurrected Lord on them with arms outstretched. A more traditional form of portraying the glorified Lord is to portray him in robes of prophet, priest and king with arms outstretched on the cross. Continued Reading