Today, the Church celebrates the Triumph of the Cross. Through this precious wood, the Christ was strapped, nail, bled and die – thereby winning our redemption. Christians reverence and exalt the cross because it is the proximate cause of our salvation. To adore the cross is to adore the Christ who hung upon it. It is the real symbol of the entire Paschal mystery: the passion, death and resurrection of the Son of God.
History demonstrates that public veneration of the Cross has taken place since the fourth century. Tradition also shares with us that on September 14, 326, St. Helen, the mother of Constantine, miraculously discovered the cross.
The crucifix is the universal symbol of Christianity and our “calling card”. While an image of disgrace to the Romans and all those in their empire, it became the symbol of freedom, salvation and the desire of every Christian’s heart. It is the most basic and beloved symbol that identifies a Christian.
Today, most Catholics have adapted a Quaker’s religious piety – no sacred symbols in their homes or on their persons. This is a shame. St. Paul encourages us to not only display it but become it:
From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body. (Gal 6:17)
More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection and (the) sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:8-12)
In a society that spurns and avoids (even reminders of it) suffering at any cost, the crucifix is the singular reminder that suffering, when united with Christ, is a holy act. With Christ it also becomes a human act. The crucifix is our sign of victory. It is the primary instrument through which we have access to heaven and meritorious grace.
Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio spoke of the home as the domestic Church. In one sense he was addressing the family, while in quite another he was addressing every Christian home. When we walk into our home or even our bedroom, what is the first thing we see? What are the most prominent objects in our home/room? Whatever is most prominent is 9 times out of ten the most important object in our lives. If it is not the Christ, we should tremble…or are we embarrassed of Him? If it is embarrassment we need to remember those deadly words our Lord spoke in the Gospels,
But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father. (Matt 10:33)
What do you notice first when you walk into your living space?
Steve Camp in the 1980s wrote a song entitled, What would the Devil Say. The song asks if there is enough evidence to convict us for knowing the Christ. As Catholics, we understand that our physical actions and choices are a direct expression of our heart…and yes, we can lie with our actions as well – Scripture calls that being double-minded (see James 1:8). All things being equal, in our own homes and lives, is there enough evidence that the world would know we are a Christian if we were mute? Is there enough evidence not only in our lives but our possessions? Will hell acquit us or convict us of a Capital Crime…I pray all of us would receive a death sentence from hell!
I doubt if any of us will ever be a St. Francis, St. Padre Pio or a Theresa Neumann who bore the physical wounds of Christ. So, we will have to settle for hanging our crucifixes and and sacred art to remind ourselves and all those who enter into our lives and homes,
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord! (Joshua 24:15)