I walked into an old deserted church one day, and as I looked around something caught my eye that I couldn’t look away. Where the altar once stood, high on the wall, a large crucifix was there, hanging in bold relief, as if to say; “I am still here.” The church, now closed, still beckoned to anyone who dared to enter with the crucifix hanging, yet seemingly waiting for someone to adore, bend the knee, or remember why this magnificent artifact still remains uppermost for Roman Catholics after 2,000 years.
Enter into any Roman Catholic Church and you “should be able to view a large crucifix” within the Sanctuary, hanging in a most prominent position. It should be the first sign of Christ’s presence in a place of silence, respect, and awe. You may sit and just reflect as the corpus seems to call, waiting for our respectful attention.
The Roman Rite requires that either on the altar or near it, there is to be a cross with the figure of Christ upon it, a cross clearly visible to the assembled people.
Walk into a Protestant Church and look for a crucifix; it would be very rare if you found one. The Roman Catholic Church preaches Christ Crucified and for nearly 2,000 years this theme has been preached from the pulpit, and is Sacred Tradition.
Ever since the Reformation many protestant denominations refused to display a cross with the corpus, whether it was three-dimensional or not. Calvin, considered to be the father of the Reformed Church, was violently opposed to both cross and crucifix. There have been cases around the world where crucifixes have been removed from various institutions because they might offend other religions or very liberal thinking parties.
“Should be able to view a crucifix” is a statement that makes one wonder what has happened with a quest to become modern, even in a church that goes back centuries. Some proponents for keeping up with changing modes of being hip have taken the designs in new churches to a low level. There are Catholic Churches that have removed, or intentionally left out in new construction, a cross without the corpus. Keeping up with Protestant Churches? This should be an alarm going off as the future looms towards us subtracting what we have grown up with to making sure we do not insult people who don’t want or adhere to reasons for keeping the Crucifix in view of the people.
Perhaps, to please some who think a new look is apropos why not remove the crucifix from the rosary beads. What about stained glass windows? Maybe change the saints images to modern-day heroes or political persons that are supposed to be telling us like it is. New-age philosophy? That appears to be the new religion that wants to change our way of thinking, such as suffering. That is what the crucifix reminds us and that is what the beauty of the crucifix is all about.
As I walked into an old church one day, and viewed the Crucifix hanging in bold relief, my thoughts were; will the day come when this might become a dusty old museum piece, without anyone caring or knowing why it ever existed?
Ralph B. Hathaway, June 2019