Thursday, March 29, 2012


Picture taken by me at St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans

A couple months ago, I was touring St. Louis Cathedral (Roman Catholic) in New Orleans and I came across a huge crucifix. This crucifix was quite striking in its details. The sculpture of Jesus on the cross was well detailed and he was also painted very life-like. Or death-like I should say. You could see the wounds and blood very vividly. It was a very moving piece of sacred art.

I've been a Protestant my whole life, though I did spend my first two years of high school at a Roman Catholic school. So the vast majority of the cross images that I have seen during my life have been empty crosses. There are several reasons why Protestants elected to go with a cross rather than a crucifix - to differentiate themselves from Roman Catholics, to remove anything that they considered to resemble idolatry  (some Protestants even rejected the plain cross and other religious images altogether), to focus on the resurrection (a more modern argument). I generally prefer crosses to crucifixes because I was raised with them and I see the empty cross as a double reminder - a reminder of both the crucifixion and the resurrection (both of which are necessary and dependent upon each other).

However, seeing that crucifix reminded me of how powerful an image the crucifix is and that we are missing something in churches when we only use empty crosses. It is especially appropriate during Lent and Holy Week to use a crucifix because it keeps us centered upon Jesus' death. A detailed crucifixion image demands our attention and reminds us of just how horrible Jesus' torture and death was. A crucifix does not let us skip from Palm Sunday directly to Easter without Good Friday in-between. A crucifix does not allow us to celebrate the resurrection without considering the enormous sacrifice that Jesus made for us and the whole world.

I recommend spending some time before Easter looking at a crucifix and not just looking but actually seeing and feeling it in an attempt to bring oneself closer to the crucified Christ.