Thursday, July 3, 2014

Why Do Catholics Wear a Crucifix Rather than an Empty Cross?

Most Catholics, at least those who regularly interact with Protestants and who wear a Crucifix, have dealt with the objection that we somehow are ignoring the Resurrection by portraying the Crucifixion.These Protestants demand to know why we don't wear an empty cross instead, which they contend symbolizes Jesus Raised from the dead. Of course, the empty cross is no such symbol (the cross was empty while Jesus was dead, the empty tomb perhaps would be a symbol of the Resurrection, not the empty cross). While I frequently quote scripture in such circumstances (especially 1 Cor 2:2 - " I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified"), I know of no better answer than that given by the inimitable G.K. Chesterton:
The kind of Evangelical who demands what he calls a living Christ must surely find it difficult to reconcile with his religion an indifference to a Dying Christ; but anyhow one would think he would prefer it to a Dead Cross. To salute the Cross in that sense is literally to bow down to wood and stone; since it is only an image in stone of something that was made of wood. It is surely less idolatrous to salute the Incarnate God or His image; and the case is further complicated by the relation of the image to the other object. If a man were ready to wreck every statue of Julius Caesar, but also ready to kiss the sword that killed him, he would be liable to be misunderstood as an ardent admirer of Caesar. If a man hated to have a portrait of Charles the First, but rubbed his hands with joy at the sight of the axe that beheaded him, he would have himself to blame if he were regarded rather as a Roundhead than a Royalist. And to permit the engine of execution, while forbidding a picture of the victim is just as strange and sinister in the case of Christ as in that of Caesar. (Autobiography of GK Chesterton)
 Next time you are confronted by this question (you do wear a Crucifix, right?), remember the words of Chesterton and the absurdity of the Protestant position.


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