Occasionally, I enter a Catholic church where I can find no visible crucifix. Instead, there is sometimes displayed the confusing (to me) image of Our Risen Lord on a cross. And I am saddened. I need my Crucified Savior.
When I raise my eyes and behold my Crucified Jesus, I am captivated by the look of total peace and submission on His Face. He is incomparably beautiful in this moment when He drew His last breath to accomplish our salvation. My heart melts at the sight of the Son of God, so innocent, so pure, and yet completely yielded to the instrument of His torture, because as He said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to Myself.” It is the yearning of His Heart that we would look upon Him and see Love — Love poured out for us.
In my breviary, I keep a beautiful picture of Jesus Crucified. I turn to it, especially when I am sad, or worried, or lukewarm in love for Him. In this little picture, I find an encounter with Jesus. I love to ponder His Wounds, tracing them with my finger, pausing at each precious One, trying to comprehend what my salvation cost Him. We seem alone, Jesus and I, in these moments…
I savor the feeling of a devotional sized crucifix in my hands. While tenderly kissing the wounds of Jesus represented on this sacramental, I never doubt the He, Who so longs to be loved, is consoled by my poor efforts to quench that Divine Thirst. He is so gracious, that He is grateful for the least sign of affection from His children.
St. Therese had great devotion to the crucifix. She loved to adorn her personal one with fresh flowers — sometimes plucking them and “wiping” the wounds of Jesus with the petals.
In the monastery garden, she often led the novices in her care, to gather only the freshest rose petals to toss at the large crucifix erected there.
One of my favorite crucifixes is located in the church of my childhood –St. Dominic’s in New Orleans. It is larger than life, and cast in bronze. It hangs in the rear of the church, where one can light candles and kneel closely, at length, in prayer and meditation.
Gazing upon this crucifix, I always feel transported back in time to the hill of Calvary. Because of the size of the corpus, the wounds of Jesus are riveting. But, it is the expression on His Adorable Face which totally captivates me. He is exhausted. The pain is overwhelming. He has reached the limit of what He can bear. Yet, His Face is suffused by a look of total surrender, and an ineffable gentleness and goodness. He is irresistible.
Yet, such beauty is only the work of an artist. What must have been the breathtaking loveliness of the Divine Countenance as the true Lamb of God approached death!
Behind the altar in my current parish church hangs a beautiful wooden carved crucifix. On Good Friday, it is carried in procession, and carefully laid on a platform in front of the sanctuary. Everyone present is then invited to come up, and individually venerate this crucifix which is so especially our own.
The first time this was done, I stood by the statue of Our Lady, watching in awe. The faithful approached by the hundreds, each expressing their love and tenderness in a personal way. Many kissed the feet of Jesus. Others pressed their lips to the wound in His side. Some kissed or caressed His cheek. Others kissed the wounds in His hands.
Standing near Mary’s statue, I was reminded of what she endured on that first Good Friday. I imagined her in my own church now, standing beside the crucifix, witnessing such a very different scene than the one 2000 years ago. I felt that all of Heaven must have fallen silent to watch these good people come forward in reverence and homage to cover Jesus with a thousand kisses. They stooped; they knelt; they reached for Him. They loved Him.
I thank God and the Church for the treasure of the crucifix. While it is true that Jesus suffers no more, may we never, ever forget the extravagance of His Love for us! The crucifix is like a photograph of that Love. If we look upon it, it will remind us of our worth in Our Father’s eyes.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16)
Thank You, Jesus. We love You, Jesus!