Matt D’Antuono is a physics teacher in New Jersey, where he lives with his wife and eight children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in physics and philosophy, a master’s degree in special education, and is working on a master’s degree in philosophy at Holy Apostles in Cromwell, Connecticut. He returned to the Catholic Church in 2008. He is the author of A Fool’s Errand: A Brief, Informal Introduction to Philosophy for Young Catholics, The Wiseguy and the Fool and Philosophy Fridays. On YouTube you can find him at DonecRequiescat and his family at MisterD418.
One of the many accusations made against the Catholic Church is that we should not have crucifixes hanging all over the place. Jesus rose from the dead. The work is done. The Cross is empty. Why is Jesus still on the cross in every Catholic Church? Wouldn’t a bare cross more gloriously proclaim the power of God in the Resurrection? As St. John Paul II said, “We are the Easter people.” But if we are the Easter people, why have crucifixes?
First of all, let’s be clear: Jesus rose from the dead. Nevertheless, it is still more than appropriate for us to create, venerate and meditate on images of Jesus on the Cross. I don’t claim to be giving the specific reasons people first began to paint and sculpt crucifixes, but I want to give a list of reasons I have come to believe that it is right to have a Crucifix front and center in every Church.
The Crucifixion is a tacit pledge of the resurrection.
The Crucifixion reveals the all-consuming heat of the infinite fire of divine love, the same love that creates and sustains the cosmos.
The Crucifixion is Christ’s marriage bed where he was wedded to the Church (St. Augustine).
The Crucifixion shows us most clearly how God loves us, not just how much, but the manner in which He loves us. Love is not just about quantity, but about quality. He is willing to suffer.
The Crucifixion shows us most clearly what true love looks like.
The Crucifixion is the redemption and transformation of suffering and death.
“The Cross is the trellis upon which grows the vine of life” (Thomas Merton). The Church Militant is a garden of many vines that are still growing.
The Crucifixion shows me how I am to take up my own cross and follow Jesus so that I, too, might grow in true life.
The Crucifixion reveals to me my own sin by showing me what my sin does to an innocent victim.
The Crucifixion reveals the depravity of human nature to us. A sinless human is tortured to death.
The Crucifixion is the unique word which is the wisdom and power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).
The Crucifixion is the unique Paschal sacrifice by which my sins are forgiven.
The Crucifixion is the sacrifice of the New Covenant by which communion with God is restored (CCC 613).
The Crucifixion is an invitation to me to embrace my own suffering, unite it with Jesus, and offer it up.
The Crucifixion shows us the perfect example of all the beatitudes and virtues.
The Crucifixion comforts me during my sojourn in this life since I am still in need of so much healing.
The Crucifixion shows me a gritty, messy, broken Savior for a gritty, messy, broken world and my gritty, messy, broken life.
The Crucifixion is the lens through which all the rest of Scripture must be read.
The Crucifixion shows me God condescending to the deepest recesses of human misery to be with us here.
The Crucifixion shows me that even the deepest darkness is not without hope.
The Crucifixion is, as St. Francis de Sales calls it, the academy of love:
“And at last, as our conclusion,—the death and passion of Our Lord is the sweetest and most constraining motive that can animate our hearts in this mortal life: and it is the very truth, that mystical bees make their most excellent honey within the wounds of this Lion of the tribe of Judah, slain, rent and torn upon the Mount of Calvary. And the children of the cross glory in their admirable problem, which the world understands not: Out of death, the eater of all, has come forth the meat of our consolation; and out of death, strong above all, has come forth the sweetness of the honey of our love. O Jesus, my Savior, how love-worthy is thy death, since it is the sovereign effect of thy love!
“Mount Calvary is the mount of lovers. All love that takes not its beginning from Our Savior's Passion is frivolous and dangerous. Unhappy is death without the love of the Savior, unhappy is love without the death of the Savior! Love and death are so mingled in the Passion of Our Savior that we cannot have the one in our heart without the other. Upon Calvary one cannot have life without love, nor love without the death of Our Redeemer. But, except there, all is either eternal death or eternal love: and all Christian wisdom consists in choosing rightly.”