Why Do Catholics ... ?

Why do Catholics venerate the crucifix with Jesus on the cross — while, in comparison, other denominations of Christianity only have a cross with nothing on it?

“Since the Catholic Church predates the denominations, the question should be ‘Why do they not acknowledge Jesus on the cross?’” responds Colin Donovan, vice president of theology for EWTN. “Although images of Christ and the saints had been in use for more than 1,000 years, many of the reformers objected to them as ‘images’ forbidden by the commandment against graven images. This misunderstood the prohibition of making images of God’s spiritual nature (e.g. the golden calf) as also forbidding images of Christ’s human nature and those who imitated him in his human nature, the saints. It also forgets that the Father gave us ‘an icon of the Invisible God’ (Colossians 1:15) to represent himself. The Incarnation changed the prohibition, which was necessary to wean the Israelites from pagan representations. For those who operate in the freedom of the children of God, an image of our brother Jesus is as natural as a photograph of mom and dad.

“Secondly, over the centuries, there has also been an increasing flight ‘from the cross’ and Christ’s admonition to ‘take up the cross and follow’ him. Lent, fasting, the need for penance after sin, perseverance in grace until death and so on are gone from many theologies — as well as the practice of many contemporary Catholics. As grace becomes cheap, salvation assured, and ‘rapture’ from the passion of the Church at the end of time promised, who wants to be reminded of salvation’s cost? The crucifix does that, as does Lent, penitential days and seasons and the sacrament of penance. The Church also has reminders of the Resurrection. They are found in every Mass, in the Sunday Sabbath and in every feast day which celebrates some aspect of the life and ministry of the incarnate Word, as well in every feast which celebrates the mystery of grace incarnated in the participated holiness of the saints.”

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