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Reflections on Good Friday: We Preach Christ and Him Crucified

The crucifixion is an historical fact. The crucifixion is at the heart of true faith

The crucifixion and death of Jesus are historical events.  They happened.  Good Friday recalls this historical truth.  We have the witness of all the Gospels, the witness of the early Church, the absence of any relic of Christ's body.  From the beginning, Christians, among them the Apostle Paul, "preached Jesus Christ, and him crucified."  (1 Cor. 2:2)

We adore you Oh Christ and we Bless you because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world

We adore you Oh Christ and we Bless you because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - On Good Friday, Christians the world over observe the holiday commemorating the passion, crucifixion, and death of Jesus, the Christ.  It is the first, the longest, the most grim, the starkest of the Triduum, the "Three Days" of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.  In fact, in some countries, it is called Black Friday or Long Friday.  On this day, we confront the truth that the impassible God suffered, that the ever-living God died.  We confront the dark fact that He did so for our sins.

A suffering, dying God is something possible only because the Son of God in the Incarnation assumed human nature, a nature which we very much know--unlike that of God--can suffer, and can die.  The dead corpus of Jesus on the crucifix remained hypostatically united to the Son of God and therefore to the Godhead.  Death did not sever this indissoluble link. 

For three days, therefore, we learn that we can worship the living God through the dead body of the Lord Jesus while his soul was harrowing Hell.  In the crucifixion, we worship the living God through his human body which is dead.  This is "Christ crucified," the scandalous Christ, a stumbling block to some, and foolishness to others.  (1 Cor. 1:23) 

The good and well-meaning Roman centurion who exclaimed upon Jesus' death, "Surely this was the Son of God" got his theology wrong.  He should have said, "Surely this is the Son of God," for the body hanging lifeless on the cross still remained united to the Son of God who was very much alive.

In the storehouse of the Church's hymns, among the most haunting, the most beautiful are those that pertain to this day. 

O Crux ave, spes unica,
Hoc Passionis tempore!
Piis adauge gratiam,
Reisque dele crimina.


O hail the Cross our only hope
In this passiontide!
Grant increase of grace to believers
And remove the sins of the guilty.

In the hymn Crux Fidelis, we sing the words:

Pange, lingua, gloriosi proelium certaminis
Et super crucis trophaeo dic triumphum nobilem,
Qualiter redemptor orbis immolatus vicerit.


Sing, my tongue, the Savior's glory; tell His triumph far and wide;
Tell aloud the famous story of His body crucified;
How upon the cross a victim, vanquishing in death, He died.

The crucifixion and death of Jesus are historical events.  They happened.  Good Friday recalls this historical truth.  We have the witness of all the Gospels, the witness of the early Church, the absence of any relic of Christ's body.  From the beginning, Christians--among them the Apostle Paul--preached "Jesus Christ, and him crucified."  (1 Cor. 2:2)  This Jesus, St. Paul tells the Philippians, was obedient "unto death, even death on a cross."  (Phil. 2:8)  This Jesus, St. Peter tells his people, we through our sins "killed, using lawless men to crucify him," to the boon of all mankind.  (Acts 2:23)  O Felix Culpa!  O Happy Fault!

The crucifixion and death is testified to even by early Jewish and Pagan historians, as in the so-called Testimonium Flavanium, where the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus in his Antiquities states in passing that Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to death on the cross.  The 2nd century satirist Lucian of Samosata in his Passing of Peregrinus ridicules Christians for worshiping "the crucified sage" or "crucified sophist."  This satire is seen in particularly striking form in the 1st century Alexamenos graffito (also known as the graffito blasfemo), which shows Jesus as a donkey crucified on the cross and contains the words in Greek, "Alexander worships God." 

Thus the crucifixion is vouched for by unbelieving Jewish historians for whom it is a stumbling block, and even in an oblique or blasphemous way by Greek satirists and Roman schoolboys for whom it is foolishness. 

It is part of our ritual on Good Friday to venerate the Holy Cross in a particularly striking and memorable way.  This devotion to the Holy Cross is carried through the entire year in our devotions, in our Stations of the Cross, where we worship Christ and bless him, for by his Holy Cross he redeemed the world. 

The "Prayer Before a Crucifix" is a popular and richly-indulgenced prayer.

Behold, O good and sweetest Jesus,
I cast myself upon my knees in Thy sight,
and with the most fervent desire of my soul
I pray and beseech Thee
to impress upon my heart
lively sentiments of faith,
hope and charity,
with true repentance for my sins
and a most firm desire of amendment.
Whilst with deep affection and grief of soul
I consider within myself
and mentally contemplate
Thy five most precious wounds,
having before mine eyes that which David,
the prophet, long ago spoke concerning Thee,
"They have pierced My hands and My feet,
they have numbered all My bones."

In the Litany of the Holy Cross, we identify the instrument of the crucifixion and death of Christ--the Cross--as something heralded by the prophets, preached by the apostles, as the instrument which caused the salvation of the world. 

But--alas--not all the world, and not all who claimed to be a prophet or apostle of the most high God preached the Cross.  Tragically, there are more than one billion Muslims who, following the lead of the self-acclaimed prophet Muhammad, deny the crucifixion and deny the redemptive death of Jesus.  This is a cause for great sadness.

Why do Muslims reject the crucifixion and death of Jesus whom they acknowledge as prophet?  Because of historical reasons?  No.  On the witness of one man, Muhammad, a man who did not know Christ.

The Qur'an, the holy book of Islam, unambiguously denies the historical crucifixion and death of Jesus.  In Surah an-Nisa 4:157 we read with respect to Jesus: "And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him," ma qataluhu wama salabuhu.  Instead, the Qur'an continues, it was only made to appear so, wa laakin shubbiha lahum

Through sheer faith, against all historical evidence, Muslims are irrationally bound, by the word of their alleged prophet, to deny history, to deny the Cross, and to deny God's chosen instrument of their redemption.  This is a tragedy of the first proportion. 

The Jesus of the Qur'an is not "Jesus crucified."  The Jesus of the Qur'an is a paper Jesus.  The Jesus of the Qur'an is in fact not the real Jesus at all.

St. Augustine had cause to address the issue of those who denied the reality of the crucifixion.  Although Muhammad was not yet born when St. Augustine preached his words, the heretical Docetists--from whom perhaps directly or indirectly Muhammad obtained his false ideas--denied the crucifixion and death of Christ.  To the Docetists--the name comes from the Greek dokeo "to seem"--Christ did not suffer and die on the Cross, he just seemed to do so.

To deny the crucifixion was, in St. Augustine's eyes, vanity or futility.

"It would indeed be vanity," St. Augustine tells his flock in one of his sermons, "if we were to say that Christ had not really undergone death but only pretended to, that those wounds of his were phantom wounds, that it was not genuine but faked blood that flowed from the wounds, that he later showed his disciples unreal scars after unreal wounds." 

Those who deny the reality of the crucifixion, whether in ordinary history or its deeper significant in sacred history, "are frogs croaking in a muddy marsh," says St. Augustine.  They can make a noise with their voices; they cannot instill the teaching of wisdom."  They cannot instill the teaching of wisdom because they deny the truth "which is the Word made flesh and dwelling among us; the truth, Christ born of God, the One from One, only-begotten and co-eternal; the truth, who took the form of a servant and was born of the virgin Mary, suffered, was crucified, rose, ascended; all the time, truth." 

We, of course, do not know what went through the mind of Muhammad when, in the name of Allah, he rejected the passion, crucifixion, and death of his Redeemer, a Redeemer he denied with the ranine words of the Qur'an which so offend against history and so offend against God. 

What we do know is that Muhammad led, and continues to lead even after his death, billions of our human brothers and sisters astray, away from the Jesus on the Cross who suffered, died, and rose again for their sins, the sins of the sons of Ishmael, as well as the sins of the sons of Isaac, and indeed the sins of all mankind.

In the declaration Nostra aetate, the Second Vatican Council stated that the "plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims."  This is a truism: God wills the salvation of all mankind, including the Muslims.  What Nostra aetate does not say about the followers of Muhammad, but what is certainly true, is that the plan of salvation for them is not Muhammad, but, like all the rest of mankind, "Jesus Christ, and him crucified." 

On Good Friday, before the crucifix, let us say a prayer for the conversion of our Muslim brothers and sisters, that they may embrace the Cross, as the Jesus on the cross seeks to embrace them.

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2014
Christmas, hope for humanity:
That the birth of the Redeemer may bring peace and hope to all people of good will.
Parents: That parents may be true evangelizers, passing on to their children the precious gift of faith.

Keywords: cross, crucifixion, Islam, Muslims, suffering, passion, Andrew M. Greenwell



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1 - 3 of 3 Comments

  1. Bill Sr.
    2 years ago


    It is understandable that the sight of our Lord on the cross might distress you.
    Especially when we realize he actually chose to allow himself to be treated in such a manner for our sake and all of mankind. It must have been a truly gruesome sight for his followers and for his own mother in particular. And knowing that the selfish acts of pride and prejudice of each of us were in truth part of the burden he carried with him on the cross, that's enough to distress anyone.
    But our Lord carried something else with him to the cross, something that is nearly beyond our human capability to understand, and something that gives hope to the whole world and allows us to be filled with compassion for all peoples. He carried the love of God for humanity with him upon that cross. A Fathers love, so strong, so pure, and so deep that it did not matter how great the shame and enigma the scene of the cross his accusers had desired for him, this Divine Love for you and me and even those who were torturing him would overshadow and obliterate its disguise.
    Once we accept this fact of salvation for the human race the knowledge, the understanding, and the physical presence of mind the reality of the crucifixion experience offers us, we are reminded not only of the historical nature of the greatest of all love stories but also it gives us the courage and determination to add our own personal sacrifices and pain to His cross for mankind in honor of that Love. Think about that. It is a wonderful opportunity for us to share in Divine Love.

    The Greatest of All Love Stories
    ***************************************************************************************************************

    No man has ever been lonelier than Jesus was on His way to Calvary. No burden was so heavy nor injustice as great as His complete and total acceptance of the cross of love for all mankind which our heavenly father placed upon His shoulders for our salvation.

    Do you see the awesome intensity of the Fathers love for us here? That He would allow a scene such as this in order that His children might be saved. This was His incarnate body being ripped to shreds; His precious blood poured upon the ground; His blessed virgin mother witnessing the ugly brutality against the child they shared together. And at a distance the disciple’s pity, though heart felt, was overcome by their fear of religious and political authorities. Yes, Jesus our brother was a loner within His suffering but universal in His love and eternal passion for our salvation.

    Jesus has shown us how it is to suffer for the sake of our Father and His people. As Christians we are by choice now a family of suffering souls who can rise above pain, rejection, abuse, or ridicule and not wonder why or seek answers for its presence in our lives. We know because our brother, the crucified, has set the tone of our transformation by and through His glorious cross. All Christians, through original sin, are justly tied to the cross with Jesus and should welcome a personal measure of suffering that we might share in His resurrection. To deny or avoid that cross or that measure would be to deny Christ. Cherish our Holy Cross for it is truly God’s gift of eternal life for us; our shared symbol of love for Him.

    Lord Jesus, though we have chosen to follow in your footsteps to the cross of our salvation, our human weaknesses often tempt us to recoil at the sight of suffering.
    We pray your infinite mercy will help us to remember always the celestial love of the Father and His willingness to suffer through and with you on the cross for us knowing that we are truly fortunate for any opportunity to share our portion with you that we may one day share eternity with Him. Amen

  2. Theresa H
    2 years ago

    This article is good--encouraging us, as it does, to pray for Muslims because they deny the crucifixion. But what about us Christians/Catholics? We are called to not only "believe" in the Crucifixion, but to, ourselves, embrace the Cross and live a "virtuous" life.... The three cannot be separated. Yet, when it comes to the latter, who even knows what the word "virtue" means today? (It might be enlightening to test this out with a question to family members and friends.) It appears (I use the word "appears" because the virtues have an external aspect--one of the New Testament writers exhorts us to "clothe" ourselves with several virtues) that we, both young and old, have little or no idea! In large measure, we have succumbed to a hedonistic culture that has a rather minimized idea of what Christ-Crucified and the Christian life is all about! For several reasons, we, Catholics, need to ponder the Pascal Mystery these days, and renew our baptismal pledge to live the Christian Life--in our daily life! Then maybe more Muslims will be converted!

  3. abey
    2 years ago

    Where GOD made man in the original, man tries to duplicate himself, thus to falsifications against which is the Christ on the Cross, to bring man back to the truth in the original, to the Will of GOD.

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