Good Friday: Behold the Wood of the Cross
Without Christ, the Cross Has No Meaning
Crosses come in all sizes, shapes and material. Some are jeweled, others are intricately carved. Good Friday brings us back to the reality that it is about a wooden cross and, more importantly, about the One who died upon it.
"John Paul II . . . on Good Friday before his death, carried the cross in his hands. The cross. We no longer saw the face of Wojtyla which we saw for many years. We saw only from behind - the image of him and the cross in his hands, because he was a man who really clung to the cross, saying, 'This is the road that will make you free,'" Monsignor Jaroslaw Ceilecki
Apart from the fact that, yes. we know that. we believe that with all of hearts. That particular question does not really address the real issue.
In a few such conversations I confess that I have defaulted to an equally inane response. "Well, if you really want to celebrate the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, why don't you wear an empty tomb around your neck?"
By the way, a few years ago I did a web search and found a company called Empty Tomb Jewelry. Case closed!
Seriously though, the issue of the cross and the crucifix is one that points to an important point. The cross has absolutely no significant apart from the One who hung upon it the first Good Friday. Countess lives were lost on the cross over a large span of time. It was the "torture of choice" for the Romans and yet those deaths did not give rise to any embrace of this image.
In his meditations for the Way of the Cross, which he wrote while still a cardinal in 1976, Blessed John Paul II says, "'They have pierced my hands and feet, I can count all my bones.' (Ps 22:16-17).
"'I can count...' How prophetic were these words! And yet we know that this body is a ransom. The whole of this body, its hands, its feet, its every bone, is a priceless ransom. The Whole Man is in a state of utmost tension: his bones, his muscles, his nerves, his every organ and every cell, is stretched and strained to breaking-point. 'I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.' (Jn 12:32)
"These words express the full reality of the crucifixion. And part of this reality is the terrible tension penetrating Christ's hands, feet and every bone: driving its way into the entire body which, nailed like a mere thing to the beams of the Cross, is about to be utterly annihilated in the convulsive agony of death.
"And the whole of the world, which Jesus wills to draw to himself, enters into the reality of the Cross. The world is dependent on the gravitational pull of this body, which inertia now causes to sink lower and lower."
On Good Friday we venerate this cross - a word that means honor, esteem, adoration, or regard very highly. Yet, the liturgy betrays the reason. "Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung the salvation of the world."
The cross alone is a wonderful Christian symbol, but leaves no challenge to the beholder. Crosses are worn by people of all walks of life and all conditions of life. It has become an item of adornment as well as a Christian symbol. The scandal begins when Salvation is hung upon it.
The crucifix calls people to a decision. a decision about the Lord Jesus Christ, who hung upon the Cross, becoming the salvation of the world. People must choose what to do about Him, whether to accept His death and, with it, the fullness of all that He revealed, or to reject Him.
A nineteenth century Baptist evangelist, D.L. Moody, captured the heart of this confrontation in a sermon entitled "What Think Ye of Christ?" He guided his hearers through a serious of interviews, including those who were present for His passion and death. To each one - the Pharisees, Caiaphas, Pilate, Judas, the Centurion at the cross, the Apostles - he asked the key question, "What think ye of Christ?" Each one answered in kind.
The crucifix continues to call us, Catholic, Protestant, and all the sorts and conditions of humanity, to respond. Our response should not just be based on what is found in our liturgies, but more importantly what is found in our hearts. It is there, in the very core of our being that the question must be settled.
When speaking to 7,000 young Catholics in the Archdiocese of Madrid two years before World Day in 2011, the Holy Father declared, "Christ defeated sin and death by the total giving of Himself. For this reason, we must embrace and adore the Lord's cross, make it our own, accept its weight as Simon of Cyrene did, in order to participate in the only thing that can redeem all of humanity."
On the Good Friday before his death, Blessed John Paul II was too weak to attend the liturgy He sent the faithful a person message, which, in part, said, "The adoration of the Cross directs us to a commitment that we cannot shirk: the mission that St Paul expressed in these words: "[I]n my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church" (Col 1:24).
"I also offer my sufferings so that God's plan may be completed and his Word spread among the peoples. I, in turn, am close to all who are tried by suffering at this time. I pray for each one of them.
"On this memorable day of Christ's crucifixion, I look at the Cross with you in adoration, repeating the words of the liturgy: 'O crux, ave spes unica!' Hail, O Cross, our only hope, give us patience and courage and obtain peace for the world!"
What do we think of Christ? What place does He really occupy in our lives? How profoundly does His passion, death, resurrection, and revelation impact me?
During Lent the Church visits the Christ's Passion and Death through the Stations of the Cross. Each each station the minister says, "We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you." To which we respond, "Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world."
This is why we don't wear an empty tomb around our necks. Resurrection without a Redeemer is merely a restoration of life. When the cross is added, it is for the life of the world!
Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and the CEO/Associate Publisher for the Northern Virginia Local Edition of Catholic Online (http://virginia.catholic.org). He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for January 2015
General Intention: That those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for peace.
Missionary Intention: That in this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious men and women may rediscover the joy of following Christ and strive to serve the poor with zeal.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Lent / Easter News
- 4th Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross
- 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns
- Good Friday Reflection on the Nature of Sin
- Lent is almost over, but have YOU kept this Commandment?
- 5th Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion
- Holy Thursday: Take Up the Basin and Towel. Love is a Verb.
- Holy Thursday: He Loves to the End
- 2nd Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar
- The Precious and Life-Giving Cross of Christ
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
More Easter / Lent
'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead' - Luke 24:46
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. continue reading
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. (Mark 11:1.11, Matthew 21:1.11, Luke 19:28.44, and John 12:12.19) ... continue reading
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week... continue reading
HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances. It celebrates his last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover ... continue reading
On Good Friday, each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord ... continue reading
Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the centre of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year ... continue reading
For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere. Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). continue reading
Everything answered from when does lent end, ashes, giving something up, stations of the cross and blessed palms. The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism... continue reading
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. First Station: Jesus is condemned to death... pray the stations now
What did you give up for Lent?
From the humorous to the bizarre, people have had interesting Lenten experiences. Tell us about what you are going to give up for this Lenten Year.
What others gave up »
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
This Sorrowful pilgrimage now brings me here to this lonely hill. All the agony, the beatings and the bleeding have led me somewhere I do not want to go; somewhere I resist going with all my ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
I wonder if perhaps it was tempting for Jesus to just lie down on the dirt road and die right there. Completely sapped of strength and in agonizing pain, I wonder if He was tempted by the ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
Humiliation, in one form or another, is part of the package. It is only avoidable if we decide to deny Christ. WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning ...Continue Reading
Michael Terheyden - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
The Passion of Christ represents the most atrocious miscarriage of justice in all of human history. So when we come face to face with the crucified Christ on Good Friday, it is only natural for us to ...Continue Reading
On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption.
In the symbol of the Cross we can see the magnitude of the human tragedy, the ravages of original sin, and the infinite love of God. Learn More
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. Learn More
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.
ACT OF CONTRITION. O my God, my Redeemer, behold me here at Thy feet. From the bottom of my heart... Pray the Stations
'Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed' Lk. 5:35
Abstinence. The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted.
Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal.
Learn More »