Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cross vs Crucifix

Why do Catholics use a crucifix and Protestants the cross?

This is a some what complex question, but I will try to keep it simple. First, we must realize that there are many differnent branches of Protestants. What applies to the Baptist may not necessarily follow for the Anglicans. With that being said, I will talk about the Protestants in general to answer this question.

Catholics use the crucifix as a symbol because we realize that at Mass the sacrifice of Calvary is re-presented (not represented like a symbol) in a non-bloody manner. So the crucifix gives us a visible sign of what is happening on the altar. Catholics also embrace the crucifix because we believe in redemptive suffering. Because we are baptized, we are truly part of the Mystical Body and thus truly part of Christ. Therefore, when we suffer and "offer it up" we really do help sanctify ourselves and the rest of the world. This is why St. Paul says we "make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ"-Colossians 1:24. As Catholics, we acknowledge that suffering has value because Christ's suffering has value. It brings us eternal life. Thus, we promote the crucifix.

Protestants on the other hand, through a misunderstanding of the Mass in thinking that Catholics teach that Christ dies again and again at every Mass and that being blatent contradiction of Scripture (see Hebrews 7:27), in reaction, embraced the cross instead of the crucifix to show that Jesus only died once for our sins. The irony is that they embraced the cross instead of the crucifix to stop heresy, but in actuality the heresy of the "recrucifixion" of Christ at Mass is something that the Catholic Church does not teach and even has condemned (This by the way is part of the reason that many protestant Churches do not have a Liturgy of the Eucharist part to their Sunday services).

Protestants also generally do not see value in suffering. Some view suffering like poverty as a punishment from God. This is based on the Old Testament because when God's favor was with Israel, they were wealthy and did not have to suffer. They suffered when they were being punished. Of course, punishment is not the only reason for suffering because God was born poor and even counseled it to get to heaven. The rich young man asked Jesus, "What must I do to be saved?" Jesus answered, "Follow the commandments", then, "go, sell everything you have and you will have treasure in heaven"-Mt. 19:16-21. So we see the "health and wealth gospel" can not be a true Gospel and that suffering is not necessarily a bad thing.

Finally, because many Protestants believe in the sola fides or faith alone doctrine, they believe that redemptive suffering is a work and thus not necessary for salvation. What is important is to believe in Christ. Therefore, suffering is insignificant.

As Catholics, we believe that it is necessary to believe in Christ, but believing in Christ means to listen to his teachings as well. These teaching come from Christ and His Church. Jesus tells us that we all must "take up our cross daily and follow him"-Lk. 9:23. St. Paul tells us, "The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may be glorified with him"-Romans 8:16-17. St. Peter even tells us that suffering is a grace that we are all called to (see 1Peter 3:19-21). So we see that suffering leads us to salvation. The cross by itself or without Christ is empty and has no meaning, but with and in Christ it gives us the deepest meaning of all, the answer to life's questions. It gives us Heaven! That is why, we as Catholics promote the crucifix and like St. Paul, "proclaim Christ crucified"-1Corinthians 1:23.


thayerz said...

As to a crucifix versus a cross, both can and should have meaning to every Christian. The crucifix to remind us of the suffering and death that Jesus endured in order to purchase our salvation . . . in short it reminds of God's love. Having a crucifix on your wall, in your car or around your neck is a great reminder to never take for granted the tremendous cost that was paid and to keep yourself pure for His sake. The empty cross is to remind us of the Resurrection, the completed work . . . in short it reminds of the power of God. Having a cross in plain view reminds us to live for God and to have faith in His ability to answer prayer and to redeem His children.

That Protestants and Catholics have made these symbols a point of separation is sad. Each cling jealously to the signifiance of their choice and denegrate the other as if it represents an inferior position or understanding. That's pride, pure and simple. We need to repent of that and get past it.

Follower said...

Thayerz, excellent comment. I totally agree

MB_1108 said...

Thayerz is dead on about the cross. The writer of this post on the other hand seems to be very misinformed on protestants. As a Baptist I too was taugt to believe that the cross is a reminder of the ressurection because we serve a living savior.

And we are taught that you go through storms or "suffer" whether you are being punished or not. You are either in a storm, coming out of a storm, or heading into one. We are taught that many times its God either preparing you to receive his blessings by pulling some bad ways out of you that might stand in the way of you appreciating them and using them the way he intends and therefore bringing more glory to his name..

adele mcginn said...

The important concept is Salvation :-)

adele mcginn said...

The important concept is Salvation :-)

adele mcginn said...

The important concept is Salvation :-)

Quantum said...

This blog is one of the most biased and propagated pieces of material that I have ever read. As someone who has lived a life in the light of the lord, I am unbiased on either perspective of this superficial argument. It is important to remember that the lord is the only entity that is entitled to pass judgement. As much as we all think that we are entitled to do so, and as often as we exhibit judgement in our daily lives, we really have no place or reason to judge others. Therefore, taking such a biased and negative standpoint on protestants is unnecessary. Especially since you are delivering this message to others, rather than internalizing your own opinion.

*When it comes down to it, could you confidently say that you wouldn't fully believe in the protestant's viewpoints if you had been born and raised into a protestant family? - This example is a perfect depiction of how shallow and superficial one's assumptions/judgements of other's religions and viewpoints are. Although I am not stating that you would be a protestant indefinitely (if your life encompassed the preceding circumstances), it is obvious that you do not confidently understand what your current belief system would be if you had been raised in different circumstances.

This would have been nice to read if was not such a heavily biased article. The fact that it takes such a strong "one-sided" perspective actually caused many of the facts to be either skewed, or completely false.

I can only hope that our judgement of others will experience some sort of paradigm shift in the future. imagine if we understood that we are all individuals, on our path, with our own lessons to learn, and understood that one faith is not better/stronger than another. Instead of focusing on how others are wrong, we could look internally at what we could do better in our lives.