Crucifix is powerful reminder of God’s love, Bishop says on Good Friday

March 29, 2024 at 8:12 p.m.
Bishop O'Connell leads the Commemoration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. Hal Brown photo
Bishop O'Connell leads the Commemoration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. Hal Brown photo

By MARY STADNYK
Associate Editor

The Crucifix or cross is the central and most widely known symbol of Christianity and has been for more than 2,000 years, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., told those gathered during the solemn Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion March 29, Good Friday, in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton.

PHOTO GALLERY: Good Friday in Cathedral

PHOTO GALLERY: Living Stations presented in Christ the King, Long Branch

“In a world where little seems permanent, where things come and go easily, where passing fads are commonplace, where so much is considered relative — including our human moral conscience — the fact that a symbol has endured for so long, everywhere, should convey something to everyone who sees it, even to those who do not believe in Christ or Christianity or religion,” the Bishop said.

He said the “Crucifix is the most powerful reminder of the greatest love the world has ever known: one wooden beam pointing from the earth to the sky, pointing our attention to God, [and] another wooden beam pointing from east to west, pointing our attention to our fellow human beings.”

“What brings those two wooden beams, those two directions together, is a single body, his body, Jesus Christ, nailed to that cross, whose life of suffering and transforming love was a life and a love for all; a crucified love that has endured and will continue to endure; a love that turns the wood of a tree, the tree of defeat and death, into a tree of life and victory,” the bishop said during his homily.

The service was a Liturgy of the Word with Communion, and Cathedral clergy, including Msgr. Joseph Roldán, rector, joined the bishop in the sanctuary.

The Importance of the Crucifix

Distinguishing between a cross and a Crucifix, Bishop O’Connell said the Crucifix displays Jesus’ brutalized body and “represents the turning point of humanity and life in this world as we have known it.”

“The Lord Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, God himself, was put to death by us, for our sins, by those he came to save,” the Bishop said.

“Nothing more important has ever happened in the history of the world than the moment of his death, which we remember in a dramatic way on Good Friday and every time we look at the Crucifix.”

Asking the congregation to reflect on the cross and its two beams of wood, Bishop O’Connell said that, originally, it had no other purpose than to be an instrument of death.

“What brings those beams together, what makes the cross a Crucifix is not merely the intersection of wood upon wood. What brings those beams together and makes the cross a Crucifix is the intersection of wood and flesh: a body stretched on a vertical wooden beam; arms outstretched on a horizontal wooden beam, a body with its furthermost extensions attached by nails,” he said. “This instrument of death was reserved for criminals and those considered unworthy of human life and human breath.

“The cross that we behold, the Crucifix that is the central symbol of our faith, held the body of the one whose only crime was that he loved us without condition or reservation and that he was willing to show the depth of his love with the ultimate and absolute sacrifice,” the Bishop said. “It was he, this criminal who was considered unworthy of human life and breath, who was put to death on a cross. It was he whose death made all human life worthy and whose sacrifice made every human life holy.”

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The Crucifix or cross is the central and most widely known symbol of Christianity and has been for more than 2,000 years, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., told those gathered during the solemn Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion March 29, Good Friday, in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton.

PHOTO GALLERY: Good Friday in Cathedral

PHOTO GALLERY: Living Stations presented in Christ the King, Long Branch

“In a world where little seems permanent, where things come and go easily, where passing fads are commonplace, where so much is considered relative — including our human moral conscience — the fact that a symbol has endured for so long, everywhere, should convey something to everyone who sees it, even to those who do not believe in Christ or Christianity or religion,” the Bishop said.

He said the “Crucifix is the most powerful reminder of the greatest love the world has ever known: one wooden beam pointing from the earth to the sky, pointing our attention to God, [and] another wooden beam pointing from east to west, pointing our attention to our fellow human beings.”

“What brings those two wooden beams, those two directions together, is a single body, his body, Jesus Christ, nailed to that cross, whose life of suffering and transforming love was a life and a love for all; a crucified love that has endured and will continue to endure; a love that turns the wood of a tree, the tree of defeat and death, into a tree of life and victory,” the bishop said during his homily.

The service was a Liturgy of the Word with Communion, and Cathedral clergy, including Msgr. Joseph Roldán, rector, joined the bishop in the sanctuary.

The Importance of the Crucifix

Distinguishing between a cross and a Crucifix, Bishop O’Connell said the Crucifix displays Jesus’ brutalized body and “represents the turning point of humanity and life in this world as we have known it.”

“The Lord Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, God himself, was put to death by us, for our sins, by those he came to save,” the Bishop said.

“Nothing more important has ever happened in the history of the world than the moment of his death, which we remember in a dramatic way on Good Friday and every time we look at the Crucifix.”

Asking the congregation to reflect on the cross and its two beams of wood, Bishop O’Connell said that, originally, it had no other purpose than to be an instrument of death.

“What brings those beams together, what makes the cross a Crucifix is not merely the intersection of wood upon wood. What brings those beams together and makes the cross a Crucifix is the intersection of wood and flesh: a body stretched on a vertical wooden beam; arms outstretched on a horizontal wooden beam, a body with its furthermost extensions attached by nails,” he said. “This instrument of death was reserved for criminals and those considered unworthy of human life and human breath.

“The cross that we behold, the Crucifix that is the central symbol of our faith, held the body of the one whose only crime was that he loved us without condition or reservation and that he was willing to show the depth of his love with the ultimate and absolute sacrifice,” the Bishop said. “It was he, this criminal who was considered unworthy of human life and breath, who was put to death on a cross. It was he whose death made all human life worthy and whose sacrifice made every human life holy.”

The Church needs quality Catholic journalism now more than ever. Please consider supporting this work by signing up for a SUBSCRIPTION (click HERE) or making a DONATION to The Monitor (click HERE). Thank you for your support.

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