We visited the Catholic church on Monday in nearby San Isidro. The building is very old and historic. The construction of the church started in 1895 and finished in 1952. The stained glass windows are beautiful... they were brought in from Austria. The artwork and details of the church are amazing; I can't imagine how long it took to do it all with a paint brush.
BUT what captured my attention about the place was the deep sense of sadness. All the images of Jesus carrying the cross or nailed to the cross gave me a sense of defeat and grief. The prayer candles, wash basins and prayer benches caused me to feel the seriousness of the traditions that are held onto so tightly.
Why keep Jesus on the cross when he has risen and defeated death? Why dwell so much on the cross, it's only half of the story? Why bind yourselves to traditions that promote guilt when in Christ we have freedom? The theme of victory, forgiveness and joy were absent from the building.
I found some great verses in Colossians 2 (one of my favorite books) that answers the questions above:
8 Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.9 For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. 10 So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority... 13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.15 In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. (NLT)
He is risen!
Some thoughts and questions to consider…
In your home, do you have pictures of your loved ones at an event? When you look at them you know they are of a time past & not literally still happening. In same way, an image of our Savior as the Lamb of God who so lovingly & generously took our place on the cross doesn't mean He is still literally trapped on the cross. We know that He is resurrected & alive in heaven interceding for us before God our father!
An image of a cross w/out the body of Jesus on it does not mean that He was never on the cross, nor does an empty cross tell the story of His resurrection. As Christians, when we see the cross with Jesus on it, we know there is much more to the story bc we have been taught the whole story. Please understand that some people feel very thankful when they look at a cross with the body of Jesus on it because it reminds them of what He did for them & helps them to have a contrite heart, which is necessary for salvation. Some look at a cross without the body of Jesus and imagine Him risen and that brings a feeling of hope.
For me, I believe that as Christians we are called to a life of humility (among many of things), and the reminder of seeing God nailed to a cross helps me towards that virtue, it does not make me feel defeated. Sad, yes. I see my sinfulness and what the Lord went through for me because my life alone caused Jesus to be nailed to a cross or I would not have the hope of eternal life. I am not perfectly humble and have found the crucifix humbles me. My faith is not limited to only what I see – an image of the body of Jesus nailed to a cross. I have hope because of His resurrection and the countless number of witnesses who attest to His resurrection in the scriptures. And, I have the Holy Spirit – who I think of when I see an image of a dove, but I know the Holy Spirit is not an actual bird. Symbolism and images such as the fish and then the cross (with or without the body of Jesus on it) have always been a part of the Jewish turned Christian religion.
When I see an image of Jesus carrying the cross I am reminded that we are called to live the life of Christ and that means taking up the cross, like Jesus, and walking the via Delorosa of life...even to the point of death as so many of our forefathers in the faith have done. When I see Jesus carrying the cross my life is suddenly put in perspective and I am blessed with strength because I am reminded that to have everlasting life I too must live as Christ.
When I have a special prayer request I pray and I do my best to pray without ceasing. What I have found that really helps me is that lately I have been lighting candles as a symbol of my prayer request. Each time I see the flame it prompts me to pray. For me, this has helped me keep prayers for me, my family and friends in the forefront of my thoughts throughout the day as I am busy about my house. Do I need candles to pray? No, have they been helpful? Definitely! When I am spending time in prayer I do not have to have a candle lit. However, lighting one and using it to remind me to pray is a helpful tool that draws me closer to God. I also see the flame and think of Jesus as the light of the world. I see the flame & reflect on pentecost & the holy spirit. It is a beautiful thing. I also see the flames of the martyrs that were burned for their faith and I am thankful for their witness and their handing down of the faith.
At Christmas time, I have a nativity & Jesus is a baby in a manger. I do not think how sad that Jesus never grew up - that He is still in that manger...I am grateful and awed that God became man and took on flesh to be with me, to die for me – in place of me-, & that He was resurrected and glorified in the same way that I too can be resurrected and glorified.
I write this because you seemed disturbed by the images in the church and I wanted to share with you some ideas and ways of thinking about them that may bring some comfort.
Many blessings & I love your blog!
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