Sewing Hope Into Broken Hearts
Feb. 28, 2013

The Cross and Crucifix; "Worlds Apart"

One of my favorite contemporary Christian worship songs to meditate upon is Worlds Apart by Jars of Clay. It speaks to our unconquerable struggle with sin and despite our best human efforts to live a life of grace we still come up miserably short. The message of this song is particularly pertinent to reflect upon during Lent, helping us remember that without a savior we will be left “broken and on [our] knees.” We find ourselves overwhelmed by our sin often and it “takes all [we are] to believe in a mercy that covers [us].” By admitting that “what [we] need (or sins that Satan has deceived us into believing that we need to remain happy) and what [we] believe are worlds apart” enables the Savior to fill the chasm in our hearts with His mercy, forgiveness, and love.

As St. Catherine of Siena would point out in her Dialogue, Jesus is the bridge, by which our soul must walk across to access heaven, there is no other way; no alternative path. Furthermore, she states, that this bridge Christ built is constructed by His sacrifice on the cross. The Paschal Mystery, Christ’s suffering death and resurrection, is the singular event that provides for our salvation – nothing else. It is because of Christ’s great sacrifice that the central symbol of Christianity is the cross.

To demonstrate that we are Christians we wear, carry and display the cross. Why? We know its importance. The cross not only helps us remember that we are saved, but also that we are loved and that despite our failings and sinfulness we are God’s beloved creation, valued by Him enough that He would give His life so we can spend eternity with Him. In our frailty and forgetfulness, however, it is easy to “look beyond the empty cross forgetting what [our lives have] cost,” as the Jars of Clay lyrics reveal. Every time these words are intoned through my headphones or speakers and I thank God as a Catholic for the crucifix. The inclusion of a corpus, an image of Christ’s lifeless body, is what clearly separates a crucifix from a cross (and Catholics from Protestants).
By this simple inclusion, our meditations as we gaze upon the crucifix cannot avoid the events of Good Friday. Many Christians today want to skip right to Easter without remembering the sacrifice and suffering required to join in the celebration. Jesus says we must take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24); Jesus means we must follow His every step of the way. Yes, that means all the way to the Grave. No, we don’t get to take a detour when Good Friday rolls around and join up with Him again on Easter Sunday, that isn’t the way it works.

As Catholics, by wearing, carrying, and displaying not merely a cross, but a crucifix we unquestionably remind ourselves and others of Christ’s sacrifice and are challenged to follow the Savior. It is by uniting our sufferings and offering our sacrifices in union with those of Christ's that we come to share in eternal glory.