“When I was younger, I was scared of the crucifix; I had to turn away from it.”
Sitting in his chair in front of the east-facing window, the patient cast a slender silhouette in the morning light. His body had become frail and skinny after the many long trips to the hospital for chemo treatments. Yet, he still had strength, and not just in the eyes.
The subject of the conversation began over the sterling silver chain lying on the table before him. On it was a wedding ring and a silver crucifix, a gift from his wife.
Reflecting on his younger years, he recalled the crucifixes that hung in his local church and his grandmother’s house. They were the Spanish type, realistic with lots of red paint. To fresh eyes, they screamed of horror and barbarity, the brutality of the Passion. Can a child not look away?
Death, evil, suffering, blood: these are not easy to look at, and without a deeper understanding into the matter, it’s all too easy to run away from it. Perhaps this is the reason we’re so attentive to distraction, or as T.S. Eliot put it, “Distracted from distraction by distraction.” Looking away from the compassionate blood of the Lord is an attempt to avoid reality. We bleed, suffer, die, and commit evil.
The crucifix shows us that we are poor and weak, susceptible to suffering and death. But what’s more, the crucifix shows us the consequence of our sins. We put God to death, a heart-wrenching reality almost too strong for us to bear.
However, the true sign of the crucifix is not about us. We should not shy away from it like children, because it is about God, His goodness and love. St. Catherine of Siena writes, “Neither earth nor rock could have held the Cross, nor could the Cross of nails have held God’s only-begotten Son, had not love held him fast.” As we mature in the faith, we begin to see the sweetness of the Cross.
The patient explained his own cross he carried and how things have changed. Turning his eyes to the crucifix, he said, “You know, now…..whenever I look at it…..all I see is Love.”
Image: Fr. Lawrence Lew, Caleruega Cross (used with permission).