Sunday, April 25, 2010

Who Banished Christ's Suffering?

So I'm at Sunday mass today and I once again find myself in a church that seems to have forgotten the suffering of Christ.
Yes, it is a Catholic church. But the idea of Christ suffering on the cross has pretty much been banished here.
Behind the alter there is a large cross -- a cross that appropriately dominates the church.
But the cross does not feature the corpus -- the suffering body of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
Instead, we see the risen Christ emerging from the cross with his arms outstretched, welcoming all.
Increasingly, this seems to be the norm in American Catholic churches, especially newer churches.
Yes, I understand that there would be no Catholic church if Christ has not arisen from the dead.
I get it.
But the suffering of Christ is central to the faith.
Christ's suffering inspires us, teaches us, gives us strength and urges us onward beyond this life to salvation and to eternal life.
For the faithful, it reminds us that Christ suffered and dies for us.
For those of other faiths and non-believers, it defines one of the central lessons of the Church.
I'm trying to figure out how and when the suffering Christ began to disappear.
Did the depiction of Christ nailed to the cross somehow become too graphic, too intense, too unpleasant for Catholics to bear? Was it too bloody, too messy? Was Christ too scantily clad? Did someone decide it was all too scary for young people? Did someone think this might be a good way to sanitize the church? Was it all part of a path toward "feel good" Catholicism?
I don't know.
I don't have the answer.
I only know that it happened.
And I know that I don't like it.
Something tells me that this new cross is homogenized, scrubbed, neutral, and ultimately empty.
This trend is not good for the Church and it ought to be stopped before it goes any further.
It's time to bring back Christ on the cross, suffering and dying for our sins.


mj loehrer said...

What a wonderful piece of writing. Thank you.

MesserRob said...

The answer to your question is an easy one. Mass makes re-present to us 2 mysteries of our faith: the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. The liturgy itself reminds us of these two moments with the 2 predominant concepts of what Mass is: 1. A meal in which we receive the Body and Blood of Christ and 2. the sacrifice of love that occured when our Lord offered up His life for ours.

Liturgically speaking focusing on the concept of both the meal and sacrifical aspects of the Mass are totally acceptible and encouraged. But what has occured is that for some the shift has been predominantly on the concept of the Mass solely as meal at the expense of sacrifice. Look at the hymnal in church and you'll see what I mean. Look at the hymns pertaining to the Eucharist. 90% of them pertain to bread or meal. Only 10% (and at times thats being generous) remind us of the other and equally important nature of the Mass: sacrifice. If our focus is moved away from the concept of sacrifice, then necessarily you're not going to have a crucifix, but a "resurrec-ifix" as you stated in your story. It also affects the mentality of our faith. We forget that hard work and sacrifice are the backbone that must necessarily our Lord's endless font of grace and mercy.

But fortunately, the pendulum is swinging back, especially with the renewal of the extraordinary form of Mass. The Traditional Latin Mass has a balanced focus on both the Bread of Heaven and the Glory of the Cross. And b/c of this, there is a cross-pollination of both forms of the Roman liturgy (the Tridentine Mass and the Novus Ordo) with the older form influencing the Mass we attend every Sunday reminding us of what we need to always remember as Catholics, that Christ not only gave Himself, but offered Himself so that we might not perish, but have eternal life.

Dan Cirucci said...

I thank Father Bob Sinatra for his very thorough and informed response.
I hope Father Bob is correct and that the pendulum is indeed swinging back to the traditional crucifix.

Dan Cirucci said...

MJ: Thank you so much for your kind comments. Hope all is well with you!

Sophia said...

I enjoyed this post very much. In today's age it seems that one cannot mention religion without offending someone. Keep up the great writing! I appreciate your honesty and insight.