Skip to comments.Covering the Crucifix (Catholic Liturgical Celebrations)
Posted on 01/11/2012 7:08:12 AM PST by NYer
Q: My parish has a beautiful crucifix mounted on the wall behind the altar that has been a great aid in my prayer life. Unfortunately, I must pray without this aid during the seasons of Christmas and of Easter, as during these seasons the crucifix is completely covered. During Christmas, a star is placed above the crucifix with a tail that hangs down to completely cover it. Likewise, during Easter, a banner of the Risen Christ is hung over the crucifix so that it is hidden from view. I realize that "a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, [be] either on the altar or near it" during Mass (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 308), and I considered the processional cross, which is placed beside the sanctuary during Mass, to fulfill this requirement when the crucifix behind the altar is covered (cf. GIRM, 122). However, upon further reflection, I now question if the processional cross fulfills this requirement as it is beside the sanctuary during Mass and not "next to the altar" (GIRM, 122); and, it is not "clearly visible to the [entire] assembled congregation" (GIRM, 308). As well, it does not "remain near the altar even outside of liturgical celebrations" (GIRM, 308). Is it appropriate that the crucifix mounted on the wall behind the altar be covered during any liturgical season? R.G., Leduc, Alberta
A: While I don't think it is a good idea to cover the cross during these liturgical seasons, it does not appear to be illicit.
It is illicit, however, not to have any crucifix presiding over the altar during the celebration. The processional cross could fulfill this function, but only if it is placed on a stand beside the altar during the celebration.
Indeed, the indications in the norms referenced by our reader are that the processional cross is only carried out of sight in those cases where a crucifix is already present on or near the altar. If there is no cross, then it should be placed near the altar and serve as the altar cross.
Another possible solution, if the wall cross is covered or absent, is to place a crucifix upon the altar proper. In this case the processional cross should be carried away to one side so that only one cross presides over the altar.
While there may be no absolute prohibition to substituting the main crucifix for a smaller one during these liturgical seasons, I am of the opinion that it is not a felicitous idea.
As the U.S. bishops' conference recommends in its document "Built of Living Stones":
"§ 123 § The tradition of decorating or not decorating the church for liturgical seasons and feasts heightens the awareness of the festive, solemn, or penitential nature of these seasons. Human minds and hearts are stimulated by the sounds, sights, and fragrances of liturgical seasons, which combine to create powerful, lasting impressions of the rich and abundant graces unique to each of the seasons.
"§ 124 § Plans for seasonal decorations should include other areas besides the sanctuary. Decorations are intended to draw people to the true nature of the mystery being celebrated rather than being ends in themselves. Natural flowers, plants, wreaths and fabric hangings, and other seasonal objects can be arranged to enhance the primary liturgical points of focus. The altar should remain clear and free-standing, not walled in by massive floral displays or the Christmas crib, and pathways in the narthex, nave, and sanctuary should remain clear."
In the case described, the crucifix as an important, albeit not primary, liturgical point of focus is obscured rather than enhanced.
While a star is a frequent symbol of Christmas, and even of Christ, placing it right behind the altar places too much emphasis upon a secondary symbol.
While the figure of the risen Christ might appear more justified, nothing would be lost and much gained by placing the image in some other part of the sanctuary.
I hope that this practice is not an attempt to deliberately remove the crucifix from sight during these seasons. This would be a grave error. The Church insists that a crucifix must always be present for Mass during all seasons of the year in order to remind us of the presence of Our Lord's infinite sacrifice.
It is through the infinite sacrifice that Christ's entire saving mystery, from the annunciation to the ascension, is made present in each and every celebration. Even though we designate certain times and seasons to underline specific mysteries, the cross remains at the heart of the mystery of God's total self-giving for our salvation.
That is the situation in my previous parish and the reason I left when the pastor refused to place the processional cross next to the altar. Oftentimes, he dispensed with the processional cross altogether.
Here is a good opportunity to repost the following link for those who are new to the ping list. Know your rights! And fight for them
Thanks NYer - very good to know ...
I think the Quote Goes,,,
“If You deny me on Earth , I will deny you before My Father”.
The whole Catholic Church exists because of the Crucified Christ.
Again, search the Scriptures first and then decide.
The Scriptures were compiled by the Catholic Church, dear friend. Scripture, however, must be interpreted in light of Church tradition.
"But in learning the Faith and in professing it, acquire and keep that only, which is now delivered to thee by the Church, and which has been built up strongly out of all the Scriptures....Take heed then, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which ye now receive, and write them and the table of your heart."
Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 5:12 (A.D. 350).
If I’m reading you right, kindred, you’re saying (asking) why would Jesus rail against one highly ritualized religion that has many manmade commandments(Pharisees) and replace it with another (Catholicism)? Is that your point?
Two passages from Scripture you've apparently never stumbled across in your exhaustive search.
"But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumblingblock, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." 1 Corinthians 1:23-24
"For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until He come." 1 Corinthians 11:26
I think you need to read the Gospels a bit more carefully. Our Lord's objection wasn't to "ritualized religion" (he practiced one), nor was it to "manmade commandments" (he followed them, more than once). He even commanded his Apostles to obey the teaching of the Pharisees, but not to follow their bad example.
His objection was to those who boasted of their religiosity and their (religiously-rooted) superiority over others, all the while engaging in gross sins, most especially that of plotting to kill him. If you lose sight of that, you misunderstand his whole polemic.
As for the crucifix, we are commanded to obey our superiors in religion (Hebrews 13:7, 13:17), who have commanded us to put the crucifix on or near the altar, to remind us precisely that "we preach Christ crucified" (1 Cor 1:23).
I’m just asking kindred what his/her post meant. I don’t wish to imply motive to anothers post, so I have to ask point blank what he/she meant.
On that we can agree except I capitalize Him when Jesus is the noun/pronoun. And capitalize His polemic as well.
Why do Catholics want to keep Christ on the cross? Like the tomb it has been empty for 2000 years!
Why do you want to ignore the fact that Christ died on the cross for us. Just sayin.
1 Corinthians 2:
1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[a] 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
Why do you want to ignore Scripture and forget that He was crucified?
My Dad had been dead since 1982. I still have a picture displayed in my house of the time he received the “Man of the Year” award from the Cleveland Trucking Association in 1980. That was a long time ago.
The picture is not “Daddy”. Dad is dead. He has long since gone on to his reward. That crucifix is not Christ. He has long since risen from the dead.
However, both are reminders of a time long gone. Of the sacrifice Christ made and of the achievement of my father.
**A: While I don’t think it is a good idea to cover the cross during these liturgical seasons, it does not appear to be illicit.
It is illicit, however, not to have any crucifix presiding over the altar during the celebration. The processional cross could fulfill this function, but only if it is placed on a stand beside the altar during the celebration.**
Same quote as you have. We don’t cover our Crucifix during Lent.
Perhaps you could read the Passion again. Can you find out why it is so important tthat Crhrist was crucified and died in this manner?
What about the prophets?
As a former Lutheran, I find the Evangelical objection to the crucifix perplexing because my Lutheran parish had them.
It’s something how the Bible says something different to each sect.
it doesn't, but it does warn against individual interpretation of the bible. The church was given, by Christ, the authority to compile and therefore interpret the bible, and in so doing, He promised that she would do so without error!!! OK by me
The Church Fathers warn that every heretical sect claims authority based on the Bible.
“For those are slothful who, having it in their power to provide themselves with proper proofs for the divine Scriptures from the Scriptures themselves, select only what contributes to their own pleasures. And those have a craving for glory who voluntarily evade, by arguments of a diverse sort, the things delivered by the blessed apostles and teachers, which are wedded to inspired words; opposing the divine tradition by human teachings, in order to establish the heresy.”
Clement of Alexandria,Stromata,7:16 (post A.D. 202),in ANF,II:553-554
“When heretics show us the canonical Scriptures, in which every Christian believes and trusts, they seem to be saying:’Lo, he is in the inner rooms [ie., the word of truth] ‘ (Matt 24.6). But we must not believe them, nor leave the original tradition of the Church, nor believe otherwise than we have been taught by the succession in the Church of God.”
Origen,Homilies on Matthew,Homily 46,PG 13:1667 (ante A.D. 254),in CON,392
“True knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy; and [above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love, which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts [of God].”
Irenaeus,Against Heresies,4,33:8 (inter A.D. 180-199),in ANF,I:508
Lol! I am not laughing at you! Your comment, however, brought back a conversation I had with the pastor at my previous parish. He shared your notion. In fact, when I confronted him over the absence of a crucifix (mandated by canon law) on/over/or adjacent to the altar, his response was: "Christ was on the cross for ONLY 3 hours; He is risen forever! That response was commensurate with stabbing me in the heart with a dagger.
Dear friend in Christ, the Crucifix differs from the cross, in that it depicts the image of Christ being crucified, rather than that of the empty cross.The addition of His figure to the empty cross is intended to emphasize His human nature, which enabled him to suffer physical pain and death.
Not all crucifixes are identical.Depending on the mission of the church, the depiction of Jesus may evoke various emotions ranging from sorrow, to fear, or to awe. However, the purpose of the crucifix remains the same: to remind Catholics of the price Christ paid for humanity's redemption.
It also affords us the opportunity to practice Ignatian Spirituality, placing ourselves with those at the foot of the cross, looking up at our redeemer, with humble hearts. Jesus Christ died for our sins. We need to reflect on that immense act of selflessness and turn our lives over to Him daily. Do you not agree?
Just “poking the hornet’s nest”! I prefer the empty cross. It is MY cross He said “to pick up daily” and empty because of Him.