Saturday, January 27, 2007

On the Resurrifix

In the comment section of my post welcoming the Dominican Spuds to the Orthometric Blog Roll, Michael asked the following about the Resurrifix:

I agree that some of the "reforms" of the past four decades are in fact dangerous and threaten to damage the Faith; but as long as the corpus is not in a blasphemous or sacrilegious position (inverted or face down, for example) I fail to see how His portrayal on the cross is one of them. (I have similar comments for those with an aversion to prayers in Latin, by the way.) Enlighten me?

I promised that I would explain. It has taken a bit due to a very busy week (no, not with World of Warcraft). Anyway, here it is.

During and even prior to the 1960s there was a tendency to replace crucifixes with crosses with figures of the Risen Christ or simple figures of the Risen Christ. Often times people were told that this change was mandated by the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. They were told that we are a 'Resurrection People" or that we needed to move away from 'morbid medieval spirituality'. This trend continued through the 1980s when it began to change due to more orthodox trends in Catholic theology and liturgy. (The Council said nothing about jettisoning the crucifix.) Finally, the latest General Instruction of the Roman Missal decreed that every church was to have a cross in the sanctuary with a figure of the crucified Lord upon it--in other words, a crucifix. In seems that Rome has notice the 'resurrifix' fad and rejected it.

Michael rightly asks what is so important about this? I would point out several factors.

The first is theological and biblical. We are saved from our sins not by the Resurrection but by the Crucifixion of Our Lord. I am not preaching a Good Friday without Easter Sunday, but the Crucifixion is the Sacrifice by which we are saved, by which the world, the flesh, and the devil are defeated. At the Mass, we stand not at the empty tomb, but at the Cross. It is the Sacrifice which is made present to us. St. Paul tells us to glory not in the Resurrection of the Lord but in His Cross (Galatians 6). Also, nowhere in Sacred Scripture are we told to take up our resurrection daily and follow after the Lord. Instead, we are told to take up our crosses.

The second is psychological. The 'resurrifix' speaks of an attitude which seeks to paper over human suffering and the mystery of suffering within our Faith. It can be an expression of the trivial "The Mass is a party" attitude still all too common.

The third and last is iconographic. Prior to the late 1950s, one never found a resurrifx. It was completely alien to Catholic iconography. One did find a preference for bare cross among the Protestant. Was the Risen Christ portrayed? Certainly, but usually as the Pantocrator of Byzantine art not as a half-naked 'Superman'. Innovations, particularly those that express shaky theology, should be avoided.

What is the solution? Get rid of the things. If the are of artist and iconographic merit, move them to somewhere else in the church. But the sanctuary and processional crosses should be crucifixes.
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