THE CROSS OF CHRIST
The cross you see above stands in the garden of the Dominican Priory, Tallaght, Dublin. In the Catholic tradition the figure of Christ is shown on the cross, but the Protestant tradition shows a plain cross. The one says “Christ has died,” the other says “Christ is risen.” We all say both, of course; yet it is difficult to show both together. But there is a way. We cut out the figure – which is then visible by its absence.
The figure is quite stylised: a circle for the head, a crescent for the outstretched arms, and a long triangle to represent the body. When you look again you notice that it also represents the chalice and the host. It seeks to erase a false contrast that people sometimes set up between the Eucharist as shared meal and the Eucharist as sacrifice. Sacrifice may well entail suffering and death, as it did with Jesus, but the essence of his sacrifice was not suffering and death but his total self-giving. If we come with a notion of sacrifice derived from animal sacrifice in pagan cults we will see blood and death as its essence – since the animal is not capable of offering itself in any conscious way. But Christ “offered himself” consciously and completely. The expression ‘body and blood’ meant the entire self. This is what he offered at the Last Supper (and at every celebration of the Eucharist); and Calvary was the measure of how fully he meant it. This cross makes it clear that the self-giving of Jesus in the Eucharist is the same as his self-giving on Calvary “Christ Jesus…emptied himself taking the form of a slave…and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).
St Thomas Aquinas was once asked where he got his wisdom. “At the foot of the cross of Christ,” he replied. This simple cross reminds us of the wisdom of our ancient faith. “Christ crucified is the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24).
Another example of this cross, called “Absent Presence”, stands in the meditation garden of ‘Integritas’, a centre for domestic spirituality in Ennisnag, Stoneyford, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland. www.integritas.ie