Question 239:

Why do you adore the cross, the alleged murder weapon? Would you also venerate a pistol if Jesus had been shot with a pistol?



In our answer we shall first explain in which way Jesus’ death on the cross is understood by Christians to be a sign of hope. This clarifies the meaning of the veneration of the cross in liturgical Worship, in particular the part of the Good Friday Service called “veneration of the cross” as a part of daily life for many Christians.

According to the teachings of the Church adoration is only due to God. If the adoration of the cross in liturgy is occasionally also called “adoratio crucis”, then the use of the word is misleading and it cannot and must not mean more than: The adoration of Jesus Christ the Crucified by means of venerating the cross. The hypothetical question whether other tools of execution would have been venerated by faithful Christians if Jesus of Nazareth had been executed by other means (pistols and guns did not yet exist) is therefore redundant.

It was a difficult task for the early Church to live with the scandal that the Messiah sent by God was executed on the cross as a criminal. But the early Church remembered Jesus own words at the Last Supper; in the light of Jesus resurrection through God it became fully aware that on the surface his so scandalous death was caused by the unbelief and the enmity among the people, but that behind it there is God’s will, God’s salvific plan, even God’s love. See also on this website the answer to question 225.

“The many statements about faith in the New Testament all have the same theme. They want to proclaim the attentive and saving love of God in ever new ways, that love which Jesus realised once and for all through his obedience and his self-offering, in order to establish peace between God and humanity and among people. And so we read in the letter to the Ephesians: “He is our peace” (Eph. 2:14). In him the estrangements that have caused the sin between God and humanity and among people are healed and reconciled. And so the cross is ultimately a sign of victory over all the powers and principalities hostile to God and to humanity; it is a sign of hope.” (Katholischer Erwachsenen-Katechismus, Vol. 1, pp. 190f.).

In the liturgical celebration of the passion and the death of Jesus on Good Friday a cross is lifted up and adored. The words of the invitation to this act of adoration are:

The litanist sings: 'Behold the wood of the cross, on which the salvation of the world was hung.’ The congregations responds: ‘Come and let us adore it.’ It is the adoration of the crucified Lord Jesus Christ by means of venerating the sign of the cross.

The Catholic Catechism for Adults says: “The victory of the cross, the victory of love over hatred and violence, of truth over lie, of life over death, is still hidden underneath its opposite. There are still hatred, lies and violence in the world. New life is given to us only in the shape of the cross. ‘The story of hope, in which Jesus is revealed to be the Son of God, is not a story of unbridled success, not a story of victory according to our criteria’ (Joint Synod [Würzburg 1971-75], Unsere Hoffnung I, 2). The victory of the cross is promised to us only by way of the cross. Because it is precisely God’s descent into the whole misery of human suffering and dying that has united us again with God in our own concrete, particular situation. And so the cross is a sign of hope for the ultimate liberation and of God’s ultimate victory, and Catholics pray during the devotional prayer, called the ’Stations of the Cross’:

‘We worship you, Lord Jesus Christ, and we praise you. Because through your holy cross you have redeemed the world’

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J. Prof. Dr. T. Specker,
Prof. Dr. Christian W. Troll,

Kolleg Sankt Georgen
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