When I pray, there are two images I like to use. They are images of the same thing.
The first image is:
and the second image is:
One might look at these images and say, “Father, they are not images of the same thing. One is a Crucifix and the other is the Eucharist. They don’t look anything alike.”
You would be correct in saying one is Crucifix and the other is the Eucharist. However, they are images of the same thing. No, I have not lost my mind! They are the same thing!
They are both pictures of Jesus!
The first is a Crucifix. It is very important to recognize it not just as a Cross but as a Crucifix. What’s the difference? Jesus!
The Cross is a very important symbol in our faith. The Cross is the instrument that God used to save us. The Cross is made of wood from a tree. Deuteronomy 21:23 says, “anyone who is hanged is a curse of God” (see also Galatians 3:13). Dying by hanging on a tree was considered a terrible way to die by the Israelites. For the Romans, it was the way in which the most wicked criminals were executed.
Jesus freely choose to die in this way to take upon himself the sin of the world. We recall his Passion, the suffering He endured for us in the Stations of the Cross and during Holy Week.
The Crucifix is not just a “cross.” It is a “Crucifix”, meaning we see Jesus’ body on the Cross. Most Protestants use a “Cross” to symbolize that Jesus is no longer on the Cross. We use a Crucifix to remember that is Jesus, not the Cross itself, who saves us through his suffering.
Why did Jesus freely choose to be crucified? Because God sent him to die for us. Why? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).
When I look at a Crucifix, I do not see only a human who died in terrible suffering. Yes, Jesus endured terrible suffering in his Passion for us. I am terribly sorry that I have sinned. If we had never sinned, Jesus would not needed to die. Yet, again, He choose to do this to save us.
When I look at the Cross, what I see is Jesus’ love for us for as Jesus himself says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
Jesus, thank you for doing this for me.
You may be thinking you already know what a Crucifix is. You know that it is Jesus on the Cross. You know that He died for us. You might ask what that has to do with the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance in the second image.
The answer to how the two images show the same thing is at the center of the monstrance, literally and more. In the center of the monstrance is the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament. It was ordinary bread until it was consecrated at Mass in the Eucharistic Prayer. Now, … now it is the Body and Blood of Jesus. It is not just a symbol of Jesus. It is Jesus.
It saddens me to hear that even many Catholics do not believe it is Jesus. It requires faith to know it is truly Jesus but that faith comes from trusting in Jesus’ own words.
(This slide is from my presentation of the Eucharist,
part of my series, Sacraments: Channels of God’s Grace)
So, when we look at a Crucifix and the Blessed Sacrament, in both we see Jesus.
Normally, the Blessed Sacrament, as the Eucharist, is kept in the Tabernacle. In the picture above, it has been brought from the Tabernacle and placed in the monstrance for the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. This can be done for people to come in and pray on their own as they adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Or it can be done when people come together to pray.
For more on Exposition and Adoration, I invite you to read my homily, “Why are We Here for Adoration?”, that speaks of my own experience of coming to embrace Eucharistic Adoration.
So, in my own prayer, the Crucifix and Eucharistic Adoration are both very important. Of course, one needs to come to church for Eucharistic Adoration but it is not often available.
That is why the Crucifix comes in. Eucharistic Adoration is primary as the Eucharist is Jesus while the Crucifix is an image of Jesus. While you do not have the Eucharist in your own home, you should have a Crucifix. The Crucifix pictured above hangs in my living room directly across from my recliner. So, I see it any time I am in the room, especially in the recliner. It reminds me that Jesus loves me.
See Jesus. See Jesus on the Crucifix. See his love for you. See him in the Eucharist. The Mass is the Sacrifice of Jesus. Know that He died for you because He loves you.