Veneration of the Cross

Today is Good Friday, the day on which we commemorate the death of our Lord, Jesus Christ. As part of our Good Friday liturgy, after we listen to an account of Jesus’ passion, we venerate the cross. One by one, those attending the service come up an venerate the cross in the manner of thier choosing, some kissing it, some embracing it, some touching it with with their hands, others kneeling or prostrating before it.

We say that we venerate the “wood of the cross.” But is it not, of course, that actual cross that we kiss, or embrace or kneel before in church that is the actual object of our veneration. It is not the cross itself, but what is signfies to us as Christians. In the words of one commentator

Adoration or veneration of an image or representation of Christ’s cross does not mean that we actually adore the material image, of course, but rather what it represents. In kneeling before the crucifix and kissing it we are paying the highest honor to our Lord’s cross as the instrument of our salvation. Because the Cross is inseparable from His sacrifice, in reverencing His Cross we, in effect, adore Christ. Thus we affirm: “We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee because by Thy Holy Cross Thou has Redeemed the World.”

Thus, in this solemn ritual we perform each year, we express our adoration of Christ, whose death allows us to live. One of the things we might reflect on as we venerate the cross is the staggering reality, as expressed by my deceased friend Fr. Don Shane, that Christ didn’t just die for all of us, he died for each of us.


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