Friday, July 16, 2010

Crucifix in the Chancel

My friend Dustin was ordained three years ago. It was at his ordination that, for the first time, I was very aware of the lack of a crucifix in the chancel. Over the years I had become accustomed to having a crucifix around during prayer and had begun, I suppose, to take it for granted. That day it was surprisingly unsettling to be worshiping in a place without a crucifix.

When your eyes are on the crucifix, the image helps to anchor your thoughts on the central message of Scripture.

One example is the Venite. "Oh, come, let us sing unto the Lord. Let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation." Without the crucifix, I always thought of the "rock" as, well, y'know, a symbol of something sturdy. But with the crucifix there to teach me and to guide me, I remember the passage from Corinthians where we are told that the rock with the Israelites in the wilderness was Christ Himself, and that He was struck in the side so that water poured out. Or you might think about "the strength of the hills is His also" being connected to the hill where Jesus was crucified.

Another example is Isaiah 60 which we read for Epiphany. We usually think of "Arise, shine, for your light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you" as being about the star and the wise men who came to see Baby Jesus. But we can also see it in connection to the cross, and how Jesus was lifted up on the cross and how His light shone to all nations through His sacrificial death.

There are gazillions of examples of what a person might learn from the Bible simply by keeping his/her eyes fixed upon the crucifix while listening to the scripture readings and while praying.

The synodical convention is being broadcast this week via the Internet. During hymn singing, pictures are put on the screen with the words to the hymns. I don't know if this is being shown to the delegates during devotions too, or if it's just what we at home see on our computer monitors. Regardless, I was once again especially aware of what it's like to behold images other than the crucifix. The pictures illustrating the hymns may have trees or clouds or mountains or water. And that says something very different than seeing a crucifix when you sing "Our God, our Help, in ages past; our Hope for years to come" or "My faith looks up to Thee" or "A mighty fortress is our God" or the Kyrie.

1 comment:

  1. It's not NKJV, but I like this translation of Psalm 5:13 - "For You will bless the righteous; O Lord, You crowned us with the shield of Your goodwill."

    When praying it this morning, I looked up at my crucifix. And I realized exactly what you mean...