Monday, March 13, 2006

Is there beauty in the cross?

Yesterday, at a scintillating meeting of the Catholic Readers Society, a member asserted that the Cross is not beautiful. I would like to present three counter opinions, first from the Church's liturgy:
The Magnificat antiphon at First Vespers of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross begins:
"O Crux, splendidior cunctis astris"
"O Cross, more splended than any star"

Now, perhaps this is a typical medieval gloss over the brutal reality of the Crucified One hanging on the Cross. I don't believe that the medievals whitewashed it this way, but to bolster the idea that the Cross is in fact beautiful, I will add the witness of our present Pontiff.

"In the passion of Christ the marvelous Greek aesthetic...has not been abolished but rather transcended. The experience of the beautiful has received a new realism. The One who is beauty itself let himself be struck in the face, spat upon, crowned with thorns....yet precisely in this Face that is so disfigured, there appears the genuine, the ultimate beauty: the beauty of love that goes 'to the very end' and thus proves to be mightier than falsehood and violence."
--On the Way to Christ, p. 39

Finally, let us turn to the Letter to the Hebrews. In preface, we should recall that this letter places a strong emphasis on Jesus' suffering and self-immolation, so again, we should not accuse the author of a flight into an abstract Platonic idealism when he writes of the Son of God, for whom a body had been prepared:
"hos on apaugasma tes doxes kai charakter tes hypostaseos autou"
"He is the reflected brightness of His glory and the very image of His nature." (my translation)
--Hebrews 1:3

Peace to you! I wish you blessings as we enter the second quarter of our Lenten fast. Let us renew our commitment to our measure of penance.

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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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