The Different Meanings of Cross and Crucifix

While the crucifix is embraced by Catholics, many Protestants favor the empty cross.

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"It is something that transcends human history and time," he said. "Thekingdom of Christ, while it has been completed in God's time, is still beingworked out in human time."

While in one sense the "sacrifice of the cross is finished forever," inanother it continues in "an unbloody manner in the Mass," said the Rev.Edwin P. Beachum, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church inMobile. "We see that as a continuation of the sacrifice offered on thecross. ... The reason that the sacrifice has value today in the Mass isbecause of the valor of the sacrifice on the cross. What Jesus did on thecross enables the Mass to have its value."

Viscardi said the New Testament sees Jesus' death on the cross as afulfillment of Old Testament sacrifices offered with confidence in God'satonement and forgiveness.

"When Jesus at the Passover meal gives the bread and wine that newmeaning of his body and blood, that becomes fulfilled the next day when hegives his body and pours out his blood. ... That meal and that sacrifice, inthe Catholic view of the New Testament, are very closely intertwined. To eatthe Passover lamb, you had to kill the lamb. ... He is the lamb of God."

While the symbol has had a presence in Catholic circles for centuries,Viscardi noted some changes in its representation over the years.

"In Catholic spirituality from the Middle Ages there's been differentdevelopments," Viscardi said. "It's moved from (the) extreme to otherexpressions of the Crucifixion which are more discreet, more subtle, notfocusing as much on the violence and the torture of the human flesh as onthe self-giving ... surrender of the Son of God in human form even to death,death on a cross."

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