Vatican Corner 09-13-2020

On August 30, 2020 from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said in his weekly Angelus prayer that Christ’s cross is a powerful symbol of God’s love for humanity and not just a decoration or trinket. While Christians often hang a crucifix on the wall or wear one around their necks, it should be used as a sign of our desire to be united with Christ” and not “reduced to a superstitious object or an ornamental necklace.” “Each time we fix our gaze on the image of Christ crucified, let us contemplate that he, as the true servant of the Lord, has accomplished his mission, giving life, spilling his blood for the forgiveness of sins.” It is unclear when Christians started wearing a cross necklace or other jewelry as symbols of their faith. Early Christians were frequently persecuted and had to worship in secret. As more converted to this growing religion, it became acceptable to openly celebrate one’s faith and the popularity of wearing a cross began to grow. During the time of the Black Plague and the Age of the Crusaders, cross necklaces became popular. The Believers thought the cross brought comfort and peace in troubled times. During colonialism, silver crosses were given as gifts to those that converted to Christianity. In 1852 Alexandra of Denmark married the Prince of Wales and received as a gift a type of ancient cross and the cross jewelry business exploded as nobles and commoners wanted their own cross. When photography developed and it became a respectable way to get one’s portrait, women began wearing daintier cross necklaces which lead to their high demand. Although it has become a trendy fashion item for many, for most Christians the cross is a symbol that caries deep religious meaning. On the same subject in 2018, Pope Francis said the crucifix is not a fashion accessory to be “abused” by fashionistas but instead is a symbol that should serve as a reminder of faith and devotion to Christians. “The crucifix is not an ornamental object or a clothing accessory which is sometimes abused. The image of Jesus crucified reveals that mystery of the death of the Son as the supreme act of love, the source of life and salvation for humanity of all times. Through these wounds humanity was healed.” Francis said “How do I look at the crucifix? Like a work of art, to see whether it is beautiful or not? Or do I look inside, entering the wounds of Jesus even to his heart? Do I look at the mystery of God brought low to the point of death, like a slave, like a criminal?” Pope Francis suggested a beautiful practical devotion for people to make: To look at a crucifix and pray one Our Father for each of the five wounds of Christ.” For special events in one’s life like graduation, a cross gift is a powerful symbol for the receiver. It symbolizes the inner strength we receive from our faith as we enter a new phase of our life. It reminds us of how we can accomplish anything when we trust in God. The tiny metal cross represents something much bigger than all of us.