Corpus or no corpus

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  Do you have anything from previous research on this recent Q&A from the BCDW Newsletter?

Good Friday adoration of the Holy Cross: corpus or no corpus? The Missal would seem to indicate a plain cross. Why not a crucifix?

There is no liturgical legislation that unequivocally answers this question. It is worth noting that in describing the cross placed on or near the altar, the 1975 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) said only a cross (crux), while the 2002 GIRM added “with a figure of Christ crucified” (crux cum effigie Christi crucifixi) in no. 117 and no. 308. The Ceremonial of Bishops also specifies for the procession “an acolyte carrying the cross, with the image to the front” (no. 128). The “Order for the Blessing of a New Cross for Public Veneration” affirms that “the ‘figure of the precious, life-giving cross of Christ’ is preeminent, because it is a symbol of the entire paschal mystery” (Book of Blessings, no. 1233). It also seems to suggest that the cross to be blessed will be the one “presented to the faithful for their adoration” on Good Friday (no. 1234), and that “the cross should preferably be a crucifix, that is, have the corpus attached” (n. 1235). Finally, Built of Living Stones observes, “The cross with the image of Christ crucified is a reminder of Christ’s paschal mystery. It draws us into the mystery of suffering and makes tangible our belief that our suffering when united with passion and death of Christ leads to redemption” (no. 91). For these reasons, it seems that although there is no definitive support for either position, a stronger case can be made for a cross with a corpus.

The argument seems to hang on the introduction in the Book of Blessings.  However, is that a translation or commentary?


A:  That’s a translation from the Latin.

I’ve treated the question in Glory in the Cross. I admit I did not consult these paragraphs from the Book of Blessings. Even so, BB 1235 argues for a crucifix “especially in the case of a cross that is erected in a place of honor inside a church,” which does not apply to the Good Friday cross.

I still argue that from the texts of the liturgy of Good Friday, a cross without a corpus is preferred. “Behold the WOOD of the cross,” etc.

On Good Friday we are not venerating the image of Jesus. We are adoring the wood of his cross.

But the rubrics are inconclusive.