I’m not big on jewelry, but one thing you might notice about me is that I always wear a crucifix around my neck. It is not a cross, but a crucifix. There is a reason for that. In fact, I want to share three reasons why I wear a crucifix.
Reason #1 — Remembrance: To Remember What True Love Looks Like
The crucifix is different than the cross. The cross is the instrument of torture with which Jesus was murdered, a particular favorite of the Roman Empire. The cross is the altar on which the Son of Man offered himself as an eternal sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. The cross is the new tree of life. The cross is significant, but only because of the time Jesus spent hanging from it.
For some people the cross is scandalous. It is something they hold to be in the past. As a Catholic I believe that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is eternal, and made ever-present at every Mass held everyday in every country around the world.
“But we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block for Jews and foolishness for Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).
Don’t get me wrong. I know Jesus is not on the cross. He is not dead. He is risen. In fact:
“A Catholic is one who believes that this Jesus remains alive, active, and accessible in and through His Church.” (Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan)
Jesus on the cross is what matters. It is the ultimate act of God’s love for us. To gaze upon the crucifix, for me, is to look upon love in its most perfect expression. In the busyness of my daily life I need to be reminded of that, and reminded often. The crucifix around my neck serves as a reminder of God’s love for the world, but particularly God’s love for me.
Reason #2 — Inspiration: To Inspire Me to Take Up My Cross Daily
The crucifix might be thought of as a gruesome sight. However, for me it is inspiring. To see Jesus on the cross is a reminder of the challenge he made to his disciples—the challenge he makes to me.
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
It’s not a suggestion or a good idea; it is the condition of discipleship. To be a disciple is to make your life about this challenge. And believe you me, it is a challenge. This is why I need to be inspired. This is why I like to contemplate the image of Christ crucified: not because I enjoy seeing him broken and bloody, but because I know those are the footsteps in which I must follow.
As a Christian I know I am called to be a martyr—a witness. Who I am in life and in death must bear witness to Christ. Whether that means I will literally lay down my life for him, I cannot be certain. But come what may, the challenge made to we disciples is just that: to accept the pain and suffering that can and will come our way because of our free decision to follow Jesus.
“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
Seeing Jesus on the cross is an inspirational example that I am called to follow, and this is another reason for the crucifix around my neck.
Reason #3 — Accountability: So Others Will Hold Me Accountable as a Christian
The last reason I wear a crucifix is for accountability. It is not jewelry. It is not meant to be flashy. But I do want others to see it. It’s not because I want them to think I am super holy. (Although I should be striving for holiness; after all, that is the call we share as Christians.) I wear a crucifix so that others may know that I am a Christian and hold me accountable to that claim. For it is one thing to tell people you are a Christian and another to show them that you are. I want to be treated differently because of my faith. I want people to know that I live my life differently than most. When they know this, they will expect me to. And if I don’t, then I need to be called out for it.
Accountability is important. Fraternal correction is essential. We shouldn’t be able to parade around claiming to be new creations in Christ, but living lives that don’t follow suit. And the crucifix I wear is the perfect symbol of my faith that tells all those who encounter me that I am a Christian and take my faith seriously.
I can’t wear the crucifix and then deny my faith. It would cause scandal. People would notice. So it is the perfect way to invite others to challenge me to live my faith.
There may be other methods of achieving each of these three things shared here, but for me the crucifix is the best. If you wear a crucifix but don’t know why, then I hope these reflections have served to help you understand this practice on a deeper level. If you aren’t Catholic and always wondered why the crucifix is held in such high esteem among Catholics, then hopefully this explains it.
May the sacrifice of Christ on the cross bring the power of God’s love and mercy into each of our lives, that we may “proclaim Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23) and “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).