In a newspaper article about vandalism at a church, there was a photograph that the caption identified as a crucifix. The photo, however, was not a crucifix, but a cross. These words are often used interchangeably in an ecclesiastical context, but they are not the same thing.
A cross, from the Latin crux through Old Norse kross into Old English, is a shape consisting of an upright bar transversed by a horizontal beam. Structures of this sort were used by the Romans for executions, known as crucifixions.
A crucifix, from crux + the Latin figere (“to fasten”), is a word used exclusively to mean a representation of Jesus Christ fastened on a cross. It is almost always a Latin cross, one in which the shorter crossbar is toward the top of the upright. To be a crucifix, the cross shape must include the image of Christ (referred to as the corpus), usually carved in three dimensions.
The verses of the Bard of Buffalo Bayou are a cross that must be borne by readers of this blog:
A cross-eyed bear named Gladly
Could see—but exceedingly badly.
He mistook some guy’s shotgun
For a Krispy Kreme hot bun,
And for Gladly, the story ends sadly.