Monday, September 21, 2015

Cross Examination

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.

Both crossses and crucifixes are used as symbols of Christian faith. Crucifixes are most often associated with Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Episcopalians, some Lutherans, and even a few high-church Methodists.  Baptists and other Protestants generally prefer a plain cross, of the old rugged kind. The use of a crucifix, rather than a plain cross, gives particular emphasis to the suffering and death of Christ.

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.

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