Saturday, August 30, 2014

Judging a Jesus by his Cover

[originally written July 18]

The first time I went to Mass I couldn’t look at the crucifix. It just seemed so…visual. Not particularly gruesome, but not pretty either, and certainly not something I wanted to gaze upon for an hour. But as I began attending Mass regularly, I couldn’t stop looking. It was so…visual, after all. Clearly the crucifix, large, front and center, was the main focus. I had to look. This wasn’t about beauty after all; it was about truth. Christ suffered, is still suffering, for us. I understood why Catholics would use crucifixes over empty crosses.

I’m still a stickler for beauty. There are a lot of ugly, 1970s-modern churches about. When I visit a new church, I do judge it on its appearance. A pretty space helps me focus, helps me worship. An ugly space distracts me, and I just try to keep my eyes closed. A resurrect-ifix instead of a crucifix is a solid sign that I disapprove of a church’s décor.  What good is the victory sans suffering? I’ll look to the crucifix style with a judgmental eye, determining if its aid or hindrance. So I still stare at crucifixes sometimes, but not in the way I once did. I was right that truth is more important than beauty, but I was wrong that a crucifix, a representation of Christ, is the central focus.

Now that I can receive the Eucharist, I gaze upon the tabernacle. It never matters if it’s beautiful or not; it holds Christ. Here is the central focus: the living God, not a representation. My focus falls there and the flickering red light that tells me I’m in the physical presence of Christ. I am in sacred space, gazing upon the Holy. I never really notice what a tabernacle looks like. I can always see through the exterior; I know what’s really there. The truth overshadows the beauty. Or rather, the truth makes all things beautiful.

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