We already discussed here that until the 1800s there was no distinction between a cross and a crucifix. Until that time, both meant the same thing; a reminder of the sacrifice made for us by Christ.
As explained in that post, we Catholics use the crucifix to remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us, not because he is “still on the cross”. We do not “re-sacrifice” or “perpetually sacrifice” him as some claim. The reason for this post is to share two analogies that help show why we use the crucifix.
If you were to go to a cemetery today you would see a number of impressive and, well, expensive tombstones. Have you ever wondered why people spend so much money on these markers? Don’t they realize that their loved ones’ souls are no longer with their bodies? Of course we realize this, but the tombstone is a memorial of the life it marks. In the same way Jesus is risen, and the crucifix is a memorial of the life he lived and the death he died to save us all.
Why remember that he died? Isn’t the important thing that he rose again? Without the death, there would be no resurrection. Without sacrifice there is no forgiveness. Why do we have war monuments with the names of those killed in action? If Jesus’ death is irrelevant, why are the deaths of mere humans killed by each other worth remembering? The fact is, we create monuments to show our appreciation for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us. Our soldiers die so we civilians can be free. Jesus dies so we can be saved. Isn’t that worth memorializing?