St Joseph and St Mary Parishes in Freeport, IL

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Symbolism in the Church #16

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Looking around, we have quite a few more images of Jesus than what we would first think. The other image we can focus on is the big crucifix up front to the left. Paul Fry’s book states that we got the cross from the Benedictine monks in 1870 when they came and presented a parish mission here (p7). That was two years before the construction of this church building in 1872. Inscriptions on the back side of the wood of the cross even state the date and from whom it was received. It was not until much later, in 1914, that the Body of Jesus was put on the cross to make it a crucifix. It was placed back in the sacristy sometime after 1962. In 2011, we brought it back out so everyone could appreciate it. We did not have to touch it up at all. When we took it down in the sacristy, we noticed the inscriptions of the date and abbreviations of who the cross was from (Benedictines).

The crucifix is used to remind us of how much God was willing to do for us. Unfortunately, most people, including the faithful, have forgotten this part of the spirituality of the crucifix. A crucifix, in the tradition of the Church, is depicted as Jesus after His death. It shows the open side, specifically referencing Jesus being pierced with a lance, and blood and water flowed out, proving that Jesus was in fact dead. Meditation on this moment has almost infinite value. What was Mary thinking at that time? What was the Heavenly Father experiencing? What would cause the infinite God who is all powerful to submit Himself to this final disrespect? Why would God allow Himself to suffer all the torments He suffered before He came to the last insult? The only answer that could possibly explain it is that the Father in heaven must love us.
We have many crucifixes in St Joseph Church. There is one on the altar, facing the priest celebrating Mass. This is so that as the priest is celebrating Mass, he too can think about the sacrifice Jesus made for him and all those God has put under his care. Actually, in the old Pre-Vatican II Mass, it was required that the priest look at the crucifix while saying specific prayers. We also have the processional cross. The older one is broken and would take some money to fix. We have this one and it works just fine. There is also the wooden crucifix above the tabernacle in the little arched cove. The original high altar had a huge cove almost twice the size that had another crucifix that is about three feet tall. Once in a while, we put it out on the side altar.
In the back of the church by the confessional is a painted crucifix known as the San Damiano crucifix or cross, though it has its origin in the Eastern Church just by being an icon. But it has Romanesque features. Saint Damiano is the Church it was in. That is how it got its name. This cross was adopted by St Francis of Assisi. This is the image St Francis was praying in front of when he got the message to rebuild God’s Church. At that time, St Francis thought it was a message to physically rebuild the church building he was in. So he actually rebuilt a church, asking for stones to fill in the holes in the walls and fixing the roof. Only after this did he realize that Jesus meant for him to spiritually rebuild the Church Jesus had founded. This was reaffirmed when he went to the Pope to ask permission to start the Franciscan order. The Pope had a dream the night before of the young Francis holding the Church up, and understood that he had an important role in the renewal of the Church. It would take a book to write about what all is going on in this image. I encourage you to look it up on the internet. Wikipedia actually has a very simple explanation.

Author: stjosephstmary

We are two Catholic Churches close to downtown Freeport, IL. Our communities are over 150 years old and have been dedicated to our lord Jesus Christ since our inception. We believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was concieved by the Holy Spirit, born of ythe Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilot, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

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