Flannery O’Connor says that the separation of grace and nature does a disservice to both (Mystery and Manners). Emptied of the spiritual, nature becomes either sentimental or obscene (see the previous post). And emptied of nature, the spiritual becomes nothing more than pious cliché.
It didn’t take long to think of a great example for this one. What “spiritual” thing has been emptied of almost everything physical?
The Cross. The central symbol of the Christian faith.
I’m thinking of cross earrings and cross necklaces so many of the faithful sport. Have we gotten to the point that they only suggest devotion, and are overused that it is almost meaningless?
I saw a young man in full “gangsta” attire sporting a bejeweled rosary. I suppose it’s possible he was a Catholic, but it’s just as likely that he wore adorned dog tags the next day. If so, I also would have doubted he was a veteran.
When purchasing a cross to wear as a pedant, charm or earring, do people actually care about the particular origin of the design, or do they just buy the one that strikes their fancy? There are many varieties of crosses: Cathedral, Orthodox, Celtic, Greek, Russian, Byzantine, Latin, Maltese, Jerusalem, Huguenot and many more. I have an ancestor that was a Huguenot so I could wear that one with some legitimacy. Or is it good enough to be a Christian to legitimately wear any cross? My concern is that, for many, the first association of the cross around their neck is not that it is actually a Roman torture and execution device.
How do we rectify this? If O’Connor is right, the spiritual must, once again, be filled with the physical. We need to be reintroduced to the physical dimensions of the crucifixion. A lot of people have written on this and many Good Friday sermons have been preached on it. If you have not ever heard of the tortures of crucifixion read one of these articles.
The Cross, emptied of its physicality becomes a pious cliché. I suppose it’s fine to put a cross around your neck, but it ought to be scandalous. Isn’t it scandalous for the son of the most high to be shamed, tortured and executed on this device? The heart of the Gospel is in the answer to the question, “Why would those who love him wear a symbol of this obscenity?”
Read “Pious Cliche – Revisited”