Gaze Upon the Crucified Christ

Today I would like to share with you a few of my personal inner thoughts and feelings which I experience when gazing upon the crucified Christ. I sincerely desire that my sharing will cause you to pause and reflect on what you experience when you too look upon Christ on the cross.

For my non-Catholic readers the practice of gazing upon the crucified Christ or crucifix is something that perhaps you feel is reserved for Catholics only. My hope is that this email may inspire both non-Catholics and Catholics alike to spend more time at the foot of the cross gazing upon our crucified Savior while contemplating the significance and depth of the meaning of Christ’s willingness to endure such a horrific and brutal form of death.

As Christians we share the belief that Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, freely accepted death on a cross as expiation for our sins. Gazing upon the crucified Christ makes salvation real for me.

The Old Testament foretold the suffering He would endure for us.

“Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet–I can count all my bones.” (Ps 22:16-17)

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

One of my favorite personal forms of worship is to sit quietly and gaze at the Crucified Christ on the cross. This is a spiritually moving time for me which intertwines both prayer and study. As I stare at this representation of the wounded and dead Christ on the cross I try to absorb the enormity of His love. The God and creator of the universe in a desire to give all of us eternal life lowered Himself and took on the form of a slave and became man. That alone is cause for a lifetime of deep discernment, but the mystery continues. He became one like us and experienced temptation yet He remained spotless and without sin. Once again there is enough in that statement to reflect on for a lifetime. Finally this spotless lamb allowed Himself to be sacrificed by taking upon Himself all of the sins of the world (mine included) and died an excruciating death so that I could live. Two thousand years of mankind have pondered this unfathomable act of love. Jesus Christ was the only victim pure enough to atone for all of humanity’s transgressions. Thus, His death was a perfect sacrifice and it destroyed the power of sin and death.

Two of the Crucifixes that have special meaning to me are  located in Florida. One is at San Pedro in Orlando, Florida where I made my Cursillo weekend in 1988, and the other is at The House of Prayer in Clearwater, Florida, where I have spent two eight day silent retreats.

I realize some Christians gaze at the empty cross. Personally, looking upon an empty cross does not invoke the same feelings in me. For me, the wooden cross symbolizes death. Moreover, while the empty cross represents death, the crucified Christ on the cross represents life, love and salvation! The cross did not bring me my salvation, His death did. I have always thought that since Jesus Christ had the power to take Himself down off the cross but chose not to do so then I owe it to His sacrifice to gaze on him in the act of his death, which is what provided the expiation for my sins.

I can’t imagine any other act more explicitly depicting His total love for me than the act of the pure and perfect creator of the universe willingly choosing to accept a cruel and barbaric form of human torture and death so that I could live. I can never spend too much time looking at it. I do so in amazement and just say to myself over and over, wow, you did this for me Lord.

In the New Testament we read:

“By His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

“Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:24-28)

Thomas à Kempis, in the Imitation of Christ, speaks of resting – abiding – in Christ’s wounds. “If you cannot soar up as high as Christ sitting on his throne, behold him hanging on his cross. Rest in Christ’s Passion and live willingly in his holy wounds. You will gain marvelous strength and comfort in adversities. You will not care that men despise you. . . Had we but, with Thomas, put our fingers into the print of his nails and thrust our hands into his side! If we had we but known ourselves his sufferings in a deep and serious consideration and tasted the astonishing greatness of his love, the joys and miseries of the life would soon become indifferent to us.”

As I kneel and gaze upon the cross my heart tells me that it was my sins that nailed Christ to that cross. As I recall my sins, I look at His five wounds. Like Thomas, I take time to examine all five wounds both feet, both hands and finally the gash in His side. All of this, He endured for me. I often repeat these words over and over in my thoughts: Lord you died so I could live.

I hope, as I said at the outset, that you too can find the time to spend gazing on our Crucified Lord, while drinking in the enormity of His Love for you. I hope you are as moved by it as I am. As I close let me share this prayer I found on the internet.

Prayer to the Five Wounds

Oh! Sacred Feet, all gashed and torn,
Bruised by the hammer’s cruel blows,
Bathed in the life-blood dripping down
From anguished Heart in bitter throes;
I press You to my lips in tears,
With contrite sorrow, fervent sigh.
Dear precious Wounds, God’s bleeding prayers,
Ah! plead for me when death draws nigh.

Oh, Mangled Hands, transfixed and wan,
in suppliance raised to Heaven above,
Pierced by the nails that torture wrung,
From breaking Heart of burning love;
I press You to my lips in tears,
With contrite sorrow, fervent sigh.
Dear precious Wounds, God’s bleeding prayers,
Ah! plead for me when death draws nigh.

Oh! Sacred Refuge, tender Side,
Rent by the lance with cruel thrust,
There, where His Heart is, let me hide,
There, where His love is, let me trust.
I press Thee to my lips in tears,
With contrite sorrow, fervent sigh.
Most Holy Wound, allay my fears,
Recieve my soul when death draws nigh.

The Little Treasury of Leaflets Dublin M. H. Gill & Son, Ltd.

Dear Lord, Your love for me is beyond my ability to fully comprehend. I know my sins nailed you to that cross, and I know your love for me set me free. Amen

Brian Pusateri
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