St. Thomas Aquinas Answers the Question: Do We Worship Christ's Cross on Good Friday?

God love us, this issue seems to remain unanswered in most parishes. The more practical question that pops up is whether we use a bare cross or the crucifix for veneration of Good Friday.  Some, like Fr. Z, seem to think that "the point of Good Friday is to venerate Christ Crucified: Christus Crucifixus," and that excludes and mere veneration of the the Holy Cross of our salvation. Others, who care for the rubrics as much as Fr. Z, read the texts and say, "It says cross not crucifix."

One question that needs to be asked is what kind of veneration are we offering to the cross during the Good Friday service? Another is whether that kind of veneration can belong to the cross simply or if it necessitates the image of Christ Crucified?

The Church has long tradition of very clear language that only God is to be worshipped with the latria." In fact, the Catholic Church distinguishes between three forms of veneration: latria, hyperdulia, and dulia. St. Thomas says:
adoration of "
Reverence is due to God on account of His excellence, which is communicated to certain creatures not in equal measure, but according to a measure of proportion; and so the reverence which we pay to God, and which belongs to latria, differs from the reverence which we pay to certain excellent creatures; this belongs to dulia, and we shall speak of it further on (103).
In Q. 103, St. Thomas continues:
Wherefore dulia, which pays due service to a human lord, is a distinct virtue from latria, which pays due service to the lordship of God. It is, moreover, a species of observance, because by observance we honor all those who excel in dignity, while dulia properly speaking is the reverence of servants for their master, dulia being the Greek for servitude.
Now, hyperdulia is reserved for Mary Mother of God. It is nothing more than the highest reverence to any creature. Nevertheless, even hyperdulia falls short of the homage paid to God. Naturally, the question arises in the Summa Theologica, whether we ought to worship Christ's humanity with the adoration of latria, for Christ's body is a created thing. The entirety of his humanity is creaturely. And yet His humanity is united to the Divine Nature by His Person. The cause of the honor due to Christ, in His humanity, is the dignity of His Person, and therefore, it follows that Christ's humanity is worshipped with the adoration of latria (III, Q. 25, a. 1-2).

The veneration of Christ's humanity can, however, be thought of in more than one way. In as much as it is His humanity, it is adored with latria. If his humanity is venerated on account of its perfection by the gifts of grace, it is not the Person, and therefore not the Godhead, that is being paid homage, but the perfection of humanity, which is nevertheless praiseworthy. On this veneration of His perfect humanity, St. Thomas says:
And then thus understood as distinct from the Word of God, it should be adored with the adoration of "dulia"; not any kind of "dulia," such as is given to other creatures, but with a certain higher adoration, which is called "hyperdulia"... Because the adoration of "latria" is not given to Christ's humanity in respect of itself; but in respect of the Godhead to which it is united, by reason of which Christ is not less than the Father (III, Q. 25, a. 2).
Now, if Christ's humanity is worshipped with the adoration of latria by virtue of its unity with the Godhead, then what about an image of Christ? Certainly the image is not united to the Godhead, and therefore, in itself is not deserving of latria. There is, however, as St. Thomas puts it, a twofold movement of the mind towards and image. There first, of course, toward the image as a thing. If a statue, the mind moves toward it first as a thing of plaster or stone. There is another movement that the mind makes towards and image, namely insofar as it is the image of something else. According to this second movement of the mind, the movement does not terminate in the stone and plaster of the statue, but rather, it terminates in the thing imaged.

In as much as it is an image, reverence is due to it. The reverence shown to it as image terminates not in it as a thing of plaster or stone, but rather in the person imaged. St. Thomas says:
It follow [sic] therefore that reverence should be shown to it, in so far only as it is an image. Consequently the same reverence should be shown to Christ's image as to Christ Himself. Since, therefore, Christ is adored with the adoration of "latria," it follows that His image should be adored with the adoration of "latria" (III, Q. 25, a. 3).
This then, brings us to the matter of the Cross of Christ, which we venerate on Good Friday.  St. Thomas is clear that reverence of any kind is due to persons and not to things. The cross is simply not a person, and so it would seem that no reverence whatsoever is due to it. This, however, is not the conclusion to which St. Thomas comes. By the subtlety of his intellect St. Thomas is able to find the distinction that we seem to fail to grasp on our own. Things are reverenced by reason a rational nature in two ways (emphasis mine):
First, inasmuch as it represents a rational nature: secondly, inasmuch as it is united to it in any way whatsoever. In the first way men are wont to venerate the king's image; in the second way, his robe. And both are venerated by men with the same veneration as they show to the king.
In an age where monarchs are few and far between, let alone our chance encounters with them, it becomes difficult to grasp this. If we look at our own personal relations maybe we can come to a similar conclusion. The person who carries a picture of his family or spouse and kisses it from time to time, is no different than the person who venerates the kings image. The young man who has received his dead father's pocket watch and carries it with him everywhere, is no different than the one who reverences the king's robe. The same care that he shows to that watch is a love that terminates in his father who he associates so closely with it.

So, as concerns any relic of the True Cross, St. Thomas says:
If, therefore, we speak of the cross itself on which Christ was crucified, it is to be venerated by us in both ways--namely, in one way in so far as it represents to us the figure of Christ extended thereon; in the other way, from its contact with the limbs of Christ, and from its being saturated with His blood. Wherefore in each way it is worshiped with the same adoration as Christ, viz. the adoration of "latria." And for this reason also we speak to the cross and pray to it, as to the Crucified Himself.
This is why Fr. Z can say, "If there is no relic of the True Cross available for veneration, then the Crucifix should be used." There is a greater tradition of veneration of the True Cross and to the Crucifix as a substitute, but St. Thomas does not leave it at that. He continues:
But if we speak of the effigy of Christ's cross in any other material whatever--for instance, in stone or wood, silver or gold--thus we venerate the cross merely as Christ's image, which we worship with the adoration of "latria," as stated above (Article 3).
So, whether it be a relic of the True Cross, a crucifix, or a bare cross, the adoration of latria is offered. To the True Cross latria is offered in a twofold way, by representation and by way of it being united to Christ by contact. Both the crucifix and the bare cross are only worshipped with the adoration of latria in as much as they are images of Christ.

Since there is no difference in the worship offered, it would seem that the best way to answer this question would be to ask whether in the rite of the Veneration of the Cross, we are called to venerate Christ or His Cross. It seems clear in the rite, that the veneration is of the cross itself, as the means by which our salvation is effected, is what we venerate in as much as it is associated with Christ. Therefore, since there is no image of Christ Crucified without a cross, it would seem appropriate to venerate either the a crucifix or, out of necessity, a bare cross will suffice. By kissing the cross or the feet of Christ, the worship offered is the same—latria—and to terminates in the same Person imaged—the Word of God, Christ.

When God speaks we need to respond with proper spiritual grammar...

Every good sentence is made up of a subject and a predicate. In two words, God summed up who He is: I am. His own words express to us the unfathomable depth of His being, He is. Subject = God. Predicate = is. It is a full sentence, and yet in English it is as short as sentences get. It is ironic that the eternal, the infinite, the all in all, can express His existence with such brevity, and yet, it seems, in our finitude our attempts at expressing ourselves is limitless.

Many of the problems we face today arise from our inability to recognize who we are and express that identity properly. Our tendency is to try and define ourselves according to what we do. Our self-perspective is most often a description of what we do. Our identity, as we see it, is primarily based on those actions we do most often. For example, "I am a runner"or "I am a photographer." There is no doubt, that what you do has an impact on who you are, but I do not think that we would ever answer, "Who are you?," with, "I am a runner."

When confronted with the question, "Who are you?" our tendency is to give our name. "Who," you see, is not only an interrogative pronoun, but also personal, like "whom." Unlike "whom," "who" is subjective, and when asked, "who" is searching for a personal subject. I become the subject, and my name designates me among any number of persons.

What's in a name?

Names are interesting, because they work in a similar way no matter what culture you call your own. In some cultures, family names comes first and an individual's last, which may seem strange until you consider the way we scientifically name species. Some cultures have generational names, which every family member of a specific generation has in their name. Sometimes within Western culture, the only part of the name which distinguishes one individual from another is the suffix Jr. or some number. Whatever the tradition, the name always implies some relationship.

My name for instance, is made up of a first, middle, and last name. Starting from the generic and moving to the specific, my last name is 'hyphenated': Córdova y Muenzberg. Already my ethnicity is presenting itself. Like many Americans today, I am of mixed heritage. I am half-Hispanic and half-German. The Spanish word "y" means "and." So, if I translated my name it would be Córdova "and" Muenzberg. My last name refers to both my mother's family line and my father's. In this way, I have already situated myself within the context of a family from whom I have received these names. Both of my last names refer to the specific region from which my families hail, namely Münzenberg, Germany and Córdoba, Spain. These names then place me within the greater context of my origins.

My first name and middle name specify me further. There are at least two other "Córdova y Muenzbergs" out there that I know of (my brothers), and to keep others from confusing us, we were given first and middle names. Our first names distinguish us enough, and it seems that our middle names are excessive. But as Christians, we find more value in names than simply designation. The "Christian name" was the name given to invoke the patronage of some Christian saint, which only further implies more relationships. Some names, first and middle, are one combined patronage. Others imply a patronage taken at Baptism and another at Confirmation. Some folks incorporate a confirmation name into their middle name later on. Whatever the tradition, names are more than practical distinctions.

Wisdom is good spiritual grammar.

Wisdom is a science of judgment. It is the ability to apprehend the truth or goodness in relationships. For example, the wise man knows what would be the most suitable path to follow. He does not need to have experienced both paths, but he does need sufficient information about the paths. Wisdom requires the ability to recognize things for what they are and how they compare. There is no wisdom in taking the only path that lies in front of you. Is one path narrow and difficult while the other is wide and easy? If so, it would seem wise to take the wide and easy road. Wisdom, however, looks at the path with relation to its end, and not just in relation to the other path. If you want to get to paradise, you would not take the wide and easy road, for it leads in the opposite direction. 

The wise man not only knows what to do, but also knows himself. Socrates, for example, lived his life recognizing that he only knew what he did not know. His great realization was that he was actually wise in his ignorance, and that a failure to acknowledge our ignorance and act accordingly leads to folly. Acting according to the realization of what we do not know, however, leads to wisdom. 

This wisdom starts with that same self-knowledge of our ignorance, but in relation to something higher. It was not that Socrates believed that there was no truth, the self-contradiction of that statement was obvious to him. But like a wise man, he knew that in order to get to paradise he had to travel down a narrow and difficult path. In all his encounters, he seems not to be able to find anyone who knows anything. Until, that is, he met Diotima, whose philosophy he recalls. Diotima knows love, and her philosophy of love parallels Socrates' pursuit of truth. 

Both Diotima and Socrates seem to recognize that there is some end for which they are striving that does not exist in material things. For Socrates, it is Truth itself, and for Diotima, it is Beauty itself. Ultimately, both exist in the Divine as their source. 

If we are going to make any wise decision, we need to be able to compare things to our last end and to their origin, which both, as Catholics, we call "God." 

Concluding thoughts:

Going back to the original topic, God reveals Himself in His creation. Creation is itself a sort of scripture. It is like a handwritten copy of what He first spoke that we seem to have dropped into a puddle, and now the ink is running. It is difficult to read but it is our own fault not His. Nevertheless, God's grammar is not illogical. There is a right way to speak and a wrong way. For God, every living thing has its proper place in His eternal sentence. 

In order to understand His revelation, we have to grasp His grammar. We cannot confuse subjects and objects; "who" and "whom" are used properly in the Spiritual Grammar that God speaks. It is up to us to understand which is which. We have to look at everything in the proper perspective and realize that things have particular relationships with each other and with God. 

Knowing a things name, helps us to recognize its relations. Christian names often times give us a way to relate to God. My name, "Abram," means exalted father. In one way, I can strive to fulfill my name, and in another way, I can strive to relate to God as my exalted Father. By aligning myself with my end in such a way allows my name to become more than practical. It allows me to identify my relation to God more easily. 

I find that my name fits well with my perceived relation to God. I find it quite providential that my name reflects a spiritual dynamic that exists between me and my Creator. No matter what our name is, we should identify ourselves primarily as an individual in a relationship with God. When God has the priority in all our relationships we start to put together grammatically correct spiritual sentences. We start viewing the world according to the manner in which God intended it be revealed.

In the end, we can read God's love letter to us all we want and praise ourselves for being loved, or we can respond to that word with words of our own. In our actions, external and internal, we can express to God, using His language, our own affection and desire to be one with Him.

As practice for the spiritual grammar, maybe we should practice our English grammar. It can only help. 

What Is Missing From Our Conversation About the Morning After Pill

On February 21 it was reported that the German Bishops of Trier released a statement announcing that emergency contraception known as the "Morning-after Pill" (MAP) can be used in cases of rape if it does not induce abortion. Politically progressive readers heard this news and rallied around these bishops for conceding to the use of artificial contraceptives. Critics of the bishops jumped at the chance to attack these bishops for the same thing or allowing a pill that does not exist, since the current MAPs on the market are all known abortifacients (abortion-causing). The problem is that hardly anyone is using clear language in this discussion. It seems at times like no one is making necessary distinctions. So, for the sake of shedding light on the matter, educating the masses about authentic Church teaching, and explaining the ethics behind the bishops' decision, I want to explain the components involved.

Church teaching:

Rape is never acceptable.
It does injury to justice and charity. Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right. It causes grave damage that can mark the victim for life. It is always an intrinsically evil act. Graver still is the rape of children committed by parents (incest) or those responsible for the education of the children entrusted to them. (CCC 2356)
Steven Mosher, explains:
In the strictest sense, rape is not a sexual act at all, but is rather a violent assault where the victim has the right to self-defense. To put it bluntly, the rapist has no right to have his sperm fertilize the eggs of the woman he has raped. It is therefore permissible to prevent his sperm from doing so by removing them from the body of a woman who has been thus violated.
Mosher goes on to qualify this statement by saying, "If there were a pill that acted only to prevent conception in cases of rape, then it would be licit to use it." The assumption he is making is that because of certain effects of MAP it prevents use in every case. What the bishops have said is that MAP is acceptable in order to prevent conception without causing abortion. So, breaking it down scientifically, MAP is an abortifacient in as much as it could possibly prevent the implantation of an already conceived embryo, thereby preventing "pregnancy" by medical standards. This would amount to "abortion" by the Church's standards. The Church teaches that life begins at the moment of conception, in other words, at fertilization of the ovum by the sperm. What is present after this moment is a human person and is due all the rights and dignity of a human person. The prevention of the implantation of the embryo is not the only effect of MAP. MAPs can also prevent the ovulation of the ovum so that conception cannot take place. So, MAPs work in two ways, by either preventing ovulation or by preventing implantation. Only one method of contraception out of these two is morally illicit in the case of rape. As Mosher accurately pointed out, the rapist has no right to have his sperm fertilize the eggs. To use the language of Bl. John Paul II's Theology of the Body and Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae, the marital act has already been negated by the removal of any unitive meaning in the case of rape and does not require, for that reason, an openness to procreation. Therefore, contracepting by preventing ovulation is not a sin against purity or the Sacrament of Matrimony. MAPs are never acceptable once a woman has ovulated, because of its abortifacient effects. If we can establish that a rape victim has not yet ovulated, an MAP can be acceptably and licitly used to prevent conception.

The proper procedure:

There are a couple different methods by which we can establish whether or not a woman has ovulated. First, practitioners of Natural Family Planning (NFP) keep and monitor certain aspects of a woman's cycle and can, with great accuracy, know when a woman has or is going to ovulate. So, NFPers out there are in a better position to request MAP if the very unfortunate and heinous crime of rape should ever occur. Secondly, knowing the exact date of the start of a woman's last cycle can also help establish the approximate date of ovulation. Ovulation usually occurs within a certain period of time after the start of a woman's cycle. This sort of dating is not as accurate as NFP and the next method I am going to mention is also more accurate and should be preferred over this method. Finally, when a woman ovulates, her body has an accompanying fluctuation in lute inizing hormone (LH). A simple urine test can determine the presence of LH. If LH levels are elevated then it can be established that the victim has ovulated, and it cannot be established whether or not the ovum has yet been fertilized. The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) has outlined four essential conditions that must be met before administering an MAP. They are:
  1. The woman is not already pregnant from prior, freely-chosen sexual activity.
  2. The woman has been sexually assaulted.
  3. The woman has not yet ovulated (i.e. has not released an egg from her ovary into the fallopian tube where it could be fertilized by the attacker’s sperm).
  4. The morning-after pill can reasonably be expected to prevent her from ovulating.
It should also be noted that spermicidal washes are not abortifacient and also permissible in cases of rape. Within just hours of the incident, sperm may have already traveled into the fallopian tubes, and spermicidal washes are limited in their efficacy, further complicated by the duration of time that sperm can survive in the body. Spermicidal washes may prevent further sperm from moving past the cervix. However, even in cases where ovulation has occurred, physicians may deem it appropriate to minimize the chances for conception by administering spermicides. It may even be beneficial to administer a spermicide as early as possible even before determining ovulation, if rape has been established. Therefore, the only condition that must be met for spermicide to be administered is sexual assault.

Concluding thoughts:

The majority of articles on the bishops' statement have not sufficiently made clear the distinction between preventing conception, preventing ovulation, and preventing implantation. The bishops were not wrong in issuing their statement and enforcing Church teaching in response to the unfortunate event that occurred where a rape victim was turned away. Any hospital that refuses to help a victim of such an abominable crime should be ashamed and does not deserve the title of Catholic. Beyond medical procedures, a variety of assistance ought to be offered including counseling and legal advice. The physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual trauma suffered by sexual assault victims far exceeds anything imaginable. Caring for them is essential to our Catholic identity. So also, however, is caring for the most defenseless person involved, the child conceived through rape. Protecting their rights and dignity is as essential to our Catholic identity as assisting the rape victim. A child conceived be rape is an innocent bystander, and he should never become a “second victim” through abortion. Providing women who conceive a child by rape with full and loving support during and after their pregnancy is also part of our Catholic identity, and the only proper and sensible response to such insensible acts. For more on MAP in cases of rape, click here.