In the highly acclaimed series Catholicism, Fr. Robert Barron, drawing on the patrimony of Christian art and architecture, suggests to his viewers that this magnificent depiction of Our Lord’s crucifixion by Matthias Grünewald is a picture of joy. He is right. With the eyes of faith we see the joy of the Son uniting his will to the will of the Father, we see the joy of the Father’s love in sacrificing the life of his Son for the love of the world and we feel a joy well up within our hearts as we come to the realization that this love shared between Father and Son is a love that includes each one of us.
In one of the most familiar and cherished forms of the Way of the Cross, we find this invitation to prayer: “We adore you, O Christ and we praise you.” To which the people reply, “Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.” In this brief invitatory and response, Saint Alphonsus Ligouri captures the essence of the article of the creed that proclaims Jesus Christ “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.”
There is much more to this statement of faith than the simple recognition that Christ died. If by his cross Christ has not redeemed us, his death would have little meaning. With the eyes of faith, the apostles and all the believers after them gaze on the cross and see much more than just the instrument on which Jesus hung and died.
Jesus’ saving actions are the work of a person who is both God and man. They have, therefore, a superabundant value. The man Jesus Christ, who is God’s true Son, is the only one who could offer the Father a fitting atonement for sin. It is here that we see the immensity of God’s saving mercy. Not only does God save us, but he brings about salvation in a generous way, in a manner that honors the humanity he saves. In Christ, God allows a human being to bring gifts worthy of salvation.
By his cross and resurrection he created a new form of love, a new closeness to God. The Father saved us not only by delivering up his Son for us but also by raising him from the dead (see 1Peter 1:3-5). It is for this reason that we say that the cross of Christ points toward and is fulfilled in the resurrection.
For this reason, it is with joy that we join St. Alphonsus Liguori and many others in proclaiming, “We adore you O Christ and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”