One of the most common objects Catholics keep in their homes is a crucifix. Jesus’ suffering on the Cross is a reminder that his death was the means to destroying death. Many non-Catholics have charged Catholics with being too focused on the death of Christ rather than his Resurrection. But without the real and tangible experience of Jesus’ Death, there wouldn’t be a Resurrection. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states,
Growing up Catholic the crucifix, and other sacramentals, have been a part of my life. My parents hung a crucifix in every room of our home growing up: even the bathroom and unused bedrooms. One of the first items my wife and I hung in our new house were the crucifixes. We wanted to be reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice of love. He died for our (and all of humanity’s) sins.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1667, “sacramentals are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them, men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.”
There’s a certain beauty and goodness you experience when entering a home with several sacred images and items. I feel more deposed to the prayer life and reflection of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the more tangible reminders there are in a house or church. As a cradle Catholic you would think I would be familiar with all the sacramentals. But that’s far from the truth, recently I had the joy of learning about a newer sacramental— the pardon crucifix.
Pardon the Interruption
Wait. Didn’t I spend time on the crucifix already?! Yes, but this sacramental is a specific type of crucifix.
Dating back to 1905, Pope Saint Pius X declared indulgences the Pardon Crucifix. Indulgences for the pardon of souls on earth and in purgatory were approved in 1907. The Catechism of the Catholic Church talks of indulgences in paragraph 1471:
An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.
What Does A Pardon Crucifix Look Like?
The front of the Pardon Crucifix looks like a traditional crucifix: it depicts Jesus on Calvary. Attached to the top of the crucifix is the phrase “Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum” (in English: Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews). This is a direct reference to Matthew 27:37.
On the backside of this sacramental, the Sacred Heart of Jesus is at the intersection of the crossbeams. The words “Father Forgive Them” are on the horizontal beam. These words are important because forgiveness was a prevalent theme in Jesus’ teachings. In Luke 23:34, Jesus uttered these words as he was dying on the cross. Even during his most excruciating moments, Christ demonstrated mercy towards those who inflicted pain on him.
The vertical beam has the phrase “Behold this Heart which has so loved men.” These words hark back to 1675 when Saint Margaret Mary when Jesus spoke these to her in the revelation of the devotion of the Sacred Heart.
Located at the bottom of the vertical beam is a symbol that looks sort of like a mountain range or triple triangles with a star above it. This symbolizes the Blessed Virgin Mary who remained close to Jesus, at the foot of the cross, during his darkest hours.
Mary Connects Us to Jesus
My mind was blown when I learned about the meaning of this symbol on the Pardon Crucifix! In hindsight, I really shouldn’t have been surprised, but the beauty of this sacramental is how it’s packed with such meaning. The Mother of God anchors the New Ark (the Church) to Her Son. The great Doctor of the Church, Saint Louis de Montfort articulates Marian devotion better than any other saint. He wrote,
The placement of the Marian symbol on the bottom of the back of the Pardon Crucifix displays the humility and cooperation Mary had with God’s plan of salvation.
I cannot stress how awesome this “new” sacramental is and how it’s a must-have in your spiritual arsenal. The Devil hates the cross. He tempted Jesus in the desert to toss himself off the mountaintop and have the angels save him. But Jesus followed His Father’s will even to the point of death. The Pardon Crucifix reminds one of the importance of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice and the importance of God’s forgiveness.