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A Purple Cross With Pink Flowers

August 2, AD2013


A while back I heard somebody talking about a gift she once received, it was a handmade cross painted in purple with little pink flowers all over it. She liked it so much so that she put it where everybody could see it. At the time, I thought of it as a nice gesture by whomever took the time to make a beautiful cross to be given away as a meaningful gift.

While reading an article by an Australian surgeon named Dr. Andreas Lambrianides about the practice of crucifixion by ancient Romans, the purple cross came back to mind. What I realized was that I too have fallen into the trap of domesticating the Cross. The Cross is not meant to be purple, green or yellow; it is not meant to be decorative or exuberant, it represents a device used for one of the most cruel and excruciating punishments ever devised by man. For Christians, it is a constant reminder that, \”He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.\” (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus Christ paid the price for Salvation with His own body and blood by dying on a cross, and even today His blood cleanses and nourishes the Church, His body.

Blood is not a pleasant thing to be around, lots of people are scared or grossed out at its sight. Though the Church has a very healthy relationship with the Blood of Christ, it seems like it also acknowledges the weariness of many of its members to look at a tortured body covered in blood. Everyday I walk into my local church with my sorrows and anxieties. Deep inside me I know well that God understands my pain for He Himself experienced the anguish felt only by human beings.

Every once in a while I would like to see what Jesus was agonizing about, so I look up to the Cross hanging above the altar. There I see Jesus as if somebody gently hung Him on a cross soon after He took a shower, hardly any blood to be seen anywhere, no bruises on the body either except for a slight piercing on the right chest. Though these types of images are much more appealing and aesthetically pleasing to the human eye, they totally miss the point. Jesus was flogged with a flagellum, a short whip consisting of several heavy leather thongs with small balls of lead attached to the end of each thong, prior to the Crucifixion. The end result was shredded skin with ribbons of skin hanging off. In addition, He also fell three times on the rocky roads while carrying a heavy wooden cross and wearing a thorny crown. It was about him the prophet lamented, “Like one from whom you turn your face” (Isaiah 53:3).

The Crucifixion should never be about providing a sense of tranquility to anybody who dare to look at it. We shouldn\’t be afraid of vividly portraying the agony and pain of God\’s death on a cross for it should never offer a false hope of serenity and bliss to the followers of Christ. Christianity should never be about a shelter from trials and tribulations because it\’s foundation is soaked in the blood of God born man, for \” Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness\” (Hebrews 9:22). God never offered protection from sufferings, instead He promised to be with us in our suffering to deliver us from it and to restore us. The comfort must be from the awareness that the Crucifixion represents a God who faced such pain and agony, rather than avoiding it. What should be consoling is to know that “ For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Jesus saw each one of us and prayed for us while hanging there on the Cross. That also means we were all standing there at the foot of the cross and watch Jesus dying. We crucified Him to pay for our sins. We can try and wash our hands clean to avoid being responsible for His death, but His blood cannot be washed away with water; it is His blood that cleanses water and everything else out there. We need to learn to see the cross as something we have done, something we have caused. And that\’s definitely not the cross colored in purple with pink flowers on it, but the wooden cross covered with the blood of Christ, the cross we have made it with our own hands. A Crucifix without a tangled body covered in blood cannot be about redemption, it cannot be about God\’s love in the face of rejection and betrayal.

P.S. I wonder why no one has thought about providing small bags of baking soda with those Nativity scenes we buy during Christmas season? Shouldn\’t there be something to mask the stench of animal droppings and urine from the stable where the Savior of the world was born?

© 2013. Emmanuel Joseph. All Rights Reserved.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Born in India, Emmanuel is a cradle Catholic who spent most of his adolescent and adult life as an agnostic. After dedicating much of his life to make, lose, and waste money, he felt the love of Christ embracing him and picking him up from a bottomless pit during a low point in his life. He now spends his days spreading the love of Christ through the word of God. He is a proud father to Vismaya Ross, Vivek Joseph and Varsha Regina, and a loving husband to Sheena. Emmanuel writes about the mercy and love of God with the heart of a believer and the brains of a former agnostic in his blog "A Walk with Mother Mary" (

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  • Frank Attanucci

    There is a two-fold truth in the bloody cross.

    Jesus died in order to redeem all of us: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son… that the world might be saved through him” (Jn. 3:16-17). Because (1) we are all born in a state of original sin (because of Adam’s fall) and (2) because of our responsibility for personal sins committed, we all share in the responsibility for the death of Jesus. However, because God wants us to “become sharers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4), the light of truth must first shine on our darkness. In this sense, God is responsible for the death of his only Son. Let me explain.

    In the death of Jesus, two truths are simultaneously and inseparably revealed: (1) the depth of God’s love: He loves us with a love that is stronger than death (and, hence, we can live in hope) and (2) the truth that the sinful mankind stood in need of redemption—and we had to be confronted with this fact, this truth about ourselves. But how? By another accusation, another denunciation, by yet another prophet? No, not this time. This time the truth would be revealed through the very flesh of the Son of Man.

    This time, God would allow our depravity to be revealed in all of its depth: we would murder our Saviour and find ourselves caught, if you will, with blood on our hands! Our conscience tells us that, apart from the truth, love is false. It is this two-sided truth that sets us free. But let us a closer, and uncomfortable, look at the truth.

    For what happened in the death of Jesus: the collusion of corrupted political and religious power to bring about the death of “an innocent man” (Lk. 23:47). We have to ask ourselves: How often do individuals and societies scapegoat “the other person (or tribe)”—including the unborn—as being the reason for our present or anticipated problems? Of course, not every sin is a form of scapegoating; however, it makes sense that, in the wisdom of God, the specific manner of Jesus’ death would reveal its most heinous form. (The work of Rene Girard and Gil Bailie show just how ubiquitous is the operation of the so-called “scapegoat mechanism.”)

    God, through the prophet Samuel, had warned us about having any king over us but Himself (see 1 Sam 8:6-18), for it represents a rejection of His authority and its replacement with that of a corruptible king. This same turning from God and towards politics occurs in Jesus’ trial before Pilate:

    “’Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate asked him. ‘Do you not know that I have the power to release you and the power to crucify you?’ Jesus answered: ‘You would have no power over me whatever unless it were given you from above. That is why he who handed me over to you is guilty of the greater sin’” (Jn. 19:10-11).

    “That is why he who handed me over to you is guilty of the greater sin.” In context, the “greater sin” is our turning away from God and towards political authority to define what is right and what is wrong. In our time, is it not the Supreme Court who sits on the judge’s bench?

    • Mary Ann

      Very interesting comment, and I agree with the similarity of how political authority substituted for God’s authority can lead to nothing but death; death for Christ and death of innocents today. But your remark “God is responsible for the death of His only Son” sounds a little extreme. I would just like to share some thoughts that I heard from a very wise priest, Fr. Patrick Martin, who gave a beautiful explanation of redemption. He reminded us that God is pure love. God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to show us the way back to Him, yet, He loved His Son also! No earthly parent would WILL any harm to befall their child, so how could God will such evil? God would never have created an earthly being to be more loving than Himself! God ultimately knew the outcome of sending His Son into the world, and permitted it to happen out of love for humanity, but He did not necessarily will it to end that way. We, alone, are responsible for that outcome.

    • Frank Attanucci

      Mary Ann, thanks for the response.

      I agree that “God is responsible for the death of His only Son,” sounds a little extreme. However, I believe the “shock” factor is removed when one recalls that the will of the Triune God is eternal and immutable. On the other hand, our will (as well as Christ’s human will) operate on a different order of being. Hence, Christ’s prayer of agony in the garden, as well as his cry of abandonment on the Cross, were genuine expressions of the revulsion and anguish Our Savior felt towards the evil he endured as he “paid the price” for us — obediently suffering an execution that had to happen in order that the aforementioned “two-fold truth” (God’s love for us and our need for redemption from sin) be fully revealed in all its divine height and human depth.

      To “permit evil to happen” (when it could have been prevented [cf. Mt. 26:52-54]) – while not a direct willing of evil – is still an expression of God’s eternal will, is it not? Perhaps it is best understood as an aspect of a greater good: that there should exists creatures (angels and human beings) in possession of freedom.for excellence and a power to choose.

  • You do have a good, important point, but– isn’t that always how it goes? Otherwise, why would folks comment?– I’d argue that the empty* cross is an entirely different symbol than the crucifix.

    The crucifix is to remind us of the sacrifice; how bloody it should be depends on what level you want to reach people on, and who you are reaching for. If something that looks like a screenshot from the Passion of the Christ reaches you best, reminding you of the price He paid, well and good. If the very simple wood-and-brass sort that I favor, where you can tell it’s a man wearing a crown of thorns and with wounded side but not much more, helps you meditate on the incredible price paid– well and good.

    *The empty cross is hope. The Gift itself. He died in about the most horrific way possible, tortured by experts, betrayed by a friend, with His mother watching. And He came back. “Empty” isn’t exactly right, because symbols of returning life are common– flowers, like the pretty little thing your friend got, or historically even a snake in a tree or on the cross. (Snakes shed their skin, so are symbols of immortality. Dragons can be in there, too, oddly enough: )

    Hm, I just had what I should’ve said pop into my head: its Lent and Easter, the Crucifix and the Cross. We do tend to focus a bit heavy on Easter, though.