Crucified or risen Christ?

Question: It is confusing to me that some Catholic churches feature a prominent crucifix, while others have a risen Christ on the cross. As a new Catholic, I have learned to appreciate the sacrifice Christ offered for me. Though I am also thankful for the resurrection, it seems that during Mass I should be thinking more of Christ's sacrifice than his resurrection. Please comment.

-- Name and address withheld

Answer: Should you be thinking of Christ's sacrifice or his resurrection during Mass? You should be thinking of both. Christ's death on the cross was completed in the resurrection, and the resurrection makes no sense without the cross. The cross and resurrection are two inseparable aspects of the one mystery of faith.

The four acclamations that are provided for the people after the consecration at Mass bring together Christ's death and resurrection. They are as follows: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again"; "Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory"; "When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory"; "Lord, by your cross and resurrection you have set us free. You are the Savior of the world."

The best guide for what you should be thinking about during the liturgy of the Eucharist is the eucharistic prayer itself. If you follow the words of the priest and reflect on them, you will find that they take you through the whole life of Christ: his ministry, his death, his resurrection and his return in glory.

What kind of cross should be displayed in a church? While there may be a number of images of the cross on display, the principal cross -- the one used in procession and recession and kept near or on the altar during Mass -- should be a crucifix, that is, a cross with the image of Christ crucified. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states: "There is . . . to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, either on the altar or near it, where it is clearly visible to the assembled congregation. It is appropriate that such a cross, which calls to mind for the faithful the saving Passion of the Lord, remains near the altar even outside liturgical celebrations" (No. 308).

In addition, can there also be images of the resurrection, including an image of a risen Christ on a cross? Of course. While images should not be overly duplicated, there are plenty of examples of historic churches in which Christ is presented both as crucified and risen. As I said at the outset, the crucifixion and the resurrection are aspects of each other.

Liberation theology

Question: The new U.S. ambassador-designate to the Holy See, Miguel Díaz, is described as a liberation theologian. I thought that liberation theologians were not acceptable to the Vatican. What is your take?

-- F. C., Denver, Colo.

Answer: From everything I have read in the Catholic press, Miguel Díaz should be quite acceptable to the Holy See. While I have not read anything by the ambassador-designate, it is good to keep in mind that there are a great variety of liberation theologians, and they espouse a variety of outlooks.

In the 1980s, the Holy See issued two documents on liberation theology, pointing out both its strengths and its weaknesses. Liberation theology has, in my view, made a positive contribution to Catholic social thought. Like all new theological trends, it is capable of errors and excesses. But since the 1980s, it has certainly matured a good deal. An acceptable liberation theology is based on the Gospel and the Catholic tradition of justice. An unacceptable liberation theology is one that is based on Marxist social analysis.

Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.