Ecce lignum crucis


Hello. I was reflecting on the holy cross and I suddenly remembered the rite of the Veneration of the Cross during Good Friday. What bothered me is that after the priest chants: Behold the wood of the cross…" We would answer: Come let us adore. So far, I understand that adore in this sense would generally be equal to latria which is worship to God alone. Why do we render adoration to the cross when it is an object? I read some articles that stated that St. Thomas Aquinas gave ‘latria’ to the cross and people stated that he is wrong. Yet it is in our liturgy. Lex orandi, lex credendi.


Do you have access to the “Saint Andrew Missal” (for the Extraordinary Form)?

I don’t have mine handy, but I do recall a very good explanation of just what you’re asking printed as an introduction to the Good Friday services.

Maybe someone else here has one and can look at the text?


I recall my priest chanting “Behold, behold the wood of the Cross, on which is hung our Salvation” and we respond, “O come let us adore”.

This makes it clear that we are not worshiping the actual wood of the cross, but our Lord who hangs upon it.


Because in this case, St. Thomas is correct. We do offer the Cross the adoration of latria, which is the adoration due to God alone.

We do this because the worship given to the Cross is only given insofar as the Cross is an image of Christ, and is intimately united with him. And as with the veneration of all images, the worship offered does not have the image as its terminating object, but has the prototype.

St. Thomas argues that any form of veneration is offered only to a rational being, and any such veneration offered to inanimate objects (images, relics) are offered only insofar as those object were united to the rational being. Because the Cross is an image of Christ, then we offer it veneration only to the extent that it was united to the rational being that is the Second Person of the Trinity. Because that Being deserves no less than the worship of latria, so do we offer latria to the Cross, because the veneration offered there is passed on to Christ himself.

Those who shoot down St. Thomas on this account are jumping the gun, usually due to a knee-jerk reaction out of fear of idolatry or accusations thereof.


Does this infer, then, that any statue/image of our Lord deserves “latria”, not only the Cross?


The Catholic Encyclopedia has a good (if short) explanation.


So the subject of adoration is not the wood but He who hung on it? If so, then it clears a great difficulty but I still don’t understand how latria can be given to the cross.


To simply everything, yes, the adoration is not the wood, but He who hung on it. The Latria is also given to He who hung on it, not the wood.


porthos11 did a wonderful job in answering the original poster and adequately summed up the Thomistic doctrine.

I believe that the the difference is in the fact that the True Cross was united to Christ’s Most Precious Blood in that moment of time when He hung nailed to it, and offered His sacrifice thereon.

I have to disagree with this article and siide with Saint Thomas, Father. I believe all of the Early Church Fathers would have agreed with Saint Thomas too. Or rather, Saint Thomas was in agreement with all of the Early Church Fathers. I do not doubt that the Catholic Encyclopedia, being an American collection, rejects Saint Thomas’ arguments out of a “knee-jerk reaction out of fear of idolatry or accusations thereof.”

In Jesus and Mary,


First, one must understand what both are saying. Only then can one realize that they are not in conflict.


Who are “those who shoot down St Thomas on this account???”

I’m very curious…

Who are they? What do they write? Where can we find their words?


Imply, not infer.

We then infer that yes it does.


Because you just said it. The latria passes on to its prototype, which is Christ. The Cross is worshipped insofar as it is united with Christ and is his image.


You will find them on forums such as this one where they say “St. Thomas is wrong”. The OP himself mentioned them.



If so, then it clears a great difficulty but I still don’t understand how latria can be given to the cross.

Latria is not given to the cross* as such, but to the cross as an image of Christ. It’s an important distinction. See the Summa of St. Thomas ( especially article 3.

First, Thomas says that an image of Christ should be worshiped with latria (art. 3); that is, any image of Christ. Then, more specifically, he says that the cross, as an image of Christ, should be worshiped with latria (art. 4). In neither case is he advocating worshiping the material of the cross (wood, stone, silver), but worship of Christ through an image of Christ.
“thus we venerate the cross merely as Christ’s image, which we worship with the adoration of “latria,” as stated above” (closing sentence in the answer to article 4)

The Catholic Encyclopedia uses a different approach, but still has the same conclusion.

When I say “cross” here, I mean “any cross.” If we’re talking about the True Cross, that changes things.


It has this to say in the intro to The Adoration of the Cross:

This ceremony owes its origin to a custom which prevailed at Jerusalem in the fourth century of venerating on this day the wood of the true Cross

The only other explanation given is before the Mass of the Catechumens.

Is this what you were looking for, Father?


I thought there was more. My copy of the missal is on-loan to someone at the moment. Is that really all there is? I’m not asking you to type it all.

I remember some rather lengthy explanations to introduce each day of the Triduum. Maybe there’s something there, maybe not.


Yes, there are some very lengthy explanations, but Good Friday isn’t one of them. I even looked in the '62 Missal I have put out by the Angelus Press to see if they had more to say.

Maybe you read it in one of the other days of Holy Week?


Mea culpa, Father. :o

In Jesus and Mary,

closed #20

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