Good Friday Veneration of the Cross: Crucifix or bare cross?

When I was growing up, my parish church always used a great big crucifix with a corpus on it for Good Friday Veneration of the Cross.
People would venerate by genuflecitng or bowing and kissing the feet of Jesus.

I was a bit taken aback today to attend a local Good Friday service and have them presenting a totally plain wooden cross painted red for us to venerate. No Jesus on it. I felt like a Protestant venerating a bare cross, and I felt kind of weird kissing a bare piece of wood where Jesus’ feet would normally be.

I see from past threads on CAF that some churches use a cross with Jesus and some use an empty cross.
Why would Catholic churches be using an empty cross? Is there some symbolism I am missing here?
Next year I would want to seek out a church that had a cross with Jesus on it, to be honest.

1 Like

Not sure if its a show stopper, but I’m thinking the words of veneration in the Roman Missal is “Behold the wood of the cross”, as the instrument which was used in the glorification of Christ. If the corpus was on the cross, could it be venerated, or would instead it be an adoration of the body of Christ?

Just thinking out loud.

I’ve mostly seen bare ones as the priest would bear it walking down to the altar…large, life size ones. The one that left me the most awestruck was a five foot one that after carrying Father attaches the corpus. At the end of services he removed it and a single light remained on the empty cross.

1 Like

This tradition dates back to the time shortly after the true cross was discovered in Israel. It was, of course, only the cross itself. The tradition quickly spread out for all of those who could not make a journey to Israel, much like The Way of the Cross.

At least this is what I’ve found. I hope it helps :slight_smile:

This would make sense, and I was kind of waiting to see if there would be a Christ attached to the bare one after they got it all the way down the Church aisle.

As for “adoration of the body of Christ”, I note that the actual words that are supposed to be sung during the Veneration, per the Missalette, are “Come, let us adore.” The cantor at the church I was at changed this to the traditional “Come, let us worship”. Regardless of whether we’re “adoring” or “worshipping”, it’s pretty clear we should be directing that thought to Jesus, not to the piece of wood.

1 Like

We have an ancient ( for Australia) wooden cross. Plain wood, with a barbed wire crown of thorns.

There are two separate mindsets when it comes to the Veneration of the Cross. First is the crucifix. We come to venerate the Cross as the instrument of Salvation which it is and the sacrifice which took place upon it. Second is the bare Cross. We come to the Cross with the same devotion and intent. It is not out of the Protestant aversion to the corpus that the Cross is empty but rather as an extension of Catholic tradition already in place. It is tradition in many places in the world to cover all images in the Church (including those of Christ) during Holy Week. It is much easier to venerate a barren Cross then a crucifix which has the majority of it covered to conceal the corpus. Some churches vacillate between the two by simply unveiling the corpus for veneration and re-veiling it when the time for veneration is complete.


Bare cross. Rough hewn. Father carries it, and after Mass we all took turns carrying it in front of a procession with Madre Dolorosa.

In our cathedral, it would always be the crucifix for veneration during the Good Friday service. It is Good Friday, a day when Jesus was crucified.


My parish had a big, plain cross about six feet tall, and two large, about 1 foot tall crucifixes held by the priest and deacon.

The cross in our parish we venerate is bare wood and very large.

1 Like

When I was young during the 60s, 70s, 80s in USA, the statues in church generally weren’t veiled at most churches that had statues. The altars were all bare, but the emphasis on veiling statues seems to be something that’s come back in recent years, because I now see it everywhere.

While I can understand veiling statues generally, I do not really understand the veiling of a figure of Jesus on the Cross when the entire Holy Week is all about focusing upon Jesus on the Cross. On Fridays in Lent when you are supposed to say the Prayer Before a Crucifix after Communion in front of an “Image of Christ Crucified” to get a Plenary Indulgence, the main altar crucifixes are now all veiled so I have to hunt around the church to find the Station of the Cross with the Crucifixion, or alternatively bring my own little crucifix that I can look at while I pray the prayer.

I think the symbolism is that Jesus is no longer in the Sanctuary, remember we remove the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of repose and another tabernacle on Good Friday…the large crucifix is covered.
In context of the liturgy, the bare cross is what is specified. Of course, we’re all meditating on the Crucifixion, for the Passion is read. No one is really forgetting the Lamb of God during the service of Veneration.
God bless you! I love your posts!

When our deacons carried the bare cross into the church last night, it made me think of Jesus carrying his cross and how heavy it must have been. Venerating the bare cross also made me think about the crosses and sufferings I have to bear.

1 Like

Last year our church used a huge crucifix. This year they carried in an even larger roughly hewn bare cross. I think both are good for veneration but I can see how the empty one would be more meaningful during an evening service when Christ would have already been removed and placed in His tomb on Good Friday.

Protestants aren’t always wrong. :slightly_smiling_face: If your parish was lucky enough to have a piece of the True Cross you would venerate that. There is nothing wrong with wearing just a cross, like a Jerusalem Cross. There is nothing wrong with making a palm branch into a cross. I understand where you are coming from but I think it is fine to venerate just the cross since that was the instrument Jesus died on. Either way most Protestants wouldn’t venerate even just the cross.

My parish uses several crucifixes.

The translation was corrected. We adore (not worship) the wood of the cross because it is an image.

It’s especially easy during Holy Week to forget about the corrected translation. I would have done it myself, but the deacon reminded me (in the sacristy, before we started) that the words had been changed. Had he not done that, I would have used the word “worship” too, out of sheer habit.

Aside: if we were to have the opportunity to use the actual True Cross, we would ‘worship’ because the True Cross has the literal Blood of Christ that flowed through His veins.


I was wondering about that since like I said I’ve seen it with and without Christ.

That’s a good point about the True Cross actually having the Blood of Christ on it. I hadn’t thought of that, thanks.

As for “adore”, I hadn’t thought that verb could be applied to anything other than God. I was wondering about it since I noticed the language had changed from “worship”. But you are saying we can “adore” objects? Or am I still confused? Thanks for sharing your knowledge on this.

I have worn plain crosses and hung them on the wall (I have a St. Brigid Cross and palm leaf crosses, for example) but I don’t usually kiss or venerate them, I just appreciate them symbolically. Maybe it’s just me.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit