Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 2, 2004
Large crucifix rivets St. Thomas More
Parish welcomes icon of Christ resurrected
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Rising to nearly 10 metres above the altar, the new crucifix at St. Thomas More Parish has had an alluring effect on the congregation, says Father Ken West.
"Since the church was built (1997) we have been trying to decide what to do with a large triangular, empty space behind the altar," West said. "A committee thought about a row of windows illuminated from behind. They were told, however, that in 10 or 20 years the wall could warp.
"Eventually, the crucifix was decided upon after a survey of parishioners indicated such interest."
They were invited to draw their own designs and the better suggestions were incorporated into the artist's plans.
Once it was determined a new crucifix was preferred, the committee began a search for a designer with strong liturgical experience to assist the members with the overall concept. Eventually, Rob Macdonnell of Desmarais & Robitaille in Montreal, was retained.
Macdonnell, who has a master of arts degree in liturgical studies from The Catholic University of America in Washington, has won numerous liturgical design awards throughout Ontario and Quebec.
The crucifix does indeed occupy the space. At five metres tall and 2.4 metres wide, the bronze frame helps to support the body of Christ, carved from linden wood covered with gold leaf. Gradually as the metal oxidizes, the patina will turn green to harmonize with the colours of the church.
There is also a painted panel behind the corpus in a diamond pattern moving from purple to red at the bottom to turquoise and leaf green at the top to signify the movement from suffering and death to resurrection and life.
The body of Christ takes the concept further in that the head is up and the eyes and hands are open - a gesture of openness to welcome the community.
"We had prepared the parishioners five months ago with a mock-up drawing of the crucifix," West said. "At that time, we supplied the artist's three-page explanation of the crucifix that many of them saw. And when we put the crucifix up, we put the artist's explanation in the parish bulletin."
People were asked to read the brochure and think about the new crucifix. They were asked not to react or judge right away.
Most of the comments were positive, West says.
"In fact, I didn't hear any negative ones. Most of the concern was over what we will do with the old crucifix. We may put it outside in the garden in a shrine."
West has found the comments of the children and parish youth most interesting. When some people mention they might prefer the old style of crucifix, West tells them this design is actually much older than the medieval renderings with a dead Jesus on the cross. This is more of an icon with the resurrected Christ - an idea which goes back much further.
"I like the new crucifix because there are a lot of blues and greens," said Marc Ludwig. The eight-year-old attended Mass Jan. 25 with his sister Chelsea (12), brother Max (10) and his mother, Yvette.
"I like that it's big," Marc said. "It must have been hard to put up. I like it also because the other one was smaller and I couldn't really see it very well because I'm puny," he joked.
"This crucifix is really nice. It's fancy," Chelsea said. "It has nice colours. It is big and it catches your eye. But I like the other one better because it was simpler."
Max was more middle-of-the-road with his take on the new crucifix. "I think the colours are cool," he said. "I like that Jesus is all gold. I like it the same as the old one."
Yvette had read the pamphlet the parish provided and was impressed with the overall theme of the design.
"The church handed out the pamphlet explaining the meaning of the different aspects of the crucifix and I think that's really nice," Yvette said. "I like the fact there's a mix of traditional elements as well as some new things - and it is visually interesting.
She finds the colours involved to be very calming. She also appreciates the new crucifix is twice as large as the previous one.
"The other crucifix was low so if something was happening at the altar it wasn't as visible," she said. "This one stands above and it's beautiful. I like the idea someone put a lot of meaning into its design," she said.
"When the church decided to go with a new crucifix, they included the community in its progress. There was anticipation and it made people feel a real part of the change. It's such an important symbol for us."
Father West points out the crucifix during tours of the church, with first Communion and first Reconciliation. An explanation of the liturgical colours is provided to explain why the design is the way it is.
"People are catching on," he said.