St Finbar's Glenbrook Parish

The Cross

(An Explanation of the Symbols of St Finbar’s Church Glenbrook)

Symbols of St Finbar's - The Cross
Photo: Peter McMahon

The cross in the wall of the church was designed by the famous sculptor, Mr Tom Bass (1916-2010). It portrays the five wounds of Christ from which flowed His most precious Blood. The Gospel also records that water, too, flowed from the side of Christ. This phenomenon together with other Biblical incidents is depicted in the blue glass of the window adjoining the baptistry. Mr Tom Bass was a deeply religious man who delighted in meditation as a form of prayer. This personal characteristic was clear in his religious art.

The essential way in which to pray using an icon is to make eye contact with the icon and then to allow the Spirit to draw one into prayer. The basis of the devotion to the five wounds is found in the New Testament. For example, in Eph. 1:7 "In him was have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins, according to the riches of his grace". After his resurrection Our Lord retained the marks of his wounds as badges of triumph. From the Gospel of John: "The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. 'Peace be with you' he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, 'put your finger here. Look, here are my hands. Give me your hand and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving any more but believe."

All through Christian history, devotion to the five most precious wounds has been popular. St Bernard, in particular, set the tone for the entire Middle Ages with his famous sermons on this topic.

"The Catholic Encyclopaedia" in an article on this topic states that for John, the evangelist, the resurrection of Christ is not so much the resumption of heavenly glory but Christ's renewal of personal relations with His disciples (for us this takes place in the sacraments. Ed.) By his emphasis on the wounds, John is demonstrating that the Resurrection is not merely a reality on the spiritual level but is also an event on the temporal historical plane. For John, the events surrounding the raising of Jesus happen in this world and the resurrection begins a new historical era in which the pierced side of Christ continues to pour out sacramental fruits of the redeeming death-resurrection.

When one stands in from of the cross, one could imagine oneself standing as the beloved disciple on Calvary and the doubting disciple Thomas or better still, as one of those of whom Jesus said, "Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed."

In addition to the religious significances mentioned above, one can reflect on the figure five itself. In ancient times, the figure five had mystical and sacred meanings. It is particularly related to the five senses: taste, sight, touch, hearing and smell through which human beings relate to the external world. The five senses enable human beings to have consciousness and to achieve a perfection that is comparable to that of God. The constant struggle to control the stimuli that the five senses carry to the human psyche is a theme that has fascinated all generations. Echoes can be found in contemporary psychology which, following Freud, speaks of the human ego and addresses itself to understanding the interior struggle of the human psyche. In all these themes, spiritual writers see a relationship to the death of Christ and his resurrection. The figure 5 itself carries some of these meanings because on close inspection it can be seen to be a pictograph consisting of a cross surmounting a circle or orb.