A firm stand to defend the cross
During the pontificate of John Paul II we had the chance to see an immediate reaction of the Publishing House ‘Bialy Kruk’ to important events in the Church. This time an urgent occasion for the publisher to prepare an album was the verdict of the Strasbourg Court, ordering to remove the crucifix in some Italian school. As we know the verdict evoked a series of attacks against this greatest symbol of Christianity – the verdict became an excellent pretext for various kinds of enemies of our religion. Therefore, there was an urgent need to take a firm stand – opt for the cross, the sign of Christ’s victory over sin and death. The effect is the book entitled ‘Europa krzyzem bogata’ [Europe Rich in the Cross], which deserves special attention and which has a meaningful subtitle ‘Od Golgoty do Strasburga’ [From Golgotha to Strasbourg]. The editor asked Cardinal Stanislaw Nagy, a professor of theology, to write a foreword to the album. His pen produced an excellent, vividly written, profound and very personal essay entitled ‘Potega krzyza’ [The Power of the Cross]. The cross as an object of worship was presented both in history and theology as well as in the background of various ideologies nourished on anti-truth about the cross. Cardinal Nagy could not naturally exhaust the topic in one essay but he showed briefly what every Christian should know about the cross. Among other things he explained why the cross should be venerated, how the cross became the sign of the Saviour’s triumph, being changed from a tool of horrible torture, shameful and humiliating death; he summarised the history of the Holy Cross and its cult. The especially valuable thing is that Cardinal Nagy presented bluntly the most important and most dangerous enemies of the cross as well as their motives. Since he began with a right assumption that one must know the enemies of our faith, be aware of the threats so that we can react in proper time, oppose them and take a firm stand. The final verdicts are of course in the hands of God but Christians are obliged to help God and not to watch with folded hands how the symbol of their faith is abused. By no means is this a pessimistic text or inciting people to hatred. The last two chapters, entitled ‘Joy and moral strength flowing from the cross’ and ‘The defence of the cross’, inspire with great hope and firmness. Since the author knows that in the end no force can overcome the power flowing from Christ’s cross. Variety and richness of the cross as a work of art and object of cult are shown in the fantastic photographs of Adam Bujak, which he made in many places in Europe. I counted as many as 93 places. Some photos seem to be of archival character and others were taken just several weeks ago (e.g. the photos from Strasbourg). The cross, the sign of triumph, has been a source of inspiration for numerous works and even masterpieces of painting and sculpture. The accurately selected photos and commentaries present the ‘life’ of the cross in man’s life – from birth till death. So we can see the cross in rich sanctuaries and humble churches as well as in houses, along roads, during Lenten performances, the Way of the Cross, on wonderful tombs and ordinary graves. We admire the images of the cross in the Polish, Spanish, French, German and many other traditions. One can very clearly see that the cross has testified irrefutably about the Christian roots of our continent even if someone in Strasbourg does not like that. Actually who? Some small minority that the media admired; the media whose owners, having control, stay in the shade or remain completely hidden. In his text Cardinal Nagy described such mechanisms. And over 30 years ago Cardinal Karol Wojtyla analysed those attitudes in his book, ‘Znak, ktoremu sprzeciwiac sie beda’ [The Sign That Will Be Contradicted] (1976), ‘We are also living in the epoch when struggle against religion – religion called «opium for people» – is to be waged and resolved without creating any new martyrs. Therefore, the programme of the epoch is persecution preserving all appearances that there is no persecution, that there is full freedom of religion.’ No wonder that these words, which are so important and prophetic, were made the motto of the album in question. As Adam Bujak said himself he had flown to the capital of Alsatia reluctantly. ‘But I was nicely disappointed’, he said after the trip. ‘Not without reason. Strasbourg is promoted as ‘city of thousand churches.’ Of course, there are no thousand churches there but certainly there are as many churches as in my hometown - Krakow. Nobody wipes off the traces of Christianity there. In no way does the modern building of the European Tribunal symbolise this city. Let us add that the capital of Alsatia has been Christian for 1,500 years! We can find beautiful crosses in the photographs of the Krakow master, both Mediaeval crosses and contemporary crosses that were made several years ago.
The album ‘Europa krzyzem bogata’ by Adam Bujak can be, without exaggeration, called a compendium of the necessary knowledge about the cross; knowledge that we, Christians, must have to boast of the cross, speak boldly about it, proclaim its glory and if needed, defend it.
‘Europa krzyzem bogata. Od Golgoty do Strasburga’, album, photographs: Adam Bujak, text: Cardinal Stanislaw Nagy, SCJ, 176 pages, 23, 5 x 29 cm, art paper 170 g, hard cover, book jacket, retail price 99 PLN.