In Graphic Design, what isn’t there matters as much as what is there. The white space around a bit of text helps the message stand out; the voids between images declutter the page; emptiness is built into a design to provide visual and emotional balance or to direct the eye to where it should go. In a sense, empty places help to fill a design and bring it to life; they are not there by accident; they are deliberate and considered as carefully as the text, images and overall content of a page.
The Cross is the central image of Christianity. In the Roman tradition it features Jesus hanging from its cross-beam. The design is deliberate and purposeful. The body is a reminder of Christ’s suffering and death for us; it is a powerful visual symbol that reveals, in graphical detail, the sacrifice Christ made for humanity. In turn, it points to our guilt and shame for the sin that sent Him to His crucifixion and death.
In the Protestant tradition the cross is empty. Christ does not hang from the Cross; we do not have a graphic representation of His death or His sacrifice. Instead we have only the tool of his execution visible. That might seem odd. Do we venerate the means of His death? Are we celebrating the two pieces of wood that formed the Crucifix? No; not at all; the significance of the cross is in its emptiness; it’s not what is seen, not the golden or silver miniature version of its larger wooden counterpart that matters, but what is not there. The empty space is the crucial part of the design; it points not to the sorrow of the sacrifice but to the rejoicing of the Resurrection.
The Cross Protestants use is empty and it is that void that we celebrate; the void means that Christ is risen; He is not on the Cross; He is not in the grave; Jesus rose from the dead, robbing the Cross of its power, stripping it naked of its horror and shame. More than this, it means that not just death, but that our sin has also been defeated. There is no reason for us to feel guilty! Instead, we are called to be happy because Jesus lives; Jesus continues to work; Jesus makes Himself known to us; Jesus reveals Himself in the hands and hearts of those who follow Him faithfully. Rejoice! Empty is the new full! The bare Cross points to Jesus’ Resurrection and the fulness of the new life that we have through Him; it is a cause for celebration; it is an invitation to live fully and joyfully. He is not on the Cross, He is not in the grave! Hallelujah, He is Risen!
Published previously, April 4, as part of my weekly “Thoughts” for my congregation, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Coldwater.