The Catholic Church has just started Lent, 40 days of prayer and penance leading to the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Last year Pope Francis said Lent is a time for Christians to contemplate the Crucifix because the crucified Christ is the path to Heaven.
Months of research have thrown a new light on one of the country’s most venerated crucifixes and this is now contained in a publication.
At the Capuchin monks’ convent at Rabat in Gozo there is a crucifix that has been treasured with veneration for about 270 years. Research carried out by Fr Martin Micallef shows the crucifix came to be housed at the convent through the help of a Gozitan historian, Canon Agius de Soldanis. Fr Martin explained that de Soldanis did not record in writing he had donated the crucifix to the Gozo Capuchins and he commented he finds this as unusual because de Soldanis left many written records of his actions.
He said he found a document by Fr Pelaġju Mifsud who was from Ħaż-Żebbuġ, a contemporary Capuchin with de Soldanis which explains clearly the crucifix was in de Soldanis’s residence in Gozo and he donated this to the Capuchins. This was in about 1746 and it has remained there ever since.
Fr Martin continued to explain the crucifix was manufactured in Sicily in 1683 by an unknown artist. It was housed in a palace which caught fire and burnt down completely and the crucifix was the only item that survived.
It was brought to Malta and was the property of Commendatore Giovanni Miceli. Following the violent earthquake in the 17th Century, the crucifix was displayed for adoration at the Knisja tal-Vitorja in Valletta until it was taken to Gozo and donated to the Capuchins at the same time when they built their convent.
Fr Martin said the crucifix had always had a fame for performing miracles and that is how it is regarded in Gozo. It was locked away in the convent’s private chapel for many years and de Soldanis records that even then it performed miracles and responded to vows. When it was placed in the church, its fame continued to grow.
The whole background story has been researched and collected by Fr Martin and is now published in a 600 page book that also explains the development of the crucifix cult.
He said he named the book “Crux Invicta – a cross that was never defeated” because although in the eyes of Christ’s enemies his crucifixion was a defeat this however is the means of salvation, his ultimate victory. Therefore it remains a Crux Invicta – never defeated and venerated by humanity, his disciples.
He recalled the words of St Ġorġ Preca who termed the crucifix as “The Big Book” from which a Christian has much to learn.