dimanche, avril 05, 2009

Being a friend of the Cross

On Good Friday, we are going to ‘adore’ the Cross of Our Lord. The word seems too strong; it even seems to be heterodox as adoration is exclusively due to God. It may even have a whiff of paganism, and it would be the case without the understanding of the notion of analogy or rather of equivocality. In the strict sense adoration is the supreme act of religion offered to God by which we acknowledge His dominion over the whole creation and our submission to Him. In a looser sense, the reverence shown to any person or object possessing, inherently or by association, a sacred character or a high degree of moral excellence. (Catholic Encyclopedia)

The Cross of Jesus possesses in a highest degree the character of moral excellence as it is the instrument chosen by God to redeem us. Christ has desired to embrace it, to be nailed on it, to be one with it, so that we can be saved. It is hard to understand. The Cross is unto the Jews a stumbling block and unto the Gentiles foolishness (1 Co 1,23). In fact, there is only one way of understanding the Cross. Neither the Law or reason allow us to comprehend it. Speaking of Saint Paul, the Holy Father says that the "Gospel of grace" thus became for him the only way of understanding the Cross, not only the criterion of his new existence but also his response to those who questioned him.[1] What is true for Saint Paul is true for each one of us. I cannot understand the Cross of Jesus if I do not receive and accept in my life the “Gospel of Grace.” And if I do not understand the message of the Cross, how can I understand my life?
Our Lord has indeed performed a revolution when He incarnated. The idea that God can assume a created nature shattered the way of thinking of the Jews as well as of the Gentiles. Yet, for God it is not enough. The Man-God would suffer and die as a criminal, as the least of men, the rubbish of the society of men. The scandal is absolute! For those who, like the Greeks, see perfection in the spirit, in pure thought, it was already unacceptable that God should become man, immersing himself in all the limitations of space and time. Then for them it was definitely inconceivable to believe that a God could end on a Cross! And we see that this Greek logic is also the common logic of our time.[2]

Not only does the Cross shatter the intelligence of man, but it challenges him. Once he has bowed his intellect in front of the Divine Mystery, he still has to render himself and offer his own life. The Cross is not only a call to my reason, but is the principle of the interior renovation of my whole person. I may acknowledge the mystery of the Cross, because I am a faithful Catholic who believes, yet it does not necessarily mean that I have embraced it. Faith is not Charity! Believing in the mystery of the Passion of our Lord is one thing. Loving the Cross is another thing.

Saint Louis Grignion de Montfort echoes this reality when he says: if I am captivated by its splendour, I am no less frightened by its responsibility, for it is a title (friend of the Cross) that embraces difficult and inescapable obligations, summed up in the words of the Holy Spirit, “A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people set apart.”[3] This is a verse from the Scriptures that is often used to laud the People of God. The laity, by a kind of mysterious inspiration insufflated by a mysterious spirit of the Council, has suddenly discovered that it is a royal priesthood; and since we live in a time of demands and claims, the People of God has come to fight for its rights, sometimes against a certain “old and obsolete ecclesiastical institution” incarnated by the authoritarian power that dwells in the Vatican, far from the reality of the modern world. In fact, we simply witness the class war within the Church.

But being a chosen people and a royal priesthood is not a license to enter and to jiggle into the sanctuaries. It is first a responsibility as Saint Louis de Montfort states. It is the practical acceptance of the Cross in my daily life!

A Friend of the Cross is one chosen by God, from among thousands who live only according to their reason and senses, to be wholly divine, raised above mere reason and completely opposed to material things, living in the light of pure faith, and inspired by a deep love of the Cross.
A Friend of the Cross is an all-powerful king, a champion who triumphs over the devil, the world and the flesh in their three-fold concupiscence. He crushes the pride of Satan by his love of humiliations; he overcomes the greed of the world by his love of poverty; he retrains the sensuality of the flesh by his love of suffering.
A Friend of the Cross is one who is holy and set apart from the things that are visible, for his heart is raised above all that is transient and perishable, and his homeland is in heaven; he travels through this world like a visitor and a pilgrim, and, far from setting his heart on it, he looks on it with indifference and tramples it underfoot with contempt.
A Friend of the Cross is a glorious trophy gained by the crucified Christ on Calvary, in union with his holy Mother. He is a Benoni or Benjamin, a child of sorrow and of the right hand, conceived in the suffering heart of Jesus, born from his pierced side, and baptised in his blood. True to his origin, his life embraces the cross, and death to the world, the flesh, and sin, so as to live here below a life hidden with Christ in God.
In short, a perfect Friend of the Cross is a true Christ-bearer, or rather another Christ, so that he can truly say, "I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me."

Being another Christ! This is the vocation I have received the day of my Baptism. I shall be another Christ only when I shall totally surrender myself to the will of God. This is the way of the Cross; the way of my Cross. May Our Lady of sorrows keep me safe on this way!

Father Laurent Demets, FSSP (Upon this Rock, April 2009)

[1] General audience, October 29th 2008
[2] General audience, October 29th 2008.
[3] Letter to the Friends of the Cross.

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