The Mystery of the Cross

Once I read a maxim saying in effect, "Problems are walls to be scaled; Mysteries are pools to be plunged into."

God our Father, in obedience to you your only Son accepted death on the cross for the salvation of mankind. We acknowledge the mystery of the cross on earth. May we receive the gift of redemption in heaven. (Opening Prayer: The Exaltation of the Cross)

I've heard it said that when Jesus entered the Jordan River at his baptism that he consecrated the waters. In a similar manner when he entered his Passion he consecrated all suffering. The understanding and treatment of suffering is one of the attributes that marks a Christian and separates him or her from the mainstream. In a proper sense we strive to alleviate suffering to its irreducible core; and that core is the place where it can no longer be ameliorated, it can only be embraced or rejected. If we embrace it we do so with Christ and with his strength, love and passion, at which point it eventually is overcome, as death is overcome with new life.

But when we reject or disdain our sufferings we resist the power of God in our lives which is always life giving, even as our bodies tend toward their ultimate temporal state, that of death. (We sometimes forget this when we fail to discern the proper boundaries for medicine and healthcare, violating the rights and dignity of all human life and sacrificing others for our own well being. )

It's no coincidence that the Feast of The Triumph of the Cross is followed the next day by the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. Somehow all Christian love passes through suffering in this life. That's one of the keys to the mystery of the cross. In one respect we call Christ the 'Eternal Word of God' because his life communicates all true life (He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life) not only in speech but in the transcendent reality of the Divine One becoming incarnate and consecrating the human condition. The sinless Virgin Mary is not spared from the sorrows of this world because she is so completely united with her Son. His willingness to take on suffering for our salvation and her willingness to accept sorrows because of her union with him are further keys to understanding our role in the plan of salvation.

Thus it's difficult to get one's arms around this mystery unless we are willing to join in an intimate journey with Our Lord and his mother as we enter the 'valley of tears'. The Crucifixion is a scandal and an outrage. It involves humiliation and indignity. It asks us to accept surrender and powerlessness. It cries for justice and asks, "Who is to blame?" These questions often elude us when we are free from pain. But they eventually surface and cry for attention when we are confronted with this mystery: especially when we are trapped in corners where the only escape is the Way of the Cross.

Pope Benedict XVI reminds us at his recent remarks in Lourdes, France that the Lord has bridged immeasurable distance to unite himself with us through suffering and love.

"He is calling you (cf. Jn 11:28)! He wants to take your life and join it to his. Let yourself be embraced by him! Gaze no longer upon your own wounds, gaze upon his. Do not look upon what still separates you from him and from others; look upon the infinite distance that he has abolished by taking your flesh, by mounting the Cross which men had prepared for him, and by letting himself be put to death so as to show you his love. In his wounds, he takes hold of you; in his wounds, he hides you. Do not refuse his Love!"

In Ineffable Wisdom the Lord has chosen to communicate eternal life through his own passion and death and to draw us into the mystery of what this divine suffering means and does for the whole of creation. He has given us the opportunity to transform our own suffering by uniting it with his and offering it to God the Father. As each Christian grows in maturity they become drawn to the reality of suffering and the cross and their need to submit in obedience to its efficacious work, even as it remains mystery.

1 comment:

MikeF said...

Wonderful post! Thank you, truly, for this joy in the "valley of tears"...