The Two Lines of the Cross

 

cross and prayers
Photo taken by me last night (Good Friday) Prayer and Meditation at the Cross, Taize style in my Parish.

 

God will receive everything in your life. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt 22:37). Whatever you devote to society, your work, and your human relations are to be given in such a way that it is not taken from what you give to God. Is this possible? Yes! Through his own example, Jesus has shown it to be. He gave himself completely to us, but in handing himself over he did not in any way leave his Father. To the contrary, it was the Father’s will he lived in, when he turned toward us, and it was the Father’s love he communicated.

It was precisely because Jesus lived so fully in his Father that he was unable to forget the world and humankind. The Father is, after all, Father of us all and loves us all.

The cross shows us that there was no separation between the Father and us in Jesus’ life. It was not an either-or, but rather a both-and. When Jesus reached the culmination of his love for us, he also reached the culmination of his love for the Father.

The cross consists of two beams. The vertical beam expresses our relationship with God. The horizontal beam points to our earthly relations. These two meet each other and become one in the intersection of the lines, the center and locus of the heart of Christ. His heart burns with a singular love, and this love makes him stretch toward the Father and out toward the world to embrace us all.

~ A Meditation by Father Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.

 

 

Good Friday

 

cross of Christ
Photo taken by me at the Parroquia Santa Teresa de l’Infant Jesus in Gràcia (Barcelona, Spain) 

 

John 18: 1-19, 42


The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Saint John.


 

In Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Today is Friday,” three Roman soldiers are unwinding in a Jerusalem bar on a Friday night. It had been a long, hard week. It was Passover, which meant that they had worked double shifts because of the crowds. And to make things worse, a would-be Messiah named Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem the previous Sunday and almost caused a riot. But everything had taken care of itself. Passover was coming to an end, and when Jesus was crucified his disciples dispersed.

While downing their drinks, two soldiers are talking about their day’s work.

1st Soldier: Ain’t I seen ’em? I seen plenty of them [crucified]. I tell you [Jesus] was pretty good in there today.

2nd Soldier: You’re a regular Christer, big boy.

1st Soldier: Sure, go on and kid him. But listen while I tell you something. He was pretty good in there today. (210)

A third soldier remains quiet. He is sick. He had seen just as many crucifixions as the other two, but somehow this one had been different. He cannot put into words how it was different or what he had seen but it had made him sick. The story ends with the soldiers going back to the barracks and one of them saying to his sick comrade, “You been out here too long. That’s all.”

Hemingway’s story reveals one of the ways in which God’s grace breaks into our lives. When we have a new reaction to a routine experience, when we see the old and the ordinary in a new light, we experience revelation. Like the soldier in the story, we may not be able to put into words what is happening to us, but revelation happens not in the explanation so much as in our awareness. How often do we become sick because the tenderness of God’s love exposes the callousness of our lives? At such moments, we can be tempted to say to ourselves something like the soldier said to his comrade. “I’ve been working too hard.” Or “I’m taking myself too seriously.” We can readily dismiss feelings of uneasiness or guilt over a long-standing behavior as nothing but merely a passing mood, when in fact, however, such feelings may contain a divine invitation.

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

 

 

Within the cross is life’s mainstay and consolation, and it alone provides the way to our salvation.
~ Saint Teresa of Avila, O.C.D.

En la cruz está la vida y el consuelo, y ella sola es el camino para el cielo.
~ Santa Teresa de Ávila, Carmelita Descalza 

 

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The Creator Serves His Creation

 

Jesus washing the disciples feet
Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet, art by Jan Lievens c.1630/35

 

When the disciples gather for the meal on Holy Thursday, Jesus is aware that it is the last time he will be together with them. For this reason, everything he says and does has a special significance. Every moment is filled with meaning. Jesus leaves his legacy.

He kneels before his friends and washes their feet, a service normally carried out by a house slave. John, who recounts this episode, emphasizes two things.

First, the devil has already given Judas the idea to betray Jesus. Jesus doesn’t wash the feet of the disciples because they are good and loving. He does it because he loves them with a love that can do nothing but go on loving until the end. Jesus makes himself small before them. Even Judas—already possessed by the devil—sees his master at his feet.

John emphasizes, secondly, that Jesus is wholly conscious that the Father has handed him everything, that he has come from God and is now returning to him. At this hour, Jesus knows he is God. The gesture he is making is not just friendliness toward one’s companions. Neither is it a teacher’s example of humility. What happens is that God kneels before his creation and serves it. God has not only become human, he becomes the slave of humankind and takes the absolute lowest place.

Before this mystery it is both comical and ridiculous to observe our propensity for wanting to dominate others, and maintain our rights and dignity. If we want to be like God there is only one way: to bend low and serve.

 

~ A Meditation by Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.

 

Wishing you all a very blessed and prayerful Sacred Triduum!

The Hour of Redemption

 

Last Supper art by Rubens 1631-32
Last Supper, art by Rubens (1631-32)

 

Night has fallen. The terrible sin — that of killing the Lord — the epitome of all sin, is as good as accomplished. And Judas goes off . . .

Night has fallen indeed and yet, within the supper room there is a cry of exultation that is, in itself, a shattering of the night. ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’

Jesus is to die, and he accepts this with all the passionate commitment of his surrendered heart — so deep, so unrestricted is his love for us. His is Love to the end, the uttermost love, which is total self-expenditure.

He knows that the love driving him on is not born of the human spirit; he knows that the Father himself is pouring into his poor human heart the immensity of his own self-expending love for men.

When he hangs on the cross, naked, emptied out, reduced to nothing, we shall have some idea of what this Man is, who he is, Son of eternal Love itself. Looking on him, seeing him truly for the first time, we shall know what sort of a God we have; for the first time human beings will know what God is really like.

He is a complete reversal of all merely human notions of God: he is Love that gives.

We wounded him by our sinning — we bruised him — yet all he bore became our healing.

 

~ A Meditation by Ruth Burrows, O.C.D.

 

 

Father the hour has come, glorify your Son.
~ John 17:1 

Mary of Bethany

 

Mary of Bethanywashing of the feet art by gisele bauche
Art by Gisele Bauche

 

Mary brought in a pound of every costly ointment.
~ John 12:3

 

Here we are shown a woman who was truly a disciple, one with a listening ear. She was a woman for whom Jesus really mattered, more than anything else in the world, more than herself.

She saw life’s sole task as listening to the Lord, hearing the word of God’s, which always includes putting it into practice. We do not ‘hear’ in the biblical sense unless the hearing is translated into action. Like Martha, Mary too must have had many things to do but still only one sole purpose — to listen to the Lord.

The result was a deep knowledge of Jesus, of the hidden springs of his being, so to speak. As Jesus could say ‘Holy Father the world has not known you, but I have known you’ — because he lived on the Father’s will, so this woman could say, ‘Holy Jesus, the world has not known you, but I have known you.’

Thus she, of all others it seems, divined that he was to die and that this dying was his Father’s will. She did not raise an outcry, or plan a campaign to stop him going to Jerusalem. She had entered into his deepest inner movements, no matter how dimly. She came with her symbolic gesture of pure devotion, identification, anointing him for his burial.

There is nothing else a disciple can do — no heroics, no glib professions that we are ready to die with him, but rather deep humility, deep gratitude for what he is doing. He has to do it in order to destroy our sin, our alienation from the Father. Then we shall be able to follow him.

Mary of Bethany is the symbol of Christian discipleship. If we do not come to this deep knowledge what does it mean? Yes, there is a Mary in us all, a devoted woman, but each of us has also to recognize a potential Judas, the worldling whose values are completely opposite to those of Jesus. Judas scorns the folly of the cross, the way of lowliness, humiliation, unimportance. He scorns the gesture of dumb, simple devotion. He is opposed to the mind of Christ who humbled himself, became nothing . . .

Judas too is capable of conversion. Ask our Lord with great earnestness to convert him wholly. Then there will be nothing in any of us but pure devotion — and the house will be filled with sweetness, refreshing the world.

 

~ A Meditation by Ruth Burrows, O.C.D.

 

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

 

yelena-cherkasova-the-entrance-of-the-lord-into-jerusalem-undated
The Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem, art by Yelena Cherkasova

 

 

Cycle C: Luke 22: 14 – 23, 56


Today’s gospel is the Passion according to Saint Luke.


 

One of the priests executed during the Mexican Revolution was Miguel Pro. A famous photograph of his execution shows him with his arms outstretched in the form of a cross. The government took the photograph, mass produced it, and distributed it among the people as a means of both mocking the Church and showing people who was in charge. But within a year, the government banned the photo because it had become an icon of adoration among the Mexican people.

Where does real power reside? Pilate’s statement, “Do you not know that I have the power to release you, and the power to crucify you” is an illusion, for Jesus laid down his life of his own free will. At times, power seems to lie in the hands of the rulers of this world, but in due time, the truth emerges that it lies in the hands of God.

One of the truths embedded in the Passion of Jesus is that the reality of any given situation comes to light in God’s time. What looked like defeat on Good Friday was disclosed as the triumph of God’s love on Easter Sunday. The import of this truth for our lives is that no act of love is ever wasted. Every time we do the will of God, in spite of all appearances, we contribute to the redemption of the world. We may never see the positive impact of our good deeds; nevertheless, if they are acts of Love they are guaranteed by God.

“Love,” writes Evelyn Underhill, “after all, makes the whole difference between an execution and a martyrdom” (55). If the Crucifixion had not been an act of Divine Love, it would have been no more than a routine execution in a remote corner of the Roman Empire.

The same is true with us. Because we are members of the Body of Christ, whenever we unite our actions with Christ upon the Cross, they are redemptive. Love transforms the banal actions of daily life into divine deeds that plant the seeds of God’s transforming love in our world.

 

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

 

 

The Sign of the Cross

The lovers of Christ lift out their hands to
the great gift of suffering.
For how could they seek to be warmed and clothed
and delicately fed,
to wallow in praise and to drink deep draughts
of an underserved affection,
have castle for home and a silken couch for bed,
when He the worthy went forth, wounded and hated,
and grudged of even a place to lay His head?

This is the badge of the friends of the Man of Sorrows:
the mark of the cross, faint replica of His,
become ubiquitous now; it spreads like a wild blossom
on the mountains of time and in each of the crevices.
Oh, seek that land where it grows in a rich abundance
with its thorny stem and its scent like bitter wine,
for wherever Christ walks He casts its seed
and He scatters its purple petals.
It is the flower of His marked elect, and the fruit
it bears is divine.

Choose it, my heart. It is a beautiful sign.

 

~ A poem by Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit (Jessica Powers), O.C.D. 

 

 

cross and purple roses
By artist Debi Coules

 

 

Wishing you all a very blessed Holy Week!

 

 

 

All for God

 

Jesus The Forest Meeting by Amy McCutcheon
Art by Amy McCutcheon

 

Happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear!
~ Matthew 13:16

 

We must resolve to put the whole of our sense life at God’s service. We must refuse to use our senses except when their exercise is for the honour and glory of God.

We can so easily presume that the whole bent of our being is to God, and fail to recognize how we allow ourselves dangerous distractions; how we allow ourselves to notice and nose into other people’s business; how we yield to useless curiosity, indulge ourselves in countless ways.

Hold up! Fix your eyes on the perfect Son. Hold yourself in your hands so that your activities are controlled, that you know what you are doing, and are not drifting by carelessly occupied with trifles, occupied with yourself.

Our whole way of life should be helping us to this true recollection, this concentration on God. Sustained discipline is absolutely essential if we are to belong to God.

‘Many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see and never saw it, to hear what your hear, and never heard it.’ Let’s weigh these words.

How utterly privileged we are to know Christ Jesus our Lord. How privileged to have access to his words, his thoughts . . . Do we really see this as an unheard of privilege?  We shall answer that question truthfully by looking at what we do. Are we always most seriously, with everything we have in us, trying to get to know him and trying to live according to his teaching?

. . . The torch is sweeping slowly round our room. Do we want to see the cobwebs? Do we want to remove them? Or do we allow our eyes to rest on them for a brief moment only, and then go on just as before.

 

~ A Meditation by Ruth Burrows, O.C.D.

 

Jesus, holy and beloved
hold me always in your ‘yes’.
Let nothing matter to me from this moment
but the Father’s good pleasure,
the coming of his kingdom.
Let me not matter to myself.
I have only one short life in which to love
in difficulty and pain,
trusting in the dark and non-seeming.
Opportunities come and pass forever,
never to return.
Let me not miss one,
let my life be lived in total love:

There is no other way of living a truly human life.