Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Royal Road of the Cross

As many of you have noticed and reminded me, I haven't posted much lately--really, hardly at all since around the beginning of Advent. I guess you could say I've been "pondering all these things in my heart." God seemed to be calling me to a more contemplative life with less public announcemnts of my thoughts, experiences and spiritual musings. I'm not sure why, and to be honest, I'm still trying to make sense of it all. But in obedience I did what I felt I was called to do. But, having said that, I do feel that the time is coming when I will again be posting regularly (so get ready! :) )

Dave and I began to renew our Consecration to Mary on December 31st and thus, are closely approaching our Consecration day of February 2nd (the Feast of the Presentation). Tonight as we were praying, the reading jumped off the page at me and seemed to scream "post me! post me!". So I am. It's amazing how these words, written almost 600 years ago, are just as applicable now as they were then. God truly is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

The part included in Total Consecration to Mary is only a portion of what I have written here, but I found the entire passage so beautiful and powerful I couldn't resist. It's a fairly long read, I'll warn you, but I promise it will be worth it.

No matter what the cross is in your life, I pray that Our Lord and Lady will provide you the grace to carry it willingly, that it might lead you to the desired goal where indeed there shall be no more suffering, but only Jesus.

Bless you all!

From The Imitation of Christ
by Thomas à Kempis (ca. 1418)

To many the saying, "Deny thyself, take up thy cross and follow Me," [Matt. 16:24] seems hard, but it will be much harder to hear that final word: "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." [Matt. 25:41] Those who hear the word of the cross and follow it willingly now, need not fear that they will hear of eternal damnation on the day of judgment. This sign of the cross will be in the heavens when the Lord comes to judge. Then all the servants of the cross, who during life made themselves one with the Crucified, will draw near with great trust to Jesus Christ, the judge. Why, then, do you fear to take up the cross when through it you can win a kingdom? In the cross is salvation, in the cross is life, in the cross is protection from enemies, in the cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness, in the cross is strength of mind, in the cross is joy of spirit, in the cross is highest virtue, in the cross is perfect holiness. There is no salvation of soul nor hope of everlasting life but in the cross. Take up your cross, therefore, and follow Jesus, and you shall enter eternal life. He Himself opened the way before you in carrying His cross, and upon it He died for you, that you, too, might take up your cross and long to die upon it. If you die with Him, you shall also live with Him, and if you share His suffering, you shall also share His glory. Behold, in the cross is everything, and upon your dying on the cross everything depends. There is no other way to life and to true inward peace than the way of the holy cross and daily mortification. Go where you will, seek what you will, you will not find a higher way, nor a less exalted but safer way, than the way of the holy cross. Arrange and order everything to suit your will and judgment, and still you will find that some suffering must always be borne, willingly or unwillingly, and thus you will always find the cross. Either you will experience bodily pain or you will undergo tribulation of spirit in your soul. At times you will be forsaken by God, at times troubled by those about you and, what is worse, you will often grow weary of yourself. You cannot escape, you cannot be relieved by any remedy or comfort but must bear with it as long as God wills. For He wishes you to learn to bear trial without consolation, to submit yourself wholly to Him that you may become more humble through suffering. No one understands the passion of Jesus Christ so thoroughly or heartily as the man whose lot it is to suffer the like himself. The cross, therefore, is always ready; it awaits you everywhere. No matter where you may go, you cannot escape it, for wherever you go you take yourself with you and shall always find yourself. Turn where you will -- above, below, without, or within -- you will find a cross in everything, and everywhere you must have patience if you would have peace within and merit an eternal crown. If you carry the cross willingly, it will carry and lead you to the desired goal where indeed there shall be no more suffering, but here there shall be. If you carry it unwillingly, you create a burden for yourself and increase the load, though still you have to bear it. If you cast away one cross, you will find another and perhaps a heavier one. Do you expect to escape what no mortal man can ever avoid? Which of the saints was without a cross or trial on this earth? Not even Jesus Christ, our Lord, Whose every hour on earth knew the pain of His passion. "It behooveth Jesus Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead, . . . and so enter into his glory." [Luke 24:46, 26] How is it that you look for another way than this, the royal way of the holy cross? The whole life of Jesus Christ was a cross and a martyrdom, and do you seek rest and enjoyment for yourself? You deceive yourself, you are mistaken if you seek anything but to suffer, for this mortal life is full of miseries and marked with crosses on all sides. Indeed, the more spiritual progress a person makes, so much heavier will he frequently find the cross, because as his love increases, the pain of his exile also increases. Yet such a man, though afflicted in many ways, is not without hope of consolation, because he knows that great reward is coming to him for bearing his cross. And when he carries it willingly, every pang of tribulation is changed into hope of solace from God. Besides, the more the flesh is distressed by affliction, so much the more is the spirit strengthened by inward grace. Not infrequently a man is so strengthened by his love of trials and hardship in his desire to conform to the cross of Jesus Christ, that he does not wish to be without sorrow or pain, since he believes he will be the more acceptable to God if he is able to endure more and more grievous things for His sake. It is the grace of Jesus Christ, and not the virtue of man, which can and does bring it about that through fervor of spirit frail flesh learns to love and to gain what it naturally hates and shuns. To carry the cross, to love the cross, to chastise the body and bring it to subjection, to flee honors, to endure contempt gladly, to despise self and wish to be despised, to suffer any adversity and loss, to desire no prosperous days on earth -- this is not man's way. If you rely upon yourself, you can do none of these things, but if you trust in the Lord, strength will be given you from heaven and the world and the flesh will be made subject to your word. You will not even fear your enemy, the devil, if you are armed with faith and signed with the cross of Jesus Christ. Set yourself, then, like a good and faithful servant of Jesus Christ, to bear bravely the cross of your Lord, Who out of love was crucified for you. Be ready to suffer many adversities and many kinds of trouble in this miserable life, for troublesome and miserable life will always be, no matter where you are; and so you will find it wherever you may hide. Thus it must be; and there is no way to evade the trials and sorrows of life but to bear them. Drink the chalice of the Lord with affection it you wish to be His friend and to have part with Him. Leave consolation to God; let Him do as most pleases Him. On your part, be ready to bear sufferings and consider them the greatest consolation, for even though you alone were to undergo them all, the sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come. When you shall have come to the point where suffering is sweet and acceptable for the sake of Jesus Christ, then consider yourself fortunate, for you have found paradise on earth. But as long as suffering irks you and you seek to escape, so long will you be unfortunate, and the tribulation you seek to evade will follow you everywhere. If you put your mind to the things you ought to consider, that is, to suffering and death, you would soon be in a better state and would find peace. Although you were taken to the third heaven with Paul, you were not thereby insured against suffering. Jesus said: "I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name's sake." [Acts 9:16] To suffer, then, remains your lot, if you mean to love Jesus and serve Him forever. If you were but worthy to suffer something for the name of Jesus, what great glory would be in store for you, what great joy to all the saints of God, what great edification to those about you! For all men praise patience though there are few who wish to practice it. With good reason, then, ought you to be willing to suffer a little for Jesus Christ since many suffer much more for the world. Realize that you must lead a dying life; the more a man dies to himself, the more he begins to live unto God. No man is fit to enjoy heaven unless he has resigned himself to suffer hardship for Jesus Christ. Nothing is more acceptable to God, nothing more helpful for you on this earth than to suffer willingly for Jesus Christ. If you had to make a choice, you ought to wish rather to suffer for Jesus Christ than to enjoy many consolations, for thus you would be more like Jesus Christ and more like all the saints. Our merit and progress consist not in many pleasures and comforts but rather in enduring great afflictions and sufferings. If, indeed, there were anything better or more useful for man's salvation than suffering, Jesus Christ would have shown it by word and example. But He clearly exhorts the disciples who follow Him and all who wish to follow Him to carry the cross, saying: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." [Luke 9:23] When, therefore, we have read and searched all that has been written, let this be the final conclusion -- that through much suffering we must enter into the kingdom of God.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Become Humble in Order to Recognise the Greatness of God

Become Humble in Order to Recognise the Greatness of God

VATICAN CITY, 6 JAN 2010 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 10 a.m. today, the Pope presided at Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.

In his homily Benedict XVI commented on the readings from the Book of Isaiah and from the Gospel of St. Matthew, explaining that the Magi "were not the last but the first of the great procession of people who, through all ages of history, were able to recognise the message of the star, to follow the paths indicated by Sacred Scripture, and thus to find Him Who is apparently weak and fragile but Who, in fact, has the power to bring the greatest and most profound joy to the human heart".

"In Him", the Pope continued, "is the expression of the stupendous truth that God knows us and is close to us, that His greatness and power are not expressed in the logic of the world, but in the logic of a defenceless child Whose strength is only that of the love He gives us. In the course of history there are always people who are illuminated by the light of the star, who find the path and manage to encounter Him. All of them live, each in their own way, the same experience as the Magi".

"If, then, we read the promise of the prophet Isaiah and its fulfilment in the Gospel of Matthew within the great context of all history, it is evident that what we are told - and what we seek to reproduce in the nativity scene - is not a dream or a vain interplay of feelings and emotions devoid of strength or authenticity; rather, it is the Truth that irradiates around the world".
"Only in that Child is the power of God made manifest, the power which brings together men of all centuries so that, under His lordship, they may follow the path of love which transfigures the world. And yet, although the few of Bethlehem have become many, believers in Jesus Christ always seem to be few. Many have seen the star but only a few have understood its message".
"We can, then, ask ourselves", said the Holy Father, "why is it that some seek and find, while others do not? What is it that opens their eyes and hearts? What is lacking in those who remain indifferent, in those who show the way but do not move themselves? And we may answer that too much self- confidence, the belief they possess a perfect knowledge of reality, and the presumption of having already formulated a definitive judgement about things makes their hearts closed and insensitive to the novelty of God. They are sure of the idea they have of the world and do not allow themselves to be intimately moved by the adventure of a God Who wants to meet them. They place their trust more in themselves than in Him, and do not believe it possible that God is so great that He can become small, that he can truly draw close to us.
"In the end", he added, "what they lack is the authentic humility capable of submitting itself to that which is greater, but also the authentic courage which brings us to believe in that which is truly great, even if it shows itself in a defenceless Child. What they lack is the evangelical capacity to become children at heart, to be amazed and to abandon the self so as to start down the path indicated by the star, the path of God. Yet the Lord", the Pope concluded, "has the power to make us see and to save ourselves".