From who or what do we draw our strength to meet the challenges of everyday life? What do we use as the paradigm for the meaning of what is occurring and our right response and/or participation?
Jesus testifies and the apostles amplify the testimony that it was His passion and death – His cross.
If that is the case then it should be our testimony too. Not a testimony that “gets us saved” but one that informs how we live every moment of every day; and how we respond to every event and situation. It is a testimony that is characteristic of our “journey of salvation.” It is a permanent testimony not just one that gets us started in the Christian life and is then filed away. No. The Christian life is the cross-shaped life. At first it is perhaps vaguely cross-shaped. How and why is this so? Well, as I understand it, every event and circumstance, no matter how pleasant is considered and participated in by us in a cross-shaped manner.
That last statement should touch something of the wrong-headed impression we have of the cross and taking it up. We, at least I am, tempted to continue to think of it in grime ways, as an unfortunate necessity. We think that cross-shaped events are ones that have gone wrong and become cross-shaped.
Well, there you have it. It is this presupposition that robs us of the joy of the cross, albeit a painful joy. It is this presupposition St. Paul opposes and rejects on so many occasions in his letters.
So, as we grow/mature into the likeness of Christ the shape becomes more and more defined – permanently. We GLORY in the cross, not from a distance. We glory in the cross by having our life become a living cross by the grace of God.
In the Divine Liturgy, the priest articulates the many facets of God’s saving work. The cross is one of them. Here is the prayer.
May He Who rose from the dead, Christ our true God, a good, loving, and merciful God, have mercy upon us and save us, through the intercessions of His most pure and holy Mother; the power of the precious and life-giving Cross; the protection of the honorable, bodiless powers of heaven; the supplications of the honorable, glorious, prophet, and forerunner John the Baptist; the holy, glorious, and praiseworthy apostles; the holy, glorious, and triumphant martyrs; our holy and God-bearing Father (name); the holy and righteous ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna; Saint (of the day) whose memory we commemorate today, and all the saints. May the blessing of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and His mercy come upon you through His divine grace and love now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Please understand that I in no way can proclaim my own life to stand up to this test. I struggle on, “press on” by the grace of God, to become victorious over all the passions that war against the desire to become the living cross by grace. The living testimony of the victorious power of self-giving love. Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.
Here is what St. Thomas Aquinas says:
Some people draw glory from their knowledge, but the apostle Paul finds supreme knowledge in the cross. “No, he says, I desired to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ crucified” (1Cor 2,2). Is not the cross the fulfilment of the whole law and art of living well? To those who glory in their own power, Paul can answer that he draws matchless power from the cross: “The language of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1Cor 1,18). Do you draw glory from the freedom you have gained? Paul draws his from the cross: “Our old self was crucified with him… that we might no longer be in slavery to sin” (Rm 6.6).
Yet others draw their glory from being chosen as members of some famous group or other; but as for us, through Christ’s cross we are invited to the congregation of heaven. “Reconciling all things, whether those on earth or those in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1.20). And finally, some people glory in the insignia of victory bestowed on the victorious, but the cross is the triumphal standard of Christ’s victory over demons: “He destroyed Principalities and Powers, making a public spectacle of them, leading them away in his triumphal procession” (Col 2,15)…
What is it that the apostle Paul wants to glory in above all else ? In that which can unite him to Christ. What he desires is to be with Christ. Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), “Commentary on the Letter to the Galatians, Chapter 6”