The Cross: The School of Love
† Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
The Cross is the School of Love.
What then is Love? Saint Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians tells us very beautifully (1 Cor. 13):
Charity is to be preferred before all gifts.
1 If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4 Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up; 5 Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child. 12 We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face. Now I know I part; but then I shall know even as I am known. 13 And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.
Love. The Cross is the School of Love because Love is always mystically tied to suffering.
Of the last words of Jesus, in His last discourse to His Apostles right before His Passion, as recorded by Saint John, the apostle whom Jesus loved, who knew the Heart of Jesus, (John 15:13), Jesus said this:
"Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
And we always remember the last words of a dearest dearest friend, because well, they mean very much to us.
The Cross teaches us that Love is Sacrifice. Love = Sacrifice. Love and Sacrifice are 2 things so interconnected, they cannot be separated. If you say you love someone, you say that you are willing to give your life for that someone. And, how beautiful that love is, so gentle, so warm, so tender, so infinite, that He would give up his life, hanging on something most disgusting, in order to bear the burden of our sins, our iniquities?
The Cross indeed is a treasure:
The Passion and The Death of Jesus Christ
By St, Alphonsus Ligouri
St. Augustine says, there is no death more bitter than that of the cross: “Among all the different kinds of death, there was none worse.” Because, as St. Thomas observes, those who are crucified have their hands and their feet pierced through, parts which, being entirely composed of nerves, muscles, and veins, are the most sensitive to pain; and the very weight of the body itself which is suspended from them, causes the pain to be continuous and ever increasing in its intensity up to the moment of death.
But the pains of Jesus were far beyond all other pains for, as the Angelic Doctor (St. Thomas Aquinas) says, the body of Jesus Christ being perfectly constituted, was more quick and sensitive to pain – that body which was fashioned for him by the Holy Spirit, expressly with a view to his suffering as he had foretold; as the Apostle testifies, A body thou hast fitted to Me.- Heb. X.5. Moreover, St. Thomas says that Jesus Christ took upon himself an amount of suffering so great as to be sufficient to satisfy for the temporal punishment merited by the sins of all mankind. Tiepoli tells us that, in the crucifixion, there were dealt twenty-eight strokes of the hammer upon his hands, and thirty-six upon his feet.
O my soul, behold thy Lord, behold thy life, hanging upon that tree: And thy life shall be, as it were, handing before thee.-Deut. Xxviii.66 Behold how, on that gibbet of pain, fastened by those cruel nails, he finds no place of rest. Now he leans his weight upon his hands, now upon his feet; but on what part soever he leans, the anguish increases. He turns his afflicted head, now on one side, now on the other: if he lets it all towards his breast, the hands, by the additional weight, are rent the more; if he lowers it towards his shoulders, the shoulders are pierced with the thorns; if he leans it back upon the cross, the thorns enter the more deeply into the head.Ah, my Jesus, what a death of bitterness is this that Thou art enduring! O my crucified Redeemer, I adore Thee on this throne of ignominy and pain. Upon this cross I read it written that Thou art a king: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews – J.N.R.J. – John, xix. 19. But apart from this title of scorn, what is the evidence that Thou dost give of being a king? Ah, these hands transfixed with nails, this head pierced with thorns, this throne of sorrow, this lacerated flesh, make me well know that Thou art king, but king of Love! With humility, then, and tenderness do I draw near to kiss Thy sacred feet, transfixed for love of me; I clasp in my arms this cross, on which Thou, being made a victim of love, wast willing to offer Thyself in sacrifice for me to the divine justice: being made obedient unto death, the death of the cross – Phil.ii.8. O blessed obedience which obtained for us the pardon of our sins! And what would have become of me, O my Saviour hadst Thou not paid the penalty for me! I thank Thee O my love, and by the merits of this sublime obedience do I pray Thee to grant me the grace of obedience in everything to the divine will. All that I desire paradise for is, that I may love Thee forever, and with all my strength.
Jesus gives us the Cross but He knows how much we can take since He made us and knows us inside out, thus He gives us only that which we are able to carry.
Father gave this phrase from St Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 12: 7-10) which set me thinking. We have Saint Paul here telling us about how he was tempted and how our Crosses are the means to reach our very end, dearest Jesus in Heaven.
"And lest the greatness of the revelations should puff me up, there was given me a thorn for the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to buffet me. Concerning this I thrice besought the Lord that it might leave me. And he has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for strength is made perfect in weakness." Gladly therefore I will glory in my infirmities, that the strength of Christ may dwell in me. Wherefore I am satisfied, for Christ's sake, with infirmities, with insults, with hardships, with persecutions, with distresses. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Confounding words, for when I am weak, then I am strong. Confusing words that showcase very well, the irony of the Cross, the beautiful irony of the Cross. Why do I say so? To one who does not understand the Cross, one might see and say why suffer, why this and why that. The school of the Cross teaches us that Love, is something very beautiful, that love is painful, that it is through Love (Charity) that all things can be conquered. Death was conquered by Jesus through His love for us on the Cross. Only true suffering (in the true sense of the word) do we attain true happiness, for our treasure is in heaven alone. There is a certain sense of joy in suffering for someone you love, only because this joy is brought about by the love that you have for that someone.
As Ruysbroeck wrote: “To be wounded by love is the sweetest solace and the most harrowing torture which a soul can bear. To be wounded by love: there is no fuller assurance that the cure is at hand. This spiritual wound causes joy and pain at the same time."
St. Alphonsus Maria de Ligouri on the Crucifixion and the Love of Jesus the Christ.
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself. But this He said, signifying what death He should die. – John xii. 32
Jesus Christ said that when He should have been lifted up upon the Cross, He would, by His merits, by His example, and by the power of His love, have drawn towards Himself the affection of all souls: “He drew all the nations of the world to His love, by the merit of His blood, by His example, and by His love.” Such is the commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. St. Peter Damian tells us the same: “The Lord, as soon as he was suspended upon the cross, drew all men to Himself through a loving desire.” And who is there, Cornelius goes on to say, that will not love Jesus, who dies for love of us? “For who will not reciprocate the love of Christ, who dies out of love for us?”
Behold, O redeemed souls (as Holy Church exhorts us), behold your Redeemer upon that Cross, where His whole form breathes love, and invites you to love Him: His head bent downwards to give us the kiss of peace, His arms stretched our to embrace us, His heart open to love us: “His whole figure” (as St. Augustine says) “breathes love, and challenges to love Him in return: His head bent downwards to kiss us, His hands stretched out to embrace us, His bosom open to love us.”Ah, my beloved Jesus, how could my soul have been so dear in Thy sight, beholding, as Thou didst, the wrongs that Thou wouldst have to receive at my hands! Thou, in order to captivate my affections, wert willing to give me the extremist proofs of love. Come, ye scourges, ye thorns, nails and cross, which tortured the sacred flesh of my Lord, come ye, and wound my heart; be ever reminding me that all the good that I have received, and all that I hope for, comes to me through the merits of his Passion. O Thou master of love, others teach by word of mouth, but Thou upon this bed of death dost teach by suffering; others teach from interested motives, Thou from affection, asking no recompense excepting my salvation. Save me, O my love, and let my salvation be the bestowal of the grace ever to love and please Thee; the love of Thee is my salvation.
The Passion and the Death of Jesus Christ
St Alphonsus Maria de Ligouri
The Death of Jesus
O God, had the vilest of all men suffered for me what Jesus Christ has suffered; had I beheld a man torn with scourges, fastened to a cross, and made the laughing stock of the people in order to save my life, could I remember his sufferings without feeling for him the tenderest affection? And were the likeness of my expiring lover brought before me, could I behold it with indifference, and say, Oh! the miserable man has died thus in torture for the love of me? Had he not loved me he would not have died for me. Alas, how many Christians keep a beautiful crucifix in their room, but only as a fine piece of furniture! They praise the workmanship an the expression of grief, but it makes as little impression on their hearts as if it were not the image of the incarnate Word, but of a man who was a stranger and unknown to them.
Ah, my Jesus, do not permit me to be one of them. Remember that Thou didst promise that when Thou wouldst be elevated on the cross, Thou wouldst draw all hearts to Thee. Behold, my heart, softened into tenderness by Thy death, will no longer resist Thy calls. Ah, draw all its affections to Thy love. Thou hast died for me, and I wish to live only for Thee. O sorrows of Jesus, O ignominies of Jesus, O death of Jesus, O love of Jesus! May you be fixed in my heart, and may the sweet remembrance of you remain there forever, to wound me continually, and to inflame me with love. O Eternal Father, behold Jesus dead for my sake, and, through the merits of this Son, show me mercy. My soul, be not diffident on account of the sins thou hast committed against God. It is the Father himself that has given the Son to the world for our salvation, and it is the Son that has voluntarily offered Himself to atone for our sins. Ah, my Jesus, since to pardon me Thou hast not spared Thyself, behold me with the same affection with which Thou didst one day behold me, agonizing for me on the cross. Behold me and enlighten me; and pardon particularly my past ingratitude to Thee, in thinking so little of Thy Passion, and on the love Thou hast shown me in Thy sufferings. I thank Thee for the light which Thou givest me, in making me see in these wounds and lacerated members, as through so many lattices, Thy great and tender affection for me. Unhappy me, if, after this light, I should neglect to love Thee, or if I loved anything out of Thee. May I die (I will say with the enamoured St. Francis of Assisi) for the love of Thee, O my Jesus, who hast condescended to die for the love of me. O pierced heart of my Redeemer, O blessed dwelling of loving souls! Do not disdain to receive also my miserable soul. O Mary, O mother of sorrows! Recommend me to thy Son, whom thou dost hold lifeless in thy arms. Behold his lacerated flesh, behold his divine blood shed for me, and see in them how pleasing it is to him that thou shouldst recommend my salvation to him. My salvation consists in loving himl this love thou hast to obtain for me, but let it be a great and eternal love.Commenting on the words of St. Paul, The Charity of Christ presseth us, (Charitas Christi urget nos) – 2 Cor. V.14. St Francis de Sales says: “Since we know that Jesus, the true God, has loved us so as to suffer death, and the death of the cross, for our salvation, must not our hearts be under a press which squeezes and forces love from them by a violence which is strong in proportion as it is amiable?” (Love of God by St Francis de Sales) The saint afterwards says that “the hill of Calvary is the mountain of lovers.” He then adds: “Ah, why, then, do we not cast ourselves on Jesus crucified, in order to die on the cross with him who has voluntarily died upon it for the love of us? I will hold him, we ought to say, and will never forsake him; I will die with him, and will burn in the flames of his love. One and the same fire shall consume this divine Creator and his miserable creature. My Jesus gives himself to me, and I give myself entirely to Him. I will live and die on His bosom; neither life nor death shall separate me from him. O eternal love! My soul seeks Thee, and chooses Thee for eternity. Ah! Come, O Holy Ghost, and inflame our hearts with the love of Thee. Either to love or to die. To die to every other love, in order to live to that of Jesus. O Saviour of our souls! Grant that we may sing for eternity: “Live Jesus; I love Jesus. Live Jesus, whom I love; I love Jesus, who lives forever and ever.”Let us, in conclusion, say: O Lamb of God, who hast sacrificed Thyself for our salvation! O victim of love, who hast been consumed by sorrows on the cross! Oh that I knew how to love Thee as Thou dost deserve to be loved! Oh that I could die for Thee, who hast died for me! By my sins I have been a cause of pain to Thee during Thy entire life; grant that I may please Thee during the remainder of my life, living only in Thee, my love, my all. O Mary, my mother, thou art my hope after Jesus; obtain for me the grace to love Jesus.O Dearest Angels and Saints, please help me!
Jesus invites us to take up our Cross and to follow Him in Charity
As recorded by St John on the island of Patmos near 100A.D. in the Apocalypse (Apocalypse 3:19-21), Jesus said:
As for me, those whom I love I rebuke and chastise. Be earnest therefore and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man listens to my voice and opens the door to me, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me. He who overcomes, I will permit him to sit with me upon my throne; as I also have overcome and have sat with my Father on his throne.
Dear blog readers, please pray for me for a very special intention and also for my upcoming exams. Deo gratias et Mariae. :) My dearest Jesus, Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra!
Dearest Mother dear, beneath thy mantle I kneel, obedient unto death. Help me dear Mother, help me. :)
Deus propitius esto mihi peccatori.
Jesus, Mary, I love Thee; Save Souls!
Jesu mitis et humilis corde, Fac cor nostrum secundum Cor tuum. (ter)