Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Friends of the Cross, Part 3

13. Christian holiness consists in this:

  1. Resolving to become a saint: "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine;"
  2. Self-denial: "Let him renounce himself;"
  3. Suffering: "Let him take up his cross;"
  4. Acting: "Let him follow me."
A. If anyone wants to follow me
14. If anyone," says our Lord, to point out the small number of chosen ones willing to conform themselves to Christ crucified by carrying their cross. Their number is so small that we would be dumbfounded if we knew it.
It is so small that there is scarcely one in ten thousand, as has been revealed to several saints, including St. Simon Stylites (as is related by Abbot Nilus), St. Basil, St. Ephrem and others. It is so small that, should it please God to gather them together, he would have to call them one by one as he did of old through his prophet, "You will be gathered one by one;" one from this country, one from that province.

15. "If anyone wants," if anyone has a genuine desire, a determination, not prompted by nature, habit, self-love, self-interest, or human respect, but by the all-conquering grace of the Holy Spirit, which is not given to everyone. "It is not given to all men to know this mystery."
In fact, only a few people have the knowledge of how to live out the mystery of the Cross in daily life. For a man to climb Mount Calvary and allow himself to be nailed to the cross with Christ in the midst of his own people, he must be courageous, heroic, resolute; one who is close to God, and treats with indifference the world and the devil, his own body and his own desires; one who is determined to leave all things, to undertake all things, and to suffer all things for Christ.
You must realise, my dear Friends of the Cross, that should there be anyone among you without this determination, he is only walking on one foot, flying with one wing. He is not worthy to be one of your company, since he is not worthy to be called a Friend of the Cross, which we must, like Jesus, love "with a generous mind and a willing heart."
It only needs one half-hearted member to spoil the whole group, like a mangy sheep. If such a one has entered your fold through the evil door of the world, then in the name of Christ crucified drive him out as you would a wolf from the flock.
16. "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine." If anyone wants to follow me who so humbled and emptied myself that I became a worm rather than a man; who came into the world only to embrace the Cross, to set it in my heart, to love it from my youth, to long for it all the days of my life, to carry it joyfully, preferring it to all the joys and delights that heaven and earth could offer, and not being content till I had died in its divine embrace.
B. Let him renounce himself
17. If anyone, therefore, wants to follow me thus abased and crucified, he must glory, as I did, only in the poverty, humiliations and sufferings of my Cross. "Let him renounce himself."
Excluded, then, from the company of the Friends of the Cross are those who take pride in their sufferings; the worldly-wise, the intellectuals and the skeptics who are attached to their own ideas and puffed up with their own talents. Away from you those endless talkers who make a great show but produce nothing but vanity. Away from you those so- called devout Catholics who in their pride display the self-sufficiency of proud Lucifer wherever they go, saying, "I am not like the rest of men;" who cannot endure being blamed without making some excuse, being attacked without answering back, being humbled without exalting themselves.
Be careful not to admit into your society those delicate and sensitive people who are afraid of the slightest pin- prick, who cry out and complain at the least pain, who know nothing of the hair- shirt, the discipline or other instruments of penance, and who mingle, with their fashionable devotions, a most refined fastidiousness and a most studied lack of mortification.
C. Let him take up his cross
18. "Let him take up his cross," the one that is his. Let that man (or woman) so rare "far beyond the price of pearls," take up his cross joyfully, embrace it lovingly, and carry it courageously on his shoulders, his own cross, and not that of another - his own cross which I, in my wisdom, designed for him in every detail of number, measure and weight; his own cross which I have fashioned with my own hands and with great exactness as regards its four dimensions of length, breadth, thickness and depth; his own cross, which out of love for him I have carved from a piece of the one I bore to Calvary; his own cross, which is the greatest gift I can bestow upon my chosen ones on earth; his own cross, whose thickness is made up of the loss of one's possessions, humiliations, contempt, sufferings, illnesses and spiritual trials, which come to him daily till his death in accordance with my providence; his own cross, whose length consists of a certain period of days or months enduring slander, or lying on a sick-bed, or being forced to beg, or suffering from temptations, dryness, desolation, and other interior trials; his own cross, whose breadth is made up of the most harsh and bitter circumstances brought about by relatives, friends, servants; his own cross, whose depth is made up of the hidden trials I shall inflict on him without his being able to find any comfort from other people, for they also, under my guidance, will turn away from him and join with me in making him suffer.
19. "Let him take up," that is, let him carry his cross and not drag it, or shake it off, or lighten it, or hide it. Instead, let him lift it on high and carry it without impatience or annoyance, without intentional complaint or grumbling, without hesitation or concealment, without shame or human respect.
"Let him take it up" and set it on his brow, saying with St. Paul, "The only thing I can boast about is the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Let him carry it on his shoulders like our Lord, that it may become the source of his victories and the sceptre of his power: "Dominion is laid upon his shoulders."
Let him set it in his heart, where it may, like the burning bush of Moses, burn day and night with the pure love of God without being consumed!
20. "The cross": let him carry it, for nothing is so necessary, so beneficial, so agreeable, or so glorious as to suffer something for Jesus Christ.

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