Saturday, November 22, 2014

Embrace the Cross with Tenderness and Love

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Are we willing for love to let ourselves be taken where we do not want to go?  And not only willingly but gladly?  Houselander paints an image of love that scandalizes . . . that becomes a stumbling block even for so many who bear the name Christian.  It is the image of Christ embracing the Cross, tenderly taking it into his arms.  It is a gesture meant to show us that he is receiving something not His own but ours.  It is our crosses, our sufferings that He draws close to His heart. 

This gesture is also an invitation.  "Do this in memory of me.  Take hold of your suffering and you will be taking hold of one another and giving My love and life to others."  We carry our cross not for ourselves alone, but for the healing of the world, for the comforting and sweetening of sorrow.  Christ places it into our hands and will make it a life-giving thing, cause it to flower and produce the fruit of redemption.   

“They have put His own garments on Him again, and Jesus comes out from the judgment hall of Pilate to receive His cross. He comes to it gladly! This is a strange thing, for the cross is a symbol of shame, and it is to be His deathbed.  Already He sees the very shape of His death in the widespread arms. From this moment He will be inseparable from it, until He dies on it. He will labor and struggle under the weight of it until the end comes. Yet Christ welcomes the cross. He embraces it, He takes it into His arms, as a man takes that which he loves into his arms. He lays His beautiful hands on it tenderly, those strong hands of a carpenter that are so familiar with the touch of wood.

This is not the first time that Christ has welcomed the wood of the cross. It is only the first time that He has embraced it publicly before the crowds. It is a tremendous gesture showing all peoples His love for them openly, because this cross which He is receiving is their cross, not His; He is making it His own for love of them, taking their crosses and lifting the dead weight of them from the backs of humankind. That is why Christ receives the cross with joy and lays it to His heart. “Bear one another’s burdens,” He told us. Now He takes the burden of the whole world upon Himself.

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Because Christ has changed death to life, and suffering to redemption, the suffering of those who love Him will be a communion between them. All that hidden daily suffering that seems insignificant will be redeeming the world, it will be healing the wounds of the world. The acceptance of pain, of old age, of the fear of death, and of death will be our gift of Christ’s love to one another; our gift of Christ’s life to one another.

No man’s cross is laid upon him for himself alone, but for the healing of the whole world, for the mutual comforting and sweetening of sorrow, for the giving of joy and supernatural life to one another. For Christ receives our cross that we may receive His. Receiving this cross, the cross of the whole world made His, we receive Him. He gives us His hands to take hold of, His power to make it a redeeming thing, a blessed thing, His life to cause it to flower, His heart to enable us to rejoice in accepting our own and one another’s burdens. “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it” (Lk 9:23–24).”

Excerpt From: Caryll Houselander. “Way of the Cross.”