Today is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the one year anniversary of the Voice of Moreau blog! Thank you to the many Holy Cross educators, sisters, priests, brothers and associates who have participated in this spiritual conversation. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Voice of Moreau: The Cross is the key to our salvation. The Cross is the true altar of sacrifice. The Cross is a pulpit. The Cross is the Bridegroom’s wedding chamber and bed. The Cross is the way to eternal life. The Cross is the palm at the end of the mind. The Cross is the darkness that makes illumination possible. The Cross is medicine for wounded souls. The Cross is the source of life-giving waters that wash us. The Cross is the Tree of Life that feeds and nourishes us. The Cross is the beginning of the Resurrection. The Cross is the seed of mature faith. The Cross is “the image of the invisible God.” The Cross is a stumbling block and scandal to the world. The Cross is the icon of authentic humanity. The Cross is a spiritual blindfold that makes our steps certain. The Cross is the pattern at the heart of the universe. The Cross is the false self broken open. The Cross is our truest and deepest identity. The Cross is a most faithful friend. The Cross is the Beloved for whom our hearts have always longed. The Cross is vulnerability, trust and love. The Cross is our only hope. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Voice of Moreau: While the Cross may seem like an extrinsic reality that is laid upon our shoulders, it is actually intrinsic to the human person. Indeed, because we are made in the image of God (Gen 1:28), we cannot help but to contain the eternal cruci-form in our souls. When we enter into one of life’s many trials or encounter some hardship, yet choose to walk through, the experience assists in clearing away that “stuff” that has come to cover up the Cross within. New age spiritual philosophies might call this awareness or awakening, but this is a bedrock truth of the Christian life, which is why there is so much emphasis on finding in the Gospels: the Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep, the Prodigal Son, the Finding of the Christ Child, the Treasure in the Field, the Pearl of Great Value, and so on. By walking through the gauntlet, all of the clothes that society has hung on the interior Cross and all of the baggage we have accumulated along the way slowly decrease so that the Lord within may increase (Jn 3:30). Let us therefore look forward to the day when, having discovered that precious treasure within, we will exclaim “Voilà!” and “Eureka!” with all of the saints who have walked this path before us. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Voice of Moreau: St. Paul famously exclaims in Galatians, “It is no longer I who live, but Jesus Christ who lives in me” (2:20). This very powerful way of thinking about the Christian life has undoubtedly inspired countless souls to strive ever more ardently for transformation and self-realization. Nevertheless, it is the preceding line which contains the key to reaching this new life: “I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal 2:19). We should not be surprised that the Greek word that Paul uses for “I” is literally ego. That object, idea, vision, dream or image that we hold deeply in our psyches must be brought to an end (Jn 19:29), or crucified with Christ. Though Jesus possessed the eternal “form of God,” he nevertheless “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness” and subjected himself to “death on the cross” (Phil 2:6-8). We who are sinners, who blindly roam this earth, suffering from ego-delusion, must pay attention to this profound and humbling lesson. Only when the false self dies, does the risen Christ, in all of his resurrected glory, appear. Let us therefore roll up our sleeves and clean out our spiritual houses. The Beloved eagerly awaits a home in which to dwell! Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Voice of Moreau: The psychology of C.J. Jung was very focused on archetypes, universal patterns that reveal deep truths about the human psyche. The primary four archetypes, found in each and every human soul, include: The Self, The Shadow, The Persona and The Anima/Animus. Because these dimensions of the subconscious together constitute the experience of being human, we should trust that the Cross embodies the entire drama therein. The naked body of our Lord, stretched out and laid open upon the wood of the Cross, is the image of the Self in all of its vulnerability. The wounds of Christ, in his hands, feet, head and side, are the mark of the Shadow who dwells within us and inexplicably seems to work against our own good. “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” that is, the Messiah, can be likened to the Persona, or role that we each play in life. And while the Animus is the boldness with which Christ crucified proclaims the Good News, especially in the defiant way he confronts both Jewish and Roman authority, the passivity of the Son who hands over his spirit to his heavenly Father should remind us of the Anima. Let us, therefore, not be afraid to engage in the science of psychology to affirm the truth of the Cross. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Voice of Moreau: Have you ever seen Michelangelo’s Last Judgment painting? While none of us is surprised when we see the Cross carrying souls upward to heaven on Christ’s right side, we should all marvel at the “crosses” which appear on Christ’s left. There is a heavy pillar that weighs souls down; there are literal crosses that seem to cause confusion among the damned; there are other objects, such as a knife, keys, arrows and a saw, which these souls cling to as they sink more and more deeply into the underworld. The artist undoubtedly wants to teach us a lesson about the Cross: It is a singular reality, shared by all disciples, raising souls up to their perfection, held only with an open hand, giving true life. If today, at this very moment, judgment were upon us, could we claim to stand with the saints who, “caught up in the clouds,” are prepared “to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thes 4:17)? Have we taken up the true yoke that is easy and accepted the one burden that is light (Mt 11:30)? In a world of false hopes and empty promises, may each of us learn to prefer the Cross and thus float into the freedom of salvation. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Response: “Learning to love the cross as a sign of real hope was the spiritual core of [Blessed] Moreau’s theology. Learning entailed practice, and walking the way of the cross meant recognizing three things for Moreau: that Christ represents the only possible reconciliation between interior dispositions and exterior actions, that union with Christ means union not only with his life but also his death, and that those who learn the mystery of Christ are also learning his resurrection” (Grove and Garwrych, Basil Moreau: Essential Writings, 2014, 45). As students are preparing to return for another year of school, teachers, too, are preparing to accept them into their classrooms. How will teachers educate their students to love the cross as the source of their hope for this world and the next? Certainly, this task begins before the students arrive as teachers are gathered in meetings prior to the first day of classes. As individuals and a corporate entity, teachers must conscientiously plan each class, each week, each semester around that education which forms and nourishes the heart as well as filling the mind with facts. Begin each class a prayer that focuses the mind and instructs the heart to regulate the application of the knowledge for the day. Let the last thing you say to your class be a reminder to walk in the shoes of those around them. A prayer that assists students and teachers to be aware of the many possibilities for taking up the cross throughout the day allows for the practice of the corporal works of mercy that are needed today. In the words of St. James we need to “declare [our] sins to one another, and pray for one another, that [we] may find healing” (James 5:16) and thus to become the compassionate heart of the crucified Lord. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Voice of Moreau: The word “anxiety” comes from the Latin word angustia which means “narrow straits.” To suffer from anxiety is like walking down a long, dark tunnel that seems to have no end. As a society, we think of anxiety as an enemy. There are drugs out there to remove that feeling of narrowness and relax our minds, as well as talk therapy to help people alleviate the emotional heaviness that plagues us. Nevertheless, the experience of anxiety is a unique spiritual opportunity to trust God. Jesus’ mind must have been obscured by a thick fog on the Cross: Why do I have to go through this? How can anything good come out of my death? Where are all of my family and friends? Why have you abandoned me? Yet, he said yes. Truly, the joy of the resurrection is reserved for those who are willing to walk the way of salvation, though they do not understand: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Mt 7:13-14). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Response: St. Paul in his letter to the Romans tells them that “[t]he sufferings of present are nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us” (8:18). We live in a world that is wedded to many forms of promiscuity. It is so easy to be convinced that a pill can readily provide a cure for any ache or pain. That the application of this or that salve will stave off the effects of aging. That the purchase of this or that gadget will make living increasingly more effortless. And so we give in to these enticements only to find out that our anxieties about living are not alleviated but exacerbated because we have been duped yet again. To see our personal suffering as nothing compared to the glory to be revealed is not easy. It takes more than a one-time yes to God. It is a daily yes–an hourly yes for most of us. What comfort can a Holy Cross educator provide? Make a daily commitment to be zealously faithful to teaching the truth about this life’s journey toward heavenly citizenship. The road is hard because the flesh is weak. If there is a curative for all that ails us, it is compassionate mercy. Do not increase the suffering of the via dolorosa. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Voice of Moreau: Taking up the Cross is not some clean and sterile process. Those who think that they have taken up the Lord’s Cross by a single stroke of the pen or by a single decision are mistaken. The work of dying to self, rather, is a lifelong journey – messy, emotional, confusing, uncertain, but most importantly good. Like falling in love, we discover that if we truly desire to be with our Beloved for the long-term, we must learn how to dance instead of cling, how to hold with an open hand, how to say “thank you,” and how to get up when we fall. By doing so, our lives weave a magnificent image of the invisible God (Col 1:15) which reveals the texture and beauty of the scars of the risen Christ. Let us therefore not be afraid to put out into the deep and risk everything (Luke 5:4), trusting that our Father is already waiting for us in the mess (Gen 1:2). Blessed indeed is the God who walks with us through the fiery furnaces of life (Dan 3:24) and whose own Cross bears witness to the glory and salvation reserved for those who are simply willing to jump in. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Response: Taking up the Cross is definitely not done at a specific time as a once-and-for-all-time event. Travelling the road of the Cross–“through the fiery furnaces of life”–takes a recommitment each day, and several times during a single day. The poet Langston Hughes writes that “life ain’t no crystal stair”; definitely life is a steep staircase that each of us must climb if we are to realize citizenship in Heaven. The obvious task for Holy Cross educators is to support students along this arduous climb. Assist students to realize that the woes of this life are only made more bearable if each of us does not add to them. Use this message from St. Paul as your prayer for the beginning of this new school year: “Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things people need to hear, things that will really help them. Be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:29-32). At the beginning of each class, ask your students to jump in for the long haul. No one needs to look far away from home and the school for opportunities to become the healing love of the crucified Christ. Ave Crux Spes Unica!