Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Crux fidelis inter omnes"

We had a wonderful School of Community last night. We spent a good portion of our time together discussing this passage from Is It Possible to Live This Way?: An Unusual Approach to Christian Existence, Vol. 3 Charity:

"On Good Friday, we sing the hymn of the cross, Crux fidelis inter omnes, faithful cross, true tree among trees, tree that doesn't die. So, Jesus's sacrifice - which is the great value that saves the world from all its misery and from death - becomes our value if we participate in it, if we accept from Christ the method He establishes for making us participate in His sacrifice. For example, He sends me an illness, He makes me be treated unfairly, He disappoints me in love, He makes me sacrifice an affection" (pg. 74). The last phrase, I think, means to give up something I love. So, what is this method established by Christ for making me participate in His sacrifice? Suffering. I participate in Christ's sacrifice by making of my suffering an sacrifice. In conventional Catholic terms, "offering it up."

Just as there is a difference between something happening to you and truly experiencing it, there is a difference between suffering, which has no value, and sacrifice, which is the way suffering has a value. My suffering is redemptive insofar as I make of it an offering to God in union with Christ's perfect sacrifice. This is no proposal of passivity or fatalism. At least in the first instance, I am referring to unavoidable suffering, that which happens to me over which I have no control, or, as another put it last night, when I feel as though I am playing a role in someone else's movie. In order to offer my suffering to God in union with Christ's sacrifice, I have to make a judgment, a choice about how I will respond. Only by judging it can I understand what is happening and only by understanding it can I offer it. Otherwise, I just suffer, wondering why. I become passive and forgetful in the face of being.

This morning I awoke thinking of all this, thinking of the devastation being experienced by the people of Haiti, with these words of St. Paul in my mind:

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you" (2 Cor. 4:7-12).

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