Choose what bears close resemblances to the cross.
Lent is a time to practice self-denial. I think that the term ‘self-denial’ should really be changed to ‘deaths’.
Death can occur on many different levels. One can die on the natural level, that is death of the body, where there is no longer any breath left, no pulse or heart beat, no life. There can also be death in the events in one’s life, that is, in the temporal and material things that one has: loss of material goods and property, jobs, support from others and things like that.
Deaths in the will– this is where the death really occurs. This is what self-denial really means, to die in the will. Yet, I am so attached to my will, to the things I want, the way I want them, when I want them.
But I am a follower of Christ. As His follower I am to pick up my cross and follow Him. How? He tells me to follow him. Follow his ‘deaths’, his ‘many deaths’.
The chalice – “can you drink?” – the chalice means death to one’s natural self. This occurs through denudation (being stripped of everything: possessions, status, assets and even clothes); and annihilation: reduced to nothing. Christ certainly did this in His sacrifice on the cross.
On the narrow road – there is only room for self-denial and the cross on this road. Christ certainly walked and lived this path of the narrow road. He invites me to walk this narrow road. “How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” (Matt 7:14)
The cross is a supporting staff and it greatly lightens and eases the journey.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matt 11:29-30)
“The journey then… is in the living death of the cross.”
“The more completely he is annihilated for God’s sake, according to these two parts, the sensual and the spiritual, the more completely is he united to God and the greater is the work which he accomplishes. And when at last he is reduced to nothing, which will be the greatest extreme of humility, spiritual union will be wrought between the soul and God, which in this life is the greatest and the highest state attainable. This consists not, then, in refreshment and in consolations and spiritual feelings, but in a living death of the Cross, both as to sense and as to spirit — that is, both inwardly and outwardly.”
(Ascent of Mount Carmel Book II, 7, 11)