The Way of the Cross is a devotion in which the faithful follow the journey of Christ’s last day on earth. Through this devotion the Church has walked from the Mount of Olives to the hill on Calvary with Christ for many years. The Holy Land was a place of particular devotion to the Medieval Christians. Pilgrims would go to Jerusalem, walk the same path of sorrow, with stops along the way to meditate on the events of his passion, and consider the suffering of Christ.
The cross was a burden that Christ took upon himself. That burden is corrupt human nature, sin and suffering that all men are subject to in this life. However the “meaning of the way of the cross is to carry this burden out of the world.” (Hidden Life, p. 91 The Collected Works of Edith Stein, ICS Publications)
Jesus falls on the way to Calvary three times, and the “triple collapse under the burden of the cross corresponds to the triple fall of humanity: the first sin, the rejection of the savior by his chosen people, the falling away of those who bear the name of Christian.” (Hidden Life, p. 92)
The sin of our first parents brought sin and death, but Jesus freed mankind from sin and weakness by traveling this way of the cross. He embraced his passion and crucifixion so that through baptism, with the promises made to renounce sin and Satan, and through our sufferings we may rise with him in the newness of life free of self centeredness and full of joy and service to others.
Isaiah’s prophesies of the Lord’s passion were clear to all who had eyes to see. It was “our sufferings that he endured” and “he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins”. He was also “ harshly treated” and “a grave was assigned him among the wicked” although “he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood.” (Isaiah 53) Yet many of the chosen people rejected him as the Messiah. Even today many still reject Christ as savior. Thus the reason for the second fall.
It is the third fall that is of particular concern for our time. There seems to be so much falling away from the faith. Who doesn’t know of someone who once believed and now no longer practices the faith or even believes in God anymore? This is the cause of much heartache, especially when the person who has fallen away is held so dear and loved so much.
Therefore it is for this third fall that we are called to assist the Lord by helping him bear the cross. Jesus was not alone while he made this way to Calvary carrying the cross. There was Simon of Cyrene, Veronica and his mother to accompany him, as well as all the people who love him, and it was “the strength of these cross bearers” that helped “him after each of his falls.” (Hidden Life, p. 92)
Since by Christ’s example we know that suffering is the proof of God’s love for all mankind, we can love the cross and bear with our own sufferings and trials for the love of God and help him carry this burden out of the world. By bearing this burden we become united to God, to glorify him and prove our love for him and for others.
Lent is such a good time of God’s grace. St. Therese of Lisieux expresses this well in this stanza:
Living on Love is keeping within oneself
A great treasure in an earthen vase.
My Beloved, my weakness is extreme.
Ah, I’m far from being an angel from heaven!…
But if I fall with each passing hour,
You come to my aid, lifting me up.
At each moment you give me your grace:
I live on Love.
(Poem 17, p. 91 The Poetry of Saint Therese of Lisieux, trans. Fr. Donald Kinney, OCD, ICS Publications)
Isn’t this just what we are all doing?!?! Keep on living on love faithful readers!
In today’s new video, Dan Burke demonstrates how to set up a sacred space for prayer, in order to help facilitate meditation. The post How to Set Up a Sacred Space (Video) appeared first on SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction.
Fasting is one of the principle means of making satisfaction for sins. By abstaining from eating all that is available to eat, one can do penance for sins, making reparation for them. Also one can gain strength against future sins by this self-imposed penance. Fasting is a way to chastise the body for the sins the body has committed. Additionally denying oneself the pleasure of eating helps to bring the body into control and subject to the soul.
St. John of the Cross tells us to keep in mind the value of our good works, fasts, alms and penances. Firstly the value of these is “not based on quantity and quality so much as on the love of God practiced in them”. (Ascent Book 3 Chap. 27) So our good works, fasts, almsgiving and penances should be done for the love of God, and we “should not set (our) heart on the pleasure, comfort, savor and other elements of self-interest (like trying to lose weight) these good works and practices usually entail, but recollect (our) joy in God and desire to serve him through these means.”
As always regarding fasting we have Christ for our example. He is perfect, so we do not see any extremes to the virtue he models for us. He did practice fasting and abstinence, though he did not need to do this. He had perfect control over his desires and the appetites. In gaining control over the sense appetites prudent discretion is in order. We are not to “kill (ourselves) with penances” and “weaken (ourselves) by fasts”. (Dark Night, Book 1, Chap 6) The idea is virtue, which is the mean between extremes. We should be doing our fasting with the proper motivation which is to repair the damage done by our sinfulness and to gain strength for future temptations to sin.
Fasting is also good because the mind is dulled when the body overeats. When one indulges in too much, the mind becomes sleepy and unable to meditate or pray with attentiveness.
The Church has us fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. These are the days Catholics usually associate with fasting. Fasting during these penitential days of Lent is defined as one normal meal and two smaller meals that together do not equal a full meal. Snacking in between meals would also be excluded as part of the fast. The Church additionally ask us to fast before receiving Holy Communion. We are to fast from food and drink, with the exception of water, for one hour before receiving the Eucharist. It is good to be reminded as to why we are obliged to do this. We do the Eucharistic fast out of respect for the sacrament. We are about to received Jesus, and therefore it is fitting that we should not eat or drink other substances prior to receiving the Lord’s Body and Blood.
“Remember and do not forget how you angered the LORD, your God, in the wilderness. From the day you left the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious toward the LORD. At Horeb you so provoked the LORD that he was angry enough to destroy you, when I had gone up the mountain to receive the stone tablets of the covenant which the LORD made with you. Meanwhile I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I ate no food and drank no water. The LORD gave me the two stone tablets inscribed, by God’s own finger, with a copy of all the words that the LORD spoke to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. Then, at the end of the forty days and forty nights, when the LORD had given me the two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant, the LORD said to me, Go down from here now, quickly, for your people whom you have brought out of Egypt are acting corruptly; they have already turned aside from the way I commanded them and have made for themselves a molten idol.” (Dt. 9: – 7-12)
It took only forty days for Israel to turn away from God to worship a golden calf while their leader was away.
How quickly they forgot His loving care in the desert and what He had done for them in leading them out of Egypt. How quickly I forget about Him and His love for me!
Lent is a time to turn back to God.
The forty days of Lent can be used as a time to reflect on what He has done for us when He gave His Son up for us as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to redeem us from our sins and make us acceptable and pleasing to Him.
Where have I abandoned my worship of God to worship a false god?
How ungrateful and forgetful have I been?
Do I give any thought of His Love?
Do I recognize His kindness to me?