The Cross the Symbol

The Savior himself spoke of the cross on various occasions and in varying senses. When he foretold his Passion and his death, he had before his eyes in the literal sense the shameful wood of the cross-upon which he was to end his life. But when he said: “whoever does not take up his cross and follow me, is not worth of me,” or ” if anyone wishes to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me,” then is the cross the symbol (Sinnbild) of all that is difficult and oppressive and so against human nature that taking it upon oneself is like a journey to death. And the disciple of Jesus is to take up this burden daily. (The Science of the Cross – St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)

Many Deaths

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)

St.Teresa on Self-denial

“Now, then, the first thing we must strive for is to rid ourselves of our love for our bodies, for some of us are by nature such lovers of comfort that there is no small amount of work in this area.”

“It seems to me an imperfection, my Sisters, to be always complaining about light illnesses. If you can tolerate them, don’t complain about them.”

“Remember how many sick people there are who are poor and have no one to complain to… Learn how to suffer a little for love of God without having everyone know about it.”

“A fault this body has is that the more comfort we try to give it the more needs it discovers. It’s amazing how much comfort it wants… The poor soul is deceived and doesn’t grow.”

“Shouldn’t we suffer just between ourselves and God some of the illnesses He gives us because of our sins? And even more so because by our complaining the sickness in not alleviated.”

(Taken from Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life, Volume 4, St. Teresa of Avila, Ignatius Press)