The Third Fall

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.

Empty Hands


I come before you
with empty hands…
all the secret store of grace
I fling into needy hearts,
crying in the bitter night
of fear and loneliness…..
Spendthrift of your Love
I keep before me
your empty Hands – 
empty and riven 
with the great nails 
hollowing out 
rivers of mercy…..
until all your substance 
was poured out…..
So, I, my Jesus,
with hands emptied 
for your love 
stand confident 
before your Cross,
love’s crimson emblem. 
It is the empty 
who are filled:
those who have made 
themselves spendthrifts 
for You alone,
fill the least 
of your brethren 
while they themselves 
are nourished by your Love…
more and more emptied 
that they may be filled 
with You.

– St. Therese

Sorrowful Mother

sorrowful mother

Mary lived only for her Son and accepted all that happened to Him. This was an excruciating martyrdom for any creature to endure. Her love cost her indescribable suffering – to see her child in so much pain. Yet, this scene at the foot of the cross expresses her love for us too. Her love aided Christ in His mission. She united herself to Jesus by her presence at the foot of the cross uniting her will to the Father’s will at this moment and for this purpose, joining with this her prayers and sacrifices.

She will continue to carry out her mission to lead souls to her Son until the end of time. It is still her mission to help convert sinners and to help believers to grow in holiness.

Oh! What love our Mother has for us! In order to bring us to life she had to give her Son up to death!

The Triumph of the Cross

“Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree.  And if life had not been nailed to it, there would  be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be canceled, we should not have obtained our freedom, we could not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled.”

 (Taken from the Office of Readings – A discourse by Saint Andrew of Crete, bishop)

triumph of the cross

His Gentle Rule


“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. 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.” ~ Matthew 11: 28-30

Christ is calling us to live in docile submission to His gentle rule. He is asking us to take on His yoke. His yoke is sweet, with the sweetness of love, and His burden is light. He calls us to come to Him, all of us who are burdened with the sins of this world, and this burden of sin is heavy.

Therefore, all of us who are in trouble, in sorrow, or in sin should come to Him; not so that He can exact punishment, but so that He may remit our sins. He will remit our sins and “refresh” by setting in us all quietness.

“All you going about tormented, afflicted, and weighted down by your cares and appetites, depart from them, come to me  and I will refresh you; and you will find the rest for your souls that the desires take away from you (Mt. 11:28-29). They are indeed a heavy burden, because David says of them: “For my iniquities are gone over my head; and as a heavy burden are become heavy upon me.” (Ps 37:5)  [St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book I:7,4]

The yoke is the Gospel of Christ. We need to be so familiar with the Gospel so that we can learn from Christ. Learn from Him to be meek in temper, lowly in mind, not going about hurting others or despising anyone. In addition, make sure that the virtues we show in our deeds are also retained in our heart.

“My yoke is sweet and my burden light (Mt. 11:30), the burden being the cross. If individuals resolutely submit to the carrying of the cross, if they decidedly want to find and endure trial in all things for God, they will discover in all of them great relief and sweetness. This will be so because they will be traveling the road denuded of all and with no desire for anything. If they aim after the possession of something, from God or elsewhere, their journey will not be one of nakedness and detachment form all things, and consequently there will be no room for them on this narrow path nor will they be able to climb.”  [St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book II: 7,7]

St. John of the Cross in his Counsels to Religious concerning the practice of virtue says to “undertake all things, agreeable or disagreeable, for the sole purpose of pleasing God through them. To do this with fortitude and constancy and acquire the virtues quickly, you should take care always to be inclined to the difficult more than to the easy, to the rugged more than to the soft, to the hard and distasteful in a work more than to its delightful and pleasant aspects; and do not go about choosing what is less a cross, for the cross is a light burden (Mt. 11:30) The heavier a burden is, the lighter it becomes when borne for Christ.”  [St. John of the Cross, Counsels to Religious no. 5 & 6]

The reward Christ promises for bearing this yoke is rest in our soul. This will make us useful to others and we will also have peace. However, even while submitting to this yoke of Christ we may have to endure some hardships. The Lord says the way is narrow. Indeed the way of virtue is difficult, especially so for the slothful. It may seem that because of these hardships that we are not being called from labor to rest, but from rest to labor. Nevertheless, we are being renewed inwardly and are given a foretaste of rest in God and in the hope of future blessedness with Him in heaven. All things done with love, no matter how hard, are not really hardships because love makes doing the good easy.

The yoke is heavy because of our weak nature, but it becomes light and easy with God’s grace. Christ helps us to bear the yoke. A yoke always joins two. Walk with Him beside you as a friend and all will be sweet and light.

Feast of St. John of the Cross

St. John of the Cross

“In the Carmel of Granada he gave his spiritual daughter, Maria Machuca, the holy habit and the name Maria de la Cruz. She was brought to him in the speak room and it was remarked that he would probably “love her greatly because she was called ‘of the Cross.’ ” He replied: “Indeed I will love her greatly if she is a friend of the cross.” He used to urge the persons with whom he dealt to take the cross into their hearts. They should have “great predilection for suffering, purely for the sake of Christ alone, without seeking any earthly consolation.” Often he would say, “My daughter, ask for nothing other than the cross, and that, in fact, without consolation; for that is perfection.”   (Science of the Cross, Edith Stein p. 276)

Cross and Night

The cross is a symbol of all that is difficult and oppressive and so against human nature. In the writings of St. John of the Cross, however, the prevailing symbol is not the cross but night. What is meant by ‘symbol’? In The Science of the Cross, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross explains that in the broad sense a symbol is everything sensory by which something spiritual is significant. It is everything familiar through natural experience that signifies something unfamiliar (or even that is not perceived naturally). In this broad sense night and cross are symbols.

A sign can be used in place of a symbol; however, a symbol usually represents a broader range of meaning.  An image can also represent someone or something. The difference between a sign and an image is that an image is a likeness; it points to what is image through inner similarity. For example, an image is like a reflection in a mirror. Whoever sees it will immediately be directed through it to the original that is recognized in that image. A sign has no such substantial agreement; the relation is arbitrary. A sign has an arbitrary meaning attached to it that must be told in order to understand it. For instance, a red octagon shape with white letters on it is a commonly recognized sign. A meaning is given to that sign. All, then, understand that meaning and know to stop when it is seen.

The cross is not an image in the strict sense as a symbol is in the broad sense above because there is no immediate perceptibility of similarity between the cross and suffering. The cross has acquired this meaning. It is a sign, but not one that was artificially given to it. It is because of history and its use as a tool that gives the cross this meaning. The cross earned its meaning.

As an emblem the cross is a symbol or figure adopted and used as an identifying mark. Christians identify with this emblem. They will sometimes wear a cross as an identification that they are a Christian.

In contrast with the cross, night is natural, the counterpart of light. It is not literally an object because it is not visible. Night is the absence of light and, though invisible and formless, it can, interestingly, still be perceived.

St. Teresa Benedicta describes, in The Science of the Cross, how night symbolizes the cross, that is in all that is difficult, oppressive and contrary to the will, because it limits the use of the senses, limits the use of movements, weakness strength, banishes in loneliness, and makes shadowy and ghostly.

The physical night, the night of nature, is similar to the spiritual night, or death, that St. John of the Cross describes with this difference: the physical or natural night of human experience is “the moonlight magic night”. Everything in natural night is flooded by a mild soft night. “This softly lit night does not devour things, but instead gives them a glowing nocturnal visage” (appearance). Things can be seen in this “moonlight magic night” only they are not as sharp or clear, rather they are “muted and soothed”. The saint goes on to note that “characteristic traits are revealed that never appear in bright daylight.” What an interesting perspective. An example would be, if while trying to sleep while staying in a noisy, busy part of a town, the quiet hum of the interstate traffic that was drowned out by all the other activity that went on during the day could be heard off in the distance now that it is night and the daytime hustle and bustle has ceased.

So, the night is good and has value, just like the mystical night does. Natural nightfall      “puts an end to the haste and noise of the day, it brings rest and peace.” This has a correlation with the spiritual “night”. The spirit is “freed from the drudgery of the days duties, relaxed and recollected, at the same time it is absorbed in the profound relationships of its own being and life, of the word and the world beyond. And there is a deep, grateful repose in the peace of night.”

In order to understand St. John of the Cross it must be kept in mind one important difference between this mystical, spiritual night and this natural night symbolism. Natural night imposes itself from outside. This mystical night “does not impose itself on us from without, but rather has its origin in the interior of the soul and affects only this single soul in whom it arises.”

The effect this night has on the interior of the soul can be compared to the effects that natural light has:

“it entails a submersion of the exterior world event though outside it is bathed in    bright daylight. It casts the soul into loneliness, desolation and emptiness, stays the activity of all her faculties, frightens her by threatening horrors it conceals within itself.”

Since this is all taking place interiorly in the soul, to look on someone who is experiencing this, would be no different than looking at someone who isn’t experiencing this night. It is all interior.

However, “there is also a nocturnal light that reveals a new world deep in the interior and at the same time illumines the outer world from within so that this outer is given back to us entirely transformed.”

[The Science of the Cross, Edith Stein (pages 35-42), ICS Publications]

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)

Beneath the Apple Tree

Beneath the apple tree:

there I took you for my own,

there I offered you my hand, 

and restored you, 

where your mother was corrupted.    


Beneath the apple tree ……

That is beneath the favor of the tree of the cross (referred to by the apple tree), where the Son of God redeemed human nature and consequently espoused it to himself, and then espoused each soul by giving it through the cross graces and pledges for this espousal. And thus he says:

there I took you for my own,

there I offered you my hand,

That is: There I offered you my kind regard and help by raising you from your low state to be my companion and spouse.

and restored you,

where your mother was corrupted.

For human nature, your mother, was corrupted in your first parents under the tree, and you too under the tree of the cross were restored. If your mother, therefore, brought you death under the tree, I brought you life under the tree of the cross. In such a way God manifests the decrees of his wisdom; he knows how to draw good from evil so wisely and beautifully, and to ordain to a greater good what was a cause of evil.

St. John of the Cross- The Spiritual Canticle, stanza 23