Lent with St Edith Stein Day 17: The Message of the Cross

Lent with St Edith Stein Day 17: The Message of the Cross

“They have waged an unrelenting battle against their nature, that the life of sin might die in them and room be made for the life of the spirit. That last is what is important. The cross has no purpose of itself. It rises on high and points above. But it is not merely a sign—it is Christ’s powerful weapon; the shepherd’s staff with which the divine David moves against the hellish Goliath; with it he strikes mightily against Heaven’s gate and throws it wide open. The streams of divine light flow forth and enfold all who are followers of the Crucified.”

St Edith Stein, The Science of the Cross

               We see the message of the cross throughout sacred scripture. In Luke 9:23-24, Jesus tells his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” The cross comes to represent all that is difficult. No matter how large or small a burden is, it becomes our “cross to bear.”

               The cross, however, is more than that. It is an intentional walk to our death. A few weeks ago at Ash Wednesday, many of us heard something along the lines of “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return,” as we received our ashes. Even though death is inevitable, we seek to preserve ourselves, to protect ourselves. Furthermore, we seek to enrich ourselves, to do what gives us more.

               Our natural desire to preserve and enrich ourselves isn’t objectively bad, but it lies at the center of so many sins. Lying, cheating and greed all come from an distorted desire to look after ourselves. So the cross is in conflict with human nature. Carrying our cross is not only acknowledging our physical death, it is expediting our interior death. We deny ourselves and die to ourselves. For some, this can even mean physical death through martyrdom.

                The cross is a message in and of itself. St Paul noted that he preached the gospel but not with eloquent wisdom and not with miraculous signs. Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection are enough. This is what gives life to us when our souls have died off through sin. The cross is our only claim to glory. The message of the cross is enough.

              The cross is a weapon against evil that enables us to die to self, to step out of our own way. It empowers us to lay aside our self-preserving and self-enriching nature. The more we deny ourselves, the closer we can become to Jesus and the richer our participation in the divine life.

                We are nearly halfway through Lent. If you are feeling the struggle, don’t give up. I was just pondering that perhaps I misunderstood the rules of my sacrifices in an attempt to find an excuse to cheat. Let’s remain steadfast. Keep praying, keep denying ourselves, and find little ways that we can give to others.

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