Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Triumph of the Holy Cross: September 14, 2005


Old Testament: “On the way the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, `Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’
“At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel” The people complained to Moses, who brought the affair before the Lord. The Lord said: “’Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived”
(Numbers 21, 4-9).

Jesus Himself makes the interpretation: “Jesus said to Nicodemus: `No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven; and the Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, wo that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (Jn. 3, 13-17).

On August 7, 1931, St. Josemaria Escriva heard during the consecration of the Mass: “a voice, as always, perfect, clear; `and when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself!’ (Jn. 12, 32). And the precise concept: not in the sense of Scripture do I say this to you; I say it to you in the sense that you are to raise Me up in all human activities, in the sense that all over the world there should be Christians with a personal and most free dedication, who will be other Christs.”
“This experience brought with it a deepened sense of the meaning and importance of secularity and of the work of Catholics in all professions and trades. It was precisely in the midst of their normal human activities that the men and women of Opus De were to strive to become other Christs.”

* * * * * * *

This “lifting up” is Calvary, and it is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Benedict XVI wrote on September 11, 2005:

“Next Wednesday, Sept. 14, we celebrate the liturgical feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. In the year dedicated to the Eucharist, this celebration has a particular significance: It invites us to meditate on the profound and indissoluble bond that unites the Eucharistic celebration with the mystery of the cross. Each holy Mass, in fact, actualizes Christ’s redeeming sacrifice. To Golgotha and to the `hour’ of the death on the cross – wrote our beloved John Paul II in the encyclical `Ecclesia de Eucharistia,’ returns `[e]very priest who celebrates Holy Mass, together with the Christian community which takes part in it’ (#14).”

The Mass is the Sacrifice of the Cross:

Benedict XVI wrote:

“We have said that liturgy is festal, and the feast is about freedom, the freedom of being which is there beneath the role-playing. But where we speak of being, we also raise the question of death. Therefore the festal celebration, avove all else, must address itself to the question of death. Conversely, the feast presupposes joy, but this is only possible if it is able to fact up to death. That is why, in the history of religions, the feast has always displayed a cosmic and universal character.”…
“The novel Christian reality is this: Christ’s Resurrection enables man genuinely to rejoice. All history until Christ has been a fruitless search for this joy. That is why the Christian liturgy – Eucharist – is, of its essence, the Feast of the Resurrection, Mysterium Paschae. AS such it bears within it the mystery of the Cross, which is the inner presupposition of the Resurrection. To speak of the Eucharist as the community meal is to cheapen it, for its price was the death of Christ. And as for the joy it heralds, it presupposes that we have entered into this mystery of death.”

What is this death? The exercise of the “priestly soul” with the “lay mentality.” Priesthood means mediation. Instead of mediating between this and that in some extrinsic fashion, Jesus Christ is priest in that He mediates intrinsically between Himself and the Father. His mediation is intrinsic in that He is “priest of His own existence.” He masters Himself to get possession of His (now) whole Self to make the gift of Himself. This is the meaning of freedom that underlies choice. You cannot choose this or that if you have not mastered self to be able to make that choice. Otherwise, you are determined ad unum. The divine Person of the Logos makes the human will of the man Jesus of Nazareth – laden with sin (2 Cor 5, 21) – His own (He exercises the freedom that belongs to God Himself). As His own, Christ, the God-man, obeys the Father with His human will to death on the Cross - for us.
We are baptized into the Person of Christ, and therefore into His Act of Self-mastery and Self-gift. The power to exercise that act is given to us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. To exercise self-mastery/self-gift on the occasion of the ordinary activities of the secular world is to fulfill the words spoken to St. Josemaria, “that you are to raise Me up in all human activities, in the sense that all over the world there should be Christians with a personal and most free dedication, who will be other Christs.” This is not theocratic triumphalism but finding the quid divinum (the becoming “another Christ”) in the quotidian activities of every day.
It also constitutes and increases “secularity” in that it is the most profound exercise of the freedom of autonomy, that is, taking oneself in one’s own hands, mastering self and making the gift of service on the occasion of ordinary secular work. It makes sense of John Paul II’s: “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom” (Veritatis Splendor #85).
The triumph of the Cross, then, consists in constituting people into “other Christs” and hence into eternal life. The Eucharist as Cross then is “like inducing nuclear fission in the very heart of being… Only this intimate explosion of good conquering evil can then trigger off the series of transformations that little by little will change the world. All other changes remain superficial and cannot save” (Benedict XVI at the Concluding Mass in Cologne, Sunday August 21, 2005).
[1] J. F. Coverdale, “Uncommon Faith,” Scepter (2002) 90.

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