02 July 2008

Taking Up the Cross

I was reading last night from my Young Man's Guide by Father Lasance. There I read an excerpt from Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ. Wow! It was so meaningful to me that I want to share it here. (To borrow from Fr. Z, my emphases and comments)

To many it seemeth a hard saying: "Deny thyself, take up thy cross, and follow Jesus." But it will be much harder to hear that last word: "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." For they who now love to hear and follow the word of the Cross shall not then fear the sentence of eternal condemnation. The Sign of the Cross shall be in Heaven when the Lord shall come to judge. Then all the servants of the Cross, who in their lifetime have conformed themselves to Him that was crucified, shall come to Christ their Judge with great confidence.

Why, then, art thou afraid to take up thy cross, which leadeth to the kingdom? In the cross is salvation; in the cross is life; in the cross is protection from enemies. In the cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness; in the cross is strength of mind; in the cross is joy of spirit. In the cross is height of virtue; in the cross is perfection of sanctity. There is no health of soul, nor hope of eternal life, but in the cross. (We MUST rely on the Cross, we must suffer) Take up, therefore, thy cross, and follow Jesus, and thou shalt go into life everlasting. He is gone before thee, carrying His Cross, and He died for thee upon the Cross, that thou mayest also bear thy cross, and love to die on the cross. Because if thou die with Him, thou shalt also live with Him; and if thou art His companion in suffering, thou shalt also be His companion in glory.

Behold in the Cross all doth consist, and all lieth in our dying; and there is no other way to life and to true interior peace, but the way of the holy Cross, and of daily mortification. Go where thou wilt, seek what thou wilt, and thou shalt not find a higher way above, nor a safer way below, than the way of the holy Cross. Dispose and order all things according as thou wilt, and as seems best to thee, and thou wilt still find something to suffer, either willingly or unwillingly; and so thou shalt always find the cross. For either thou shalt feel pain in the body, or sustain in thy soul tribulation of spirit. (Again, we must accept suffering in order to advance in holiness.)

Sometimes thou shalt be deserted by God: at other times shalt be afflicted by thy neighbor; and what is more, thou shalt often be a trouble to thyself. Neither canst thou be delivered or eased by any remedy or comfort; but as long as it shall please God, thou must bear it. For God willeth that thou learn to suffer tribulation without comfort, and wholly submit thyself to Him, (when we face sufferings, thank God for the blessing and ask him for the grace to accept it!) and become more humble by tribulation. No man hath so heartfelt a sense of the Passion of Christ as he whose lot it hath been to suffer like things. The cross, therefore, is always ready, and everywhere awaiteth thee. Thou canst not escape it, whithersoever thou runnest; for wheresoever thou goest, thou carriest thyself with thee, and shalt always find thyself. Turn thyself upwards or turn thyself downwards; turn thyself inward or turn thyself outward; everywhere thou shalt find the cross. And everywhere thou must of necessity hold fast patience, if thou desirest inward peace, and wouldst merit an eternal crown.

If thou carry the cross willingly, it will carry thee, and bring thee to thy desired end, (our taking up the cross in union with Our Lord in this life will lead us to heaven) namely to that place where there will be an end of suffering, though here there will be no end. If thou carry it unwillingly, thou makest it a burden to thee, and loadest thyself the more and nevertheless thou must bear it. If thou fling away one cross, without doubt thou wilt find another, and perhaps a heavier.

Dost thou think to escape that which no mortal ever could avoid? What Saint ever was in the world without his cross and tribulation? For even our Lord Jesus Christ Himself was not for one hour of His life without the anguish of His Passion. "It behooved," said He, "that Christ should suffer and rise from the dead, and so enter into His glory." And how dost thou seek another way than this royal way, which is the way of the holy Cross?

The whole life of Christ was a Cross and a Martyrdom; and dost thou seek for thyself rest and joy? Thou errest, thou errest, if thou seekest aught else than to suffer tribulation; for this whole mortal life is full of miseries, and everywhere marked with crosses. And the higher a person is advanced in spirit, the heavier crosses shall he often meet with; (Only in this way can we grow in holiness. Also, as we advance in holiness the other sufferings brought on by Satan will increase in sorrow) because the pain of his banishment increaseth in proportion to his love.

Yet such a one, thus many ways afflicted, is not without some relief of consolation; because he is sensible of the very great profit he reaps by bearing the cross. For whilst he willingly resigns himself to it, all the burden of tribulation is converted into an assured hope of comfort from God. And the more the flesh is brought down by affliction, the more is the spirit strengthened by interior grace. And sometimes he gaineth such strength through affection to tribulation and adversity, by his love of conformity to the Cross of Christ, as not to be willing to be without suffering and affliction; because such a one believeth himself to be so much the more acceptable to God, the more and more grievous things he shall have endured for His sake. This is not man's power, but the grace of Christ; (Our fallen nature does not want to give up the things of this world. It is only by the grace of Christ that we can do this.) which doth and can effect such great things in frail flesh, and that what it naturally abhors and flies, even this, through fervor of spirit, it now embraces and loves.

To bear the cross, to love the cross, to chastise the body and bring it under subjection; to fly honors, to love to suffer insults, to despise one's self, and wish to be despised; to bear all adversities and losses, and to desire no prosperity in this world; all this is not according to man's natural inclination. If thou lookest unto thyself, thou canst do nothing of this sort of thyself. But if thou confidest in the Lord, strength will be given to thee from Heaven, and the world and the flesh shall be made subject to thee. Neither shalt thou fear thine enemy, the devil, if thou art armed with faith, and signed with the Cross of Christ.

Set thyself, then, like a good and faithful servant of Christ, to bear manfully the Cross of thy Lord, for the love of Him Who was crucified for thee.



Blogger Anthony M Piferrer said...

I've read almost all of the Imitation of Christ and it is by far the most astounding spiritual book I've read besides the Bible. It is such a priceless tool for spiritual perfection that even non-Christians have used it! Anyways, thanks for the post. I find myself often wondering if, in the course of the day, I am taking into account the fact that I should accept the minor trials that befall me for the sake of offering it as a remembrance of Christ's greatest of trials.

July 05, 2008 5:09 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Knox said...

What!? You read the Bible?? I thought you were a Catholic! :P

July 06, 2008 2:00 AM  
Blogger Anthony M Piferrer said...

No, I wish I could say I have. I often pick it up and read passages, though...I'm not a Bible-worshipper like some P-tants are, though, heheh.

July 08, 2008 4:16 PM  
Anonymous Judy Wibbelsman said...

"Imitation of Christ" is a favorite of mine. It can be found online at ccel.org.

ccel.org has hundreds of cherished Christian classics available online and has a number of book discussion groups that discuss some of the works. The Augustine Study Group just recently started "The Holy Tinity".

Check it out; it's a great resource.

July 13, 2008 6:31 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Knox said...

Thanks, Judy! I will definitely favorite it. Looks pretty good!

July 13, 2008 11:02 PM  

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