LENT: Cross And Sacrament, by Evelyn Underhill

From Light of Christ

To look at the Crucifix – “the supreme symbol of our august religion” – if we do that honestly and unflinchingly we don’t need any other self-examination than that, any other judgment or purgation.  The lash, the crown of thorns, the mockery, the stripping, the nails – life has equivalents of all these for us and God asks a love for himself and his children which can accept and survive all that in the particular way in which it is offered to us.  It is no use to talk in a large vague way about the love of God; here is its point of insertion in the world of men.

What about the dreadful moment when a great test of courage, great suffering, a great bereavement faced us and we knew we were for it and found the agony was more than we could face?  The revelation that someone we trusted could not be trusted any more, that someone loved profit better than they loved us?  How do we feel when we have to suffer for someone else’s wrongdoing?  How do we bear mockery and contempt, especially if it is directed at our religious life or at the unfortunate discrepancy between our religious life and our character?  What about the sting, the lash, or humiliation or disappointment, the unfortunate events that stripped us of the seamless drapery of self-respect and convention and left us naked to the world; the wounds given by those we loved best; the loneliness inseparable from some phase of the spiritual life?  All this happens over and over again.  Can we weave it all into the sacrifice of love?

There is a type of ancient picture which shows all the sacraments centered in and dependent from the cross: the love self-given there giving itself forever to men, the undying source of grace and purification and truth.  It is a wonderful image of what the Christian church and Christian life really are, a continuation of the incarnation.  It reminds us that the Spirit of Christ is now living and truly present with and in his church, his family, his mystic body, and, because of his one eternal sacrifice ever giving us his life, and that we are utterly and entirely dependent on that life as branches on the vine, his touch still cleansing us, his hand still feeding us.  Either secretly or sacramentally all living Christians are perpetual penitents and perpetual communicants, there is no other way of carrying on.  The Eucharist represents a perpetual pouring out of his very life to feed and enhance our small and feeble lives.  Think only of that as we kneel before the window of his passion and a wonderful joy and gratitude tempers our shame.

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