Meditation 9: There is No Christ without the Cross

A Meditation Novena in the Footsteps of St. Thérèse

written by Fr. Todd Arsenault, LC

Meditation 9:
There is No Christ without the Cross

The cross is perhaps the last place instinctively we would think of looking for Christ, but when St. Francis of Assisi was praying and seeking the will of God he prayed before the St. Damian cross, and Christ spoke to his heart telling him: Rebuild my church! But St. Francis also understood that his life needed to be like that of Christ who embraced the cross as his greatest act of love to the Father and for our salvation. Christ transformed what was regarded as evil–death by Roman crucifixion–and changed it into the only way to gain eternal life. The cross in our life is not to be rejected and avoided but transformed in the love of Christ! St. Francis radically lived the Gospel and embraced the cross as his friend, accepting total poverty and dependence on God over the wealth he was born into. He made his life a living witness to his love and imitation of Christ, even to the point that the Lord gifted him with the five wounds of Christ. St. Thérèse of Lisieux also shows us the importance of the cross in discovering Jesus!

To Live of Love (a poem by St. Thérèse of Lisieux)

3.  To live of love, ’tis by Thy life to live,
O glorious King, my chosen, sole Delight!
Hid in the Host, how often Thou dost give
Thyself to those who seek Thy radiant light.
Then hid shall be my life, unmarked, unknown,
That I may have Thee heart to heart with me;

4.  For loving souls desire to be alone, With love, and Thee!
To live of love, ’tis not to fix one’s tent On Tabor’s height
and there with Thee remain.
Tis to climb Calvary with strength nigh spent,
And count Thy heavy cross our truest gain.
In heaven, my life a life of joy shall be,
The heavy cross shall then be gone for aye.
Here upon earth, in suffering with Thee, Love! let me stay.

Scripture passages for reflection: Galatians 6:14-17 (Our boast is in the cross of Christ) & 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

St. Paul’s boast in Galatians is in the cross of Christ, dying to the world and becoming a new creation by baptism. In Baptism we die with Christ in the waters and rise to new life in his Resurrection. If Christ is my reward, then I will find him on the cross! Reflect on this reality of becoming a new creation by means of the cross and how you die with Christ on the cross to rise with him. What do the words “Peace and mercy” invoke in you by contemplating the cross?

In 1 Corinthians 1, St. Paul speaks about the foolishness of the cross to the mindset of the world. When our minds are darkened to God, the cross becomes a thing of folly and a stumbling block. Our pride makes it impossible to see how God in the flesh could allow himself to suffer such a thing and appear so weak and defeated. His divinity appears hidden to the world, and thus they say, “see he was just a crazy man.” But the Resurrection says otherwise. His redemptive suffering changes everything, and the world’s wisdom is exposed for its hopelessness and emptiness. Do I see that faith in Christ and his word is the only way to make sense of the cross and understand its relation to my own life? Take a crucifix in your hands and embrace it, kiss it, and speak with Our Lord asking him for the grace to nail your selfishness, egotism, sensuality, and vanity to the cross with him in love so as to find new life in the risen Christ. We must realize that our life here on earth is meant to be lived united to the cross of Christ and in his spirit, risen with him in the grace of being children of God!

St. Thérèse in stanzas 3 and 4 of her poem “To Live of Love” speaks of the connection between love and carrying the cross on earth. If suffering by carrying the cross means being with Christ, then she wants to be there with him, her Love! Where has this love and strength come from? She speaks of the Host (Eucharist) and being of one heart. Is there a connection between this oneness and the ability to see the value of carrying a heavy cross in this life with Christ? How is Christ asking me to carry my cross or crosses? Remember, I am never alone though it can seem like it. Our hope is always on the goal: Heaven and eternal life in Christ.

Colloquy: Crucified and Risen Jesus, I come before you in my littleness, poverty, and needy state imploring you to teach me to love, to give of myself generously and selflessly, to abandon myself fully to the Divine Will of the Father, to open my eyes to see you at work in my life and the lives of others so that I may bear witness to your presence, friendship, unity, and beauty! Amen.

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