Walk to Calvary with the Fathers
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Why do we walk to calvary again during Holy Week? Jesus died once for all, and we already know that, so do we really need to relive this every year?
We walk to the cross of Christ again because the well of our redemption is so deep, and so powerful, and so redemptive that we can and should drink from it again and again. We seek for this truth and love to permeate every part of our lives.
Augustine of Hippo (c. 354-430) vividly portrayed our need to go back to the cross:
As they were looking on, so we too gaze on his wounds as he hangs. We see his blood as he dies. We see the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of his resurrection. He bows his head, as if to kiss you. His heart is made bare open, as it were, in love to you. His arms are extended that he may embrace you. His whole body is displayed for your redemption. Ponder how great these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind: as he was once fixed to the cross in every part of his body for you, so he may now be fixed in every part of your soul.
And when we see him there, dying for our sins, we see a man, a human being like us. No one is denied a place there. No part of us is to be kept away. We are so prone to drift away from this amazing grace, to believe the lie that we aren’t welcome in God’s presence.
Leo the Great, addressed this in the 5th century:
No one, however weak, is denied a share in the victory of the cross. No one is beyond the help of the prayer of Christ. His prayer brought benefit to the multitude that raged against him. How much more does it bring to those who turn to him in repentance.
And here, the Holy Cross of Jesus Christ is once again the answer to all of our fears and sorrows, according to John of Damascus (7th C):
By the cross all these things have been set aright…
It is a seal that the destroyer may not strike us,
a raising up of those who lie fallen,
a support for those who stand,
a staff for the infirm,
a crook for the shepherded,
a guide for the wandering,
a perfecting of the advanced,
salvation for soul and body,
a deflector of all evils,
a cause of all goods,
a destruction of sin,
a plant of resurrection,
and a tree of eternal life.
Our faith begins, continues, and is fulfilled in the cross. We are saved by it, we are changed by it, and under it and through it we serve in this world. The wonder of this power is summed up masterfully by the hymn written by Isaac Watts over three hundred years ago:
When I survey the wondrous cross
where the young Prince of Glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
So it is right that we should walk through this Passion together. It is painful, it is sorrowful, and it is shocking. But here we find our God, and in finding him we ourselves are found.
Find yourself there, as one of the disciples: Confused.
Find yourself there as one of the women: Despairing.
Find yourself there as Mary: Mournful.
Find yourself there there as the Centurion: Amazed.
Find yourself there there in Pilate: Blinded.
Find yourself there among the Pharisees: Self-Righteous.
Find yourself there in the Chief Priests: Envious.
Find yourself there as a condemned thief: Pleading.
Because in that terrible place is where you find him, praying “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And in that dark place, you find the Light of the World. In that lonely place, you will find love. It is never to late to go back, and we can never go back too often.
Let us go up together.
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