As I write this column, anticipating the great Easter Triduum, I see on the news that Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is engulfed in flames. I remember my first visit to Notre Dame, perhaps one of the most iconic cathedrals in the world, and being moved beyond words. To watch it burning struck me as symbolic of something deeper. To have witnessed all that has happened to the Church that I love and serve this past year, has been like watching a fire wreak havoc while one feels unable to put it out.
Perhaps Mary, when she stood at the foot of the Cross, had this same experience. There was nothing she could do to prevent the death of her son. She had to watch in agony as his life slowly ebbed away. One cannot imagine the grief that overcame her, though any parent who has lost a son or daughter through tragic means can understand it.
All of us have had some experience of loss or trauma if we have lived long enough. Each of us could name what our crosses have been during our earthly pilgrimage, and some of them seem never to leave us. Sometimes our crosses are personal, sometimes they involve our family, and often they are collective, such as the 9-11 event, or the wars and conflicts we see on the world stage.
Something changed on a cosmic scale when Christ accepted the unacceptable by taking up his cross. Death then became the portal to life, symbolized by the discovery of the empty tomb by the first light of that Easter morn, and angels announcing that he had indeed risen. Something changed in the cowardly disciples when they saw Christ resurrected. Suddenly they were transformed into fearless, joyful men, ready to give their own lives for Christ.
Now it remains for us to accept the unacceptable in our lives and to let God transform us. I’m sure that we all know someone who finally accepted some loss, sickness, addiction, or failure and became free because of it. This is what the Resurrection is all about: new life from death.
I love how the Constitutions of Holy Cross put it: “There is no failure the Lord’s love cannot reverse, no humiliation he cannot exchange for blessing, no anger he cannot dissolve, no routine he cannot transfigure. All is swallowed up in victory. He has nothing but gifts to offer. It remains only for us to find how even the cross can be borne as a gift.”
Ave Crux, Spes Unica! Hail the Cross, our only hope! Happy Easter!
Yours in Christ,