On the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
The first Sermon

On the health-giving Cross, which is Christ Himself in His Humanity; how He must be exalted and raised up in us; and how all our powers must be drawn up after Him; the lowest and the highest, although, alas, this is neglected by many men. Also, many wise exhortations and incitements to members of Religious Orders to receive the Holy Sacrament, and to keep their other rules. How the crucified Christ must be born in us and of us through the three powers of the soul; and how we again must be born in Him, in the Fruit of His Spirit.

Ego si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia ad me traham.

"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things unto Myself."

To-day we celebrate the Festival of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, on which hung, out of love, the Salvation of the World. We must be born again, through the Cross, into the true nobility which was ours in eternity. We must be born and revived there again by love for this Cross. Words cannot describe the merits of the Cross. Our Lord said: "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things unto Me." By this He signifies that He wishes to draw to Himself our worldly hearts, and our love for and gratification in worldly things, which we had gladly possessed in the creature, and our haughty minds, which were well satisfied with ourselves, and with our worldly-mindedness and love, in the temporal gratification of our senses. All this He will draw unto Himself, that He may be thus exalted, and that He may become great in us and in our hearts; for to the man to whom God has ever been great, all creatures seem small, and fleeting pleasures are as nothing.

This health-giving Cross signifies the Noble Man, Christ, Who is exalted far above our imagination, above Saints and Angels, and above all the joy, bliss and blessedness that they enjoy together; and, as His true place is in the Highest, He desires to dwell also in our highest places, that is in our uppermost and innermost love and desires. He will draw up the lowest powers to the highest, and lead the lowest with the highest unto Himself. If we do this, He will draw us after Himself into His highest and most secret place. For thus it must needs be; if I am to come to Him, I must receive Him into myself. So much of mine, so much of His; it is an equal bargain.

Oh! how often this Holy Cross is quite forgotten, so that this ground and secret place is quite closed up and refused to God, while favour and love are shown to the creature; which, sad to say, in these dangerous times, reigns supreme both in worldly and religious people, so that their hearts are lost in the creature. This is the most grievous pity that man's heart and mind can conceive; and, if he only knew how it would end, he would wither up in terror of the vengeance of God. But it is as much unheeded as though it were all mockery. It has, also, become the custom, and men approve of it, and call it an honour, and it is all as though it were a play. The Saints, if they could, would cry aloud and weep tears of blood, and the Wounds of our Lord would be torn open again by this misery; that a heart, for which He gave His beautiful Life and His loving Holy Spirit, should be so shamelessly taken from Him, while He is driven forth. Children, do not thing that these are my words only; all Scripture teaches you this: "No man can serve two masters. For he will hate the one and love the other." Jesus says: "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee;" and elsewhere: "Where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also." Now, find out how much God has of thy heart; whether He is thy Treasure. St Augustine says: "Lovest thou the earth, thou art also of the earth; for the soul is more with that which she loveth, than where she gives life to the body." St Paul says: "If I should deliver my body to be burned, and should speak with the tongues of men and of Angels, and should give all my goods to feed the poor, and yet not have charity, it profiteth me nothing."

Now, dear sisters, ye ought, with great and adoring thankfulness and active love, to accept the grace which God has given to your Order through the Sacrament of the Body of the Lord. I desire, also, with all my heart and soul, that this practice should not be allowed to grow slack nor fall asleep in these anxious times; for nature will not long endure; ye must cleave firmly to God, or ye will fall away. Mark, it was not thus in days gone by; therefore, these people ought to exercise great and powerful self-restraint, that they may be preserved from this dangerous state. Do not imaging that this need be done to attain to a state of great perfection: "They that are in health need not a physician, but they that are ill." It is necessary, on account of man's human weakness, that he should be protected by God's help, and preserved from the sad state of things which prevails widely amongst religious people. Therefore, none should speak as though they had attained to great perfection or did great deeds. It is sufficient, if they keep the rules of their Order, as far as they can, and mean to do so, and that they have permission to leave undone that which they cannot do. No great powers of reason are necessary for this. It will suffice, if they desire to do willingly that which is right, and if their eyes are so far opened that they will be able to guard themselves against this grievous wrong, and if they keep their eyes open. For this reason, our young sisters should go often and willingly to receive the Lord's Body. I excuse and also answer for our dear elder sisters, for they went very reverently in days gone by, when the flesh was not so weak as now; and they kept their Order very strictly, and loved and obeyed the rules. They also readily kept up the good old custom of communicating every fortnight. Their great sanctity and perfection were sufficient; for in those days things were better than now, and less harmful to the fallen nature to be found in young people, whose inclinations are stronger now than they were then. Therefore much more help is needed now than then; and without great sefl-restraint it is impossible to endure in the highest state. Now everything sinks down to the level of animal pleasures, and the desires of the senses. Therefore, dear sisters, I require of you no great perfection and sanctity, only that ye should feel joy in and love for our Holy Order, and that ye should intend to keep the rules as far as ye can, and that ye should willingly keep silence in all places where it is ordained -- at table and in the choir, and that ye should withdraw yourselves willingly from all human intimacies that estrange you from God. The old are impelled to do so by holiness, and the young by modesty. For if ye do this devoutly, God will reveal Himself to you, while ye flee from all the causes that could bring this hurt to your souls. Learn, that intolerable sufferings have fallen upon some convents; and, if they had not exercised themselves very diligently in this discipline, they might have been brought to nought. If ye experience no sweetness, do not let this terrify you. If man does his part, and yet feels forsaken in his heart, it is far better for him, that any feelings or experiences would be that he could have. This bitter grief brings him nearer to the Source of Living Truth than any feelings. Our Lord said: "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" and on Mount Olivet: "Not as I will, but as Thou wilt."

Children, fear not, for our Lord says: "If any man will come after Me....let him take up his Cross and follow Me." This Cross signifies the crucified Jesus, Who ought to be and must be born. St Paul says: "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with all its lusts." These lusts must be tamed and restrained.

The second power is the power of anger, which man should be able to control in all things. He should always think that another is more likely to be right than he, and thus avoid strife. He must learn forbearance, and how to be quiet and kindly wherever he may be. One man may be sitting alone, or in an assembly, while others are sitting there, who are noisy and seldom silent. Ye must learn to be forbearing and to endure, and to commune with your own hearts. A man cannot work at a trade without having learnt it. If any one wanted to be an umbrella-maker, and would not learn his trade, he might do great harm to the work if he tried to carry it on before he had learned it; thus it is in all adversities, we must learn how to struggle.

The two other powers, by which this noble Cross must be borne, are not so evident; they are the powers of reason, and of inwardly spiritual desires. Thus, in short, Christ must be born in us and of us, in the inner and outer man; and thus we shall be born again in Him, in the Fruit of His Spirit. As it is written: "Ye must be as new-born babes." Dear children, if ye live thus, every day will be consecrated; and all your sins will be forgiven you in this birth of the Holy Cross. Amen.

sermon xix on the nativity
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