Describe a Cross of Spiritual Suffering formed by four virtues. Divine Love is the upper part, Patient Love is on the left side, Inner Purity is on the right, and Willing Obedience forms the lower part. Also much good advice and many instructions for those who look upon themselves as sick and guilty sinners; for the Cross must be borne.
Quasi cedrus exaltata sum in Libano, it quasi cypressus in monte Sion.
"I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus, and as a cypress-tree on Mount Sion."
We celebrate to-day the Exaltation of the Holy Cross; but it is impossible to say how it was raised up; neither can we fully describe or imagine its value. We can say of it that which we find written in the Book of Ecclesiasticus: "I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus, and as a cypress-tree on Mount Sion."
Frankincense grows on Mount Lebanon; it signifies a spiritual sacrifice, for it should at all times be the desire of our hearts to be peculiar sacrifice unto God. The smoke of the cedar tree drives away all the poison of the serpent. Still more the poison of the Devil and all his wicked cunning is chased away by the power of the Holy Cross; that is by the bitter Sorrow and sharp Suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ; for He says of Himself: "I was exalted like a cypress-tree on Mount Sion." The cypress is of such a nature, that if a man partakes of the wood, when unable to retain his food, it enables him to retain it. In the same way, the man who draws unto himself the Lord's Holy Cross, and embraces it, namely, His painful and bitter Suffering, will be enabled to retain that most precious and noble Food, the Holy Word of God. The holy saints and prophets have said that the Word of God only becomes fruitful in those men, who at all times draw it earnestly and diligently unto themselves, that all things may become fruitful unto them. The precious Sufferings of our Lord have also a sweet scent, tasting sweeter than any sweetness; for they draw man's heart to Him; as our Lord Himself has said: "And I, if I be lifted up...will draw all things to Myself." It is indeed true, that the man in whom the bitter Suffering of our Lord is always found, will at all times be drawn unto our Lord, in true humility, and patience, and with fervent and Divine Love. For in the same way that Christ suffered willingly, so must we also at all times, as far as lies in our power, follow after Him earnestly, in patience and suffering, that we may always be imprisoned, bound and condemned with Him in spirit.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, before He was nailed to the Holy Cross, was bereft of all His garments, so that not a thread was left on His Body; and lots were cast for His garments before His eyes. Now, know of a truth, that if thou desirest ever to come to true perfection, thou must be destitute of all that is not of God, so that thou hast not a thread left; and thou must see lots cast for thy things before thine eyes; while other men look upon it all, and esteem it as mockery, folly and heresy. Our Lord said: "If any man will come after Me, let him...take up his Cross, and follow Me." As he said also to the young man: "If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor...and come, follow Me." For it is written in the Apocalypse that great and unutterable plagues must come, which will be scarcely less terrible than the Judgment Day; though that will not come yet, for we are still living in historic time, days years and hours. And when these plagues which are prophesied, come upon us, those only will recover who bear the Cross. And because this was true, God gave the Angel leave to hurt and to destroy all that was upon the earth. Then God said to the Angel: "Thou shalt spare none, save those who have the banner, the mark, the sign on their foreheads," signifying the Holy Cross. Every man who has not the Cross of Jesus Christ in him and before him, undoubtedly, will not be spared. By the Cross we understand pain. God did not tell the Angel to spare men with great powers, nor the sects, nor those who worked in their own way, but only the suffering. He did not say: "He, who will follow Me, or come after Me, must follow Me, gazing at Me," but he said, "by leaving all and suffering."
Now I wish to say a few words about the Cross. Know then, that every man who takes up the Cross will be made thereby the very best man to be found in these days; and no plagues can harm him. Neither can he ever enter into purgatory. But also there is no greater pain than daily and hourly carrying a Cross on our backs for the sake of God, in humble resignation. It is, alas! no longer the fashion to suffer for the sake of God, and to bear the Cross for Him; for the diligence and real earnestness, that perchance were found in man, have been extinguished and have grown cold; and now no one is willing any longer to suffer distress for the sake of God. Could we find out any way in which no one would have to suffer, that is what we should choose for our life. Alas! one and all think only of self, in all their works and ways.
It is not outward exercises, such as fasting, watching, lying of hard beds, and making long pilgrimages, that please God. All these things serve thereto; fasting, watching, prayer, and all the other things already mentioned; therefore, do all these things, as far as they will help thee to take up thy Cross truly. No one is too old, too ill and too deaf to take up the Cross, and to carry it after our Lord Jesus Christ.
Learn that the Holy Cross is made of four pieces of wood, one above, one below, and two in the middle. The upper part is divine, fervent love. The left arm, which is deep humility, is nailed on with the heedlessness of men, and all the things that may befall him then; it is more than scorn, for in that there is a tinge of pride; the other arm of the Cross must be real, true, inner purity, this must be nailed to the Cross with a willing lack of all, whatever it may be, that could defile its purity, either outwardly or inwardly. The feet signify true and perfect obedience; they are nailed on with true and willing resignation of all that thou and thine possess. Whatever it may be that thou possessest, leave all at once for the sake of God, however hard it may be, that thou mayest not possess thyself in any way, either in deed or in word. The four parts of the Cross were fastened together in the middle with fiat voluntas tuna, which means that the pieces of wood were fitted into each other, signifying the true and perfect renunciation of thy free will, and a yielding up of all for the sake of God.
Now notice, first, the left hand, which signifies humility. By this we must understand, as St Augustine says, that the man who walks in true humility will most certainly have to suffer. Know, that man must be brought to nought in his own esteem, and in the eyes of all men. He must also be raised up, bare, and having no resting place, and lots must be cast before his eyes for all that he has or is; as was done with the garments of our Lord Jesus Christ; that is, thou must be mocked, destroyed and spurned. Thy life also must be regarded as unworthy of notice, as folly, so that those who are with thee or pass thee by, will scorn and condemn thee, will estimate and judge thy life before thy face, as full of error and heresy; and hate thee and all thy works and ways. Now, when thou knowest and seest all this, thou must neither reject it, nor receive it unthankfully, so that thou speakest evil, or shouldest say of it: "Such a man as he is unfair to me." Dear friend, guard thyself both outwardly and inwardly against such opposition. Thou oughtest to think: "Alas! I, poor man, am unworthy that such a noble man should scorn and ignore me;" and then thou shouldest bow to it and look upon it as nothing. Thus thou wilt be bearing the Cross with our Lord. The right hand is true purity; it is nailed on with a willing lack of all things that are not of God, and that could stain that purity. The feet are true obedience, and signify that man should be obedient to his Superiors and the Holy Church. They are nailed on with true resignation, so that man will willingly in all things resign himself to the Will of God. The middle part is the free going out and giving up of thy will to the Will of God; which means, however great the suffering may be which is laid upon thee by God or man, thou wilt yet willingly suffer all for love of God, and rejoice, and bend willingly to the Cross of suffering, whether guilty or innocent. Now, thou mightest say: "Lord, I cannot do it, I am too weak." Learn then, that thou hast two wills, an upper and a lower will, as Christ also had two wills. The natural and lower will desires at all times to be freed from the Cross; but the higher says with Christ: "Not as I will but as Thou wilt in all things." The top of the Cross is the Love of God; it has no resting place, for at all times it is a pure, bare going forth, forsaken of God and all creatures, so that thou canst truly say with Christ: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" The Sacred Head of our Lord Jesus Christ had no resting place; if a man experienced Divine Love and a sweet consciousness of God's Presence in his absolute resignation, what would it matter to him though the whole world were against him?
A good and holy man asked our Lord why He allowed His dear Friends to suffer so terribly. Then our Lord said: "Man is naturally inclined to the pleasures of the senses and harmful delights; therefore I hedge him in, in all his ways, so that I alone may be his delight." The Head of Divine, sweet Love hung inclined on the stem of the Holy Cross. Learn, children, it cannot be otherwise; though we try to turn it as we may, we must always bear a Cross, if we desire to be good men and to come to Eternal Life. We must suffer sharply and keenly, and bear a Cross of some kind, for, if we flee from one, another will fall upon us. No man has ever been born, who was such a good talker that he could prove that this was not true. Thou canst flee where thou wilt, and do what thou wilt, yet it must be borne. God may take it on His shoulder for a little while, and bear the burden over the most difficult places; and then man feels so light and free, that he cannot believe that he ever had anything to suffer, especially because he feels no suffering; but, as soon as God lays down the burden, the burden of suffering rests heavily on him again, in all its bitterness and insupportability. The Eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ, has borne all this before, in the heaviest way possible; and all those who have been His dearest Friends have borne it after Him. This Cross is the fiery chariot in which Elias went up to heaven.
There was a thoughtful daughter of our Order who had longed much and often to see our Lord as a Babe. Suddenly, during her devotions, our Lord appeared to her as a Babe, lying swathed in a bed of sharp thorns, so that she could not get to the Babe till she had laboured much, and had used force, in grasping the thorns. When she came to herself again she realised that those who truly desire Him must boldly face pain, sharpness and suffering.
Some men say: "Yea, and were I so pure and innocent, that I had not deserved it from God on account of my sins, still I would gladly and joyfully bear suffering for the Will of God, so that it might be useful and profitable to me." Now, know, that a guilty and sinful man may suffer, in such a way, that it may be more useful and profitable to him than to an innocent man. But how? In the same way, that a man, who wants to make a great jump, will go back that he may have a good run; for the further he goes back, the further he will jump. Every man should act in this way. He must always look upon himself as sinful and heedless, and must judge of himself as unworthy in the sight of God and of all creatures. Thus he will be drawn nearer and more powerfully to God, and by this means he will get closer to the Eternal Goodness of Divine Truth.
Children, the more thoroughly a man knows himself from the bottom of his heart, truly despising and condemning himself, not glossing over his sins, but deeming himself utterly unworthy, the nearer will he draw to God in truth, and the more perfect will be his converse with God.
That we may all draw this precious Cross of our Lord after us, in steadfast patience and with loving hearts, with happy countenances, cheerfully, joyfully and willingly suffering all things for God, giving up all things for Him, and accepting all things that are disagreeable to us as from the open, loving Hand of God and not from the creature; that we may be lifted up in our hearts in steadfast patience even unto the end, may He help us, Who for our sakes was lifted up upon the Cross that He might draw all things unto Himself. Amen.