There is something terrifying and yet deeply consoling about the Cross.
We are terrified because the Cross reminds us, at the human level, that we must all suffer in one way or another during life. None of us can or will escape this reality. Suffering will find us. And none of us like suffering – not one of us wants to suffer.
At the spiritual level, the Cross consoles us greatly; there, we see the Lord in His own suffering – and by means of that suffering, we see and experience our redemption. By His holy Cross we are redeemed and the way of salvation is opened to us. Further, the Cross reminds us that we never suffer alone – He is there in our suffering, whatever form it might take.
Accepting this, we have the option to unite our own little sufferings to His. And in doing so, they become redemptive, for they are then united to Him whose death is redemption itself. Through Him and with Him we can come to the Father, as He tells us in the Gospel. In this union, our sufferings take on a redemptive quality not only for us, but for others also.
We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee;
because, by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Saint Paul speaks of this when he writes to the Church at Colossae – “..I rejoice in my suffering.. and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the affliction of Christ on behalf of His Body, which is the Church.” (Col.1:24) We can add to the work of Christ by doing as He asks of us – that we take up our Cross and follow Him. When we look at the Crucifix, we see Christ nailed to the front – but note that the other side is empty; that is the place we must take up, in whatever way the Cross is manifested in our own lives.
Embracing the Cross of Christ means that we are letting go of ourselves, our ego, our self-will, our self-interest. Embracing the Cross means to embrace Christ Himself, for this is where we will find Him. The Saints knew this lesson only too well, for it is the lesson of their lives; and as our exemplars in the living out of the Faith, it must become our lesson, too.
Upon the Cross, Christ draws all people to Himself as He said He would. All of humanity, all of creation, every moment of history – it all converges there, upon that Cross. And upon that Cross, everything is renewed and transformed.
And it is for this reason that we rightly exalt the Lord’s Holy Cross.
The Cross is our salvation.