Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Embraced by the Word
This evening I found myself at the Cathedral, not initially intending to attend Mass, but rather to just take a break and pray in silence. But I heard Mass begin and decided to leave the Chapel of Mary and enter into the Sacred Liturgy. As I listened to the readings and pondered them in the context of my surroundings, suddenly I was struck by the inherent symbolism of the Cathedral. With my Liturgy midterm exam so fresh in my mind, I considered all the important elements of the liturgy, to include the building itself, all pointing to a God that contains everything.
I regarded the four pillars that hold up the dome of the Cathedral, representing the 4 Gospels. I looked anew at the angels and the depictions of the Virtues. I could see the image of the Holy Spirit over the Baldacchin, and...oh, the Baldacchin! To consider that indeed we are present at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb of God! There, right there, we beheld Christ the King, held up, drawing us all to Him, as He promised!
Today, from my particular vantage point at the rear, I had an entirely different view of the altar and the Crucifix which seems somewhat obscured when sitting in the front section, was quite prominent, such that I could not take my eyes off of it. I know that to enter into the Wedding Feast, I must approach the Cross.
I pondered how often I have hurt Him, and how I don't deserve His love. And yet, being there in the Cathedral, I'd had a sense of the immensity of God. There, surrounded by all the signs and symbols of our Faith, in this incredible building consecrated to God, wherin His Glory rests there in the tabernacle, where we enter into His very Presence, I had a sense of being contained in the Word. Being in the Cathedral is like being WITHIN God, surrounded by Him, embraced by Him...contained there within His ever-present love.
The architecture helps us understand, in a sense His immensity in a way that is nearly tangible, and yet, we still understand that He is not contained there Himself, but far transcends it.
I was so touched by the sense of being contained by His Word that, for awhile, I had to fight back tears. It wasn't sadness or joy, but rather a reaction to a Truth about God that perhaps couldn't be expressed in any other way.
It was a moment of enlightenment, realizing my own nothingness in the face of God, the importance of the Sacrifice of Redemption, offered...even for me. Such a realization always inspires one to want to offer something back, even understanding that anything we can offer is insufficient.
All of this brought me into pondering the Cross most especially as I passed by one of the Stations. It stands out starkly on the marble pillar with nothing to distract from the reality of His Passion: Jesus Accepts His Cross.
There it was. Jesus Accepts His Cross.
The thought came to me, that still small voice that always seems to have far more impact than the loudest shouts: Do I accept my Cross, too?
I silently asked Our Lord how to accept my Cross just as he had accepted his own? I asked Him to explain it to me. How do I embrace it? How do I embrace HIM by embracing my Cross? How can my own acceptance of my Cross in any way repay what He has done for me?
I realized how often I had and continue to presume upon His mercy. I realize how often I REJECT his mercy, and in so doing, wound Him even further. I thought about all the times I had rejected Him, offended Him, and stomped on Him in some way, when all Jesus has ever done for me...was love me. Love me so much He DIED for me, a truly horrible death. I knew that I was Jesus' Cross to bear, and yet...He still bears me. He has not thrown me down and abandoned me to corruption.
Spontaneously a prayer came to me, and I bowed my head to offer it back to Him, knowing that if it was of any value at all, it came from the Holy Spirit within me and it was both wisdom for the benefit of my soul, and a sincere offer to Jesus from the depths of my sinful soul.
The next time someone presumes upon me in any way, help me to remember all the times I have presumed upon You. The next time someone directly insults me, help me to recall the times I have insulted You or blasphemed against You. The next time someone offends me in any way, help me to recall to mind the times I have willfully, obstinately, and grievously offended You with my deliberate sin. The next time I am tempted to be impatient with someone, help me to recall how often you have been patient with me and how long you have waited for me to return to you in contrition. The next time I move to place myself above another, help me to remember how many times you fell as you walked to Calvary. The next time someone attacks me for any reason, before I give in to anger, help me to remember how You bore Your agony in silence and forgave Your attackers, begging Your Father to forgive them for they knew not what they were doing. Help me to realize that when I offend you, I DO know what I am doing, and yet...you still forgive me, over and over again.
Help me, Jesus, to recall your last words as you hung upon the Cross, dying: "Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit".
Let me arise each morning with this prayer on my lips as a reminder to die to myself in every moment so that I may be free to live for You.
The truth is that we embrace our own Crosses by accepting HIS; for they are one and the same. In embracing our Crosses, we recognize who we really are and how desperately we need Our Beloved Savior. The only way to live for Christ is to be willing to die to ourselves and unite our sinfulness with His Passion and Death; only there can we be redeemed.
Jesus, into Your Hands I commend my Spirit.