Sunday, September 27, 2015

St. Francis and the Cross

The Majesty of the Prerogative of Love
     Francis often reflected with tears of compassion on the Passion of Our Most Holy Lord Jesus Christ.  Two years before his death, while praying in a hermitage on Mount La Verna, he consulted the book of the Gospels to see what the Lord willed for him to do.  He opened it three times, and each time the account of the Lord’s Passion met his eyes.  From this he understood that he was to be conformed to His Lord in the affliction and sorrow of His Passion.  Praying earnestly, he spoke these words: “O Lord Jesus Christ, I entreat you to give me two graces before I die: first, that in my lifetime I may feel in body and soul as far as possible the pain you endured, dear Lord, in the hour of your most bitter suffering; and second, that I may feel in my heart as far as possible that excess of Love by which you, O Son of God, were inflamed to undertake so cruel a suffering for us sinners.”  Then, early in the morning, near the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, as he was praying on the mountainside, a Seraph appeared to him.  It had six fiery wings, and between the wings was the likeness of a man crucified, with his hands and feet extended in the form of a Cross.  Francis rejoiced in the gracious way Christ looked upon him under the appearance of the Seraph, but compassionate sorrow pierced his soul.  As the vision disappeared, it left in his heart a marvelous fire, and imprinted on his flesh the marks of the Five Wounds of the Savior.

    God is Love.  The Beloved Disciple’s definition of the essence of God is a keen insight into the reality of the Most Blessed Trinity.  The Three Persons are united in the omnipotent bond and infinite flow of Love.  Every action of the Divine Nature has Love as its deepest root.  Wisdom, Unity, Truth, Goodness, Beauty, and Justice are all expressions of the same Mystery of Love which lies at the center of Life Itself.  Thus the deepest need, desire, and orientation of man is Love.  Love is a dynamic reality.  It is the most intense joy and pleasure.  It involves absolute surrender for the sake of union with the Beloved.  It satisfies the deepest thirst of the human heart, but presupposes unselfish self-giving.  Because it lies in the essence of Love to give and to surrender, God has allowed Himself to be wounded by man’s rejection and betrayal of His Love simply by loving man.   If man had returned God’s Love purely there would be only blossoming and life, but because man has spurned God’s Love, Love has become Sacrificial.  Since God Himself chose the horrible pain of the Passion to prove His Love and win the hearts of men, pain is central to the experience of loving.

   As was mentioned above in the section on Mortification, human love entails the gift of one’s body.  When the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity became Incarnate in human nature, He brought it to perfect fulfillment by wedding the Godhead to man through the Gift of His Body.  The human body is made for gift.  It provides a material counterpart to the soul made in the image and likeness of God Who Is Love. The epitome of this gift is seen in the Crucified Form of Our Divine Savior.  Because God chose crucifixion as the method for His Masterpiece of Love, it is fitting that those who love Him should in some sense be nailed with Him to His Cross.  Humanity is thus espoused to God through the Five Wounds and the outpoured Blood. 

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