The Cross in the Heart of DeMazenodian Spirituality
Due to the COVID19 restrictions, the celebration of Holy Week and Easter will be different (again) this year. We all feel pandemic fatigue – many grieve the loss of loved ones, jobs or financial security. We all deeply seek some hope and consolation. As we look up to the Cross, we can see the power of God brining sense out of confusion, hope out of despair and life out suffering and death. The Cross is at the heart of DeMazenodian spirituality.
When Eugene de Mazenod invited Fr. Tempier to form a missionary community, he directed him to “read this letter at the foot of your crucifix” in order to better discern his answer to his invitation to join the congregation. This approach echoes Eugene’s own experience, when the life-changing highlight of his journey of conversion happened as he contemplated the cross on Good Friday. The significance of the cross is mentioned in our Oblate Constitutions and Rules, “The cross of Jesus Christ is central to our mission.” (C.4), as well, “Through the eyes of our crucified Saviour we see the world which he redeemed with his blood, desiring that those in whom he continues to suffer will know also the power of his resurrection.” (C.4)
If we understand oblation as a dynamic, living sacrifice in the sense of drawing closer to God and accompanying people into the original vision of creation and intended intimate relationship with God, the cross can be seen as a sign of oblation. “The Oblate cross which is received at perpetual profession is a constant reminder of the love of the Saviour who wishes to draw all hearts to himself and sends us out as his co-workers.” (C.63)
There is a direct connection between the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifices offered by Christians. Jesus is the heart of that covenant commitment between human beings and God. For Christians, sacrifice is more so spiritual and moral rather than physical. Praise and thanksgiving, prayer and intercession, communion and celebration express offering given to God as a response to the gifts already received.
When we look at the cross from the perspective of God’s love, the reality of sin and offering a living sacrifice, we are reminded that the crucifixion cannot be reflected on as an isolated event from the whole Paschal mystery. During the Last Supper, Jesus entrusted to us the continuous living sacrifice of the Eucharist: His Body given up for us and His Blood as the new covenant poured out for us for the forgiveness of sins. This same evening, Jesus taught us about sacrificial love expressed in service to others. On Good Friday Jesus redeemed us through the ultimate sacrifice of the cross when God died in order to give us life. The fact of the resurrection opens the way to renewed relationship with God. “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9)
By Jarek Pachocki, OMI