Saturday, March 31, 2007

TO KNOW THE CROSS

In No Man Is An Island, Thomas Merton writes the following about the relationship of suffering and the cross. Headings and emphases are mine:

OUR SUFFERINGS AND CHRIST'S. "To know the cross is not merely to know our own sufferings. For the cross is the sign of salvation, and no one is saved by his own sufferings. To know the cross is to know that we are saved by the sufferings of Christ; more, it is to know the love of Christ who underwent suffering and death in order to save us. It is, then, to know Christ. For to know his love is not merely to know the story of his love, but to experience in our spirit that we are loved by him, and that in his love the Father manifests his own love for us, through his Spirit poured forth into our hearts..."

IT DEPENDS ON WHAT WE LOVE. "The effect of suffering upon us depends on what we love. If we love only ourselves, suffering is merely hateful. It has to be avoided at all costs. It brings out all the evil that is in us, so that the one who loves only himself will commit any sin and inflict any evil on others merely in order to avoid suffering himself. Worse, if a person loves himself and learns that suffering is unavoidable, he may even come to take a perverse pleasure in suffering itself, showing that he loves and hates himself at the same time. In any case, if we love ourselves, suffering inexorably brings out selfishness, and then, after making known what we are, drives us to make ourselves even worse than we are."

NOBLE BUT FUTILE SUFFERING. "If we love others and suffer for them, even without a supernatural love for other people in God, suffering can give us a certain nobility and goodness. It brings out something fine in our natures, and gives glory to God who made us greater than suffering. But in the end a natural unselfishness cannot prevent suffering from destroying us along with all we love."

CONSUMING THE 'ACCIDENTAL TRASH OF LIFE' "If we love God and love others in him, we will be glad to let suffering destroy anything in us that God is pleased to let it destroy, because we know that all it destroys is unimportant. We will prefer to let the accidental trash of life be consumed by suffering in order that his glory may come out clean in everything we do."

CHRIST IN US GREATER THAN OUR SUFFERING. "If we love God, suffering does not matter. Christ in us, his love, his Passion in us: that is what we care about. Pain does not cease to be pain, but we can be glad of it because it enables Christ to suffer in us and give glory to his Father by being greater, in our hearts, than suffering would ever be."

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