religion

Thinking about the cross and St Francis of Assisi

Tuesday was the solemnity of The Exaltation ( or Triumph) of the Holy Cross.


We adore thee, Oh Christ, and we praise Thee, because by Thy Holy Cross Thou has redeemed the world.

We made Hot Cross…Rockcakes to go with dinner ( no time for waiting for bread dough to rise for Hot Cross Buns; rockcakes seemed an easier solution!).

And I changed our dining table centrepiece, as I do on feast days and throughout the liturgical year.


I also had reason to ponder the cross; to ponder the fact that Christ became man; to ponder Christ’s humanity and what this means..to mankind..to me.

Things happen, things that bring me to contemplate Christ and the cross.

Praying at the mass for the Stigmata of St Francis and at the solemn profession of vows of one of the friars ( Order of Friars Minor Conventual) also brought me to think of St Francis and of St Bonaventure, and of their writings on Christ’s love and on His Cross.

In the solemn consecration of the professed, we heard…Among these you raised your servant Francis who professed evangelical holiness so that at the command of Christ crucified he might in himself and his brothers repair the Church, your dwelling, and renew it through holiness of life. Therefore, O Lord, look upon our brother whom in your providence you have called to follow the poor, humble Francis, the lover of the Cross. Pour into him the fullness of the sevenfold Spirit so that what he has promised today with joy and gladness through your giving, he may with the divine assistance observe faithfully to the end.

Then I read….And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14).

The Gospel of St John tells us, explicitly, that Jesus Christ , truly God, became flesh, took on a human form and became one of us, like to us in all things except sin. (Gaudium Et Spes ). We acknowledge Christ’s humanity, we understand from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition that Christ was true God and true man

He is truly the Son of God who, without ceasing to be God and Lord, became a man and our brother. CCC 469

And we see in the Incarnation Christ’s love for us and also how we as men should then live …He emptied himself… Philippians 2:1-15.

We can know Christ’s humanity through Church teaching; we can come to know Christ by reflecting on His humanity, on the Incarnation and thus on His Love and example for us all.

Faith is in the intellect, in such a way that it provokes affection. For example: the knowledge that Christ died ‘for us’ does not remain knowledge but necessarily becomes affection, love. To paraphrase St Bonaventure

So, I reflect on Christ’s humanity; that He died for my sins and I am brought to my knees by this love.

I wonder… how to share this love with others. And if I can strive for spiritual perfection, to be an example of this love, to love others more fully.

In knowing and gradually understanding the humanity of Christ, one can grow in relationship with Christ. As St Bonaventure said ….wisdom seeks contemplation (as the highest form of knowledge), and has as its intention “ut boni fiamus” that we become good, especially this: to become good.

It is through the Incarnation that we, as humans, benefit. We can come to know and love Christ, to have that which St Francis of Assisi described, in his Admonitions, a Living Faith in and love for the humanity of Christ.

We can have a personal encounter with Christ, true God and true man, as St Francis did in the church at San Damiano. In fact, the San Damiano cross, an icon of the humanity and divinity of Christ at his crucifixion, can then be seen as an icon of personal encounter with the transfigured i.e. with Christ, God made man.

As we are drawn to the humanity of Christ, just as St Francis was drawn to the icon of Christ crucified, we see Christ as a model of what we should be, a model of our holiness. Jesus said Love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12).

We see how we, as human beings, should live…Christ is our model of humility, of expropriation (giving up for God…Philippians 2:1-15. Or, as St Francis of Assisi, wrote There is the great paradox of our journey; that by letting go we gain, by losing we find.). We can come to know and love Christ; we can follow Him in love, in self-emptying, in caring for others, in prayer, in carrying our cross, in holiness. He was truly man and we can emulate His perfect example as man.

Christ’s humanity means that we, as people, can become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Jesus, through his assumption of our human nature and through His Baptism in the Jordan, allows us to share in his divine nature (for the Son of God became man so that we might become God ….St Athanasius). We see that, too, that Jesus has ‘been there, done that” i.e. that Jesus, by becoming man and living among us, has experienced our human nature, its limitations and its weaknesses.

Ultimately, as I was reminded at reverent Holy Mass, last night and this morning, Christ’s humanity means that He, Jesus Christ, will always be with us, in a real way, in the Eucharist. Christ remains with us always, in His humanity and in His divinity, in the Eucharist. We are Eucharistic people because of Christ’s humanity, because He died for our sins, because of God’s love.

Thus, I hold before me this humanity, with love and adoration; I grow to know Him more, and try, strive, always failing, to follow Him and His example.

I read some of St Francis, I pray at Mass and I see, I know, I understand, I love, I truly know that , as St Francis wrote….Everyday, Jesus humbles himself just as He did when He came from His heavenly throne into the Virgin’s womb; everyday He comes to us and lets us see Him in abjection, when He descends from the bosom of the Father into the hands of the priest at the altar.

The challenge for me is to live this out. In my life. As a less than perfect wife and a wanna-be-good homeschooling mother and friend.

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