For the last couple of days I have been immersed in Venerable Archbishop Luis Martinez’ book, THE SANCTIFIER, “one of the most formidable books on the Holy Spirit ever written,” according to the forward. I would have to agree. Archbishop Martinez “focuses on the role of the Holy Spirit in the sanctification of the individual believer.” [He does not go into biblical theology or the ecclesial dimension of the Holy Spirit.] His amazing teachings thrill the soul. It is not my goal here to review the book, but to visit one or more insights from the last two days, insights which have inflamed my heart and truly fed me.
Chapter 18: “Our Response to Christ Crucified” builds on preceding chapters, but led me to a deeper understanding and love for the cross. Archbishop Martinez describes the finding of the true cross by St. Helena and tells us: “In the same way each soul should celebrate its personal discovery of the cross….when God permits it [the soul] the celebration of this feast, it rests in perfect happiness and offers in its intimate sanctuary the mystic Mass of its loving sacrifice to ‘fill up what is lacking of the sufferings of Christ [ 124]’”
This last quotation has occupied my mind and heart for two days now, and I am not finished. I will try to explore for you and with you some of the astounding beauty which I find here. First: “each soul should celebrate its personal discovery of the cross.” We have been hearing about the cross all of our lives, generally associating it with the instrument by which Jesus died for us, and surely, it is that. We revere the cross, it is an icon of our faith, a most valuable one since it associates us with all of Christianity. We know and often reflect on what Jesus tells us about the cross: “Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt. 16, 24). Jesus is referring here to our personal cross which each one of us must pick up and carry daily. Furthermore, this act is sacrificial since it requires that the bearer first deny himself.
However, I was more drawn to the idea of the soul’s celebrating its personal discovery of the cross, which is not the same thing. We have bought in to the Church’s discovery of the cross with all its richness of meaning, but have we discovered it for ourselves, personally? My exploration of the cross has led me in many directions. My Love Crucified community emphasizes that we must not just offer up, but suffer with Jesus [A Simple Path to Union, Ch.3,1].
Father Jordi Rivero shared with us that Brant Pitre’s book, Jesus the Bridegroom, reveals that the cross is the bridal chamber, the spousal bed where union with the bride-soul takes place. In my continual desire for union with the Beloved, and with the understanding that the cross is, indeed, the bridal chamber, I find myself looking for a way to say to Christ, “I lay myself down on the Cross with You. Let me be nailed with You, hold me in Your crucified arms, let me press my heart to Your pierced Heart and be pierced according to the Father’s Will.” I don’t think this is sentimentality; my mother always told me, “However you make your bed—you will have to lie in it.” Yes, precisely. I will make my bed the cross and I will lie in it, come what may.
Next, Archbishop Martinez explains, “when God permits it [the soul] the celebration of this feast, it rests in perfect happiness.” Dare I say it, the soul has its true place of repose, the cross which is at once the cross of the Beloved, and one’s own personal cross. In the cross of Christ is contained the personal cross of every beloved soul—the cross is multi-dimensional; and every soul, whatever its dimension, finds perfect repose there.
Jesus, Himself, “carried in his heart for thirty-three years the cruel, torturing martyrdom of longing for sacrifice and of waiting for the hour appointed by the heavenly Father….The devotion to the Father that filled the soul of Jesus, that soul great beyond measure, had the cross for its terminus. Only on the cross was his longing to glorify the Father satisfied, his immense hunger for doing the will of the Father appeased. Only there did his infinite love attain rest [ 121, 122].” His utter fulfillment and joy lay only in His cross, and so is it with us, if we only realized it. If we see the cross only as pain, aggravation, denial, then we haven’t yet discovered the celebration of this feast!
In the beginning of chapter 18, Archbishop Martinez explains: “…the center of Catholic worship—which in the Church is the devotion of Jesus to the Father in the Holy Spirit—is the Mass; and the center of Christian life—which is this same devotion in souls—is the mystic participation in the sacrifice of Jesus by each soul .”
Later, he enters more deeply into this idea: “…it [the soul] rests in perfect happiness [on the cross] and offers in its intimate sanctuary the mystic Mass of its loving sacrifice to ‘fill up what is lacking of the sufferings of Christ.’”
I was enchanted by Archbishop Martinez’ phrase “offers in its intimate sanctuary”. What is this intimate sanctuary of the soul? Of course, is is the inner room, the inner chamber of the heart; but it is also the Bridal chamber of the cross, the soul’s unique, personal participation in the cross of Christ, its personal cross. It is only in the arms of the Bridegroom that the bride [the soul] reposes in perfect happiness while at the same time offering—offering what? “the mystic Mass of its loving sacrifice”. Thus does the soul celebrate daily the Mass which is the perfect sacrifice of Jesus to the Father in the Holy Spirit, on a personal, mystic level. To “deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Jesus everyday” is to offer, from within the arms of the Bridegroom, from the bridal bed, from the intimate sanctuary, the mystic Mass of your loving sacrifice. One of the prayers of our Love Crucified covenant community is this central one: “Let me suffer all with You, no longer two but one, in Your sacrifice of love.”
What is the purpose of offering the mystic Mass of its loving sacrifice? “to fill up what is lacking of the sufferings of Christ.” This is what St. Paul boldly tells us in Col. 1:24. This is the true Bride, who says with Christ: “Let me suffer all with You, no longer two but one, in Your sacrifice of love.” Theologically, if Christ is our Head, then the body must follow the head, in suffering, in glory. But in her passion of love, the Bride must follow the Bridegroom wherever He goes.
Archbishop Martinez tells us: “…every soul should aspire to martyrdom. The cross should be the center of its life, the goal of all its aspirations. It is the cross that satisfies the Father completely and it is his crucified Son that he longs to behold in each soul. What complacency [REPOSE] is his when he beholds the sacrifice of Jesus in that ‘clean Oblation’ which is immolated and offered ‘in every place’ (Mal. 1:11). And how he is pleased by those personal hosts that pure and loving souls ceaselessly offer to him! ”
To live fully in the Holy Spirit, to follow Jesus, to carry our cross means that every day we celebrate a personal, mystic Mass. The Bride is the Church, but she is also the soul, man or woman. The Bridal chamber is the cross of Christ and our personal cross, the place where our union is accomplished in the fire of the Holy Spirit in a “clean Oblation” to the Father.