‘A cross without a cross’
An intriguing statement, indeed! It’s part of the spiritual consideration that Opus Dei founder, St. Josemaria Escriva, made on the fourth sorrowful mystery of the holy rosary. The pertinent point goes as follows:
“But don’t drag the Cross…Carry it squarely on your shoulder, because your Cross, if you carry it so, will not be just any Cross: it will be…the Holy Cross. Don’t bear your Cross with resignation: resignation is not a generous word. Love the Cross. When you really love it, your Cross will be…a Cross, without a Cross. And surely you, like Him, will find Mary on the way.”
We need to familiarize ourselves with spiritual and ascetical language. It has peculiarities that sometimes can appear going against normal logic and common sense. It’s the language of the heart that tries to capture the mysterious ways of the spiritual and supernatural world. It is the language of the saints, which is not meant to be compared, much less belittle, the language of the sciences, technologies, arts, etc. It is its own species.
It is a language that cannot help but get into paradoxes and other figures of speech if only for us to get some idea of what the heart is going through. It cannot be taken solely in the literal sense. It can use words with the view of stirring the memory and the imagination, and sparking spiritual considerations.
It has a spiritual significance that beggars description. It can only be appreciated by those who are spiritually inclined also, just like what St. Paul said: “We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. And this is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” (1 Cor 2,12-13)
Thus, St. Paul, for example, also spoke a lot in this spiritual language. Samples of this can be when he said: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Cor 4,8-10)
In another instance, he also said: “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12,10) He took advantage of his weaknesses and other negative things as the reason to get closer to Christ and to attract more graces from God.
Of course, Christ himself, despite his efforts to adapt his language to the common mentalities of the people, could not help but speak in the spiritual language that was full of paradoxes and parables.
That is why he would often conclude his mysterious preaching with the words, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (cfr. Mt 11,15; Mt 13,9, Rev 2,29) Only those who are spiritual and with faith can get the meaning of what Christ was saying.
Thus, Christ would say, “The last shall be first, and the first last,” (Mt 20,16) and that he who loses his life will find it. (cfr. Mt 10,39; Mt 16,25; Mk 8,35; Lk 9,24)
In the case of St. Josemaria Escriva’s “a cross without a cross,” what he means is that as long as we love the cross in all its forms the way Christ embraced his cross, it will be a cross that, while inflicting some pain, will actually purify and redeem us from our state of sinfulness. It would be Christ, more than us, who would carry that cross.
And so whenever we suffer in one way or another, let’s never forget to unite our suffering with Christ to make that suffering bearable, meaningful, purifying and redeeming.