“Keep your eyes on the crucifix, for Jesus without the cross is a man without a mission, and the cross without Jesus is a burden without a reliever.” –Fulton Sheen

Think for a moment about Christ on the cross. Usually, we think of Him straight ahead of us; we can see His bloody and anguished face, His arms and legs outstretched. Imagine where you are when you see Him from that perspective. If He is straight in front of you, you are in the crowd watching Him die. In your company are the Pharisees and Sadducees who conspired to have Him crucified. To your right and left are his former disciples who are afraid to admit they followed Him or who now hate Him because they think He has failed them. In the crowd also are many who are there because this is entertainment, the torture and degradation of a man. We should remember that we are just like these people, unfaithful and even sometimes hostile or jeering of Jesus. This perspective humbles us because it reminds us that we are sinners in need of our Savior. This perspective reminds us to be faithful, not faithless like the people in the crowd.

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Now let’s change our perspective. Think of yourself high above the Cross, high above the world as in the sketch by St. John of the Cross  made famous in the painting by Salvador Dali.

Look at Jesus from God the Father’s perspective. From this perspective you are looking at Jesus like a father looks down at a small child, and you look down on your Son with compassion and sadness and pride because He has faithfully done what you asked Him to do. But you can see much more than your Son, you can also see the jeering crowd and the whole world beyond. You can see outside of time so your gaze encompasses all the people at this moment, all the people who were ever born, and all who will be born in the future. This perspective teaches us the powerful love of God. He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so we may have eternal life for everyone from the beginning to the end of time.

Finally, let us imagine ourselves at the foot of the cross looking up. From the Gospel of John we know who sat at the foot of the cross: The Blessed Mother, St. John, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. These few people are those who remained Jesus’ dear friends even to the very end. They were not ashamed of Him; they chose to draw near to the cross as a sign of their faithfulness and in an effort to comfort Him. From this perspective you can clearly see the nail driven through His holy feet. You see His body sagging and His haggard face, crowned with thorns and bleeding. From this perspective His precious blood can drop onto you, the blood He shed to save you from sin and death. The person who sits in this perspective is driven by a fervent love for Jesus and is filled with gratitude for His sacrifice.

This is the perspective we should strive for, that of the closest friend, the faithful follower, the grateful sinner.

We can only gain this perspective by drawing near the cross ourselves. By being willing to be embarrassed for our love of Jesus, by being courageous in the face of the crowd, by denying ourselves, by taking up our own crosses and following Him.

There is no progress in the interior life without a spirit of sacrifice and mortification. St. John of the Cross says that if few people reach a high state of union with God it is because so many do not want to. And the same saint writes: and if anyone wants one day to possess Christ, never let him seek Him without the Cross. –Fr. Frances Fernandez, In Conversation with God Vol. 2: Lent and Eastertide, Thursday after Ash Wednesday

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This meditation was inspired by this watercolor art project for toddlers, but I expanded it as a part of an Easter themed workshop my daughter is doing for American Heritage Girls.

We really cannot think too much about the Cross.

 

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