Pulpit of the Cross
Blessed Good Friday to all. Easter is only two days away and when I was reading the following passage in the book “Divine Romance” by Bishop Sheen, I felt I had to share it with you. The following quote from the book “Divine Romance” by Archbishop Fulton Sheen, printed in 1931 gives us an understanding of the Cross.
“Our Blessed Lord has mounted His pulpit for the last time, and what a majestic pulpit it is! In itself the cross is a sermon. How much more eloquently it speaks now when adorned with the Word of Eternal Life!
(He talks of all those in his audience as He looks down from His pulpit – timid disciples, people on temple walls, Scribes and Pharisees, Romans, and Temple priests asking Him to come down and prove His Divinity, the Deity-blind, mocking and spitting at Him. Roman soldiers throwing dice for His garment, the wounded flower – Mary Magdalen, John and His Beloved Mother. He mentions John, Mary Magdalen and Mother Mary as being the souls always found at the foot of the cross – Innocence, Penitence and Priesthood)
There is perhaps no word in the English language that is more often used and more often misunderstood than the word that rang out from the Pulpit of the Cross on that day: the simple word, love. Love as the world understands it means to have, to own, to possess that person, for the particular pleasure which it will give. That is not love; that is selfishness, that is sin. Love is not the desire to have, to own or to possess. Love is the desire to be had, to be owned, to be possessed. Love is the giving of oneself for the sake of another. Love, as the world understands it, is symbolized by a circle which is always circumscribed by self. Love, as Our Lord understands it, is symbolized by the cross with its arms outstretched even unto infinity to embrace all humanity within its grasps. As long as we have a body, then, love can never mean anything else but sacrifice. That is why we speak of arrows and darts of love – something that wounds.
But if love, in its highest reaches, means sacrifice, then these words of Our Blessed Lord from the cross are the climax of Love's ways with unloving men. Love did not keep the secret of its goodness - that was creation. Love became one with the one loved, and that was the Incarnation. But if love had merely stopped with God becoming man, we might say that God did not do everything He could do to show His love; we might say that He was like the heathen gods that sat indifferent to the woes and ills and heartaches of the world and hence never drew from the heart of man a beat of love. If Divine Love stopped merely by appearing among us, man might say that God could never understand the sufferings and the loneliness of a human heart; that a God could not love as men do, namely, to the point of sacrifice. If, therefore, love was to give of its fullness, it must express itself even to the point of sacrificing itself for the salvation and redemption of mankind. If therefore, He Who suffered on Calvary, He Who was now preaching from the Pulpit of the Cross, were not God, but a mere creature or a mere man, then there must be creatures in this world better and nobler than God. Shall man who toils for his fellowman, suffers for him, and if need be die for him, be capable of doing that which God cannot do? Should this noblest form of love, which is sacrifice, be possible to sinful man, and yet impossible to a perfectly good God? Shall we say that the martyr sprinkling the sands of the Colosseum with his blood, the soldier dying for his country, the missionary spending himself and being spent for the good of heathens; aye, and more, shall we say that those women, martyrs by pain, who in little hovels and lowly cottages have sacrificed all the joys of life for the sake of simple duties, and little charities, unnoticed and unknown by all save God - shall we say that all those, who from the beginning of the world have shown forth the beauty of sacrifice, have no divine prototype in Heaven? That they have been capable of displaying a nobler form of love than He Who made them? That they have shown greater love than Love Itself? Shall we say this, or shall we say with John and Paul, that if man can be so good, God must be infinitely better; that if man can love so much, God can love infinitely more? Shall we not say this, and find in the Cross of Calvary the perfect expression of love by an All-Perfect Being, of Whom perfect condescension and sacrifice were required by naught in Heaven or Earth save by His own perfect and inconceivable Love which He now preaches from the Pulpit of the Cross?
Now it is true to say of Love Itself that it is really dying for us, for "Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends." The drama of this day is an abiding one. For Calvary is not just a mere historical incident, like the battle of Waterloo; it is not something which has happened, it is something which is also happening. Christ is still on the cross. As long as earth wears wounds, still must Christ's wounds remain, for each new sin draws aside the curtain of another Crucifixion. Christ is still on trial in the hearts of men, and every sin is another act by which Barabbas is preferred to Christ. There are still other Judases who blister His lips with a kiss, there still are other Pilates who condemn Him as an enemy of Caesar, there still are other Herods who robe Him in the garment of a fool, there still are gambling idlers who cast their dice, gambling away the riches of eternity for baubles of time; there still are other calvaries, for sin is the Crucifixion over again.
Arms that are outstretched to bless, we nail fast. Feet that would seek us in the devious ways of sin, we dig with steel. Eyes that would look longingly after us as we set out for foreign countries, like other prodigals, we fill with dust. Lips that would speak to us words of tender pleading and forgiveness, we burn with gall. A heart that would pant for us as if we were fountains of living waters, we pierce with a lance.
We make our way down the hill of Calvary and then there comes not the quake of earth but the quake of conscience which makes us say in our soul with the Centurion, "Indeed this is the Son of God." We must kneel there at the foot of that Pulpit of Love and confess that when we stabbed His Heart, it was our own we slew. But, oh, it is such a difficult thing to climb up the hill of Calvary? It is such a humiliating thing to be seen at the foot of the Cross! It is such a painful thing to be with one in pain and to be seen with one condemned by the world! It is such a hard thing to kneel at the foot of the cross, and admit that one is wrong. ---- It is hard; but it is harder to hang there!
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Bernadette Porter is a Traditional Catholic, a wife of 42 years with 6 adult home-schooled children and 6 grandchildren. A sincere devotion to Mary, the Mother of God leads me to want to share "The Church's best kept secret" - Mary!