Even in a divided Church, one can find a high degree of unified support for…
A year of the cross
The closer Christmas came this Advent, the more I kept thinking about the cross. As we put the Christ child in the cribs in our homes and churches (and I might have one in my office, too) in preparation for him, I saw him crucified. A friend of mine talks all the time about how the Passion, death and Resurrection are really all one event. The Incarnation, too! Because one doesn’t fully make sense without the other. It is the full picture, the story of redemption. And if it’s not all true, what fools we are — and not in a good way.
So, for Christmas, I finally got to reading the Office of Readings for Ash Wednesday — something I’ve felt like I needed to do since I got a message on my phone about Theodore McCarrick, as everyone signed up for Flocknote in a parish in the Archdiocese of New York did one day early this past summer.
The reading I was aiming for is from St. Clement, on St. Paul writing to the Corinthians: “Let us fix our attention on the blood of Christ and recognize how precious it is to God his Father, since it was shed for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to all the world.” When you consider, too, the feasts that come right after Christmas — St. Stephen, the first martyr, and Holy Innocents, for example — calling to mind blood makes sense. And the precious healing that Christ means for us.
Clement continues that “we should be humble in mind, putting aside all arrogance, pride and foolish anger. Rather, we should act in accordance with the Scriptures, as the Holy Spirit says: The wise man must not glory in his wisdom nor the strong man in his strength nor the rich man in his riches. Rather, let him who glories glory in the Lord by seeking him and doing what is right and just.”
Right and just for the new year. Good resolution. Clement goes on to talk about forgiveness and charity and the Golden Rule. Worth more than any list of new year renewal plans.
The day after Christmas, I quite literally got hit in the head by a little copy of the Letters of St. Paul that the Daughters of St. Paul had published for the Pauline year designated by Pope Benedict XVI back in 2008-09. Not far from it was Misericordiae Vultus, which Pope Francis issued to begin the Year of Mercy. I immediately thought: Pope Francis needs to call for a year dedicated to the cross, one where we dedicate ourselves to conformity to the cross of Christ. An entire year where we wake up every morning and gaze upon the cross and ask for Jesus in his mercy to forgive our sacrileges.
Then I remembered how devoid we seem of mercy sometimes and how many have all but completely missed those holy years (and the Year of Faith in between them).
I think often about how the pope talks about tenderness. The Christ Child drives that home, so to speak. But so does full knowledge of this Child — of who he is and what he has come to do and what he will suffer. And how we continue to pierce his heart, even as he offers us himself for healing and victory over death, never mind all the worries and often somewhat erratic priorities that occupy our days.
That’s all to say that Jesus gave me a heightened knowledge of his wondrous love for us on the cross for Christmas, and I couldn’t be more grateful. And we don’t have to wait for a papal promulgation: Let’s make 2019 the year of the cross — because that’s really the point of the Christian life, anyway. Prayer and penance and reparation for the evil we and others in the Church do. Always keeping the Incarnation and Resurrection in mind and in praise and thanksgiving.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).