Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Suffering and the Cross by Saint John of Riga

Holy Martyr, John of Riga tells us, that when our suffering may seem unbearable, we should look to the Cross and Christ. In meditation and remembrance of his passion, we can see how one should suffer affliction. We see how Jesus, the God-Man, took bodily torture and death and endured it bravely. In his humanity, we see by example the way by which we are to bear our crosses.

The Cross also transforms. By the Crucifixion and Resurrection, His Cross, and our cross, our suffering, is transfigured from meaningless torture, to a means of enjoining with Christ. By being scorned, assaulted, and pitied, our faith either collapses under the weight of the cross, and we give into despair, or we are saved by it-- by embracing the life--the life in Christ, and lifting up our suffering to Christ. Thus our Cross becomes that same Cross of the Crucifixion which, is now called the Life-Giving Cross. Let us remember the apocryphal words of Saint Peter to his disciples in Rome :

"If it is to the cross I must go, then remember it is also by the cross you are saved. The tree of death is actually the tree of life. "

St. John of Riga writes:

"We can more easily bear our afflictions if we keep in mind the example of our Saviour. See with what peaceful and holy determination He goes to meet His passion. And then follow Him along the path of the Cross until, with His last breath, you hear from His lips the Divine words: It is finished. And then ask yourself: aren't you drawn by this example? Doesn't this make clear the commandment, He who wishes to follow Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me. Doesn't this lead you to the conviction of that disciple who said, I cannot wear a crown of roses when my Saviour is wearing a crown of thorns?

At the cross of Christ, even the most suffering soul among us can find consolation: I have endured and even now endure much, but my Divine Saviour endured still more. If you find this example too lofty, read what the holy Apostle St. Paul says: Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep. In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren. In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (2 Cor 11:25-27). See what he endured for Christ's sake; how many times he was beaten, stoned, imprisoned... and then understand how far we are from him." - St. John of Riga

"Everywhere the Cross is the sign of Christianity. A Christian can simply not be without his cross." - St. John of Riga

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