The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross ~ Can You “exalt” the crosses You carry?


Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:24.)

Jesus had said this to his disciples shortly after his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

I’m thinking about the issue of Dying to Self these September days because we’re celebrating a favorite feast day of mine.  It’s the Exaltation of the Holy Cross; it’s special to me because as my long-time readers know, I had close affinity to Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia that’s nestled upon the western shore of the Shenandoah River and against the edge of the first mountain of the Blue Ridge chain until the two Abbots I knew well have now gone to the Lord.

Many of us might shudder and quake in our sneakers at the thought of Dying to Self. 

“My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection.” And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For when I am powerless, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

It goes against everything our American culture often tells us we should do—Look Out For No. 1.  There had been talk about the “Me Generation” since the Seventies and a Time magazine had an issue in May 2013, “The ME ME ME Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents: Why they will save us all.”

Patricia Greenfield, a psychological scientist at the University of California in Los Angeles, used the Google Ngram Viewer to scan more than 1 million books. Her findings, which were published in Psychological Science, showed that there has been a distinct rise in more individualistic words such as “choose,” “get,” “feel,” “unique,” “individual” and “self” and a decrease in community-focused words such as “obliged,” “give,” “act,” “obedience,” “authority,” “pray” and “belong.”

No sign of Dying to Self here, it seems.  Let alone the Cross. 

I wonder what will happen to young people when they hit on hard times? If their climb toward success begins to crumble?

This is the Paschal Mystery.  The Pasch / Passover / Passage / Transition / Transformation / Change. The Dying and Rising of Jesus in our lives as it is celebrated throughout the liturgical year and in every Mass.  Think about how you have experienced—and continue to experience the Paschal Mystery in your own life.

If the girl that they’ve fallen head-over-heals in love with cruelly rejects them? Or as I just read in The Writer magazine, after five years of marriage, the successful screen-writer Brendan had grown tired of arguing with his wife, also a writer–insecure and jealous of her success, told her he’s moving out?

What happens to any of us when life does not turn out as we planned?  When we suddenly lose our job? Or are diagnosed with cancer?  

Now here you have three koans to mull over, dear friends, and to try to grasp:

Think about or name the trauma(s) that have altered your life over the years . . . How did you deal with them? How did they affect you?

And what about Dying to Self–For others?

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:24.)

Does this make sense to you?  For you?

In another place, Jesus says to his disciples . . . .

 If any wants to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?         (Luke 9:24-26 ~ NRSV)

Obviously, this is not the wisdom of the world with its emphasis on Power Prestige and Possessions.

A dear priest friend sent me a Christmas card a couple of years ago that I framed and placed on my dining room table —a quote of St. Paul’s:

“My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection.” And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For when I am powerless, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

Now here you have three koans to mull over, dear friends, and to try to grasp:

I / Unless a grain of wheat dies, it will not bear fruit.

II / Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

III / When I am powerless, then I am strong.

What is a koan, you might ask?

A koan is a Zen saying often used by Buddhist monks to teach their novices:

To meditate on a koan is to engage in an active process, like that we engage in when we try to solve a mathematical problem. As in mathematics, the solution will often come suddenly

So, rather than giving all your energy to the three P’s of the world–power, prestige and possessions–why not write these three Christian Scriptures on index cards and pull them out when you’re idly waiting for something else to happen? Try it! You just might be enlightened, as I sometimes have been!

In December 2010, the Arise issue I wrote was about Philippians 2:6-11, known as “The kenosis passage.”  Kenosismeaning here Jesus’ self-emptying . . .

And so, dear friends, I will bring this missive to a close by returning to the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and conclude with the wonderful words of the hymn Lift High the Cross.I remember when I first heard it. Trumpets and timpani sent shivers down my spine and goose bumps all over!

 Lift high the cross 
The love of Christ proclaim, 
Till all the world 
Adore His sacred name

Led on their way 
By this triumphant sign, The hosts of God 
In conquering ranks combine. 
Refrain: 

Each newborn servant 
Of the Crucified 
Bears on the brow 
The seal of Him who died. 
Refrain: 

O Lord, once lifted 
On the glorious tree, 
As Thou hast promised 
Draw the world to Thee. Refrain.
So shall our song 
Of triumph ever be: 
Praise to the Crucified 
For victory. 
Refrain: 

If you’d like to listen to a great YouTube version, copy this link into your browser . . .

This is my alma mater–Theological College of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

*  *  * *  *

Bob Traupman, 2014

904-315-526

arise7@me.com

www.spirit7.com

blog http://www.bobtraupman.com

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

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