Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Simon Bears the Cross with Jesus

As I pray the Rosary, I add certain relative clauses in order to help me meditate on the particular mystery of the decade I am reciting. So an Ave would run as follows for the fourth sorrowful mystery: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, who bore the heavy cross for us. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen." (The words in italic, of course, being the added relative clause.)

Adding these clauses aren't my idea or invention, but have been around for centuries. (Read von Balthasar's Threefold Garland for more - it's a phenomenal little book.) I have been thinking about this particular clause, "Who bore the heavy cross for us," as I meditate on the sorrowful mysteries of the most holy Rosary. Whenever I say it, or hear or read the story of Jesus' bearing the cross, I am always, and always have been, struck immediately with a qualification - something ridiculous along the lines of "with Simon of Cyrene." But this involuntary (literalist crazy) qualification strikes me as constitutive to our Christian life. Simon bears the cross with Jesus for a purpose. Ultimately God goes before us, bears us, encircles us with his grace so that it is He who acts. But I also act.

"Good works" is not a dirty word, not heresy unless I believe that it is my good works - outside and apart from Christ's work - that reconcile me to God. (There are variations of the heresy.) I cannot act righteously without God's grace. But God's grace is always present for good works. Always. Sometimes I don't allow it to work in me. (The permission itself is an act of grace. All is grace.) But God has given us human persons the dignity of freedom to respond in step with the Spirit or to quench the Spirit.

God invites us to work with him, by his grace, that we might, working with him, redeem all of creation. That we might, by his grace, do greater things than he himself did. (I don't understand this word of Christ, but believe that each of us - and not simply the Church entire - is called to these "greater works" since the Greek uses the singular "you" rather than the plural. Though it is still only by his grace.) This is not because Christ doesn't cut it or that the Father needs help, but because we are invited to participate in his Divine Life. This is conversion. This is salvation. We become - we must become - by grace, all that Christ is by nature.

Glory to God for all things.

4 comments:

Fred said...

Scott - it's good to have a companion who feels these questions and won't be satisfied with a pat answer.

Fred said...

PS. A list of relative clauses.

Scott Lyons said...

Indeed, Fred. Thank you. I have come up with my own list of relative clauses for the Luminous Mysteries (I think originally influenced by your list long ago), but fear some are too specific. It seems to me that the broadness of the clausulae in the other mysteries opens them up to a finer meditation.

Here are my own luminous clauses with some overlap with your own:
1. Jesus, who blessed the waters in baptism
2. Jesus, who at your request, O Virgin, changed water into the best wine
3. Jesus, who proclaimed the Kingdom of Heaven and called us to conversion
4. Jesus, who was transfigured on Mt. Tabor
5. Jesus, who made himself known in the breaking of the bread

I think my Eastern heart influenced the first clause. And I love the final clause because it's so personal to me and so beautiful an intersection between the Scriptures and my life. And though I love them, these bookend clauses almost seem too narrow, too interpretive. I don't know. Still wrestling with them. I may have to just up and steal yours.

Fred said...

ha. That's great! The luminous mysteries definitely nod toward the East.