Monday, March 14, 2016


We gather today a week before Palm Sunday and Holy Week, the pinnacle of the church year, to see what Celeste says about Love of the Cross.  How could I not reflect on {our soon to be Blessed} M. Celeste Crostarosa’s Love of the Cross since it is so fundamental to her spirituality.
          Celeste begins the section of the Rule on the Love of the Cross with the scripture quote: "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, take up your cross every day and follow me."  Lk. 9:23
   Love of the Cross is essentially love and imitation of Jesus Christ who freed the world by embracing our painful death to transform it into His redemptive death.  In contemplating Christ crucified we find the grace to accept, in communion with Him, the difficulties inherent in all aspects of our life, and the sadness and suffering of all of humanity.  Uniting ourselves to the sufferings of Christ we participate in the building up of His Church and world.   There is no comparison between the sufferings of the present time and the glory of heaven.  Hence we journey with complete confidence towards a new world where there will be no more tears, nor weeping, nor sorrows.
          Celeste was a mystic and over the length of her life she was in continual heart-to-heart dialogue with her Redeemer.  He said, “Listen to me on the Cathedral of the Cross which I have placed in your heart so that I may live My life in you.  Make your will the echo of Mine: if I should say to you ‘Cross,’ reply willingly, ‘Yes, cross,’ or if I say, ‘Kiss,’ reply, “Yes, kiss.’ ” Jesus continued, “You are my friend and my delight; therefore, I will keep you in my Kingdom of the Cross.  I shall bring this about in such a way that it will be for you both My cross and My peace.”
          My response is, “Gee, thanks, Lord, more crosses.” We don’t go looking for crosses; they are a part of life.  It is how we handle these crosses that come our way that make them redemptive. This reminded me of an animated movie some of us saw recently,  Inside Out, which explored in a very clever way how we need all our emotions, especially  ‘Joy’ and ‘Sadness’ in our lives.  They balance our lives so that we can cope with the realities of our life experiences.  The cross helps to balance our lives.
          We know this world with its crosses is not heaven.  However, we are not alone in our suffering.  In heaven God/Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary and all those who have gone before us to the heavenly realm weep to see the pain and struggles we endure. They understand.  They are one with us.  That is why we ask them to intercede for us to God, the Father of mercy.  And we intercede to heaven for each other.  Even Jesus prayed for his disciples that “they may be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one.”   Jn 17:21-22
          How is it possible that we are one with God?  Jesus “emptied himself  (to become) human like one of us, obeying to the death, death on a cross.” Phil 2: 7-8   As a human being he shared all our joys and sadnesses.  Everything.  And we are called to share in His life.
          The bigger question is why?  Why would God become Incarnate?  Celeste has the answer, “Jesus passed from the fragility of the flesh to the supreme glory of the resurrection” and by the means of “His most precious death has brought me (us) back to life!”
          Celeste often speaks of self-abnegation, another one of those phrases that does not sit well with modern thinking, but abnegation is a participation in the self-emptying of Christ. The other side of Celeste’s coin of abnegation is purity of heart which is a loving fixed gaze on Jesus who, from the beginning, has gazed on us with such love.  Love of the cross is a totally positive virtue where we fix our gaze on the Crucified and he gazes at us with such mercy.  Thus, Celeste’s spirituality is not a mere acceptance of the cross, but a positive love of it.  
          Recently, I heard a sister give a reflection that described to me the fixed gaze.  She said the word intimacy can mean ‘Into-Me-See:’ Jesus into–me-sees and Jesus invites me to into-me-see Him. 
          Celeste also has a unique viewpoint which she calls image-theology.  The Crostarosan Love of the Cross is a bringing to life the Redeemer who is present within us by our participation-union.  She says from the beginning there was a “first-creation” where she saw in all of natural creation an “impress” of the Divine.  “Let us create humankind in our own image and likeness.” Gen. 1:26   St. Paul says, “We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to do the good things God created us to do from the beginning.” Eph 2:10  We are that work of art, impressed with the Divine to be a living image of the Redeemer.  This is the origin of the Viva Memoria we so often speak of in our charism: We are created in God’s image and we accomplish the work of the Redeemer in our lives by our participation in the Paschal Mystery through the Love of the Cross.                   

References are from the Associates Constitutions, The Mystic Who Remembered by Fr. Oppitz, and the Florilegium

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