The Eucharist and PeaceREV. EMMERICH VOGT, O.P.
All true Christian “calvaries" are life-giving and lead to inner peace.
The Gospel impresses upon us that the way to happiness—eternal happiness—is love. Love is man’s origin and love is his ultimate fulfillment in heaven. If we would have life in abundance, we must learn to love as Christ loved us. Christ’s love for us is most especially seen in His passion and death, which He suffered to set us free from sin and death. This is the source of true peace: Christ’s eucharistic sacrifice. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, writes:
As Christians we are called to live out in our own lives this eucharistic mystery. "Love one another as I have loved you" is a call to live Calvary in our daily lives. All true Christian “calvaries" are life-giving and lead to inner peace. They appear at first to take life, as it appeared to the disciples when Christ was crucified. They thought it was over when, in reality it was just the beginning. And so in our daily lives we must embrace this life-giving cross.
Many people, sad to say, have a distorted sense of the cross. This lack of understanding is often the cause of others rejecting its message and thus the Way of the Cross is ridiculed by its enemies. Let's take one example.
Some years ago I talked with an elderly woman married to a tightwad. From the first moment of her marriage he made it known that it was his money. And so over the course of the years she never dared ask for much. Her girl friends would feel sorry for her—after all this was her cross. Out of their sympathy they would buy her a new dress, something she didn't dare ask for from her cheap husband. But was this in fact her cross?
Our Christian faith teaches that the Cross is the Tree of Life—the tree that Adam and Eve where forbidden to eat from, lest they eat and live for ever. Now in Christ man is called to partake of that tree and reap the effect of its fruit: life! "I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full!" Jesus preaches. In Christ the Cross has been revealed as the Tree of Life. Those who eat from this tree will live forever.
Does it appear that the woman married to the miser gained from the experience, grew from the experience, had a more abundant life because of this cross she's had to bear? Just the opposite—she was miserable and lived in fear of her husband's anger. Well, then, can we say it was truly the Cross of Christ she was bearing? If the suffering we endure does not bring us to a deeper love of God and neighbor, does not nourish our faith, hope, and love, it may be a cross, indeed, but not the Cross of Christ, for Calvary's cross is inherently life-giving.
The truth is that the woman was self-indulgent, and for years she indulged her wimpy fear of her husband. Rather than fostering the virtue of courage in order to stand up to him to defend and care for herself, she was giving in to her weaknesses and the result was unhappiness. Was Saint Francis unhappy? Was Mother Teresa miserable? Once she surrendered to the power of Christ, was St. Margaret of Cortona miserable? The Saints had joy—a fruit of the Holy Spirit—a fruit enjoyed, miser or no miser.
What our elderly friend should have done when her miserly husband first announced that it was "his money;" is to have embraced the Cross. Instead she ran from it. Embracing the cross in this situation would have meant: going to him and, in a reasonable, responsible and loving way, explaining: "It's your money? It's your house? It's your food? Well, then, you can cook it, you can clean it, and you can bank it. I'm getting my own job in order to care for myself and to see to it I have the things I need."
Her husband would have learned real fast to share. Or his miserliness would have made him suffer, a suffering that would not have been redemptive and life-giving because it would have been based in self-centeredness. His wife's so-called 'cross' of living with the miser was not redemptive because it, too, was self-centered. The theme of the prayer of St. Francis is that in forgetting self, one finds. In our example, the spouse of the tightwad should have forgotten herself by denying her very self—her wimpiness and fear of the miser—and embraced the cross of confronting the miser. Caring for herself in the true sense, she would in turn be doing the loving thing for her hus band. Whether or not he grew from the experience would be beyond her power to control. Ultimately we have no power over other people. But we do have the power of Christ's cross to be crucified to the world and the world to us so that we no longer live as slaves to other people. Thus learning to care for ourselves, we can truly care for others. Not to give in to the miser is the loving thing to do, both for herself and for her husband. Embracing this Cross would cost her—she would have to die to her fears, her doormat behavior—but she would grow, find new life, and have peace.
Christ's peace is different from the peace that the world affords. The world's peace is won at the price of capitulation, of giving in to one's weaknesses. Christ's peace comes from His Cross. And the Cross and the Eucharist have always been mystically one. For that reason the Cross has traditionally been placed just above the altar. In the Holy Eucharist we celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. Christ invites us to share in this pascal mystery, but not simply at Mass. The mystery we celebrate at Mass is the mystery of faith that we must live daily. This is what the person does when she dies to her weakness (e.g., fear of the miser) and embraces the Cross (of confronting her husband's miserliness and finding a job to earn her own monies).Understood in this way, the Cross would no longer frighten. We see this in the lives of the Saints. In this season's Newsletter, we give the example of St. Margaret of Cortona. Dying to herself by embracing her Cross (correctly understood), she became a friend of the poor and lived in great sanctity. Let us embrace our Cross so that the life and joy Christ came to give may be ours, and heaven along with it!
Father Emmerich Vogt, O.P. "The Eucharist and Peace." The Twelve Step Review (Spring 2007).
Reprinted with permission from Father Emmerich Vogt, O.P.
Father Emmerich Vogt, O.P. was born and raised in New Britain, Connecticut, where he attended Central Connecticut State College, Fr. Emmerich received a BA degree in Philosophy from St. Albert’s College in Oakland, California, a MA degree in Theology from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and a graduate degree in Near Eastern Religions from the University of California. From a family with alcohol and drug addiction, Fr. Emmerich has been active in giving 12-Step missions. Visit his website www.12-step-review.org. He currently resides at St. Dominic Priory in San Francisco. He is the author of The Spirituality of the Twelve Steps, Eucharistic Principles of the Spiritual Life, and other books and tapes. See a list of books and tapes recommended by Fr. Emmerich here.
Copyright © 2007 The Twelve Step Review
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