Say What You Mean

In Christianity on April 11, 2009 at 9:20 pm

Holy Saturday.  A day for meditation.  

The Stations of the Cross were broadcast over our local Catholic radio station yesterday, and I was praying them as I drove to church for Good Friday Veneration of the Cross.  I have three prayer books, each of which contains completely different prayers for the stations.  During the broadcast, however, I heard yet another prayer that included the words, “I wish to die with Thee.”

Do we?  

In the deepest, most authentic sense, if death with Christ were required of me, I believe—only by God’s grace and all thanks to Him!—I could say those words sincerely.  But surely we must be very, very careful about what we say without careful reflection?

Growing up Baptist, a frequently sung hymn included the words,  “At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled away; it was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day.”  Yes, if one thinks carefully about the consequences of redemption, then joy fills one’s heart even on those days when one is not terribly happy.  Yet too often I sang those words with neither thought nor much happiness, simply bouncing along on the dotted quarter, eighth note rhythm.

Listening to the radio yesterday my reaction was not that mindless, but was probably more like Paul Claudel’s, in his first prayer at the conclusion of A Poet Before the Cross:

Age has weakened my ears and my eyes.  I am beginning to feel around me all the symptoms of that period of life spoken of by Ecclesiastes, “the street doors shut . . . man is for his everlasting home.”  My everlasting home! Why, Lord, that is what I want, but after all, am I not already here?  Only here do I feel really comfortable.  I am like one of those old men in a General Store of the Far West.  He doesn’t speak.  He doesn’t buy anything.  But they let him stay there because he’s no trouble.  He doesn’t listen to the conversation going on around him, but he follows it from time to time when it coincides with his own thoughts.  He is there as if he didn’t exist, and someone seeing him close to the stove might think that he has nothing else to do in life but warm himself at that inside sun.

“Why, Lord, of course I am eager to join you in my everlasting home; of course I wish to die with Thee, but after all . . . .”  

I am so thankful that, through grace given by God the Holy Spirit and good catechesis, those words brought me up short and forced me to think, “Do I really mean what I am praying? Do I want to die with Christ?”  Moreover, and more to the point for those of us not called to martyrdom, am I dying to self and taking up my cross daily (Luke 9:23)?  Has my old self been crucified with Him (Romans 6:6)?

For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we also will live with Him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death He died, He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives, He lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

May Easter morning, and each day until we celebrate this joyous occasion again next year, find us dead to sin and self—and alive in our Risen Lord!

  1. […] time have I cited his book, A Poet Before the Cross, over the past six years. See Lenten Reading, Say What You Mean, The Reality of It All, No Forced Faith, Lent is Approaching, and Entering Holy Week […]

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