O good St. Paul of the Cross, you revealed the wonders of God’s power by proclaiming the Passion of God’s only Son. By your words and mighty deeds, you became a spiritual guide and preacher of the Gospel to a world grown cold to the love of Jesus Christ. Turn our hearts and minds to the merciful cross of Jesus. Help us to persevere in faith and love, and assist us in every need. By sharing the Passion of Jesus in this life, may we come to share in the glory He has promised. Amen.
Our Novena readings are taken from the book In This Sign, by Fr. Martin Bialas, CP.
Paul never tired of fostering interior prayer not as an end in itself but as means of preparing the person to respond to the activity of God who dwells within, in the "center of the person, in that little chamber," as he expressed it symbolically, "where no creature, neither angel nor man may gain access, in the innermost part of the being where God alone dwells, in the temple of the soul". Such statements place Paul right in the center of a long tradition of Christian mystics.
From his earliest years, Paul held interiority in highest esteem and his regard for it deepened all the more when, in later life, he studied the writings of John Tauler (1300-1361). Tauler's ideas concerning the center of the soul and his notion of divine nativity in the soul strongly influenced Paul. In fact, Paul found in Tauler's system and terminology an extremely suitable vehicle for his own teaching.
What does Paul's teaching on interiority say to the people of our time? To all of us, his teaching is either a stimulus or a reinforcement to deepen faith in and commitment to prayer. To those who are earnestly striving for Christian perfection, his writings are a treasure and fount of riches.
The passion of Jesus: the most astounding work of God's love
The most profound expression about God that we find in the New Testament is: God is love (1 Jn 4:8). Certainly it is impossible with our limitations to grasp the greatness and power of God, who always remains an unfathomable mystery. The essential description of the inexpressible given by John, however, approaches the most perfect understanding of God possible to us.
The whole universe and especially the human person are ultimately a work of divine love. God's dealing with us, particularly in the Incarnation, serves to make this fact clear. The goodness and mercy of God became manifest in the Incarnate word, our Saviour, and in every facet of his life. But, nowhere was it more effectively revealed than in the passion and death of Christ who died for us and for our salvation. The sufferings of Christ are the most convincing witness of God's love for us.
Paul of the Cross was completely imbued with this mystery of faith. By the age of twenty-seven, the passion of Jesus had already etched itself deeply in his soul. This is evident in notations made in his diary: "I say to my beloved Jesus, 'Your pains, dear God, are pledges of your love!" (Spiritual Diary, November 27, 1720). In his letters, Paul frequently calls the passion of Jesus the greatest work of divine love, the most astounding work of God's love, the miracle of miracles.
To illustrate this basic truth that God is first and foremost good, loving, and merciful, Paul, using a language rich in symbolism and imagery, wrote of God as an endless sea of love. To illustrate that divine love was the origin of the suffering of Jesus, Paul wrote that from this endless sea of love "flow the waters of the passion of Jesus; and these two expanses are but one".