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.
The passion mysticism of Paul of the Cross did not grow only out of reflecting about the Passion. It sprang from his inner union with the suffering Christ. Its foundation stones were his unshakable faith in the love of God, his loving union with Christ Crucified, and his many personal sufferings. During his own illnesses, Paul encouraged himself with the self-same advice he would pass on to others: "Let me say I've been nailed to this poor bed for forty-two days now. The pains I have are sharp and are a penance for my self-love and manifold weaknesses. There is also a fever which is not a good sign. I move about with difficulty and only in my room and even then I need the aid of crutches. With all this I find it hard to answer your letter, but I rejoice to hear that you are crucified with Christ. It is the most efficacious means of attaining the perfection of holy, pure and spotless love. That is what I want for you with all my heart…”
Through the power of his faith and union with Christ, Paul accepted suffering and pain as treasure, as gift from God, as grace. Obviously, it is not easy to remain true to such an understanding. The bearing of suffering is a problem which challenges everyone. In fact, one of the tasks we face in life is to confront the sufferings that come to us and, despite the fact that we are able to alleviate some pain and suffering and avoid some of its causes, suffering still exists. The means of mastering suffering pointed out by Paul remain suitable and valid today.
Since suffering in all its severity remains a fact in our lives, Christians will find many challenges and helps in the spirituality of Paul of the Cross. Insofar as they accept the unavoidable and endure it with his strength of faith and inner union with Christ, they will find in it deep Christian meaning. It is redemptive.
Participation in the power of his resurrection
The grace and charism of Paul of the Cross was derived from the fact that his gaze was ever fixed on the suffering and crucified Christ. His writings, however, indicate that although Paul placed the sufferings and death of Jesus at the center of his prayer life, he was graced to give them a refreshingly positive value. Paul's spiritual wisdom radiated inner joy and happiness.
The positive attitude and characteristic cheerfulness of Paul's religious thought was the result of his strong faith in the resurrection, a faith which permeated his thinking throughout his entire life. From the very beginning Paul was convinced that pain, suffering and death were not ends in themselves but means leading to greater union with the loving God and, ultimately, means of peace, joy and happiness.
He was well aware that the Risen Lord is actively present in the world in such a way that even now we can participate in his resurrection. This truth of faith is often found in his letters when he speaks of being reborn in the Divine Word Jesus Christ, of sharing a new divine life: "When you have died this mystical death you will live a new life, indeed you will be born again into a new God- like life in the Divine Word Jesus Christ. Oh, what a life this will be! It is beyond my power to describe this heavenly event when you will feel yourself to be risen". Actually, all of Paul's mysticism is based on faith in the resurrection.
Paul's message is no less important today. Through reading his works and by immersing ourselves in his mysticism, may our challenged faith be strengthened, may we be motivated to master personal suffering in a truly Christian way, and may we be reborn in the Divine Word, Jesus Christ!