At Vespers this evening we will sing: “This is Love’s great deed that death should die, when life itself was slain up the tree.”  Here we are faced with a paradox – a paradox which human nature has always found difficult to grasp – and which is even more difficult nowadays.  At Lauds we sang: “The holy Cross shines in splendour”; “The holy Cross shines upon us, in the Cross is victory, in the Cross is power.  By the Cross every sin is overcome.”  We may ask ourselves if we experience some of this victory and power in our daily lives. And if not why not?

The following passage from St Andrew of Cretewhich we read at Office of Readings is particularly beautiful:

We are celebrating the feast of the Cross, whereby darkness was dispelled and the light restored. We are celebrating the feast of the Cross and with the Crucified One we are raised up, leaving behind us the earth and sin so that we may possess what is above. How great the Cross! What blessings it holds! He who possesses it possesses a treasure.  More noble, more precious than anything on earth, in fact and in name, it is indeed a treasure, for in it and through it and for it all the riches of our salvation were stored away and restored to us.

The folly of the Cross is truly a great mystery!  At the very moment when Jesus is most helpless and vulnerable, nailed to the Cross immobile a great hollow space is dug out, as it were, in His heart for us; he reaches out to embrace sinful humanity, He speaks out both His and our ‘yes’ to the Father
as He commends His Spirit into the hands of the Father (Lk 23:46) He donates Him to us (Jn 19:30)
and from His fullness we have all received. 

The Cross has always been central to Dominican spirituality – we are all familiar with Fra Angelico’s beautiful frescos of Dominic at the foot of the Cross.  At the foot of the Cross Dominic learned from the ‘Book of Love’ the immense love of our Saviour which led Him to the Cross.  Contemplating the suffering, forsaken Jesus, Dominic’s compassionate heart was torn apart with compassion, firstly, for Jesus whose love was being rejected by the very ones for whom he died.  Paul Murray speaks of an ‘apostolic wound’ – ‘a contemplative wound’ which Dominic received – no doubt the fruit of his ‘special’ prayer when, as a Canon at Osma, he asked God “to grant him true charity, which would be effective in caring for and winning the salvation of all;  giving himself up entirely for the salvation of others. We can say that our Order was born at the foot of the Cross and it is there that each of us must draw our inspiration and zeal.  This too is the source from which renewal will spring. 

In his correspondence with Blessed Diana, Blessed Jordan exhorts her always to have before her eyes “the book of life, the book of the Lord’s perfect law which brings life back to souls”.  And he continues:

this law is charity: you see it when you gaze on your Saviour Jesus stretched out on the Cross, as though a parchment, his wounds the writing, his blood the illuminations. Where, I ask you, my beloved, could the lesson of love be learnt as it is learnt here?

And according to St Catherine of Siena, Dominic wanted his children to

stand at the table of the Cross – to seek only the glory and praise of God and the salvation of souls

As we take our place with Dominic and Mary at the foot of the Cross we begin to understand the meaning of our vocation.

The Cross and Veritas

There is a very close link between the Cross and Veritas(Truth) – the motto of our Order.  “The Cross verifies the truth about God and the truth about humankind”.

The truth about God: When we look at the Cross we are left in no doubt of God’s infinite love –This is how God loves.

The truth about humans:  the Cross reveals the dignity of every person – how precious we are in God’s sight that He should die for us!

But the Cross does not rob us of joy – the contrary is true as we sing in the liturgy: “through the Cross joy has come into the whole world” and with it freedom.  Jesus has taken the burden of our sin on Himself and has already achieved our eternal salvation.  Our task lies not in anxious striving to achieve our own perfection but in opening ourselves to receive the gift. “At the very moment when he identifies with our sin, ‘abandoned’ by the Father, Jesus ‘abandons’ himself into the hands of the Father”. We in our turn can abandon ourselves and those we carry in our hearts to the loving mercy of our God in the sure hope that “all will be well”.