A Christianity without the Cross, fearful of contemplating the Cross, of preaching it, or which in practice marginalises it, would fall into the absurdity of a Christianity without Christ. And in so doing we would fall into the very dangerous confusion of idealism.

The same is true for the Church, which has been called for two thousand years not only to contemplate the Crucified, but also – as we do today – to celebrate Him, to exalt the Holy Cross – obviously not as an instrument of torture or out of an insane devotion to pain, but rather as a historical place for the recapitulation of all things in Christ and as a necessary way to arrive at the victory of the Resurrection and the fullness of love, peace and joy, won for us by Christ and given as a gift to man.

Only a Church that is fully aware of the centrality of the mystery of the Cross will have the necessary vitality to recognise all the crucified ones of our own time and, with the help of Grace, to become like Simon of Cyrene for them. The Church is not called to solve all the problems of humanity, it is not called to eliminate the Cross from the lives of men, and still less to erase its memory from human history.

  • The Church is the inn where the Good Samaritan accompanies the wounded pilgrim!
  • The Church is like Simon of Cyrene, who helps Christ carry the Cross but does not prevent him from dying crucified!
  • The Church is to be found in the apostle He loved, who at the foot of the Cross contemplates the Master, without understanding everything but continuing to love passionately.
  • The Church is above all represented by the Sorrowful Virgin whom, God willing, we shall celebrate tomorrow and who, full of compassion, takes into her arms the Body of the Crucified One, surrounds Him with her overflowing maternal love, and venerates Him with loving trepidation in expectation of the Resurrection.
  • The Church is fully contained in the passionate devotion of the women, who in the morning hasten to the sepulchre, expecting to find a body and instead becoming proclaimers of the Resurrection.
  • The Church is in the running of Peter and John, a running that never stops and which enables us even today, in contemplating the Crucifixion and the empty Sepulchre, to tell the world that we have seen and have believed: ‘And he saw and believed’ (Jn 20:8).

For all these reasons, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass we implore that the Church may always be permeated by the dimension of the Cross of Christ, whose expiatory value shines especially brightly in the messages of Fatima, which see a struggling Church, besieged and seemingly crushed by evil, but all enveloped in the salvific Love of Christ and the beating maternal heart of Mary, who is the perfect Icon of the Church.

Let us remember that it is never possible 

  • to separate the Church from the Cross, 
  • to separate Christ from the Cross, 
  • to separate Man from the Cross.

The Church will be faithful to God and faithful to men only by proclaiming the historical fact of a salvation that passes through the Cross, learning always and again to express the logic of the Cross in all the fabric of her own being and doing. All the great topics, from family to ecology, from evangelisation to faith, can be seen in no other way than in the logic of the Cross, a logic of offering and sacrifice, of atonement and death, to reach the glory of the Resurrection, the total fulfilment of the Cross. ‘Per Crucem ad lucem!’ 11

Hence this centrality of the Cross, and of the Crucified one, also becomes the light and standard whereby we must evaluate, increase, and enliven our life as Christians. We cannot delude ourselves that we can be Christians without contemplating the Crucified One. On the contrary, a Christianity without the Cross would be reduced to a generic collection of moral rules, devoid of attraction and meaning, and thus uselessly proclaimed and never realised.

  • There is no reason to love all our brothers and sisters, except in the Crucified one!
  • There is no reason to love ourselves, except in the Crucified one!
  • There is no reason to pray for sinners, as Fatima invites us to do, except in the Crucified one!
  • There is no reason to continue to hope, again and always, except that God became Man and died for us, for everyone, with no one excluded!

The Cross is thus the foundation and the reason for our own Christian existence.

We look upon the Crucifix with the wondering gaze of the Apostle John, knowing that we too are the disciples whom Jesus loved. With tearful eyes, but firm and full of faith, we look towards the Blessed Virgin Mary, in whose grieving and Immaculate Heart we feel gently protected.

Every time life crucifies us, every time our brothers crucify us, every time illness, misunderstanding, loneliness, marginalisation, and betrayal crucify us, we are in Mary’s Heart, because that is where the Cross of her Son always finds room, because within her maternal Heart even her Son found the support he needed to climb Calvary.

Only in this awareness can there be a new flourishing of humanity and a radical renewal of our way of thinking, and hence of doing. Christian morality can be described, quite simply, as fidelity to the Cross!

It means living while bearing constantly before our eyes the Crucified Christ, imploring the wisdom always

  • to choose to suffer rather than cause suffering,
  • to die rather than kill,
  • to accept rather than reject,
  • to love, love and love again.

Christ’s promise to draw all men to Himself when he is lifted up from the earth is certainly not the vague raving of someone sentenced to death. It is the sure promise of the new logic that the Cross carries within itself.

It is the promise of the fascination that the Cross exercises over the hearts and minds of men, over their very existence, because the Cross is the only possible response to the mystery of human suffering.

In fact, human suffering cannot be eliminated, and any attempt to eliminate it without the Cross would not be Christian, but simply a form of utopian philanthropy that would end up by destroying freedom.

Thus the Cross becomes a fascinating mystery, capable of attracting, capable almost of seducing men by virtue of the new logic that it introduces and the life it enables us to experience.

We all need Someone to die for love of us, Someone who loves us so radically as to be willing to give his life for us. Jesus Christ has done this for you, for me, for each one of us, and it is this Love, this act of total giving which, lifted up from the earth and thus made visible to all men, draws them, draws them to Christ, becoming a tremendous and fascinating mystery.

The task of the Church and of each of us, powerfully outlined and sustained here in Fatima, is to show the Crucified One to the world, to continue to raise up the Cross of Christ over the world.

The Church, in this Centenary Year of the Apparitions of Fatima, is called to raise up the Cross of Christ, as the only banner in which humanity can find peace, can find salvation. ‘Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis!’  15

 

Adapted and Edited from Cardinal Piacenza’s homily given on Wednesday 14 September 2017 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima during ACN’s international pilgrimage to mark the centenary of the apparitions at Fatima and to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Aid to the Church in Need.
11 ‘Through the Cross to the Light’.
15 ‘The Cross stands firm as the World turns’.

This article can be found in Mirror 0717.