Saturday, August 09, 2008

Pedagogy of the Cross

"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me."

This passage jumped out at me yesterday at Mass, and I noticed that Sr. Genevieve Glen has also commented on it here.

The phrase 'coming after' the Lord is an idiomatic way of saying 'being a disciple of'. We still use this terminology. We speak of the followers of various gurus, of Marx or of various schools of economics, physics, or even cooking. The key is that a disciple wishes to learn how to live in a way that gives meaning to life. So the disciple seeks from the Master the rules that he must follow to learn the Master's way.

As Sr. Genevieve points out, we too often simply hear this bit about taking up a Cross as a denial of life. We might search around inside ourselves to justify the need for carrying the Cross because of our sinfulness. The breadth of the gospel message permits this interpretation, but by and large the Patristic reading of passages such as this see Jesus inviting us to become true philosophers, lovers of wisdom, in His school. What He says is that we will learn what we need to achieve happiness by appropriating His teaching, which is the Cross.

If we look at the Cross in this way, we can see immediately that the Christian virtues: meekness, humility, gentleness, patience, faith, hope and love, can be learned by Way of the Cross to a depth unattainable in any other school. The Cross is a kind of pedagogy--strong to be sure--and not simply a punishment. This realization should help us to welcome the Cross in our lives with a lightness that is missing, in my opinion, from late medieval and early modern devotional approaches to the Cross (again, not that some heaviness can't serve a good). As the Cross fades out of popular consciousness, perhaps re-presenting our Lord's wisdom with more of the Patristic emphasis can help others to understand it more clearly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Father,

As a monk, what would you say is the monk's primary relation to taking up one's cross and being a disciple of Christ?

On a side note, do monks ever get time to be alone in solitude? Do they ever go outside of the monastery?

Or is the schedule always strictly structured?

Peace of Christ


This blog is published with ecclesiastical approval.

If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
Locations of visitors to this page