I keep trying to ignore my first thought for today’s post. It comes from the reflection I just read on the life of St. Boniface whose feast the Roman Catholic Church celebrates today. Boniface was an English Benedictine monk who gave up being elected abbot to devote his life to the conversion of the Germanic tribes in the 8th century. It was not an easy task, http://www.franciscanmedia.org reports. I had determined to abandon that topic for something more upbeat or light-hearted when I read the line of the commentary following the biographical information. It said: “Boniface bears out the Christian rule: to follow Christ is to follow the way of the cross.”
While I would not dispute the teaching that suffering is part of life and that Jesus is a model of how to accept and bear one’s suffering as a transformational practice, I take issue with the inference in the above statement that the cross is the entire or desired way of life for the Christian. The often quoted line of Teilhard de Chardin provides a needed balance for me. “Joy,” he said, ” is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”
So why am I still talking about this? As it happens, I had an experience two days ago that moved me to a deeper place. It’s one of those analogies that seems far-fetched and maybe irreverent, but it helps me so I beg the indulgence of those who do not see it so.
On Saturday I participated in a very joyous Eucharistic liturgy for the family and friends of one of my “jubilee companions.” There are only five of us who entered the convent together 50 years ago so we plan to be present, if possible, at each of these individual celebrations. My participation in this event included the task of carrying the cross in the entrance procession at the beginning of the liturgy. I had never before performed that particular task at our Motherhouse and was surprised at the weight of the heavy metal, 5-foot crucifix when I lifted it. To hold it high processing down the very long aisle to the altar was no small task. At the same time we were singing joyfully: Let us bring the gifts that differ and in splendid varied ways, sing a new Church into being, one in faith and love and praise.
What struck me in that moment was very symbolic (perhaps only to me). Feeling the weight of the cross at the same time as the joy of such a communal gathering was a powerful image of possibility in the Christian life. Although our lives can be fraught with difficulty at times, we needn’t be overcome. The joy that comes from the spiritual journey in community, modeled in the life of Christ with his companions and the Spirit that remains with us, can and must enliven faith and engage our hearts in love. These realities are not separate but constitute a unified whole that is, in fact, the way to the fullness of life.