23 September 2009

triumph of the cross

In one respect the cross does have a terrible aspect that we ought not to remove. To see that the purest of men, who was more than a man, was executed in such a grisly way can make us frightened of ourselves. But we also need to be frightened of ourselves and out of our self-complacency.

Here, I think, Luther was right when he said that man must first be frightened of himself so that he can then find the right way. However, the cross doesn't stop at being a horror; it is not merely a horror, because the one who looks down at us from the cross is not a failure, a desperate man, not one of the horrible victims of humanity.

For this crucified man says something different from Spartacus and his failed adherents, because, after all, what looks down at us from the cross is a goodness that enables a new beginning in the midst of life's horror. The goodness of God himself looks on us, God who surrenders himself into our hands, delivers himself to us, and bears the whole horror of history with us.

Looked at more deeply this sign, which forces us to look at the dangerousness of man and all his heinous deeds, at the same time makes us look upon God, who is stronger, stronger in his weakness, and upon the fact that we are loved by God.

It is in this sense a sign of forgiveness that also brings hope into the abysses of history. God is crucified and says to us that this God who is apparently so weak is the God who incomprehensibly forgives us and who in his seeming absence is stronger.

Pope Benedict XVI

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