Some Thoughts For the Feast of St John of the Cross
We hear repeatedly that St. John of the Cross desired nothing for himself but to suffer and be despised. We want to know the reason for this love of suffering. Is it merely the loving remembrance of the path of suffering of our Lord on earth, a tender impulse to be humanly close to him by a life resembling his? This does not seem to correspond to the lofty and strict spirituality of the mystical teacher. And in relation to the Man of Sorrows, it would almost seem that the victoriously enthroned king, the divine conqueror of sin, death, and hell is forgotten. Did not Christ lead captivity captive? Has he not transported us into a kingdom of light and called us to be happy children of our heavenly Father?
The sight of the world in which we live, the need and misery, and an abyss of human malice, again and again dampens jubilation over the victory of light. The world is still deluged by mire, and still but a small flock has escaped from it to the highest mountain peaks. The battle between Christ and the Antichrist is not yet over. The followers of Christ have their place in this battle, and their chief weapon is the cross.
What does this mean? The burden of the cross that Christ assumed is that of corrupted human nature, with all its consequences in sin and suffering to which fallen humanity is subject. The meaning of the way of the cross is to carry this burden out of the world. The restoration of freed humanity to the heart of the heavenly Father, taking on the status of a child, is the free gift of grace, of merciful love. But this may not occur at the expense of divine holiness and justice. The entire sum of human failures from the first Fall up to the Day of Judgment must be blotted out by a corresponding measure of expiation. The way of the cross is this expiation. The triple collapse under the burden of the cross corresponds to the triple fall of humanity: the first sin, the rejection of the Savior by his chosen people, the falling away of those who bear the name of Christian.
The Savior is not alone on the way of the cross. Not only are there adversaries around him who oppress him, but also people who succor him. The archetype of followers of the cross for all time is the Mother of God. Typical of those who submit to the suffering inflicted on them and experience his blessing by bearing it is Simon of Cyrene. Representative of those who love him and yearn to serve the Lord is Veronica. Everyone who, in the course of time, has borne an onerous destiny in remembrance of the suffering Savior or who has freely taken up works of expiation has by doing so canceled some of the mighty load of human sin and has helped the Lord carry his burden. Or rather, Christ the head effects expiation in these members of his Mystical Body who put themselves, body and soul, at his disposal for carrying out his work of salvation. We can assume that the prospect of the faithful who would follow him on his way of the cross strengthened the Savior during his night on the Mount of Olives. And the strength of these cross-bearers helps him after each of his falls. The righteous under the Old Covenant accompany him on the stretch of the way from the first to the second collapse. The disciples, both men and women, who surrounded him during his earthly life, assist him on the second stretch. The lovers of the cross, whom he has awakened and will always continue to awaken anew in the changeable history of the struggling church, these are his allies at the end of time. We, too, are called for that purpose.
Thus, when someone desires to suffer, it is not merely a pious reminder of the suffering of the Lord. Voluntary expiatory suffering is what truly and really unites one to the Lord intimately. When it arises, it comes from an already existing relationship with Christ. For, by nature, a person flees from suffering. And the mania for suffering caused by a perverse lust for pain differs completely from the desire to suffer in expiation. Such lust is not a spiritual striving, but a sensory longing, no better than other sensory desires, in fact worse, because it is contrary to nature. Only someone whose spiritual eyes have been opened to the supernatural correlations of worldly events can desire suffering in expiation, and this is only possible for people in whom the spirit of Christ dwells, who as members [Glieder](62) are given life by the Head, receive his power, his meaning, and his direction. Conversely, works of expiation bind one closer to Christ, as every community that works together on one task becomes more and more closely knit and as the limbs [Glieder] of a body, working together organically, continually become more strongly one.
But because being one with Christ is our sanctity, and progressively becoming one with him our happiness on earth, the love of the cross in no way contradicts being a joyful child of God. Helping Christ carry his cross fills one with a strong and pure joy, and those who may and can do so, the builders of God's kingdom, are the most authentic children of God. And so those who have a predilection for the way of the cross by no means deny that Good Friday is past and that the work of salvation has been accomplished. Only those who are saved, only children of grace, can in fact be bearers of Christ's cross. Only in union with the divine Head does human suffering take on expiatory power. To suffer and to be happy although suffering, to have one's feet on the earth, to walk on the dirty and rough paths of this earth and yet to be enthroned with Christ at the Father's right hand, to laugh and cry with the children of this world and ceaselessly to sing the praises of God with the choirs of angels this is the life of the Christian until the morning of eternity breaks forth.
"Hail, Cross, our only hope!" this is what the holy church summoned us to exclaim during the time for contemplating the bitter suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. The jubilant exclamation of the Easter Alleluia silenced the serious song of the cross. But the sign of our salvation greeted us amidst the time of Easter joy, since we were recalling the discovery of the one who had passed from sight. At the end of the cycle of ecclesiastical feasts, the cross greets us through the heart of the Savior. And now, as the church year draws toward an end, it is raised high before us and is to hold us spellbound, until the Easter Alleluia summons us anew to forget the earth for a while and to rejoice in the marriage of the Lamb.
Our holy Order has us begin our fast with the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. And it leads us to the foot of the cross to renew our holy vows. The Crucified One looks down on us and asks us whether we are still willing to honor what we promised in an hour of grace. And he certainly has reason to ask. More than ever the cross is a sign of contradiction. The followers of the Antichrist show it far more dishonor than did the Persians who stole it. They desecrate the images of the Cross, and they make every effort to tear the cross out of the hearts of Christians. All too often they have succeeded even with those who, like us, once vowed to bear Christ's cross after him. Therefore, the Savior today looks at us, solemnly probing us, and asks each one of us: Will you remain faithful to the Crucified? Consider carefully! The world is in flames, the battle between Christ and the Antichrist has broken into the open. If you decide for Christ, it could cost you your life. Carefully consider what you promise. Taking and renewing vows is a dreadfully serious business. You make a promise to the Lord of heaven and earth. If you are not deadly serious about your will to fulfill it, you fall into the hands of the living God.
Before you hangs the Savior on the cross, because he became obedient unto death on the cross. He came into the world not to do his will, but his Father's will. If you intend to be the bride of the Crucified, you too must completely renounce your own will and no longer have any desire except to fulfill God's will. He speaks to you in the holy rule and the constitutions of the Order. He speaks to you through the mouth of your superiors. He speaks to you by the gentle breath of the Holy Spirit in the depths of your heart. To remain true to your vow of obedience, you must listen to this voice day and night and follow its orders. However, this means daily and hourly crucifying your self-will and self-love.
The Savior hangs naked and destitute before you on the cross because he has chosen poverty. Those who want to follow him must renounce all earthly goods. It is not enough that you once left everything out there and came to the monastery. You must be serious about it now as well. Gratefully receive what God's providence sends you. Joyfully do without what he may let you to do without. Do not be concerned with your own body, with its trivial necessities and inclinations, but leave concern to those who are entrusted with it. Do not be concerned about the coming day and the coming meal.
The Savior hangs before you with a pierced heart. He has spilled his heart's blood to win your heart. If you want to follow him in holy purity, your heart must be free of every earthly desire. Jesus, the Crucified, is to be the only object of your longings, your wishes, your thoughts.
Are you now alarmed by the immensity of what the holy vows require of you? You need not be alarmed. What you have promised is indeed beyond your own weak, human power. But it is not beyond the power of the Almighty this power will become yours if you entrust yourself to him, if he accepts your pledge of troth. He does so on the day of your holy profession and will do it anew today. It is the loving heart of your Savior that invites you to follow. It demands your obedience because the human will is blind and weak. It cannot find the way until it surrenders itself entirely to the divine will. He demands poverty because hands must be empty of earth's goods to receive the goods of heaven. He demands chastity because only the heart detached from all earthly love is free for the love of God. The arms of the Crucified are spread out to draw you to his heart. He wants your life in order to give you his.
Ave Crux, Spes unica!
The world is in flames. The conflagration can also reach our house. But high above all flames towers the cross. They cannot consume it. It is the path from earth to heaven. It will lift one who embraces it in faith, love, and hope into the bosom of the Trinity.
The world is in flames. Are you impelled to put them out? Look at the cross. From the open heart gushes the blood of the Savior. This extinguishes the flames of hell. Make your heart free by the faithful fulfillment of your vows; then the flood of divine love will be poured into your heart until it overflows and becomes fruitful to all the ends of the earth. Do you hear the groans of the wounded on the battlefields in the west and the east? You are not a physician and not a nurse and cannot bind up the wounds. You are enclosed in a cell and cannot get to them. Do you hear the anguish of the dying? You would like to be a priest and comfort them. Does the lament of the widows and orphans distress you? You would like to be an angel of mercy and help them. Look at the Crucified. If you are nuptially bound to him by the faithful observance of your holy vows, your being is precious blood. Bound to him, you are omnipresent as he is. You cannot help here or there like the physician, the nurse, the priest. You can be at all fronts, wherever there is grief, in the power of the cross. Your compassionate love takes you everywhere, this love from the divine heart. Its precious blood is poured everywhere soothing, healing, saving.
The eyes of the Crucified look down on you asking, probing. Will you make your covenant with the Crucified anew in all seriousness? What will you answer him? " Lord, where shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
Ave Crux, Spes unica!
Venerunt nuptiae Agni et uxor eius praeparavit se (Rv 19:7). "The marriage of the Lamb has come and his Bride has prepared herself." This is certainly what echoed in our hearts on the eve of our holy profession and should be echoing again as we solemnly renew our holy vows. Mysterious words that conceal the deeply mysterious meaning of our holy vocation. Who is the Lamb? Who is the Bride? And what kind of marriage supper is this?
"And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain" (Rv 5:6). When the seer of Patmos had this vision, the unforgettable day on the Jordan when John the Baptist showed him the "Lamb of God" who "takes away the sins of the world" (Jn 1:29) was still fresh in his memory. At that time, he had understood the word and now he understood the image. He who had once walked along the Jordan and who now appeared to him in white raiment with flaming eyes and with a judge's sword, the "first and the last" (Rv 1:17) he had in truth accomplished what the rites of the Old Covenant had suggested symbolically. When on the most momentous and holiest day of the year the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, into the supremely holy place of God's presence, he had previously taken two goats from the people: one on which to lay the people's sins, which were then carried out into the wilderness; the other to sprinkle its blood on the tent and ark of the covenant (Lv 16). This was the sin offering for the people. In addition, he had to provide a young bullock for himself and his house as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering. He also had to sprinkle the throne of grace with the blood of the bullock. When he had prayed, unseen by human eyes, for himself and his house and for all the people of Israel, he came out to the waiting people, and sprinkled the outer altar to cleanse it from his sins and those of the people. Then he sent the living goat into the wilderness, brought forward his own burnt offering and that of the people, and had the rest of the sin offering burned before the camp (and later before the gates). The Day of Atonement was a monumental and holy day. People remained in the holy place praying and fasting. And in the evening when everything had been accomplished, there was peace and joy in their hearts because God had taken away the burden of sin and given grace.
But what had effected the reconciliation? Not the blood of the slaughtered animals and not the high priest of Aaron's descent St Paul made this so compellingly clear in his letter to the Hebrews but rather the real sacrifice of reconciliation which was anticipated in all these legally prescribed sacrifices, and the high priest after the order of Melchizedek, who was represented by the priests of Aaron's line. He was also the true Passover Lamb for whose sake the angel of death passed over the houses of the Hebrews when he slew the Egyptians. The Lord himself made the disciples understand this when he ate the lamb of sacrifice with them for the last time and then gave himself to them as food.
But why did he choose the lamb as the preferred symbol? Why did he continue to reveal himself in this form on the eternal throne of glory? Because he was innocent as a lamb and meek as a lamb; and because he came in order to allow himself to be led as a lamb to the slaughter (Is 53:7). This, too, John had witnessed when the Lord permitted himself to be bound at the Mount of Olives and nailed to the cross at Golgotha. There on Golgotha the true sacrifice of reconciliation was accomplished. Thereby the old sacrifices lost their efficacy; and soon they ceased entirely, as did also the old priesthood when the temple was destroyed. John had witnessed all of this. Therefore, he was not surprised at the Lamb on the throne. And because he was a faithful witness to the Lamb, the Bride of the Lamb was also shown to him.
He saw "the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband" (Rv 21:2 and 9ff.). As Christ himself descended to earth from heaven, so too his Bride, the holy church, originated in heaven. She is born of the grace of God, indeed descended with the Son of God himself; she is inextricably bound to him. She is built of living stones; her cornerstone was laid when the Word of God assumed our human nature in the womb of the Virgin. At that time there was woven between the soul of the divine Child and the soul of the Virgin Mother the bond of the most intimate unity which we call betrothal.
Hidden from the entire world, the heavenly Jerusalem had descended to earth. From this first joining in betrothal, there had to be born all the living building blocks to be used for the mighty structure: each individual soul awakened to life through grace. The Bridal Mother was to become the mother of all the redeemed. Like a spore from which new cells stream continually, she was to build up the living city of God. This hidden mystery was revealed to St John as he stood beneath the cross with the Virgin Mother and was given over to her as her son. It was then that the church came into existence visibly; her hour had come, but not yet her perfection. She lives, she is wedded to the Lamb, but the hour of the solemn marriage supper will only arrive when the dragon has been completely conquered and the last of the redeemed have fought their battle to the end.
Just as the Lamb had to be killed to be raised upon the throne of glory, so the path to glory leads through suffering and the cross for everyone chosen to attend the marriage supper of the Lamb. All who want to be married to the Lamb must allow themselves to be fastened to the cross with him. Everyone marked by the blood of the Lamb is called to this, and that means all the baptized. But not everyone understands the call and follows it. There is a call to following more closely that resounds more urgently in the soul and demands a clear answer. This is the vocation to the religious life, and the answer is the religious vows.
For the person whom the Savior calls away from all natural ties from one's family, one's people, and occupational circles to cling to him alone, the bridal connection with the Savior also becomes more prominent than for the general host of the redeemed. They want to belong preeminently to the Lamb for all eternity, to follow him wherever he goes, and to sing the song of the virgins that no one else can sing (Rv 14:1-5).
When the attraction to religious life awakens in the soul, it is as if the Lord were courting it. And if she consecrates herself to him by profession of the vows and harkens to the "Veni, sponsa Christi!" ["Come, spouse of Christ!"], it is like an anticipation of the heavenly marriage feast. Nevertheless, this is but a prospect of the eternal feast of joy. The bridal happiness and fidelity of the soul consecrated to God must stand the test in open and hidden battles and in the everyday flow of religious life. The spouse whom she chooses is the Lamb that was killed. If she is to enter into heavenly glory with him, she must allow herself to be fastened to his cross. The three vows are the nails. The more willingly she stretches herself out on the cross and endures the blows of the hammer, the more deeply will she experience the reality of her union with the Crucified. Then being crucified itself becomes for her the marriage feast.
The vow of poverty opens one's hands so that they let go of everything they were clutching. It fastens them securely so they can no longer reach toward the things of this world. It should also bind the hands of the spirit and the soul: the desires, which again and again reach for pleasures and things; the cares that want to secure earthly life in every respect; busyness about many things which endangers the one thing necessary. Living in superfluity and secure comfort contradicts the spirit of holy poverty and separates us from the poor Crucified One. Our sisters in the early times of the reform considered themselves happy when they lacked necessities. When the difficulties had been surmounted and enough of everything was at their disposal, they feared that the Lord had withdrawn from them. There is something wrong in a monastic community when concerns for the outer life take up so much time and energy that the spiritual life suffers. And there is something wrong in the soul of the individual religious who starts to take care of herself and to go after what she wants and likes instead of abandoning herself to divine providence and gratefully receiving what it gives her through the hands of the sisters in charge. Naturally, one should, after conscientious consideration, let the superior know what one's health requires. But having done that, one is relieved of further concern. The vow of holy poverty is intended to make us as carefree as the sparrows and the lilies so that our spirits and hearts may be free for God.
Holy obedience binds our feet so that they no longer go their own way, but God's way. Children of the world say they are free when they are not subject to another's will, when no one stops them from satisfying their wishes and inclinations. For this dream of freedom, they engage in bloody battles and sacrifice life and limb. The children of God see freedom as something else. They want to be unhindered in following the Spirit of God; and they know that the greatest hindrances do not come from without, but lie within us ourselves. Human reason and will, which would like so much to be their own masters, are unaware of their susceptibility to be swayed by natural inclinations and so to be enslaved by them. There is no better way of being freed of this slavery and receptive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit than that of holy obedience. In the poem of Goethe most informed by the Christian spirit, he has his heroine say, "Obedient, my soul felt free indeed." Genuine obedience is not content merely to avoid manifestly overstepping the prescriptions of Rule and Constitutions or the precepts of the superiors. It actually determines to deny one's own will. Therefore, the obedient person studies the Rule and the Constitutions, not to ferret out how many so-called "freedoms" are still permitted, but to recognize more and more how many small sacrifices are available daily and hourly as opportunities to advance in self-denial. Such a one takes them on as an easy yoke and a light burden, because doing so deepens the conviction of being closely bound to the Lord who was obedient to death on the cross. To the children of this world such action probably appears as useless, senseless, and petty. The Savior, who for thirty years filled his daily work with such small sacrifices, will judge differently.
The vow of chastity intends to release human beings from all the bonds of natural common life, to fasten them to the cross high above all the bustle, and to free their hearts for union with the Crucified. This sacrifice, too, is not accomplished once and for all. Of course, one is cut off, externally, from occasions that can become temptations outside, but often much that distracts the spirit and the heart, robbing them of their freedom, cleaves to the memory and fantasy. Besides, there is also a danger that new ties establish themselves within the protective cloister walls and hinder full union with the Divine Heart. When we enter the Order, we again become members of a family. We are to see and respect, as head and members of the Mystical Body of Christ, our superiors and the other sisters. But we are human, and something all too human can easily become mingled with holy, childlike, and sisterly love. We believe we see Christ in the people we look up to and fail to notice that we attach ourselves to them humanly and are in danger of losing sight of Christ. But human attraction is not the only cloud on purity of heart. Too little love is a worse offense against the Divine Heart than too much. Every aversion, any anger and resentment that we tolerate in our hearts, closes the door to the Savior. Involuntary stirrings naturally arise through no fault of our own, but as soon as we become aware of them, we must relentlessly oppose them. Otherwise we resist God who is love and do the devil's work. The song sung by the virgins attending the Lamb is surely one of purest love.
The cross is again raised before us. It is the sign of contradiction. The Crucified looks down on us: "Are you also going to abandon me?" The day for the renewal of vows should always be one of serious self examination. Have we lived up to the promises made in our first fervor? Have we lived in a manner befitting brides of the Crucified, the Lamb that was slain? In the last few months one has often heard the complaint that the many prayers for peace are still without effect. What right have we to be heard? Our desire for peace is undoubtedly genuine and sincere. But does it come from a completely purified heart? Have we truly prayed "in the name of Jesus," i.e., not just with the name of Jesus on our lips, but with the spirit and in the mind of Jesus, for the glory of the Father alone, without any self-seeking? The day on which God has unrestricted power over our hearts we shall also have unrestricted power over his. If we ponder this, we will no longer dare to judge anyone else. But neither will we be discouraged if, after living in the Order for a long time, we must admit we are still bunglers and beginners. The fountain from the heart of the Lamb has not dried up. We can wash our robes clean in it even today as the thief on Golgotha once did. Trusting in the atoning power of this holy fountain, we prostrate ourselves before the throne of the Lamb and answer his question: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6:68). Let us draw from the springs of salvation for ourselves and for the entire parched world. Give us the grace to speak the bride's words with a pure heart: Come! Come, Lord Jesus. Come soon!
In his Holy Rule, St. Benedict ordained that the fasts for religious begin with the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. The long-extended Easter joy and the solemn feasts of summer culminating in the crowning of the Queen of Heaven could possibly cause the image of the Crucified to fade in us or to recede, as it remained hidden during the first centuries of Christianity. But when its time came, the cross appeared gleaming in the heavens, prompting the search for the buried and forgotten wood of humiliation that was to be recognized as the sign of salvation, the emblem of faith and the mark of the faithful. Every year, when the church again raises it before us, we are to recall the challenge of the Lord: Anyone who would follow me must take up his [or her] cross...! To take up one's cross means to go the way of penance and renunciation. For us religious, to follow the Savior means to allow ourselves to be fastened to the cross by the three nails of the holy vows. The Exaltation of the Cross and the renewal of vows belong together.
The Savior has preceded us on the way of poverty. All the goods in heaven and on earth belonged to him. They presented no danger to him; he could use them and yet keep his heart completely free of them. But he knew that it is scarcely possible for people to have possessions without succumbing to them and being enslaved by them. Therefore, he gave up everything and showed more by his example than by his counsel that only one who possesses nothing possesses everything. His birth in a stable, his flight to Egypt, already indicated that the Son of Man was to have no place to lay his head. Whoever follows him must know that we have no lasting dwelling here. The more deeply we feel this, the more zealous we are in striving for the future, and we rejoice at the thought that our citizenship is in heaven. Today it is good to reflect on the fact that poverty also includes the readiness to leave our beloved monastery itself. We have pledged ourselves to enclosure and do so anew when we renew our vows. But God did not pledge to leave us within the walls of the enclosure forever. He need not do so because he has other walls to protect us. This is similar to what he does in the sacraments. For us they are the prescribed means to grace, and we cannot receive them eagerly enough. But God is not bound to them. At the moment when some external force were to cut us off from receiving the sacraments, he could compensate us, superabundantly, in some other way; and he will do so all the more certainly and generously the more faithfully we have adhered to the sacraments previously. So it is also our holy duty to be as conscientious as possible in observing the precept of enclosure, to lead without hindrance a life hidden with Christ in God. If we are faithful and are then driven out into the street, the Lord will send his angels to encamp themselves around us, and their invisible pinions will enclose our souls more securely than the highest and strongest walls. We do not need to wish for this to happen. We may ask that the experience be spared us, but only with the solemn and honestly intended addition: Not mine, but your will be done! The vow of holy poverty is to be renewed without reservation.
Your will be done! This was the content of the Savior's life. He came into the world to fulfill the Father's will, not only to atone for the sin of disobedience through his obedience, but also to lead people back to their destiny by the way of obedience The created will is not destined to be free to exalt itself. It is called to come into unison with the divine will. If it freely submits itself to this unison, then it is permitted in freedom to participate in the perfection of creation. If a free creature declines this unison, it lapses into bondage. The human will continues to retain the possibility of choice, but it is constrained by creatures that pull and pressure it in directions straying from the development of the nature desired by God, and so away from the goal toward which it itself was directed by its original freedom. With the loss of this original freedom, it also loses security in making decisions. It becomes unsteady and wavering, buffeted by doubt and scruples or obdurate in its error. There is no other remedy for this than the following of Christ, the Son of Man, who not only promptly obeyed his heavenly Father, but also subjected himself to people who imposed the Father's will on him. The obedience enjoined by God releases the enslaved will from the bonds of creatures and leads it back to freedom. Thus, it is also the way to purity of heart.
No chains of slavery are stronger than those of passion. Under its burden body, soul and spirit lose their strength and health, their clarity and beauty. Just as it is scarcely possible for one impaired by original sin to own things without clinging to them, so there is also the danger that any natural affection may degenerate into passion with all of its devastating consequences. God has provided two remedies for this: marriage and virginity. Virginity is the more radical and precisely therefore probably the easier way. But this is surely not the deepest reason why Christ set us an example of it. Marriage is already a great mystery as the symbol of the bond between Christ and the church and at the same time as its instrument. But virginity is a still deeper mystery. It is not only the symbol and instrument of bridal union with Christ and of the union's supernatural fruitfulness, but also participates in the union. It originates in the depths of the divine life and leads back to it again. The eternal Father in unconditional love has given his entire being to his Son. And just as unconditionally does the Son give himself back to the Father. The passage of the God Man through temporal life could alter nothing of this complete surrender of Person to Person. He belongs to the Father from eternity to eternity and could not give himself away to any human being. He could only incorporate the persons who wanted to give themselves to him into the unity of his Incarnate Divine Person as members of his Mystical Body and in this way bring them to the Father. This is why he came into the world. This is the divine fertility of his eternal virginity: that he can give souls supernatural life. And the fruitfulness of the virgins who follow the Lamb consists in the ability to assume the divine life in unmitigated strength and undivided surrender and, in union with the divine Head, to pass it on to other souls, so awaking new members for the Head.
Divine virginity has a characteristic aversion to sin as the contrary of divine holiness. However, this aversion to sin gives rise to an the indomitable love for sinners. Christ has come to tear sinners away from sin and to restore the divine image in defiled souls. He comes as the child of sin his genealogy and the entire history of the Old Covenant show this and he seeks the company of sinners so as to take all the sins of the world upon himself and carry them away to the infamous wood of the cross, which thereby therefore becomes the sign of his victory. This is precisely why virginal souls do not repulse sinners. The strength of their supernatural purity knows no fear of being sullied. The love of Christ impels them to descend into the darkest night. And no earthly maternal joy resembles the bliss of a soul permitted to enkindle the light of grace in the night of sins. The way to this is the cross. Beneath the cross the Virgin of virgins becomes the Mother of Grace.