• Sarah Raad


Updated: Dec 29, 2020

Christ Crucified embraces all the world and takes our pain unto Himself.

Christ embracing Saint Francis of Assisi

Yesterday while I was praying in the church for so many intentions – my dear friend Vanessa, the mother who mourns, the families of Baby Charbel and young Raphael, and all those who have lost loved ones in recent times – I suddenly remembered all those who feel lost and alone.

Those lonely rejected came to mind.

What a terrible feeling rejection creates. How awful it feels to offer something with all our love only to be rebuffed as though we offered nothing of value at all. At times, it seems as though our pearls are trampled by swine.

I thought particularly of those lonely ones, for whom Christmas is a day of quiet solitude and despair. I thought of all the broken hearts in all the world. I thought of all the couples who have separated through death, divorce or a break-up. I thought of all the humans who are in this moment, being rejected by a loved one – being told they are unloved and unwanted – despite all the love and effort they have offered.

I could feel their despair. I could hear their thoughts – there have been times when I have thought such things myself… “If I gave everything that I had to give and it was not enough to save this relationship, what chance have I ever got of making a relationship work and feeling loved and wanted and worthwhile?”

And while I was thinking of these lonely ones, I looked up, above the altar, during the consecration, and I was suddenly struck by the image of Christ on the Cross.

That monstrously magnificently glorious image is one I have seen represented in various forms all my life. In fact, one could argue that I have seen this image so often that I have become desensitised to it. This image of the most innocent Christ, unjustly and barbarously crucified on the Cross, in His DYING AGONY has almost faded into the background of my subconscious.

And yet, suddenly – now, during the season on Advent, when the nativity scene is placed at the foot of the altar awaiting its cute little porcelain baby Jesus to be placed inside the porcelain manger during Midnight Mass – this image of Christ, DYING on the Cross simply strikes me as profound.

While we await His birth, we really await His death – and His triumph over death through His Resurrection.

There, on His Cross, Christ emptied himself out for all the world to the point where he did not even have blood left in his veins, but instead, when His sacred side was pierced with a spear, blood and water spilled out.

On the Cross, Christ’s arms are open to embrace all the world. Imagine His pain. His shoulders would have been stretched so tightly on the Cross and his legs pulled so tightly downward that Christ would have struggled for each breath that he took, bearing down upon his feet and hands, pierced through tendons by nails, to rise up and breathe for hours and hours and hours until he died.

For Christ, who is the perfect example for us – there was great pain in that sacrifice and giving.

Great love.

Through this position of embrace, Christ takes our imperfectly sinful selves into his very perfect and Divine essence, and in doing so, fulfils the words that the priest repeats during Mass – He washes away our iniquity, and cleanses us of our sins.

And yet, despite giving us literally everything – including His very life – we continue to reject Him. We continue in sin. We comfort ourselves with vices, as they are easier to maintain than virtues.

So, when we feel alone and rejected, who are we to complain?

For, who could ever experience a greater rejection than Christ Himself as he hung dying on that Cross?

God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son to SAVE IT. And we, who are so readily saved, cannot see the suffering of Christ in the world.

We have blinded ourselves to the sacrifices of our neighbours…

We cannot see the one time our partner turned away and chose not to respond and upset us. We cannot see the one time our sibling tried to keep the peace. We cannot see the one time our child picked up one thing off the floor. We cannot see the one time a sales assistant offered to help us even though they were having a bad day. We cannot see the one time a parent called to check on us, talking about only us, when they had such worries of their own.

Just as I am desensitised to the Cross behind the altar; I wonder, perhaps, if we too are also desensitised to the Crosses of OTHERS that are offered for US.

Perhaps the Crosses of our neighbours are not perfect sacrifices, as Christ’s sacrifice for us – but they are sacrifices, nonetheless.

If we could only learn to see these sacrifices for what they really are, we would rejoice for all the world to see. Only then could we would truly dance along the way to Calvary, carrying our Cross.

For we would know that we are never alone.

We are surrounded by God – as Christ crucified on the Cross – in the imperfect sacrifices of all our imperfect neighbours.

And so, as we walk past a million Crosses behind a million Altars in a million Churches in all the world, and barely have the perception to notice one of them – we could save ourselves the anguish of a lonely heart. All we would need is to be able to recognise the Cross wherever it is. We just need to take a moment, stop, look up… and see.

For He was BORN to DIE so that we could LIVE.

And how senseless it would be to reject a gift like that!

For with prayer and the grace provided by prayer, everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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