September 21, 2023

Verbatim: Pastoral letter from Archbishop Lepine for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross


A pastoral letter from Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross

To believe in Jesus Christ is to encounter Jesus Christ. The mystery of faith is the mystery of both a personal and communal encounter with Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, true God and true man, crucified and risen. To encounter Jesus Christ is to discover the infinite Love of God, fully revealed on the Cross, in the pierced heart from which flowed blood and water (John 19:34).

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross is the splendour of Divine Love overcoming sin, suffering and death. As we contemplate Jesus Christ crucified, we enter into the mystery of His love for the eternal Father and His love for us, for humanity, for every human being at any place and any time. The image of the Cross, in its vertical sense, unites heaven and earth, reconciling earth with heaven, and thus opening the way for an encounter between humankind and God. In its horizontal breadth, the Cross embraces all of humanity, thus opening channels of encounter, dialogue, reconciliation, peace and communion.

Jesus proclaims, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself (John 12:32),” illustrating the power of attraction of His love, which nothing can hinder — for He who loves us does so with the utmost of love. We might suppose that it is the light of the Resurrection being referred to here, but the Gospel tells us that there is a light from the Cross: “He said this to indicate the kind of death He was to die” (John 12:33).

St. Paul reminds us that “God proves His love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). St. John attributes the possibility of loving God and loving others to the very fact that God loves us by taking the initiative: “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Just as we cannot speak of the Cross without addressing the power of the Resurrection, we cannot speak of the Resurrection without addressing the power of the Cross. The sign of the Cross invites us to centre our lives around bearing the sign of our encounter with God and with others through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. In discovering the love of the Holy Trinity and the abundance of Divine Mercy, we are called to a steadfast faith which, relying on divine grace, seeks to embody both the love of God and universal love….

In our homes, let us put up a Crucifix; for gazing upon it is already a form of prayer. In our churches and our chapels, let us place a Crucifix where it is easily visible; for doing so is already a way of proclaiming Jesus Christ.

To speak of the Crucifix is to refer to a Cross with a “corpus” (body) of the dying Jesus on it — for the Resurrection does not reduce the Crucifixion to a past, outdated event. On the contrary, the power of the Resurrection renders the Cross an event that transcends time and space. Even today, as I stand before the Cross, I stand before the love of Jesus Christ who loved me and who communicates that love to me through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

A Cross without a “corpus” reminds us that He who was crucified is now the Risen One. A Cross with a “corpus” reminds us that He who is now risen was the Crucified One, and that His Cross is ever-present and relevant. We need both.

Let us gather together in our parishes and our communities for the Way of the Cross; let us renew the tradition of the first Friday of every month; let us unite in the experience of at least a weekly exposition of the Blessed Sacrament; let us be faithful to Adoration and rediscover the need for the Lord’s Day; and let us bear witness to Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, by taking part in the Mass. As the Cross calls us to the love of God, it also calls us to community life…Let us ask God for the strength to disconnect from our screens, so that they remain tools without enslaving us. In our families, let us foster a spirit of selfless love….

Jesus is “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life...”(John 14:6). Let us follow in His footsteps and imitate Him by making our lives a life of service….

Sept. 13, 2023

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