Visit of Bishop Schneider
Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary Bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, celebrated Compline and gave Benediction yesterday evening, and preached the sermon which is reproduced below. Bishop Schneider greatly impressed us with the account of his youth, growing up in the clandestine Church in the Soviet Union, and with his zeal for the faith today.
Only in the Cross of Christ is salvation, only in the Cross of Christ is hope, only in the Cross of Christ is life
Blessed John Henry Newman speaks to us the greatness and the mystery of the Cross saying: “The doctrine of the Cross is not on the surface of the world. The surface of things is bright only, and the Cross is sorrowful; it is a hidden doctrine; it lies under a veil; it at first sight startles us, and we are tempted to revolt from it. Like St. Peter, we cry out, "Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not be unto Thee." [Matt. xvi. 22.] And yet it is a true doctrine; for truth is not on the surface of things, but in the depths."
Blessed John Henry continues to say, that the doctrine of the Cross of Christ is the heart of the Christian religion: “The sacred doctrine of Christ's Atoning Sacrifice is the vital principle on which the Christian lives, and without which Christianity is not. Without it no other doctrine is held profitably; to believe in Christ's divinity, or in His manhood, or in the Holy Trinity, or in a judgment to come, or in the resurrection of the dead, is an untrue belief, not Christian faith, unless we receive also the doctrine of Christ's sacrifice.
The world, the enemies of the Cross and even the enemies of the Cross amongst Catholic and Catholic clergy in our days say: The doctrine of the Cross makes us sad, that therefore the Gospel is a sad religion.” Blessed John Henry Newman answered already in those times with these words: “The Psalmist says, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy;" and our Lord says, "They that mourn shall be comforted." Let no one go away with the impression that the Gospel makes us take a gloomy view of the world and of life. It hinders us indeed from taking a superficial view, and finding a vain transitory joy in what we see. … That Cross will lead us to mourning, repentance, humiliation, prayer, fasting; we shall sorrow for our sins, we shall sorrow with Christ's sufferings; but all this sorrow will only issue, nay, will be undergone in a happiness far greater than the enjoyment which the world gives. … They alone are able truly to enjoy this world, who begin with the world unseen. They alone can truly feast, who have first fasted; they alone are able to use the world, who have learned not to abuse it” (PPS VI, Sermon 7).
Saint John Maria Vianney left us very simple but profound words about the Cross and the meaning and the value of Christian suffering: “Our eternal happiness is the Cross of Christ. Thanks to the Cross of Christ we became children of God. On the Cross there came into existence the Christian religion. All the efficacy of the sacraments come from the Cross of Christ. When God sends us a cross, a true Christian should say to himself: Come, my soul, and bear the Cross. For, when we will be in heaven, we will understand the value of the sufferings. The Cross is indeed the ladder to heaven. The crosses in our life is similar to a beautiful stone bridge across a river."
One has to love the Cross. Blessed him, to whom God sent a cross, because it is a path to holiness. We think when we love a little bit Our Lord, we should be free from all inconveniences. Have you been calumniated, my friends? Have you been loaded with insults? Have you been wronged? So much the better! That is a good sign; do not worry; you are on the road that leads to Heaven. Do you know when you ought to be really upset? When you have nothing to endure, when everyone esteems and respects you. Are you forgetting, then, that at your Baptism you accepted the Cross, which you must never abandon until death, and that it is the key that you will use to open the door of Heaven? Are you forgetting the words of our Saviour: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Not for a day, not for a week, not for a year, but all our life.
One has to expiate one’s sins either here on earth, or in the hereafter. When we would really love Our Lord, we would love the cross as well, for we would be happy to suffer for Him Who suffered for us. The Cross is always sent by God. We have to ask the grace to love our cross and then it will be easier for us. When we lack suffering, we are similar to an infertile soil. In the moments of suffering, the Christian should say: I am a friend of my Lord and God. He looks upon me. He consoles me! The cross emits a balsam, which fills the soul with happiness. Every morning we have to accept and to consecrate to the Lord all the sufferings and inconveniences which may occur during the day. And if the Lord hadn’t sent them to us on this day, the merits will nevertheless be credited to us. “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Rom 8: 28). It is so consoling to lead the battle against the sin under the eyes of the Lord and to have the occasion to say at the end of a day: Here now, my soul, today for a while you were resembling the suffering Lord; like Him you have been persecuted, flagellated, you were bearing some physical pains etc. What a treasure is this for my last hour!”
With Saint John Vianney let us say: “O holy Cross, what great goods we have received from you. Thanks to you, the most pure Blood of Christ is shed every days in a sacramental manner in the sacrifice of our altars. On this Cross is sown the heavenly manna, which till the end of the time will nourish our souls. On this Cross began to grow that mysterious grape vine, by which juice is quenched the thirst of our souls in this exile. O holy and inestimable Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ!” Amen.