Archbishop Sheen: The Cross comes before the Resurrection

Unless there is a Good Friday in our lives, there will never be an Easter Sunday. The Cross is the condition of the empty tomb, and the crown of thorns is the preface to the halo of light.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen : Life of Christ

cross at sunset

 

From the beginning of Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s book “Life of Christ”

Some books are written to answer one's own questions; other books are written to question answers already given. This book was written to find solace in the Cross of Christ, as for about ten years of my life I endured a great trial. The nature of that trial is not important, but what is important is how it was met. Plunging into the Life of Christ what seemed to stare at me from the pages of the Gospel was that Christ, the Son of God, did not come into this world to live. He came into it to die. Death was the goal of His Life, the gold that He was seeking. You and I come into the world to live. Death is an inter­ruption, as death halted the teaching of Socrates. But for Him, as He told the Creeks, the seed must fall to the ground and die before it springs forth to new life.

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Unless there is a Good Friday in our lives there will never be an Easter Sunday. The Cross is the condition of the empty tomb, and the crown of thorns is the preface to the halo of light.   When all is said and done, there are only two philosophies of life. One is first the feast, then the hangover; the other, first the fast and then the feast. Deferred joys purchased by sacrifices are always sweetest and most enduring. Christianity begins not with sunshine but with defeat. Sunshine religions that begin with psychic elation, end often in disillusionment and despair. So essential is dying to self, the prelude to the true life of self, that there were three monumental attempts to force Christ to abandon His Cross. The Devil offered three short cuts to winning the world at the beginning of His Public life . Peter, the head of the Apostolic band, also tried to solicit Him from the Cross and was scorched for it by being called "Satan." And finally, at Golgotha , His enemies standing beneath the Cross hurled a challenge:"Come down and we will believe." Apparently they d believe anything He taught if He would only abandon His philosophy that only by losing one's life does one save it.

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 If we leave the Cross out of the Life of Christ, we have nothing and certainly not Christianity. For the Cross is related to our sins.  Christ was our "stand-in" on the stage of life. He took our guilt as if He were guilty and thus paid the debt that sin deserved, namely, death. This made possible our resurrection to a "new life" in Him. Therefore, He is not just a teacher or a peasant revolutionist, but  Our Savior. Our modem world does not like the word "sin”…and if I deny there is sin, I make forgiveness impossible.

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I believe that the whole political and religious situation of the world can be summed up in terms of the divorce of Christ from His cross. Put the Cross-less Christ on the right side, and the Christ-less Cross of Christ on the left. Who picks up the Crossless Christ? Our decadent West: ern civilization. Christ is weak, effeminate, with no authority to drive buyers and sellers out of temples, and never speaks of self.discipline, restraint and mortification.  Who picks up the Christless Cross? Russia and China, where there is a dedication to a common ideology, the use of discipline and authority to keep peace and order. But neither can heal.

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The Crossless Christ leaves men burdened with their guilt which festers in a thousand neuroses and psychoses. The Christless Cross cannot save for it ends in Dachau , the Gulag Archipelago and the squeezing of the lives of millions like grapes to make the collective wine of the State. Which will first find Christ with the Cross? The totalitarian states who have the Cross without Love, or the Western world which has love-so often erotic-without sacrifice? We do not know. But we do know that at the end of time, when the  great conflict between the forces of good and evil takes place, satan will appear without .the Cross, as the Great Philanthropist and Social Reformer to become the final temptation.

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If He is what He claimed to be, a Savior, a Redeemer, then we have a virile Christ and a leader worth following in these terrible times; One Who will step into the breach of death, crushing sin, gloom and despair; a leader to Whom we can make totalitarian sacrifice without losing, but gaining freedom, and Whom we can love even unto death. We need a Christ today Who will make cords and drive the buyers and the sellers from our new temples; Who will blast the unfruitful fig tree; Who will talk of crosses and sacrifices and Whose voice will be like the voice of the raging sea. But He will not allow us to pick and choose among His words, discarding the hard ones, and accepting the ones that please our fancy.  We need a Christ Who will restore moral indignation, Who will make us hate evil with a passionate intensity, and love goodness to a point where we can drink death like water.

 

St John's Cross

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