If anyone would follow me,
he must deny himself, take up his cross,
and walk behind me, step by step.
What does this mean, my Jesus?
Is the Christian life, this joyous way,
really one prolonged crucifixion?
No, the truth of pain and suffering,
the way of humiliation and of death,
has been transformed from deep within
by the presence of your love.
It has been stretched thin, like a veil,
to show forth the light of Love, inside,
and to reveal, indeed, that pain does not,
ever, have the last word to say.
Now we can recognize in it
the same truth that is alive in your joy,
indeed, we can find your joy alive in it.
Yes, it is one single reality
pulsating as the heartbeat of every moment:
the childlike acceptance of a beloved Son
and his trusting surrender to the Father who loves him,
opening out to enfold us within this same exchange.

What is the meaning of the Cross,
then, if in the end all is only love,
and love alone counts in your loving eyes,
alive both in joy and in suffering, the same?
It is because the circle is not the cross,
yet we have become spherical in sin:
closed in upon the fallen self,
a world isolated and unable to receive or to give.
But the cross is open out, unboundedly,
in every direction, yet meeting at a point:
the sanctuary of the heart which receives and gives,
a place of intimate exchange and cherishing.
There, as you abide in the heart of our pain
—in the depths of our hearts, isolated in sin,
in which you have come lovingly to dwell—
your Heart burns like a Lamp of Love,
drawing all to yourself and welcoming it within,
and giving yourself anew, to penetrate into what is ours.
The enclosed sphere, therefore, is opened,
bursting forth from within in the power of love,
stretching out to accept and to surrender,
in the Love that has touched and possessed the heart,
and ever summons it deeper into this mystery
of blessed and holy exchange of life and love.

Prayer, fasting, almsgiving,
the way of self-denial,
is not a denial of the true self,
but a renunciation of the lies that enslave,
to return from exile to the sanctuary within,
and to open this sanctuary out in love.
Denial has no meaning in itself,
but only for what it makes possible,
for what it allows us to affirm.
Fasting turns the heart from fragmentation,
a fragmentation which is not true reaching-out,
but really a collapsing in anew
to the circle of the fallen self.
Yet to turn away from this whirlpool
is to turn to the orbit of Love, drawing,
to allow oneself to be led, in prayer,
towards the One for whom we thirst
and who thirsts to satisfy our thirst with himself.
And touched by love, deep within,
perhaps hidden, almost unconscious, but true,
the heart opens out to give, to share,
freely, the gift that has freely been received.

The path lies open before every heart,
the way of life or the way of death,
and you have entrusted to us the choice.
And yet there is a still more beautiful truth:
you have set up your tent in every place,
not yourself becoming darkness,
but dwelling as light, there even in the darkest place.
When we strive to overcome the darkness
which plagues our broken and wounded hearts,
you are present already, there, loving and cherishing,
drawing us ever into the fullness of the light.
And when, indeed, we do not even strive,
but ignore or run from the too-difficult truth,
you are still there nonetheless,
the God of Life in a place of death,
rejoicing not in the death of the living
but yearning to awaken life anew,
and to perfect it, making it blossom
even in the soil of the arid, dying heart.
Reborn, even at the threshold of death,
such a heart, passing by way of death to life,
bears your Paschal Mystery, dear Christ,
in their very flesh and the story of their life.

Who can be so tender yet so strong,
except our almighty and loving God, alone?
Who can call us so deeply into mystery,
yet be so ineffably close, in each moment,
making us completely at rest in the joy of childhood?
My God, how wondrous you are,
amazing in the story that you write,
this Romance unimaginable, progressing day by day,
as the pencil of your love slowly wends its way
through the history of each and every life.

If the beauty of love is seen
in the form of the cross,
reaching out and welcoming within,
then is there no enfolding circle
containing all within itself?
Oh no…indeed, there is.
True life is not a continual striving
for something which lies always beyond,
but a repose in blessed and intimate embrace,
not static and unmoving,
but in the joy of mutual, eternal gift.
Yes, this is true life, unending,
which we taste already in this passing life:
a cross contained within a circle,
the mystery of the sacred Host.

And this mystery divine, my God,
is our foretaste of the mystery enfolding all:
the reality of your own encircling arms,
eternal Father, embracing your beloved Son,
and sharing with him that eternal Gift, the Spirit of Love.
Here we are, most awesome and loving God!
Right here in the center of this embrace,
enclosed, now and eternally,
within the perfect bliss of your life of Love!