The Letters of St. Paul of the Cross: ‘Let Jesus Christ Live in You’

“May the mercy of God grant you still more time in life so that you can become completely crucified with the Divine Spouse by means of mystical death, death to everything that is not God, with a continual detachment from all created things, wholly concealed in the divine bosom of the celestial Father in true inner solitude. Do not live any longer in yourself, but let Jesus Christ live in you in such a way that the virtue of this Divine Savior may be resplendent in all your actions, in order that all may see in you a true portrait of the Crucified and sense the sweetest fragrance of the holy virtues of the Lord, in interior and exterior modesty, in patience, in gentleness, suffering, charity, humility, and in all others that follow.” (The Mysticism of the Passion in St Paul of the Cross,  Ignatius Press, p. 179)

 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.  Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.  And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith,  that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.

Philippians 1:21-26

 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

The Christian life has a process of maturity from salvation (baptism) to the “fullness in Christ” spoken of in Ephesians 3: 16-19.  This “fullness” is the end goal of our journey with God and is “union with Christ.”

The Apostle Paul speaks of this union in his letter to the Galatians when he says, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me..”(Gal 2:20)  Though this union is the end goal of the Christian, it may not be the end of his life here on the earth.  God may yet have assignments for him here on earth after he has reached the place of “being crucified with Christ” and it is no longer he who lives but Christ who lives in him and through him. The Apostle Paul knew that although he would rather go to be with the Lord, it was better for his disciples for him to be here and help them to grow into maturity.

Paul of the Cross in his quote above was concerned for a disciple to reach full maturity before death. Indeed, many do not reach this place before they die let alone reach it and go on to produce a harvest of 30, 60, and 100 fold.  (Mark 4:20)  It is unlikely that we can produce a harvest truly for eternity if we have not reached the place of “being crucified with Christ so that it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives his life in me…”.  Therefore, how do we take steps of growth that we may reach this Gal 2:20 place?

Paul of the Cross says we need to detach from all created things, no longer live for ourselves, and let Him live through us in such a way that He is “resplendent in all your actions, in order that all may see in you a true portrait of the Crucified”. As we detach continually this transformation in our inner man takes place such that the “sweetest fragrance of the holy virtues of the Lord, in interior and exterior modesty, in patience, in gentleness, suffering, charity, humility…” takes place and manifests the Lord’s Presence in us, through us, and around us.  He is wanting us to receive His virtues and character traits. Cultivating the disciplines of the Christian life, like daily good habits of prayer and bible study are the beginning of acquiring the Christian virtues spoken of in Galatians 5: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

We must DO something and then God will DO something.

As we, in faith, say NO to our fleshly desires, then He will help us to grow and acquire good habits and increase in the virtues.   As we increase in the acquired virtues, God also increases us in holy prayer and can bring us to such depth in wordless prayer and holy encounter with Him that He begins to INFUSE His virtues into us.  This infusion is totally and completely done by God to us, yet it is also a response from Him to our hungry hearts that have presented ourselves before Him a “living sacrifice” (Rom 12:1-2). The infused virtues cause us to live out supernaturally the Galatians 2:20 reality: Christ in us and through us. These infused virtues are a sign that this union with God has manifested.

How do we know that He wants to do this for each of us?  Revelation 5:6 speaks of the “seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out to all the earth.” These seven eyes are also spoken of in other passages such as  2 Chron 16:9, where the eyes of the Lord are searching diligently throughout the whole earth that He may strongly support those whose hearts are completely given over to Him. The seven-fold Holy Spirit is spoken of in Isaiah 11 where they are named as the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation, Counsel and Might, the Knowledge of God and the Fear of the Lord. In Zech 4, the eyes of the Lord are again seen as searching for those who will answer the call to build His house of prayer… those who are given over to the things of God and not man. The Lord is so happy about these given-over ones that He doesn’t despise their small beginnings for He sees what and who they will be … a kingdom unshakeable and unstoppable. These ones are the ones who are filled with the infused virtues of the seven-fold Holy Spirit of Isaiah 11.  His gaze upon them has infused them because they are gazing at Him as well and are putting their hand to the plow in building His house of prayer that will go global and increase for all eternity.

This post was first published on The Upper Garden and is reprinted here with permission.

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash.

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