The Letters of St. Paul of the Cross: ‘A Sea of Love’

Besides, I want you to go fishing sometimes. How? I will tell you. The most holy passion of Jesus is a sea of sorrows but, at the same time, a sea of love. Pray to God that he teach you to fish in the sea; then dive into its depths. No matter how deep you go, you will never reach the bottom. Allow yourself to be penetrated completely by sorrow and love. In this way, you will thoroughly appropriate the passion of Christ and make his sufferings your own. Fish for pearls in the virtues of Jesus. This divine fishing is done without words; Faith and love will teach you this. (The Mysticism of the Passion in St Paul of the Cross,  Ignatius Press, p. 199-200) 

That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Eph 3:17-19

He is despised and rejected by man, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

Isa 53:3

If Jesus being perfect was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and He is the example of the perfect life lived, then how is it that we pursue happiness above all else and we feel wronged when we don’t get it?

It is true that deep inside we know we were created for perfect bliss and happiness forever after; however, in this world, that heavenly bliss evades us and it seems as though we know much more of the thorns and thistles of this life than of the bountiful delicious fruits created in the Garden from the beginning.  Indeed, we also, are acquainted with grief and full of pain and sorrows of all types.

Jesus’ death on the Cross took on those thorns of the curse of the Earth and He wore them as a crown and indeed conquered sin, death, and the devil all in one fell swoop. How is it then that we still face tribulation, sorrows, and troubles of all kinds? In John 16:33, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” So it seems that Jesus did a work, but did not instantly deliver us from the peril of this world.  Why would He leave us here in this mess? What are His intentions toward us? Is this love to leave us in this broken, fallen, evil place?

We get a glimpse of the answer to these difficult questions when we see what happened to the early apostles after the resurrection and when they came into the knowledge that they were living for another age and a kingdom that would be revealed at some later time that only the Father knew.  They began to understand the many words that Jesus spoke to them during His ministry. They came into this same “overcoming” spirit that Christ had when He died on the Cross.  They were initially fearful after the Cross and afraid of the authorities, but after their corporate witness of His resurrection on several occasions, they came into a new revelation and understanding of their purpose on this earth. Indeed, they came to understand that they would follow in the footsteps of their master and they too would be martyred.

Not only this, but that this privilege of laying down their lives would end up being their greatest joy and desire!  In Acts 5:41 it says, “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”

Tradition passes down the accounts of their martyrdoms and tells us that Andrew, being taken to die on a cross, embraced the cross and exclaimed how he had longed and looked forward to this “happy day”!  Certainly, the apostles received this overcoming spirit that Jesus had and they rejoiced to follow the Lamb to the slaughter.

But how can we be overcomers in this life and especially in the mundane lives that most of us live in?

One certainty is that we all face trials, tribulations, and pains of all types. No one escapes the pain in this broken world.  We can also experience the overcoming spirit of the Lord by bringing our pain to Him at the Cross. How does this work practically?  Whatever we are suffering, whether it be loneliness or rejection, we can be certain that He suffered more than we ever will. Hebrews 12:3 asks us to “consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest we become weary and discouraged..”. And again in Heb 4:15 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Knowing that He has gone further than we ever will, and that He loves us so much, we can take our pain to Him.  As we present whatever pain is present to us, He is saying to us, “I am giving you a little drop, a small taste of My bitter Cross. I am letting you share in My suffering.”  In this way, we begin to understand His pain in a small but effective way and as we present our pain to Him, we become bonded to Him in a magnificent way.

Pain is the most efficacious means to bond us one to another either humanly speaking or God to man and man to God. We come into a divine union with the Holy One as we share in His sufferings. Soon as we learn to take every bit of pain and suffering to Him in this way, and we begin to experience this heavenly bonding of divine union, we rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer for Him and all of our suffering turns into sweetness in this holy light. This is how many a saint felt deprivation if they were not able to suffer on a daily basis for Him. Truly, this is the manifestation of the overcoming spirit of Jesus.

He leaves us here in this broken place so that we may come into such union and bonding with Him that could not be forged in any other way and He would not want to deprive us of this great unseen treasure and eternal reward associated with it.  He favors us by letting us participate in His suffering and bonding us to Himself with such love that nothing can compare to this love in all the universe.

A mixture of a sea of sorrowful love and loving sorrow. We come; we bring our pain; we dive deep and immerse ourselves in this great Sea that is Him.

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

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

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