Amnesia and the Cross
Outside the walls. On the top of some hill. Crowds watching. In plain sight to all who pass by. Three crosses. An inscription. A limp body. An oblivious world.
The Crucifixion is objectively speaking the most important event in human history. Any other event pales in comparison. When meditating upon it we often think of the people there, the scene at Calvary, the last words of Christ, but every once in a while I like to direct my attention elsewhere. What was the rest of the world doing?
While Christ lay hung on the tree, I like to think that over in my country of Singapore, fishermen were turning in after a long day's work. In Europe, farmers were probably waking up and preparing for the day ahead. All across the world people continued their daily lives completely oblivious to the greatest event of History.
The crowd at the Crucifixion scene of passersby, Jews, and Romans was perhaps a few thousands or maybe ten thousands people significantly less people than the Cubs World Series Celebration which had an attendance of 5 million people. Everyone else in the world had no idea what was happening.
We can’t blame these people for not knowing. There was no internet to spread the news of Christ’s death like Kobe Bryant’s. There was no live broadcast to watch in horror like we could as the Cathedral of Notre Dame went up in flames. They had no possible way of knowing.
God designed from the beginning that the Crucifixion would happen at such a time, at such an age, in such a manner. Considering the magnitude of the event, the reality at that time was a quiet one.
Since then, the word of Christ has spread through the world as He promised. We no longer live in a world where we can be comfortable in our ignorance and go about our days as if nothing is happening.
“Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world.” -Blaise Pascal
To borrow an idea from a past article. “If God is outside of time and can see past, present and future - then Christ on earth saw the past, present and future. After all, Christ is God. And as God, He would have seen all things. Therefore, to Christ, things that are happening in the year 2020, are seen by Him as if it was occurring right there before Him.”
Every moment is present to Christ crucified and therefore conversely at every moment Christ is crucified. Should we have been there in Jerusalem on the day of the crucifixion 2000 years ago, I would like to think that most Catholics at the very least have spent a moment of silence during the time of the Crucifixion. Maybe utter a prayer “forgive us Father for we know not what we do.” The more courageous and generous souls among us might have spoken up for Christ or accompanied him on his Way of The Cross. It would be heartless if you knew the crucifixion was happening at this very moment and did not set aside some time to at the very least to think about it, to give a moment of silence and respect.
We are no longer part of that oblivious world. We know Christ was crucified. We know Christ is crucified and yet we go about as if nothing is happening not because we are malicious, but simply because we are forgetful.
Fr. Raymond, one of my favorite authors, diagnosed modern Catholics with amnesia. We simply forget. The Sunday Catholic Phenomenon is not one born from a hatred of God but rather from forgetfulness. We do not remind ourselves that God exists.
As Catholics we have created ways to combat our forgetfulness but we have become so desensitized to them that they have lost their power. We say grace before and after meals to remind ourselves to thank God but we have become so accustomed to saying Grace that not many of us actually thank God much less think about him during grace. We place crucifixes and statues around our house not only to show off our Catholicism to guests but to remind ourselves of the reality of Christ crucified. Yet how many times have we walked past the crucifix in the living room without sparing a single thought for whom it represents.
Our Warpath has been pushing this message of discipline so pertinent to the current Lenten season since its inception, but what is discipline: Discipline is remembering what you want.
The Catholic idea of penance does not stem from some sadistic love of suffering. We do penance because we remember what we want: To be Christ-like and with Christ comes the cross.
And so this lent, try to remember. Revitalize those old habits and give them meaning. Take a good long hard look at a crucifix and resolve to say an ejaculation when you see one. Use your grace before and after meals as a short intense prayer of thanksgiving as it is meant to be. Form new habits. Place a spiritual reading book on your nightstand so you are reminded to do a bit everyday before bed. Try and do your meditations as distracted as they may be. Because if you are not constantly reminding yourself of the reality of Christ, you will forget. And, that is the cruelest thing you can do to someone who loves you and whom you love.