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Sub Tuum.

What does it mean to be Christian?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

What does it mean to be truly Christian? Is it about music, buildings, or even service to others? Our Lord gave the answer. We must take up our own cross and follow Him. Without that, our worship is empty. Without that, the most splendid choir is mere entertainment, and the greatest service means absolutely nothing. Taking up our own cross and following the Lord, however, does not mean merely sitting in the pews on Sunday. Singing in the choir is insufficient, too. Giving money to the work of the Church is not enough, even in our commercialized society. Our worship on Sundays and Holy Days must be active. Christ must be the center of all that we do each and every day of the week.

The late Abbot Leonard Giardina, OSB, had the most simple and eloquent way of putting this that I have ever heard. To experience what he said yourself, take a crucifix and look at Christ hanging on the front. Then turn the crucifix around and see the empty back. You must be willing to hang right there on the cross with our Lord. That is what it means to be a Christian. What a beautiful thing that is!

You can experience this closeness to Christ first and foremost through the mass, for it is there that we witness and join with the true and living Sacrifice of our Lord upon the Cross. This is the most magnificent thing the Church has to offer. The entire ministry of the Church begins at the altar. Nothing in the world can take the place of the mass. No other sacrament means anything without it. Baptism does not, for without Christ on the Cross, there would be no Church to join. Matrimony does not, for there is no Christian sacrament of marriage without our Lord's Passion. Ordination does not, for without the Cross, there would be no Sacrifice to live, no Church and no Christian ministry. Holy Unction and Penance would not, for without the Cross, there would be no Resurrection and no hope for the remission of sins and victory over the grave.

By taking up our own cross, by being willing to hang right there alongside Christ, we begin to live in Christ and for Christ. From there and only from there we may live the Great Commandment of our Lord, that we love one another. What greater love can anyone have than God the Father, who sent our Lord and Savior to the world as a man? What greater love can anyone have than our Lord, who suffered and died for the remission of our sins? This is true love and the kind of pure love that can only be expressed by one who is willing to hang on the Cross with our Lord. Mere human emotion is insufficient and will always leave a void.

To achieve purpose, all things in your life must originate from the Cross of Christ, and you must be there alongside our Lord. To achieve true joy, you must be willing to suffer alongside Christ. This is the plain and simple essence of the Christian Faith. May your life be enriched greatly through it that you may attain to the eternal reward.

Yours in Christ,

+Rutherford c.p.p. I
Patriarch of St. Stephen

 

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