Wisdom and the Cross

"Wisdom is the Cross and the Cross is Wisdom." So says St. Louis Marie de Montfort in The Love of Eternal Wisdom, no. 180 - the work which can be seen as the foundation of all his spiritual teaching.

This is an extraordinary statement, and one which is perhaps not calculated to appeal to Christians of today. But it did not appeal any more to the people of Christ's day; as St. Paul said:

"Here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God." (1 Cor 1:23-24)

Preacher of the CrossSt. Louis Marie had entered into the depths of this almost impenetrable mystery which is God's choice of what appears to be most opposed to life to bring about a new life: the choice of the Cross to bring eternal life. And in what, on the face of it, appears to be foolishness, he (along with St. Paul) found the greatest expression of the Wisdom of God. This was because for him, the Cross was the greatest expression of the love of God for his people: "Among all the motives impelling us to love Jesus Christ, the Wisdom incarnate, the strongest, in my opinion, is the sufferings he chose to endure to prove his love for us" (LEW 154). And so he can call the Cross: "the greatest secret of the King (Tob 12.7) - the greatest mystery of Eternal Wisdom" (LEW 167). And he can make the statement: "Never the Cross without Jesus, or Jesus without the Cross" (LEW 172). This is his way of expressing something that all great Christian writers have realised: if we wish to enter into a relationship with Jesus, this must inevitably involve our acceptance of a share in his suffering, in his Cross. He had meditated deeply on the words of Jesus himself: "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Matt 16:24); or as recorded by St. Luke: "let him take up his cross every day" (Lk 9:23). He expands on this meditation in his little booklet, Letter to the Friends of the Cross.

But for St. Louis Marie, this was far from being something to be merely accepted with resignation: he himself rejoiced to be able to share in the Cross of Christ, and he claimed that for all those who willingly accepted to do so, the Cross would become a source of deep joy: "the Holy Spirit tells us that when we suffer cheerfully for God, the cross is the source of every kind of joy for all kinds of people. The joy that comes from the cross is greater than that of a poor man who suddenly comes into a fortune, or of a peasant who is raised to the throne; greater than the joy of a trader who becomes a millionaire; than of a military leader over the victories he has won; than of prisoners released from their chains. In short, imagine the greatest joy that can be experienced on earth, and then realise that the happiness of the one who bears his sufferings in the right way contains, and even surpasses, all of them" (LFC 34).

And St. Louis Marie insists that this acceptance of the Cross of Christ, this "mortification", is one of the principal means of acquiring divine Wisdom or the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ, the Eternal and Incanate Wisdom of God. (LEW 194-202)