The Holy Cross Sermon
of His Excellency Archbishop Marcel lefebvre Translated
from French by Doulgas Laudenschlager
14 September 1975
of His Excellency Archbishop Marcel lefebvre
from French by Doulgas Laudenschlager
Behold, here you are, back after your vacations; back from your families to re-enter the Seminary. Apart from yourselves, it is to the twenty or so of your confreres who will return at the end of this week, since they have already made their retreat, and to the new students who will arrive at the beginning of the month of October, that I address these words: words of welcome, and words which would also hope to signify that which you come to seek at the Seminary; words which would hope to express to you that which, for you, ought to be the essential in your ascent toward the priesthood, or in the pursuit of the religious life which you have come to seek. My dear brothers, for you as well the reminder of the place which the mystery of the Cross ought to occupy in our spirituality, in our Christian life, is of the greatest importance.
Throughout the history of the Church, the Saints souls truly desirous of deepening their Christian life, of considering what God has done for us, the great mystery of the love of God for our souls — these souls have always found the solution, and the means of increasing their spiritual life and of giving it a profound reality, in the mystery of the Cross. This was particularly so in the Christian Middle Ages; and in our own day, one can still find the traces of this deep devotion, this complete devotion of the soul to the mystery of the Cross. It can be seen in the construction of those magnificent cathedrals, those magnificent churches: the Cross dominates. It dominates the altar. The Cross is the sign which serves to give the form to our cathedrals, to our churches. The Cross is found at crossroads everywhere: everywhere, the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ has been raised. Saint Angela of Foligno, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Ignatius, and Saint Bernard, among others, manifested in their writings, and, I should say, in their flesh as well, the love that they had for the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. For, in fact, the mystery of our sanctification, the mystery of our justification, cannot be explained without the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
And today, more than ever, we need to meditate upon this mystery, because at all times, and particularly perhaps in our own age, man wants to eliminate the Cross. He does not want to look at it; he does not wish to have it before his eyes. Why? Because the Cross represents sacrifice ... sacrifice. And yet it is only thereby — by the Cross, by sacrifice — that the Christian soul can regain life. "Mors mortua tunc est, " the liturgy says. "Death did then die, when He died Who was the source of life." "Quando mortua vita fuit." When He who is Life died, then death itself died. Life triumphed. And that is the entire summary of the spirituality of the Cross. We must die to ourselves to find life. That is the spiritual life, that is our justification. Holiness is nothing else! It is very simple indeed, summed up in two movements of our soul: the hatred of sin and the desire of God. Die to sin to live unto God. That is the Cross; it is nothing more than that! It is the symbol of death to sin so as to live in God.
there is the entire explanation of the spiritual life, of our
interior life. We must ever pursue the sinfulness within us, and
consequently sacrifice ourselves: sacrifice ourselves, know how to
die to ourselves, extinguish our evil tendencies, our evil instincts,
our desires of evil, our desires to disobey God. We must know how to
destroy them to live in God, to liberate ourselves from sin.
"Liberati a peccatis, servi facti estis justitiae,"
says Saint Paul. Delivered from your sins, you have become the
servants of holiness, the slaves of sanctity. "Servi facti
Men speak today of 'liberation.' Everywhere they have this word so much on their lips: liberation, liberation, liberation! What liberation? Liberation from Our Lord Jesus Christ! They want no more of Our Lord Jesus Christ; they want no more of His Cross! They want no more of His sacrifice because His sacrifice reminds us that we must sacrifice ourselves, that we must die to our sins to have life. And that, men who seek rather their pleasure and their satisfaction can neither see nor hear nor understand. They want nothing to do with the Cross. And that is why so many crosses have disappeared in our day.
where shall we find a living Cross, the Cross ever filled with that
charity, with that holy spirit which we need to combat our evil
tendencies so as to live the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ? At the
holy altar — in our churches — in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!
And that is why the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has so much importance
and has always been at the center of our sanctification, at the
center of the pre occupations of the Church. It is there that we find
Our Lord! This is not a Cross which is simply an historical
remembrance of the death of Christ. No, it is the living Cross.
Calvary renewed! The only difference between the altar and Calvary is
that, on Calvary, Our Lord offered a bloody sacrifice, and that, on
the altar, He offers Himself in an unbloody manner. That is the only
difference! It is truly Calvary that is renewed each time the priest
ascends to the altar and offers the Sacrifice of the Mass. It is them
that we must find the source of our sanctification: in the Holy
And, all the words of the Liturgy express precisely this desire of expiation, of the remission of sins. To expiate, to remit our sins is one of the principal ends of Holy Mass. And even to expiate the sins of the souls in purgatory! That is why the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has such great efficacity for the souls in purgatory! Alas, that is what the Protestants denied and still deny; that is why priests ordained today; ordained recently, have a tendency to deny. This is very serious.
We ought to have the conviction that in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is found the source of all graces which we can receive. And that is why we have the need, why we feel the need of keeping the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, of leaving it untouched, so precious it is. For we would risk otherwise to cut off the source of our graces. If we changed the spirit of the Sacrifice of the Man, and if we came to make of it a simple communion, a simple thanksgiving, a simple meal, we would cause this source of grace which is the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ, His sacrificial oblation, to disappear. And that which the priest performs is a sacrifice; it is a sacrificial action which the priest performs on the altar. It is not only a recalling of the memory of the Last Supper or of the memory of the Cross. Oh, no! It is much more than that! There is unfathomable mystery in the Sacrifice of the Mass. That is why we ought to be attached to it with our whole soul, with all our heart: because it is there that we find indeed that which the love of God has done for us ... that which the love of God has done for us.
For if there is a testimony of the love of God for us, it is certainly Our Lord Jesus Christ crucified on the Cross for us. What more could Our Lord have done, what more could God have done, than immolate Himself on the Cross for us, to redeem us from our sins? Shall we be insensible to the sacrifice of Our Lord, of the Son of God? One can still find marked on old crucifixes of another age these words: "Can you say that I have not loved you, when you see Love carved upon this Cross?" Love carved upon the Cross! That is the crucifix: love manifested, love alive upon the Cross. Thus one can understand the desire that all holy souls have felt ever to have the crucifix before them, to find in the crucifix the support of their spirituality, the source of their spiritual life.
And how those souls desired to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; to participate therein so as to re-live Calvary, to re-live what the Blessed Virgin lived; and thus to unite themselves to the sufferings of Our Lord Jesus Christ! Compassion — Our Lady of Compassion is the patroness of our religious. Why? Because Christian souls ought to suffer with Our Lord. A soul that would not wish to suffer with Our Lord would not be a Christian soul. And we should not only suffer with, but also, as it were, think with Our Lord. That is to say, desire with Our Lord to suffer for the remission of the sins of the world: all the injuries; the sacrileges, the sins which are so numerous in the world. And finally, we should complete the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Saint Paul says this very thing: we ought to complete in the flesh the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And that we should also desire.
Oh, it is a desire that will cost us dearly ... that will cost us dearly, that will make us suffer — for if we wish to complete the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, it will be necessary to suffer with Him, to be immolated with Him. And it would be too easy to say: "Since I am a Christian, God will bless me and exempt me from all suffering. I shall lead a life without suffering, without sacrifice, because I love God, God must love me, and therefore the Good Lord should certainly not want me to suffer!" That is, indeed, poorly to comprehend the mystery of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. If Our Lord has shown us the example of suffering, then on the contrary, we should almost have the desire to suffer with Him, the desire to sacrifice ourselves with Him! And when the thorn of pain pierces us, we should be happy, and find in this sacrifice our joy, our happiness, in associating ourselves — as God wants us to associate ourselves — to the Passion of His Son for the redemption of the world and for the redemption of our sins. Is this not but another mark of love from God, His desire that we be united in suffering with Our Lord Jesus Christ?
That is the Christian life; that is the Catholic teaching. That is our faith, the object of our faith, the reality of our faith. That is what all Christian generations have understood: those generations of holy fathers and mothers of families who suffered, who suffered in a Christian manner; who accepted their sufferings, who accepted their difficulties with joy; who were examples to their children. In suffering and in pain, they knew how to support it with Our Lord Jesus Christ. These were the generations of Christian families which bore so many vocations. It was in that that vocations were born: in the example which their parents could give of knowing how to live with Our Lord Jesus Christ, to suffer with Our Lord Jesus Christ, to pray with Our Lord Jesus Christ; to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with such faith, with such piety, in the spirit of self-oblation as victims with Our Lord Jesus Christ.
How beautiful it is, this Christian, this Catholic doctrine! How completely it transforms our life! How completely it transforms our life here below! And it is that which prepares us for life eternal "O crux, ave, spes nostra!" We refer to the Cross as our hope, for in fact, the Cross is only a road, a way: the way to eternal life, to glory. But it is necessary to pass by way of the Cross! One must take up the Cross and bear it after Our Lord to arrive at eternal life. This via crucis should be ours throughout the course of our life so as to arrive at life eternal.
There, my dear friends: there is our faith. That is what you should be pursuing here. You should have the Cross ever before your eyes. Your most precious desire should be to assist at, to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It should be this that fills your heart, your soul, with that balm that causes all the little difficulties you may have — in your studies, with your health, in the difficulties of community life that causes all that to disappear before the joy that you have to unite yourselves with Our Lord Jesus Christ, before the joy that you have to live with Our Lord Jesus Christ; before the thought that, one day, God willing, you will ascend to the altar and will offer the Sacrifice of Our Lord; that you will renew the sacrifice of Calvary and that you will offer yourselves as well as victims with Our Lord on the altar for the redemption of the sins of the world; that you will preach this doctrine of the Cross, that you will preach Jesus and Jesus Crucified; as Saint Paul says. Saint Paul had no other preaching "nisi Jesum et Jesum crucifixum." That was the preaching of Saint Paul. It will also be, I am sure, your own preaching. And as model of this participation, you will present to the world the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Compassion.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.