Rorate Caeli

Joining God in penance and suffering

Circumdederunt me gemitus mortis, dolores inferni circumdederunt me: et in tribulatione mea invocavi Dominum, et exaudivit de templo sancto suo vocem meam. (From the Introit for the Sunday in Septuagesima: "The sorrows of death surrounded me, the sorrows of hell encompassed me; and in my affliction I called upon the Lord, and He heard my voice from His holy temple.")

[W]hen someone desires to suffer, it is not merely a pious reminder of the suffering of the Lord. Voluntary expiatory suffering is what truly and really unites one to the Lord intimately. When it arises, it comes from an already existing relationship with Christ. For, by nature, a person flees from suffering. And the mania for suffering caused by a perverse lust for pain differs completely from the desire to suffer in expiation. Such lust is not a spiritual striving, but a sensory longing, no better than other sensory desires, in fact worse, because it is contrary to nature. Only someone whose spiritual eyes have been opened to the supernatural correlations of worldly events can desire suffering in expiation, and this is only possible for people in whom the spirit of Christ dwells, who as members are given life by the Head, receive his power, his meaning, and his direction. Conversely, works of expiation bind one closer to Christ, as every community that works together on one task becomes more and more closely knit and as the limbs of a body, working together organically, continually become more strongly one.

But because being one with Christ is our sanctity, and progressively becoming one with him our happiness on earth, the love of the cross in no way contradicts being a joyful child of God. Helping Christ carry his cross fills one with a strong and pure joy, and those who may and can do so, the builders of God’s kingdom, are the most authentic children of God. And so those who have a predilection for the way of the cross by no means deny that Good Friday is past and that the work of salvation has been accomplished. Only those who are saved, only children of grace, can in fact be bearers of Christ’s cross. Only in union with the divine Head does human suffering take on expiatory power.

To suffer and to be happy although suffering, to have one’s feet on the earth, to walk on the dirty and rough paths of this earth and yet to be enthroned with Christ at the Father’s right hand, to laugh and cry with the children of this world and ceaselessly to sing the praises of God with the choirs of angels this is the life of the Christian until the morning of eternity breaks forth.
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

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Sancta Teresia Benedicta,
Patrona totius Europæ,
ora pro nobis!

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LeonG said...

Saint Theresa's poignant understanding of penance & suffering is wholly appropriate for us to meditate while the contemporary church experiences perhaps its worst era ever of internal division. Without her writings I have to admit I could not make sense of my last 45 years as a Roman Catholic.

Siant Theresa please pray for us & intercede for us.

Tom the Milkman said...

St Teresa Benedicta was a woman tempered unto true wisdom in the crucible of suffering. A wholly admirable saint. That last paragraph is particularly fine. How about posting something on Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity? Her magnificent teaching on interior silence is something that speaks to many hearts who seek the repair of blessed silence that we find in the TLM. It is wonderful to open Rorate and find a magnificent Carmelite! many thnx.

Jordanes551 said...

Are you a Christian, Anastasia?

LeonG said...

Anastasia - read about the life of St Pio of Pietrelcina or Padre Pio as he is usually known. Not only will you then understand how one man's desire to suffer on our behalf out of love for God has immense value for mankind but you will also be able to relate to it as he was a human being like you and me. He touched hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives & continues to do so today. All that from a being humble Franciscan friar in an Italian agricultural backwater.

Of course, Our Blessed Lord's sacrifice was greater but sometimes because He is both divine and human in nature it is more problematic to comprehend & discern. Padre Pio helped me to see how suffering has implicit value & he takes you to Christ to fulfill this appreciation for the very factor most of us want to avoid.

Tradster said...

It's one thing to say that the Byzantine tradition has a somewhat different focus and emphasis than the Latin one, Anastasia, but quite another to seemingly imply that the Latin tradition is fundamentally in error on this. While I'm certainly far from an expert on the topic, I'm confident that it's a 'both..and' situation, not an 'either...or' situation.

While I tend to think that, unfortunately, there are certain irreconcible aspects of Catholic doctrinal truth and certain aspects that can arguably be found in Byzantine tradition, I don't think this is one of them.

Purgatory and Theosis should, I would think, be able to be seen as complementary aspects of purification, not contradictory ones. Can you really truly, say, definitively, that Final Theosis entails absolutely no hardship, suffering or difficulty? Dr. Anthony Dragani, a Byzantine-rite Catholic scholar doesn't seem to think so.

Jordanes551 said...

Before we attempt to respond to Anastasia's bewilderment regarding the Christian doctrine that Christ's suffering (and by extension our own in union with His) expiates sin, we should first ascertain whether or not she is a Christian. Though her screen name suggests an affiliation with Eastern Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, we shouldn't jump to conclusions about the religious faith, if any, of a person who seems never to have read the New Testament nor been taught what 2,000 years of Holy Tradition infallibly affirm regarding expiatory suffering.

Tradster said...


The apparent view expressed by Anastasia T. is not out of keeping for the Eastern Orthodox, and is a standard bedrock of their theology. Eastern Orthodoxy has generally had a more 'medicinal' approach to the work of Christ than what they would critically view as the West's insistence on a legalistic expiatory understanding. Their apologetical view tends to hold that The West has been excessively beholden to Augustinian thinking at the expense of a more broad and balanced view of patristic thinking during the early centuries.

As I understand their view, Christ sets the example that the Christian follows, attaches to, and identifies with as a pathway to foster divinization, the vehicle for salvific grace.

Not saying they're right when they make exclusivist claims about this, but it should be understood that many of them would tend to hotly contest 'The Western' claims as to what scripture and tradition attest to.

Jordanes551 said...

If she is Eastern Orthodox, that might explain her apparent bewilderment at the apostolic doctrine of expiatory suffering attested to by the Fathers and believed always, everywhere and by all. If she isn't a Christian, that also would explain it. Let's allow her to tell us why she doesn't believe in expiatory suffering before jumping to conclusions based on nothing more than a screen name.

Tradster said...


The link through her posted name here goes to what she says is her blog, and that apparently shows her to be a convert from Anglicanism to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Hope I'm not running too far afield of the topic here, when I say I'm far less concerned about Anastasia's and other Orthodox Christians' views than I am about the dubious formulations the post-Second Vatican magisterium has been fosting upon us.

If I'm not mistaken, Pope Paul VI in a 1975 allocuation on Second Vatican's Unitatis Redintegratio not only restated the UR view that Catholics and Orthodox have the closest of bonds, but went beyond the council to even say that very little is missing in order to celebrate the Eucharist together, a position that I believe is now enshrined in the 1992 Catechism and restated again in JPII's 1995 Orientale Lumen.

I realize that the East is probably one of the last things to expect Catholic trads to devote much attention to, but I hope episodes like this will drive home for Roman Latin Catholics - trad and non-trad alike - that there is a significant chasm that has and will continue to separate Roman Catholic from Eastern Orthodox, Vatican wishful thinking not withstanding.

Jordanes551 said...

I didn't notice that her name was a hyperlink to her profile. Given her history and her current beliefs, it's unsurprising that she doesn't accept what the Christian religion teaches about expiatory suffering. You're quite right that there is a lot more separating Orthodox Christians from the Church than the optimistic pronouncements of Vatican II and recent popes might suggest.

Since she apparently is an anti-Catholic heretic and schismatic, it's probably best that we not so easily advertise her weblog or facilitate traffic from here to there.