St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross made such a splash yesterday and the enthusiastic plaudits were such that I couldn't disappoint by not bringing more. First a definition: "St Paul who already had a well-developed science of the cross, a theology of the cross derived from inner experience (p. 20) And now this passage:
from The Science of the Cross
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
The saving power: this is the power that awakens to life those to whom divine life had died thorugh sin. This saving power had entered the Word from the cross and through this word passes over into all who receive it, who open themselves to it, without demanding miraculous signs or human wisdom's reasons. In them it becomes the life-giving and life-forming power that we have named the science of the cross.
Paul brought it to fulfillment in himself "Through the law I died to the law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me." In those days when all turned into night about him but light filled his soul, the zealot for the Law realized that the Law was but the tutor on the way to Christ.
It could prepare one to recive life, but of itself it could not give life. Christ took the yoke of the Law upon himself in that he fulfilled it perfectly and died for and through the Law. Just so did he free from the Law those who wished to receive life from him. But they can receive it only if they relinquish their own life. For those who are baptised in Christ are baptized in his death. They are submerged in his life in order to become members of his body and as such to suffer and to die with him but also to arise with him to eternal, divine life. This life will be ours in its fullness only on the day of glory. (p. 21)
There are two points in this that really spoke to me:
(1) In those days when all turned into night about him but light filled his soul, the zealot for the Law realized that the Law was but the tutor on the way to Christ.
The law is the sign that points to the great redeemer, not redemption itself. I know this from all that is taught and yet to hear this revelation from one who would know--a Jewish convert to Catholicism--completely transforms an intellectual truth into a heart-truth. St. Teresa Benedicta lived this transformation and more. She learned the truth of the law, abandoned it, and then learned the fullness of the law in Jesus Christ. She died as a martyr for her people (in her own words), taking them with her in a mystical way in the reality of her own death and rising. She reified the truth of Christ's sacrifice on the cross in her own life and death. And as with all martyrs she is among the best imitators of Christ.
(2) They are submerged in his life in order to become members of his body and as such to suffer and to die with him but also to arise with him to eternal, divine life.
This may be more significant for those of us who had adult, full emersion baptisms. In the Baptist Church, once you accept Christ, you are baptised in a pool of water--not by having water sprinkled or poured on you, but by being completely emersed in the water three times--"In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." This is quite a different experience from that of most Catholics (many of whom cannot remember their baptism) and even most adult converts. I've seen many who have had water poured over them, but have yet to witness a full emersion Catholic baptism. That's an aside, but important. In full emersion you are truly submerged, and brought forth again fully symbolizing the death and resurrection into which we are being baptised.
In St. Teresa Benedicta's terms we are submerged into the body of Christ which is the living Church and the body of the resurrection. We die to self to become part of what is greater than we are. In dying we are resurrected as more than self, as a member of the body of Christ.
But I like the sense of submerged for another reason. It suggests the fullness of the truth that Christ is not only completely surrounding us, but within us. When one is completely submerged, eventually the fluid one is submerged in enters the body. Submergence in Christ once again suggests the truth of becoming a new person, of losing the old, false identity and assuming one's god-given place in the body of Christ. In addition, submergence contains within it hints of subordination, of right ordering, and of proper relation between the creation and the Creator. In all, a very satisfying fleshing out of Paul's magnificent, life-giving teaching.