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Seventh Sunday of the Cross

The Seventh Sunday of the Cross

Basilica Hymn
For a man walks in an image, and fades away like vapor
And my sins opposite them, at all times
At the beginning of the book, it is written about me
That are written with a pen of iron and with a diamond stylus
Like an image engraved on a tablet, I am searched, O Lord, in my debts and sins which are written upon my skin and inscribed, and at all times shamefacedness hides my soul. O my Savior, be the absolver of my guilt, and have mercy on me.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
You have abolished and loosened, through your holy cross, O Christ the King, all the error of idols, and you have exalted and honored all those who believe in you. For lo, the splendid Service of your hidden and holy Mysteries is extolled like a bride in honoring the martyrs who were killed for your sake. The priests who sing, and we also who glorify you, say: O Lord, may the true faith be guarded until eternity!

The Hidden God

There is a real tension in theology, corresponding to a tension in reality, between understanding God as revealed and recognizing him as hidden. On the one hand, “his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been understandable and perceivable in what he has made” (Romans 1:20); on the other hand, “who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:34). No matter how much we see of God in nature, in Scripture, and even in his fullest revelation in the flesh, in Jesus Christ, he always remains beyond our comprehension; no matter how much he reveals of himself, he still stays somehow hidden.

This eventually causes us a problem. Because we are God’s image, we imitate his Nature in a created way even in this. We also are mysterious beings, incomprehensible to other creatures. This should give us a sense of respect and awe toward other human beings; it should warn us against thinking we have someone “figured out,” or of limiting their potential, as we do when we think someone “will never change.” This is not the problem, of course. The problem is when we hide ourselves deliberately, taking advantage of the admitted mystery within our hearts and using this shadow to hide our vices, or even our true selves, presenting only a mask to others. Even worse than this, and even more ridiculous, is when we think that we can be mysterious even to God.

Nowhere to Hide

It is not so with God. We may be mysterious to one another; we may be able to hide even from our dearest friends, but we cannot hide from God; we cannot fool him even with our most creative masks. We can even fool ourselves at times, but we cannot fool God. Psalm 139 begins thus:

O Lord, you search me and you know me:
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My travels and my rest you mark;
with all my ways you are familiar.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
You know it, Lord, through and through.

But it is more than silly to think we can disguise ourselves before God; it is harmful. Our redemption depends on our coming to him honestly and openly, with trust and earnestness, and contrition. Bad theology leads by necessity to bad piety. When we admit who we are, and how we look to God, how he can read us as easily as we read a book, then we can turn to him and ask forgiveness:

Like an image engraved on a tablet, I am searched, O Lord, in my debts and sins which are written upon my skin and inscribed, and at all times shamefacedness hides my soul. O my Savior, be the absolver of my guilt, and have mercy on me.