Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm

Following up on our earlier post, which was devoted to an old hymn in honor of St. Andrew, we note that Vultus Christi has a wonderful piece about St. Andrew and the Cross. We read,

In the Antiphon that will be sung in today’s Office, Saint Andrew sings to the Cross, something that, apart from a special grace of God, we are incapable of doing.

O bona crux! O precious cross, of a long time have I desired thee and now that thou art made ready for me, my soul is drawn to thee, and I come to thee in peace and gladness.

“I come to thee in peace and gladness.” More often than not we come to our crosses in fear and heaviness of heart. Far from singing to them we approach them murmuring, or in the sullen silence of our unspoken resistances and inability to trust. Saint Andrew was able to sing a greeting to his cross; he was able to come to it in peace and gladness, because he recognized that by means of it he would pass over to God.

(Emphasis in original and quotation reformatted.)

It’s also late fall (or early winter or whatever you want to call it), in the United States at any rate, and it happens that travel and home are on everyone’s minds. Everyone is doing a lot of travel, going to and from various places for Thanksgiving, for Christmas, and for the rounds of Christmas parties with coworkers, with friends, and with family. And, of course, much of this travel involves home. Going home for Thanksgiving. Returning home after another dull party at the boss’s house. Splitting Christmas Eve and Christmas Day between in-laws homes, or, as is so often the (sad) case, between parents’ homes. But, more than that, home is on everyone’s mind, regardless of travel. We talk about going “home for the holidays,” whether it’s a happy prospect or not, and we talk about the importance of having “someplace to go” for Thanksgiving and Christmas, which seems to be home under another name. But we get the sense that home was very much on St. Andrew’s mind as he walked toward the Cross, too. But not quite the home of bright copper kettles, football, turkey, and Uncle Lewis’s latest political theories. Something better than that.

Consider some of the responsories from matins, which depict St. Andrew’s conversation with the Cross on his way to be martyred. For example, this one from the third reading:

R.Doctor bonus et amicus Dei Andreas ducitur ad crucem, quam a longe aspiciens dixit: Salve, crux Suscipe discipulum eius, qui pependit in te magister meus Christus. 

V.Salve, crux, quae in corpore Christi dedicata es, et ex membris eius tamquam margaritis ornata.

Suscipe discipulum eius, qui pependit in te magister meus Christus.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.

Suscipe discipulum eius, qui pependit in te magister meus Christus.

Or this one, from the fifth reading:

R.O bona crux, quæ decorem et pulchritudinem de membris Domini suscepisti; accipe me ab hominibus, et redde me magistro meo: Ut per te me recipiat, qui per te me redimit.

V.Beatus Andreas expansis manibus ad cælum orabat, dicens: Salva me, bona crux:

Ut per te me recipiat, qui per te me redimit.

Finally, this one from the eighth reading:

R.Videns crucem Andreas exclamavit, dicens: O crux admirabilis, o crux desiderabilis, o crux, quæ per totum mundum rutilas: Suscipe discipulum Christi, ac per te me recipiat, qui per te moriens me redimit. 

V.O bona crux, quæ decorum et pulchritudinem de membris Domini suscepisti.

Suscipe discipulum Christi, ac per te me recipiat, qui per te moriens me redimit. 

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.

Suscipe discipulum Christi, ac per te me recipiat, qui per te moriens me redimit.

Indeed, it does seem strange to praise the Cross as beautiful as one is marching toward it to be martyred. It does seem like exactly the sort of thing for which one would require special grace. But the logic of St. Andrew’s praise is plain to see. The Cross was beautiful to him not only because it was where Christ suffered and died to save men, though that was in no small part its glory, but also because it was for him the way home—not to his birthplace or his house, but to Christ and to heaven, to the true home of all souls. (As Paul reminds us repeatedly.)

At any rate, St. Andrew, who never had to be talked into following Christ or, indeed, even told that it would be to his benefit to follow Christ, understood this point. And understanding it, he praised the Cross even as he walked forward to be martyred on it. It is, we think, well worth taking the Church’s hint and meditating on St. Andrew and his praise of the Cross as we go forward. As we prepare for Christmas—to remember the first coming of Christ and to prefigure his coming in glory at the end of the world—we ought to think about the Cross, too. It is, after all, the way home for us, too.

It may seem a little out of place, of course, to spend time meditating on the Cross during the cheery, fire-lit season of Advent, so full of cozy sights and smells, to say nothing of all the Christmas cheer in the air, and maybe it is. However, the road to Calvary begins in earnest in Bethlehem, and the nativity scene doesn’t mean much without the very different scene on Calvary. But, as St. Andrew tells us today, both are equally glorious.