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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Leon

The Embrace of the Cross

Love is never lost. It is only held in the crossbeam of salvation, held in the space between the nails and eternity, waiting to be glorified and released.

All I have ever wanted was to be a Catholic wife and the mother of a beautiful family. And yet – a husband gone, lost to adultery and divorce. Two children gone, one to a custody change and the other to the grave. A third child at war with me and with Jesus, desperate to be rid of us both. This is my cross. I stumble under its weight, crushed by disappointment, mockery, and grief.

I crawl to your cross, Jesus. It is the only place I know to go when I am empty. In desperation, I wrap my arms around the splintered wood and gaze up at you hanging on the crossbeam of salvation. Your eyes meet mine, and you invite me to come closer and to offer you my broken heart and broken dreams.

I find a ladder and drag it across the dirt to the foot of the cross. The wind whips through my hair. I climb up and stand there next to you, lifting my face to see your eyes: the bottomless well of eternity, their liquid brown love pouring over me. I am pierced by your gaze. I press my face against your belly and let my tears fall and run down your legs, the salt stinging your wounds. I close my eyes and the sun breaks through, warming my face. I am held tightly in your love, but your arms are still nailed to the cross, hammered in with my own doubt and sin.

I long to have your arms wrapped around me, but you cannot move. Jesus, a thousand times I have gazed at you nailed to the cross, but in this moment, I am stunned by yours arms. I stagger under the weight of the horror of your love. You ARE love and yet you cannot wrap your arms around me.

You want to embrace me. You want to hold your holy mother, John, Mary Magdalene. Bound, you still beckon me, woo me, pursue me with your goodness and the promise of everlasting joy. I respond-- bringing my worn and weary heart, my sinful and struggling soul. I am eager for relief from the burden of my story, the loss of my family and my dreams. I ache to be wrapped in your embrace.

In submission, you offer us only your gaze. We are caught in the temporal paradox of the resurrection: Already, but not yet. You have redeemed the world, but your arms are still nailed to the cross. Oh, I am desperate to release you. I have never thought about this before: the mechanics of how they UN-nailed your precious body from the tree. I imagine the glorious moment when your arms, finally free to embrace us, instead fall lifeless to the dirt, eyes closed, face slack.

Calvary is a desolate place. The valley of tears stretches before me, vast and endless -- rust-colored mountains and the dust of a thousand years. I close my eyes and breathe. The smell of salvation, the hope of eternity fills my lungs. I am comforted just standing by your side, embraced by your cross, while blood drips from your Sacred Heart onto the nape of my neck.

I ache from the loss of my family but look deeply at your arms stretched wide on the cross. Your eyes invite me to embrace you. Hanging there between heaven and earth, you call each of us to be enfolded in the eternal love of the Father, the fiercely protective love of the Bridegroom, and the healing love of the Spirit.

Oh, Jesus, I am heartbroken. I grieve my own losses but even more, I grieve knowing you hang there for me, for my ugliness and sin. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for the hope that your arms will be released. Your glorified body will hold all of humanity at the end of time, but not yet.

There will be restoration and redemption of broken families and broken hearts. There will be a gathering of all the holy love that was ever poured out.

Love is never lost. It is only held in the crossbeam of salvation, held in the space between the nails and eternity, waiting to be glorified and released. The cross is a promise that will be fulfilled when the iron is pulled out of his palms and pounded out of the metatarsals of his precious feet, when oil and spices and linen witness his triumph, and the blood of salvation flows again through holy arms.

This essay can also be found at Catholic Mom, April 15, 2022.

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