Christ cross

Pr. Serretti: the Cross of Christ is a “sign of unity for Europe broken by war”

Pr. Massimo Serretti, an Italian theologian, reflects on the meditation of the 13th station prepared for the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum in Rome on Good Friday, which is dedicated to the current conflict, saying that European states have their origins in Christianity and that the continent can recover itself in this identity.

By Fr. Massimo Serretti

Two images of two realities of apparently unequal and disproportionate weight are juxtaposed: one is that of the military offensive of one sovereign state against another; the other is that of two members of these two peoples, standing together under the cross.

In both images, blood and death are present. In the first, it is the blood of other men that is killed; in the second, there is the Blood of Christ which is shed for all humanity.

On the cross, under which walk the two limbs of the two peoples for the stretch of a station (13and), is affixed a tablet (titulus crucis) in which there is an inscription “in Hebrew, Latin and Greek” (Jn 19, 20). The plurality and extent of the three languages ​​indicate the plurality of peoples involved in the consummated event on the cross. Indeed, it is written of Him who hangs on the Cross: “I will come to gather all peoples and all languages” (Is 66, 18) and “the root of Jesse will rise up like a banner for all peoples” ( Is 11:10). Of Him who is nailed to this cross, an ancient hymn declares that He “reigned from the wood of the cross” and the scroll itself calls him “King”. “For the kingdom belongs to the Lord, he rules over all the nations” (Ps 21:29). He is the Lamb “the Lord of lords, the King of kings” (Rev 17:14), “He has a name written on his coat and on his thigh, “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 19: 16) And the final proclamation is that “all the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; all the families of the nations shall bow down to him” (Ps 21:28).

If the blood shed by the oppression of war increases divisions, the Blood offered by the Lamb unites and appeases. The whole history of the peoples of Europe is included in this drama. For Christians, it is not a question of the “war and peace” dialectic, as Tolstoy said. Peace, on the contrary, for Jews and Christians is a divine name and attribute, and as such cannot be legitimately placed in equal (dialectical) connection with all human action.

But back to Europe. All European nations were born historically from different ethnic and even linguistic entities which found their unity in Baptism. Baptism was the factor that favored the formation of national unity and identity. Up to a certain point in European history, the Christian genesis of nations enabled them to recognize themselves in a reality which transcended their different identities: the Church as a place of supranational unity and composed, from the outset, of all peoples, according to the divine plan and the mandate of Christ: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). Saint Augustine, along with other Church Fathers, recognized with great astonishment how the adherence of different peoples, languages ​​and cultures to the one Church was an irrefutable indication of its uniqueness, truth and origin. transcendent.

The schism of the East and the division of European Christianity in the sixteenth century thus provoked a correlative “crisis of European consciousness”. This gave rise to an ideology, so opposed by John Henry Newman, which shifted the point of broader unity to political power, as religion had proven to be divisive (consider the “act of supremacy “). Until today, Europe has not found and has not wanted to find its true point of unity, the only possible point of unity: the one from which it was born.

If we go back from this macro-scenario to the chronicle from which we started, we see that the fact that two members of two peoples at war (one attacked and the other aggressor), are together under the Cross of Christ , while appearing to be irrelevant from the point of view of the game of powers, turns out to be decisive as an indication of the way forward. It is still under the Cross that we are shown the way and the secret of a quality of unity not subject to fractures.

It is exactly while hanging on the cross that Jesus, as the Gospels tell us, recites a Psalm (21) in which, in addition to prophesying the dominion of the Lord over all peoples and all nations (vv. 28- 29), the birth of a “new people” (32) is announced. The grain that dies “bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24) and in this “people to be born”, the peoples defined by their different histories, cultures and languages ​​find a point of greater unity and, at the same time , the ability to reverse even their own specificities. This is due to the birthplace of the “people to be born” mentioned in the prayer Jesus said on the cross. Pope Saint Paul VI said that the people of God are “a people sui generis,” and sui generis‘ literally means that it is distinguished and defined in relation to its genesis, to that, or rather, to the One who generates it. Here the “new people” (Ps. 9:14). The Father regenerates him “according to the Spirit of sanctification through the resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:4) and all men and women of all peoples are called to participate in this generation of the Son in the virginal bosom of the church which is the baptistery (Saint Léon le Grand). Since the origin of this birth is holy, holy also is the bond which unites those who are born here, and the quality of this perfect bond is such that it cannot be broken because its nature is divine (sacrament) and it is kept in heaven.

From here and only from here can the broken unity of the European peoples be reborn. From here and only from here can a unity of the human family be affirmed which is not a harbinger of violence and death (see Encyclical Fratelli tutti).

As long as Jesus hung on the cross, the action was entirely divine, between the Son and the Father and between the Father and the Son; after his death, in the deposition, it is the man who is called upon to take action again and the first action is the acceptance of his body. It is the way, it is the way, its unity is the way: “go through man and you will arrive at God” (Saint Augustine).

The deposition (13and Station) is the removal of the body of Christ from the cross. In Communion we now receive this Body, in Communion with the Body of Christ which is the Church and in Eucharistic Communion which is participation in the Body and Blood of Christ. However, among the Christian confession, there is no true unity precisely on these two modes of reception. And it is a European problem for the real unity of the real Europe.