We’re familiar with Jesus’ Seven Last Words, the final comments he made while on the Cross. I’d like to introduce Jesus’ Seven First Words. But first, consider seven ways the modern heart is in despair:
We are haunted by our fears.
We are bound by our shame.
We feed off of judging others.
We are weak in the face of suffering.
We complicate things unnecessarily.
We are addicted to the easy way.
We are visionless.
To which I offer Jesus’ Seven First Words:
“Don’t be afraid.”
“I don’t accuse you either.”
“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
“You’ll suffer. But cheer up! I’ve overcome the world.”
“Let the children come unto me.”
“Leave everything, take up your cross and follow me.”
“I’ll be back for you.”
Julia de Beausobre (1893-1977), author of The Woman Who Could Not Die, exiled to a concentration camp and tortured for years for her faith by the communists, writes (in Creative Suffering):
“The other way of coping with sadism is very hard. It is pre-eminently active. It exacts of the victim who undertakes it a heightening of consciousness which is inseparable from the pain that goes with any expression of awareness. It demands simultaneous participation, by an intense effort of sympathetic insight, in the particular and the general context of the action; insight into the entirety of your present situation; clear perception of all the most trivial details that are occurring around you; penetration, as far as possible, into the mind of the men who have staged the ‘cross-examination’, and insight into the breadth of God’s composition for this particular event of earth. That is very hard, because clear perception, penetration of another’s mind and insight, all require a tremendous heightening of sympathy, while on the other hand, any tinge of sentimentality as well as an impassioned reaction to anything will immediately damp your attentiveness, deflect you from the only sane course open to you, and prove nothing but a stepping-stone to hysteria. Such pure ‘distilled’ sympathy, if I may use the term, requires a heightening of all the mental and moral faculties. And yet it is imperative that this heightening should be brought about in a mood of complete selflessness. Without it some will fail to steer clear both of self-pity and of a slurring over of their tormentors’ responsibility—either of which would be sentimental. Others, without it, will fail to avoid fear and despair—which invite the more tempestuous passions. All this is very hard. But the point is that once it is achieved, you realize that you have been privileged to take part in nothing less than an act of redemption. And then you find that, incidentally and inevitably, you have reached a form of serenity which is, if anything, more potent to counteract sadistic lusts than any barren impassivity could be.”
“The past masters of psychology who hold you in their power, do all they can to shatter you completely. One of their avowed objects is to ‘recondition’ their victims while these are kept in custody. And accordingly, the worse than third-degree methods that you are subjected to gradually uproot all previous conditioning and lay bare the deepest layer of your subconscious. This no one can escape or fight against. And it is therefore vital for you to feel and know beyond all possible doubt that notwithstanding all the tormentors’ devices, there is, and always will remain within you something that is built on rock, because it is the core of your personality and one with the rock it is built on. Being both of your and of the rock and not being anywhere outside of you or the rock, it cannot be uprooted. Besides, being of eternity, the more it is laid bare the brighter it shines.”
“The tone of the fortitude shown by the tortured is very different when they think of themselves only as poor, or brave, lonely wretches, and when they think of themselves as members of the mystical body of Christ. Only the latter are likely to come through without succumbing to hatred.”
(Picture from here.)