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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Five - The Fourth Initiation - The Crucifixion
In the second word from the Cross we have the recognition of the Baptism episode, which signified purity and release through the purification of the waters of life. The waters of John's Baptism released from the thralldom of the personality life. But the Baptism to which Christ was subjected through the power of His Own life, and to which we are also subjected through the life of Christ within us, was the Baptism of fire and of suffering, which finds its climax of pain upon the Cross. That climax of suffering, for the man who could endure unto the end, was his entrance to "paradise" - a name connoting bliss. Three words are used to express this power to enjoy - happiness, joy and bliss. Happiness has a purely physical connotation, and concerns our physical life and its relationships; joy is of the nature of the soul and reflects itself in happiness. But bliss, which is of the nature of God Himself, is an expression of divinity and of the spirit. Happiness might be regarded as the reward of the new birth, for it has a physical significance, and we are sure that Christ knew happiness, even though He was a "man of sorrows"; joy, being more especially of the soul, reaches its consummation at the Transfiguration. Though Christ was "acquainted with sorrow," He knew joy in its essence, for the "joy of the Lord is our strength," and it is the soul, the Christ in every human being, which is strength and joy and love. He knew also bliss, for at the Crucifixion the bliss which is the reward of the soul's triumph was His.

Thus in these two Words of power "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do," and "To day thou shalt be with me in paradise," we have the significances of the first two initiations summarized for us. [218]

Now we come to the extraordinary and much debated episode between Christ and His mother, summed up in the words: "Woman, behold thy son," and followed by the words spoken to the beloved apostle: "Behold thy mother." What did these words mean? Below Christ stood the two people who meant the most to Him, and from the agony of the Cross He spoke to them a special message, relating them to each other. Our consideration of the previous initiations may make the meaning clear. John typifies the personality which is reaching perfection and whose nature is becoming irradiated by divine love, the major characteristic of the second Person of the divine Triplicity, the soul, the son of God, whose nature is love. As we have seen, Mary represents the third Person of the Trinity, the material aspect of nature which cherishes and nurtures the son and gives birth to him in Bethlehem. In these words Christ, utilizing the symbolism of these two persons, relates them to each other, and practically says: Son, recognize who is to give thee birth at Bethlehem, the one who shelters and guards the Christ life. To His mother, He says: Recognize that in the developed personality there is latent the Christ child. Matter, or the virgin Mary, is glorified through her son. Therefore the words of Christ have a definite reference to the third initiation, that of the Transfiguration.

Thus in His first three Words from the Cross He refers to the first three initiations, and recalls to our minds the synthesis revealed in Himself and the stages which we must cover if we are to follow in His steps. It is possible also that the thought was in the consciousness of the crucified Savior that matter itself, being divine, was capable of infinite suffering; and in these words there was wrung from Him the recognition that though God suffers in the Person of His Son, He also suffers with similar acute agony in the person of that Son's mother, the material form which has given Him birth. Christ stands midway between the two - the mother and the Father. Therein is His problem, and therein is [219] found the problem of every human being. Christ draws the two together - the matter aspect and the spirit aspect, and the union of these two produces the son. This is humanity's problem and humanity's opportunity.

The fourth Word from the Cross admits us into one of the most intimate moments of Christ's life - a moment that has a definite relation to the kingdom, just as had the three previous Words. One always hesitates to intrude upon this episode in His life, because it is one of the deepest and most secret and perhaps most sacred phases of His life on earth. We read that there was "darkness on the face of the earth" for three hours. This is a most significant interlude. From the Cross, alone and in the dark, He symbolized all that was embodied in this tragic and agonized Word. The number three is, of course, one of the most important and sacred numbers. It stands for divinity, and also for perfected humanity. Christ, the perfect Man, hung upon the Cross for "three hours," and in that time each of the three aspects of His nature was carried to the highest point of its capacity for realization and for consequent suffering. At the end, this triple personality gave vent to the cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

Christ had passed through all the climaxing episodes of adjustment. The Transfiguration experience was only just over. Let us not forget that fact. In that experience God had been near, and the transfigured Christ had seemed in His initiation to link God and man. He had just uttered the Word which had testified to the relation of the body nature, the Mary aspect, and the personality, in the person of St. John - the symbol of a personality carried to a very high state of perfection and realization. Then for three long hours He wrestled in the dark with the problem of the relation of God and the soul. Spirit and soul had to be fused and blended to one great unity - just as He had already fused and blended the soul and the body, and had testified to that consummation in the Transfiguration. Suddenly He discovered [220] that all the achievement of the past, all that He had done, was but the prelude to another at-one-ment which He had to make as a human being; and there on the Cross, in the full blaze of publicity, He had to renounce that to which He had hitherto held, His soul, and realize for a brief instant that in this renunciation everything was at stake. Even the consciousness that He was the Son of God, the soul incarnate in the flesh (for which He had fought and sacrificed), had to disappear, and He be left bereft of all contacts. All sense of feeling and all possible reactions failed to fill the sensed void. He seemed deserted, not only by humanity, but by God. That upon which He had relied, the divinity of which He had felt assured, was found to be related to feeling. That feeling He must also transcend. All had therefore to be relinquished.

It was through this experience that Christ blazed the trail to the very heart of God Himself. Only when the soul has learnt to stand alone, assured of divinity, and yet with no outer recognition of that divinity, can the very center of spiritual life he recognized as stable and eternal. It was in this experience that Christ fitted Himself for the Resurrection initiation, and so proved to Himself, and to us, that God existed, and that the immortality of divinity is an established and unalterable fact. This experience of loneliness, of being bereft of all that protects, all that has hitherto been regarded as essential to one's very being, is the hall mark of achievement. Disciples are apt to forget this, and one wonders for a brief moment, as one listens to Christ thus veiling His agony, whether He was not again "in all points tempted like as we are," and whether at this moment He did not descend into the deepest recesses of the valley and feel that utter aloneness which is the reward of those who mount the Cross on Golgotha.

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