As we enter into the last weeks of Lent, we are face-to-face with the Cross of Christ and our own sinful nature. The Imitation of Christ calls this the "Royal Road of the Cross" and Dr. Dilsaver takes up this theme in relation to a man's struggle with his falleness.
"To hope when his heart is broken, to believe when all is dark, to love when that love means crucifixion, this is the call of the Christian patriarch. But long-suffering takes a heavy toll, especially on men. Fathers are charged with rectifying, alleviating, and remedying. But fathers are only human, and when they are unable to rectify, alleviate, or remedy they are pained by their failure, even if this failure is beyond their control. Men are made to fight and control a situation, and when they cannot or the effort is futile, they are often broken in spirit. But for the Christian patriarch, being broken in spirit should be seen as being broken in all self-reliance and pride. Though he be utterly devastated in his natural manhood, if the Christian says, "yes" to this devastating pain, the enduring spirit of Christ will wax within him. [...] Indeed is is the failures and defeats that provide the greatest means of sanctification and thus allow a man in the throes of this sanctifying purgation to continue to "fight the good fight" on the very deepest and most efficacious level." TMM, pg 124-125
He goes on to ask, what is defeat, and what is victory in light of the Holy Cross? In fulfilling our call to fast, pray and give alms during Lent, we are asked to be "defeated", that is, we are called to give up our food, give up our time to prayer, and give up our money and goods. In "giving up" we are becoming victorious in Christ, this is the great paradox of our faith. In dying we rise!
On the flip side of this, Christ gives us the Beatitudes that lay out for us a completely different set of values from those of the world. We are blessed if we are poor, hungry, peaceful, meek, and persecuted. Does not the world tell us that we must be rich, well-fed, successful, and famous? The Christian man must embrace these beatitudes and make them active in his life, thus setting his feet on the Royal Road of the Cross.
This Royal Road of the Cross is most lived when a man has exhausted all his own power and resources. As a father of a large family I experience this everyday, whether it be with our financial resources or my own failing energy at the end of the day. With my wife about to have our seventh child, it reminds me of the pain and suffering that my wife will endure when she gives birth - there is really nothing within my power to "rectify, alleviate, or remedy" the pain she will endure. While my wife is saying, "yes" to the pain of childbirth and awaiting the fruit of this suffering, the little newborn Fifelski, I too must learn to say "yes" and embrace her pain in the depths of my manly heart, and be compassionate, that is to suffer with her. Of course, there is no better Model of this than Our Blessed Mother, who suffered with Her Son on the Royal Road of the Cross, to the extent that it is said of Her, that she experienced all the sufferings of Her Son on the Cross in her heart, that He experienced in His Flesh.