Lent speaks of the Forty Days’ Temptation and trial and sorrow amid the Wilderness. Now it is a remarkable thing that, as the issue out of many controversies and many changes in the duration of the period of Lent, the Church should have at last hit upon forty days, and that the High Church and the Catholic Church should have, during that period, veiled the cross. For the Forty Days’ Temtation which they think was an incident in the life of the Master during the days of the Manifestation, were the Forty Times, the forty lives, the earthly risings and settings in which He was travailing, bearing the burden of this world’s Karma, to blot it out. And that during that period the cross, for which He stood, was veiled. He was Himself veiled, that no one knew Him until the end of the Oblation. The veiling of the cross is significant of the hiding of it on the very altar of Being.
What a wonderful mystery the Church holds without understanding it! It holds it in symbol, but does not know what it means. Holds it in a symbol which is looked upon by many as an element of superstition, but which has a real meaning when it is unveiled, speaking as it does of the long period of tragic sorrow which obtained and prevailed through the forty days of His Lenten abstinence, not from food for the body simply, but abstinence from the high consciousness of the Overshadowing Presence. How remarkable it is that the Church at the beginning of Lent should put this veil over the cross that stands upon the altar!
He went down veiled and no man saw Him any more to know Him until the Oblation was at the close of its accomplishment. Nay, more! How remarkable that the Church should put that veil over the cross, veiling that which is the very central symbol of all spiritual and Divine Being! For that symbol lies at the very heart of the universe.
Here we speak reverently of the Church in all its sections, from the Catholic to the Rationalistic. What has the Church done with the cross? Veiled it, by making it relate to the events of an outward Calvary instead of to the Soul’s own history, to the very nature of the Soul itself; nay, more! to the Divine Mystery of Being. For the cross is in God. He is the Cross even in us. The meaning of the Cross, the Macrocosmic Cross, the Luminous Cross, the Cross of the Redeemer, became veiled. Nay, more! The very Cross of the Burden-bearing became veiled. The meaning of the Oblation has never been understood.
If you had passed through the Theological Schools and read all the theories which are set forth concerning that Mystery, you would know how little assurance the Church has concerning its true meaning. And though the theories are many, yet they are all built up on four great principal theories. There is the Doctrine of Commutation, or, that He died for our sin, bearing so much burden as punishment for so much forgiveness. Then there is that known as the Rectoral theory, in which it is affirmed that the Divine Father-Mother made a great display of His righteous anger against sin, and that the Master was the subject of this display, the child who was to bear this affliction, this punishment, this expression of the Divine judgment, in order to demonstrate to the world that the Divine Love could not regard sin without chastening it. Then there is the doctrine of Identification, a beautiful doctrine mystically understood, containing great and glorious truths, just as the other two did, but without their perversions. It is a doctrine which sets forth that the Master came to identify Himself with fallen humanity, taking the burden of humanity’s sin and sharing with humanity that burden, even unto the confessing of it. But how it was blotted out is not stated. Yet the underlying principle is beautiful: the doctrine of identifying Himself with His brethren, and sharing the burden of their destiny.
But apart from these there are many other theories, and the schools are full of controversies concerning that sublime mystery. Not one of them has any assurance at all as to what it meant, though they all believe that it meant something mysterious and profound. How sad to think that the Church, which should have been the Church of the living God, should have failed to have understood the most marvellous expression of the Love of that living One who is our Father-Mother. How amazing it is that the Church should have so terribly misunderstood the ministry of the Master, and the Love of the Father-Mother, as to have set forth such theories as are contained in the doctrine of Commutation, and the Rectoral doctrine of the Righteous Display; or that of Identification, without its full understanding, or even that of Martyrdom.
All these are gathered up into the meaning of the Cross as it was borne. There was so much for so much; but not in the sense there understood. So much had to be accomplished, because so many things had to be blotted out; and every image that had to be blotted out, imposed anguish upon the One who had to accomplish it. There is, therefore, great truth in the doctrine of Commutation. But not after the manner in which the Church has believed it. Nor was it a divinely imposed burden, but one imposed by the necessities of the children’s states.
There is also great truth in the Rectoral theory; for was there ever such a display of the Righteousness of the Divine Love, the Divine Love in its Majesty? For it purposed to clarify the Middle Kingdom, and make it possible for all the children of His Love to be healed; and this by a process of identification, which would reveal how the Divine Love stoops to find and save. It was such a display, in the sense of manifestation, of that Love as no human mind could ever have conceived of. It astounded the Angelic World when it was proclaimed what was to be done.
And how beautifully true the doctrine of Identification is! For the Master became one with His brethren in laying aside the Christhood, though in a degree that cannot be expressed by any terms we might use in our speech. He became one with them, identified Himself with them, but unknown to them, and became even as the least of them. Though in happier days He had ministered to them through long ages, He became as the least of them, with His face veiled and His visage marred, bearing their burden; one with them, feeling as they felt, suffering as they suffered, and in such state redeeming all the time; extinguishing the very fires of hell through which they suffered, and so changing the intermediary planes that the light could break through to make the Valley of Hinnom—that terrible valley of spiritual darkness—receive again from that world whose Rays give glorious Light of understanding to the Soul.
And then in the theory of Martyrdom there was also this great truth, that the martyr is one who is sacrificed for truth. A martyr is one who lays down his life for truth. But in this theory there is no such thing as the Atonement, as it has been called; or the Sin-offering, as it has been named; or the Oblation, as we speak of it.
There is a true philosophy of the Redemption; and there is a festival in which it is celebrated; and there is a great reality lying behind these; and Good Friday speaks of that reality. Gathered up into it, are the forty days of Lent. It embodies the final crucifixion, the veiling of the Cross, the hiding of Him, and the veiling of all He spake concerning the Mystery of the Divine Love who is the central point of our Being, the Mystery of the Divine Love and Divine Wisdom in their ministry, the Divine Macrocosmic Cross whose miniature is in our Being. It was the veiling of the Divine Cross, through the veiling of all the Teachings He gave concerning it.
The Master has never been known nor understood in the western world. The significance of the estates known as Jesus Christ the Lord, have never been truly apprehended. They have been related to Him personally. He has been known as Jesus Christ the Lord; and worshipped as Jesus Christ the Lord, and as the Lord Christ Jesus. Songs have been written about Him and sung to Him under those titles. But what does the western world know of Jesushood, the life of beautiful love and compassion and purity? What does the western world know of Christhood, that same love illumined with the Radiant Presence? What does the western world know of the Lord who is that Presence in every human Sanctuary, to be realized in the fulness of time when the Son of God comes to birth and to full realization within that life? The western world yet knoweth not these things.