The Path of Descent
The Way of the Cross
Sunday, July 30, 2017
Jesus is a person and, at the same time, a process. Jesus is the Son of God, but he is also “the Way”—the way of the cross. He’s the goal and the means.
For all authentic spiritual teachers, their message is the same as their life; their life is their message. For some reason, we want the “person” of Jesus as our “God totem,” but we really do not want his message of “descent” except as a theology of atonement: this is what Jesus needed to do to “save us.” We do not want to see the cross as the pattern of life and a path for our own liberation. We prefer heavenly transactions to our own transformation.
The way of the cross looks like failure. In fact, you could say that Christianity is about how to win by losing, how to let go creatively, how the only real ascent is descent. We need to be more concerned with following Jesus, which he told us to do numerous times, and less with worshipping Jesus—which he never once told us to do.
The following early Christian hymn describes and honors the Christ journey: a path of kenosis (self-emptying), incarnating in the “slave,” “as all humans are,” and even all the way to the bottom of total “acceptance” and “even humbler yet” (the cross). This allows God to raise Jesus up in God’s time and God’s way, and “name” him anew in a glorious state of transformation. He is the living icon of the whole journey.
If our life in Christ means anything to you, if love can persuade at all, or the Spirit that we have in common, or any tenderness and sympathy, then be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. . . . In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus:
His state was divine,
yet he did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave,
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
—Philippians 2:1-2, 5-11, Jerusalem Bible
Gateway to Silence:
The way down is the way up.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2003), 80-81; and
The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2009), 173.