A Theology of Expansive Love

After being rather quiet for the past two weeks, it feels good to write again, and funnily enough my column today at First Things came about precisely because illness made me submissive to silence, where I re-acquainted myself with a “quaint” act that I do not practice enough — “offering it up” — and rediscovered the powerful theological punch contained therein:

Pondering the crucifix, and the immensity of what Christ endured, we wonder what could possibly be ‘lacking’ in his afflictions. But then, gazing upon His outstretched arms, we see an invitation. If we accept that no act in human history can begin to match the power, the healing, the victory and the justice that was achieved in the crucified suffering of Jesus of Nazareth, then attaching our own trials, minor or major though they be, to that still-resonating act of generosity and self-abnegation exposes them to all of the good contained in Christ’s sacrifice, and it assists in the salvation of the world.

We know that Jesus’ pain is occurring even in this instant, and that right now—in commingling our suffering with his—we can bring ourselves close to him. Christ’s agony and death released the dew of mercy, dropping from heaven and bathing us all; it was a wholly and holy vertical transaction.

But “offering it up” can speed this salvific action horizontally. Any such offering, even if it is initiated by a feeling of resigned helplessness, has the potential to unleash an expansive love upon the world. It cannot be otherwise. To offer one’s aches and pains, one’s disappointments for the sake of others is always love-in-action, a redemptive act. There is a particularly true and hardy love that springs from an offering made for the intentions of another.

I hope you’ll read it all and share your thoughts. It seems to me that if we re-embraced this sacrificial mindset, the world may spin with a bit more serene and mysterious grace.

It is astonishing how much we learn from contemplating the crucifix, isn’t it?

Note: The photo is from my recent trip to Rome — a crucifix chapel in the utterly gorgeous Gesu Church. The chapel was seeing a lot of devotional action from a visiting mob of Polish pilgrims, and I stopped in to pray, too. I would blame the lameness of the shot to my not wishing to disturb their comings and goings, but the truth is I am a bad photographer. My photos are always, like me, short-sighted and off-kilter.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Gesu_Groopie

    Anchoress! I opened the link and there was one of my favorite depictions of Christ crucified. I love the red velvet because it reminds me of blood and horrendous amounts of pain, all done because I needed saving. And, red being such a color of love, all this salvific suffering comes as a rather large Valentine to me. Hence why I love that chapel and went there repeatedly.

    Actually, as to your photography, I actually appreciated your slight side view of it. Why? It let me know just where you stood and beheld Christ and it made the view of Him hanging there all the more personalized. (Never worry about the quality of the photography. Just slap stuff up on your blog and let us deal with it. We’ll live. Don’t be so apologetic.) I felt happy that you went to your favorite church and snapped that shot. Thanks for sharing it.

    I can’t believe you offered this great article on uniting our sufferings to Christ. It has just come up in my life and the reminder was rather a nice confirmation, from the Holy Spirit, through you on the blog to me and the rest of us who need to “hear it”.

    God bless you for being His instrument.

  • elmo

    Wow. Thank you. I needed this today. More than words can say.

  • Dynan

    Jesus was punished for His sins(if any) and ours(many),

    demonstating God’s justice. He had to suffer to re-open the

    gate to heaven. He did not descend to purgatory,as there

    was no need, He had atoned for everything at the hands of

    the Roman soldiers and the Centurion on Good Friday.

    On Easter Sunday, He delivered Hope to earth. We now can

    share in His kingdom, which is not of this earth. I am

    grateful to be able thank Him for this day and for my

    burdens. I hope for justice. There will be no peace.

  • http://associationofcatholicwomenbloggers.blogspot.com/ Jackie Parkes

    Elizabeth would you mind linking to our new blog?

    I wonder if you would write an occasional post for us?

    If so can you send me your email address & I will add you to our blog authors:


    Perhaps you might also link to my blog

    Lead Kindly Light at http://spreadthyfragrance.blogspot.com/

    God bless

    Jackie Parkes

  • Laura R.

    Thank you so much for this column. As a relatively new Catholic I am coming to appreciate more and more the richness and spiritual value of practices such as this — and you explain it in a way that is extraordinarily helpful.

  • Olivia

    How you can talk about expansive love on this hate-filled blog I don’t know.