Today is the memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas. In the Office of Readings for this day there is a selection from one of his conferences in which is described the totality of Christian virtue in the Cross. I will translate from the Italian:
Was it necessary for the Son of God to have suffered for us? Indeed, and we may speak of a double necessity: as a remedy for sin and as an example to live.
It was above all a remedy, because in the passion of Christ we find a remedy against all the evils we may run into because of sin.
But no less is the usefulness of his example to us. In fact, we have sufficient example with which to orient our entire lives.
Whoever wishes to live in perfection need do nothing more than disdain what Christ disdained on the cross, and to desire what he desired. None of the virtues, in fact, is absent in the cross.
If you look for an example of charity, recall: “No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends.”(John 15: 13)
Christ accomplished this on the cross. Therefore, if he has given his life for us, it must not be burdensome to sustain whatever evil for him.
If you search for an example of patience, you will find an excellent one on the cross. You see great examples of patience in two circumstances: when one patiently bears great adversity and when one sustains adversity that one could have avoided.
Now, Christ has given us the cross as an example of both. In fact, “when he was suffering, he did not threaten.” (1 Pt. 2: 23) and “as a lamb he was lead to death and opened not his mouth.” (Acts 8:32) Great, then, is the patience of Christ on the cross. “We run with perseverance on the course, holding our eyes on Jesus, author and perfecter of faith. He, in exchange for the joy that was put before him, took up the cross, disdaining the ignominy.” (Heb 12:2)
If you look for an example of humility, look at the crucifixion: God, in fact, wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.
If you look for an example of obedience, follow him who made himself obedient to the Father unto death: “Just as through the disobedience of one man, that is Adam, all have become sinners, so too through the obedience of one man all will become just.” (Rom 5: 19)
If you search for an example of disdaining earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings and Lord of lords, “In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col 2: 3) He is naked on the cross, ridiculed, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, made to drink vinegar and gall.
Do not therefore bind your hearts to fine clothing and riches, because “they divided my clothing among them” (John 19: 24), nor to honors, because I have experienced outrages and beatings (cf. Isaiah 53:4), nor to privileges because they wove a crown of thorns and put it on my head (cf. Mk 15: 17), nor to pleasures because “When I was thirsty, they gave me vinegar to drink.” (Psalm 68: 22)
We glory in the Cross of Christ. May we never forsake it.