We preach Christ by the integrity of our faith, love of God and neighbor, devotion to the Cross, and hope of future glory. (Basic Constitutions)
Dominican spirituality is rooted in the Passion of Christ in all its aspects. On the Cross, the meaning of the Incarnation and the Redemption achieve their clearest expression: “for God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). In this moment of the Passion, man knows the depths of God’s love for him as an individual and as a member of the human race. This is the truth Dominic set out to preach to the Albigensian heretics; this is the truth Dominicans set out to preach to the world today.
To preach this truth, however, one must first contemplate it, savor it, and drink deeply from the wellspring of salvation. And so the Dominican finds his or her home at the foot of Cross. The fruits of such meditation may find voice in prayer, such as these fervent phrases by St. Thomas Aquinas: “The Cross is my sure safety. It is the Cross that I ever adore. The Lord’s Cross is with me always. The Lord’s Cross is my refuge.”
The Dominican may also enter the dialogue of prayer in a more physical manner by praying the Stations of the Cross. While the Stations of the Cross is an important community devotion during Lent, the Stations present in our cemetery, our chapel, and along the walls of our corridors also inspire us to make frequent, even daily, use of this form of prayer throughout the year.
Dominicans throughout history have demonstrated remarkable devotion to the Passion of Christ. St. Catherine of Siena is probably the most well-known example, as she bore the stigmata and spoke often and eloquently of Christ’s Precious Blood. St. Catherine de Ricci is another Dominican whose veneration of the Passion was so intense and personal that she received the stigmata. (Approximately eighty Dominicans are considered stigmatists, including Bl. Lucy of Narni and Bl. Matthew Carrieri.) Although he did not receive the sacred wounds of Christ, Bl. Henry Suso inscribed the holy name of Jesus over his own heart, so deep was his devotion.
Prayer and devotion to the Passion leads us to a deeper understanding of the Resurrection of Christ. In His Passion, Christ takes on our sins and suffers with us and for us. Through His Resurrection, however, He defeats suffering and death, transforming these realities into experiences of life and hope. Gazing at Fra Angelico’s image of St. Dominic at the foot of the Cross, one cannot help but notice the serene and luminous quality of Christ. The artist does not depict him gripped by the agony of the Cross but foreshadows the transcendence of the Resurrection. We are invited to ponder the Passion and place ourselves in the spot where Dominic kneels, for it is there, at the foot of the Cross, that we penetrate the mysteries of salvation and gain true wisdom and understanding.