October: Sowing and Ploughing. Illuminated by Jean Poyer.
Here we find the secret of the “Way of the Cross” society. With similar rectitude, medieval man logically embraced his own suffering, paying special attention to the hardest part of his situation. This is frequently represented in medieval pictures and stained glass where each is engaged in his craft. All work diligently but without hurry, anxiety, or laziness. They carry their crosses, this hardest part of their lives, with joy and resignation since their model is Christ, Who suffered infinitely more for us.
Buckwheat Harvest: Summer by Jean-François Millet.
“In this way all individual suffering is but the shadow of divine suffering, and all virtue is as a partial realization of absolute goodness,”* observes Huizinga. The result of this uprightness in suffering was that the person imagined for himself a way of imitating Christ that had perfection and sanctification as its goal. This perfection was well reflected in the quality of all his works, masterpieces, and monuments.
Alas, how such considerations differ from those of today! People seek fleeting and easy happiness. They flee hardship, lose themselves in frenetic laughter, and constantly seek to escape their responsibilities. In their blindness, they cannot see Christ in His Divine rectitude and follow Him on the dolorous Way of the Cross.
People seek fleeting and easy happiness. They flee hardship, lose themselves in frenetic laughter, and constantly seek to escape their responsibilities.
Yet it was this perspective that brought forth the flowering of the Middle Ages. The medieval man did not plan the Middle Ages; he merely desired to be like Jesus Christ. And from the realization of that desire, the Middle Ages was born and flowered.
In their blindness, they cannot see Christ in His Divine rectitude and follow Him on the dolorous Way of the Cross. (Jarviewalk and the Festival of Colors 2012. Photo by MarkEsguerra.)
This is the secret of the Middle Ages—and it is also our secret. If we could but have a similar, lively, and loving idea of Jesus Christ, we would want what they wanted and obtain what they received.
* Johan H. Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages: A Study of the Forms of Life, Thought and Art in France and the Netherlands in the XIVth and XVth Centuries (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1954), 206.
John Horvat II, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need To Go (York, Penn.: York Press, 2013), 337-8.