Before she entered the Carmelite monastery of Lisieux and naturally once she was a nun, Saint Thérèse followed the rhythm of the Church’s seasons every year. In 19th century French devotions the Passion of Christ often received more attention than the Resurrection. However, Thérèse has a creative and balanced approach in her treatment of the Paschal Mystery as the whole process of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.

In the Story of a Soul she writes, “It is with joy I shall contemplate you on the Last Day carrying the sceptre of your Cross. Since you deigned to give me a share in this very Precious Cross, I hope in heaven to resemble you, and to see shining in my glorified body the sacred Stigmata of Your Passion.”

The idea of sharing in Christ’s passion on the Cross is a common one, but Thérèse describes the cross as a “sceptre”, the ceremonial stick or rod that is the symbol of a royal ruler. Christ’s cross, for Thérèse is not only the means of his death but also points to the ultimate victory of his rule and dominion. In John’s gospel in particular, the crucifixion is presented as the revelation of Jesus’ true nature as king. It is noteworthy that unusually Jesus accepts Pilate’s assertion that he is a king and for this reason he must receive the Cross as the way by which his kingship will become evident.

Secondly, Thérèse expresses her desire and hope that one day she will resemble Christ in glory, but with the signs of how that victory was achieved. We might find her image of the stigmata unusual today, but there is a certain logic in what she says. The Resurrection is necessarily preceded by the Passion and Crucifixion. Thérèse in fact proposes a very coherent and well-integrated understanding of the Paschal Mystery.

Thérèse uses the image of Christ’s wounds on her glorified body to explain to us what she means by “resembling” Christ. The idea behind this is an ancient one: that throughout life we are gradually becoming more and more like Christ. We achieve this by reflecting on the figure of Christ presented in the New Testament and also by imitating his behaviour and attitudes that again we find in the scriptures. Some writers actually refer to this as “becoming God” which is a very powerful idea. Thérèse is not far from this profound expression when she imagines possessing the wounds of Christ on her body. It is a typical Carmelite way of thinking and talking which finds its expression in the writings of the Little Flower.

Jesus, your Resurrection leads us to praise and to adore you, and we live with a profound sense of hope. Give us the courage to witness to the truth of your Gospel.