Christ’s existence, as exemplary existence, is fulfilled and perfected in his being opened on the Cross. That is why he can say; announcing and expounding his death: “I go away, and I will come to you” (Jn 14:28): By my going away the wall of my existence that now encloses me will be broken down, and thus this happening is my real coming, in which I make a reality of what I really am, the one who is not boundary but unity.
Accordingly, the basic Christian decision signifies the assent to being a Christian, the abandonment of self-centredness. The same thing is meant by the phrase “the way of the cross”, which does not indicate a private devotion at all but is in harmony with the basic idea that man, leaving behind the seclusion and tranquillity of his “I”, departs from himself in order by this frustration of his “I” to follow the crucified Christ. All the great images of the history of salvation, which represent at the same time the great basic forms of Christian worship, are expressions of this principle.
Think, for example, of the image of the exodus, which remains the basic idea governing the existence of the people of God and of him who belongs to it: he is called to the continual exodus of going beyond himself.
In an image borrowed from nature it is shown the basic structure of Christian life represents at bottom the stamp of the cosmic, of creation itself. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24) On the cosmic plane the law holds good that life comes only through death, through loss of self. By embracing the fate of the grain of wheat, by letting himself be broken down and by losing himself, the Christian opens up access to true life.
- Ratzinger, Cardinal Joseph. (1969) Introduction to Christianity (pp 251-253)