I believe that the Mystery of the Cross is saying that the pattern of transformation unto God, the pattern that connects, the life that God offers us is always death transformed. The only pattern is the pattern of death and resurrection. We submit to it with trust because Jesus did.
Augustine called this metamorphosis, this transformative pattern that is in all things, the Paschal Mystery. Catholics proclaim it as “the Mystery of Faith” at the center of every Mass: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” Death and life are two sides of one coin, and you cannot have one without the other.
This is the perennial, eternal, constant transformative pattern. You cannot get away from it. It’s like a spiral: each time you make the surrender, each time you trust the dying, your faith is led to a deeper level. The mystics and the great saints made this very clear. Now even scientific studies, including those of near-death experiences, reveal the same universal pattern. All the disciplines are coming together to say that there’s one constant movement at work in this world. To be real is to surrender to it. It’s the same pattern in the atom, as it is in the human body, as it is in the galaxies.
I think this is Jesus’ big message: that there is something essential that you only know by dying—to who you think you are! You really don’t know what life is until you know what death is.