The Dignity of the Passion
Behold, thy King cometh to thee. (John xii. 15.)
1. What do we mean by dignity? We mean some gift or quality that tends to raise him who possesses it above ordinary men. We speak of the dignity of a king or noble; of the still higher dignity of a priest. But there is no dignity like the dignity of suffering for God, and he who has suffered most for Him will have the highest dignity in Heaven. Hence merely by reason of His Sacred Passion, our Lord has the highest dignity in the whole Court of Heaven.
2. But the dignity of suffering depends not only on its intensity, but on the natural dignity of the person who suffers. The sufferings of Jesus Christ were the sufferings of a person of infinite dignity. Hence they have a sort of infinite dignity of their own. That He who was the King of Glory should submit to the insults of His creatures, conferred upon His Sacred Humanity a dignity without end, and a dignity which, as Man, He would not have had unless He had suffered. O Jesus, my Lord, grant that I may watch Thy sacred sufferings, and learn to appreciate the true dignity of suffering for Thee.
3. The dignity of suffering depends also on the end for which we suffer. If it is for a selfish end, or through our own fault, there is little or no dignity in our suffering; if for a noble end, it corresponds to the nobility of the end aimed at. Jesus suffered in order to win for sinful man an eternity of happiness: what end more glorious than this, more unselfish, more worthy of a God? Learn then to recognize under the humiliation of Jesus suffering His true dignity, and try to follow in His steps.
On the Love of the Saints for the Passion
From The Passion and the Death of Jesus Christ, pp. 19 — 22, by St. Alphonsus Liguori.
A certain devout solitary prayed to God to teach him what he could do in order to love Him perfectly. Our Lord revealed to him that there was no more efficient way to arrive at the perfect love of Him than to meditate constantly on His Passion. St. Teresa lamented and complained of certain books which had taught her to leave off meditating on the Passion of Jesus Christ, because this might be an impediment to the contemplation of His Divinity; and the Saint exclaimed,” O Lord of my soul, O my Jesus Crucified, my treasure; I never remember this opinion without thinking that I have been guilty of great treachery. And is it possible that Thou, my Lord, couldst be an obstacle to me in the way of a greater good ? Whence, then, do all good things come to me, but from Thee?” And she then added, “I have seen that, in order to please God, and to induce Him to grant us great graces, He wills that they should all pass through the hands of this most Sacred Humanity, in which His Divine Majesty declared that He took pleasure.” (Life, c. 22.)
For this reason, Father Balthasar Alvarez said that ignorance of the treasures that we possess in Jesus was the ruin of Christians; and therefore his most favorite and usual meditation was on the Passion of Jesus Christ He meditated especially on three of the sufferings of Jesus, His poverty, contempt, and pain; and he exhorted his penitents to meditate frequently on the Passion of our Redeemer, telling them that they should not consider that they had done anything at all, until they had arrived at retaining Jesus Crucified continually present in their hearts.
“He who desires,” says St. Bonaventure, “to go on advancing from virtue to virtue, from grace to grace, should meditate continually on the Passion of Jesus.” And he adds that “there is no practice more profitable for the entire sanctification of the soul than the frequent meditation of the sufferings of Jesus Christ.”
St. Augustine also said that a single tear shed at the remembrance of the Passion of Jesus is worth more than a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, or a year of fasting on bread and water. Yes, because it was for this end that our Saviour suffered so much, in order that we should think of His sufferings; because if we think on them, it is impossible not to be inflamed with Divine love: “The charity of Christ presseth us,” says St. Paul. (2 Cor. v. 14.) Jesus is loved by few, because few consider the pains He has suffered for us ; but he that frequently considers them cannot live without loving Jesus. “The charity of Christ presseth us.” He will feel himself so constrained by his love that he will not find it possible to refrain from loving a God so full of love, Who has suffered so much to make us love Him.
Therefore the Apostle said that he desired to know nothing but Jesus, and Jesus Crucified; that is, the love that He has shown us on the Cross: I judged not myself to know anything among you but Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified. (1 Cor. ii. 2*) And, in truth, from what books can we better learn the science of the saints — that is, the science of loving God — than from Jesus Crucified? That great servant of God, Brother Bernard of Corlione, the Capuchin, not being able to read, his brother religious wanted to teach him. upon which he went to consult his crucifix; but Jesus answered him from the cross, “What is reading? what are books? Behold, I am the book wherein thou mayest continually read the love I have borne thee.” O great subject to be considered during our whole life and during all eternity! A God dead for the love of us! a God dead for the love of us! O wonderful subject!
St. Thomas Aquinas was one day paying a visit to St. Bonaventure, and asked him from what book he had drawn all the beautiful lessons he had written. St. Bonaventure showed him the image of the Crucified, which was completely blackened by all the kisses that he had given it, and said, “This is my book whence I receive everything that I write; and it has taught me whatever little I know.”
In short, all the Saints have learned the art of loving God from the study of the crucifix. Brother John of Alvernia, every time that he beheld Jesus wounded, could not restrain his tears. Brother James of Tuderto, when he heard the Passion of our Redeemer read, not only wept bitterly, but broke out into loud sobs, overcome with the love with which he was inflamed toward his beloved Lord.
It was this sweet study of the crucifix which made St. Francis become a great seraph. He wept so continually in meditating on the sufferings of Jesus Christ, that he almost entirely lost his sight. On one occasion, being found crying out and weeping, he was asked what was the matter with him. “What ails me?” answered the Saint. “I weep over the sorrows and insults inflicted on my Lord; and my sorrow is increased when I think of those ungrateful men who do not love Him, but live without any thought of Him.” Every time that he heard the bleating of a lamb, he felt himself touched with compassion at the thought of the death of Jesus, the Immaculate Lamb, drained of every drop of blood upon the Cross for the sins of the world. And therefore this loving Saint could find no subject on which he exhorted his brethren with greater eagerness than the constant remembrance of the Passion of Jesus.
This, then, is the book — Jesus Crucified — which, if we constantly read it, will teach us, on the one hand, to have a lively fear of sin, and, on the other hand, will inflame us with love for a God so full of love for us; while we read in these wounds the great malice of sin, which reduced a God to suffer so bitter a death in order to satisfy the Divine justice, and the love which our Saviour has shown us in choosing to suffer so much in order to prove to us how much He loved us.
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