WITH MEDITATIONS ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST
"Christ Suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps." (1 Peter 2:21)
Let us consider the passion of our Savior as the great object of our faith and adoration and also as the secure rule of our morals and behavior. What a scene do we behold, what a mystery and lesson are represented to us, in a God nailed to a cross! This scene is continually before our eyes; have we ever duly considered and meditated upon it? Let us do it now. There is nothing in religion more worthy of consideration, or more capable of inflaming our love.
Being animated with the sentiment of faith, contemplate the Holy of Holies in a state, to which his own love has reduced him. He does not present himself in a state of grandeur, power, and majesty, which dazzles and strikes us with awe; by such a representation he would have commanded our respect, but would he have gained your heart? To engage our affections, he chooses to appear to us in the midst of humiliations, ignominies, and torments; the more deformed and disgraced he is, the more amiable and deserving of our love, since he has not become such, but for having loved us so much. Hence that saying of a certain holy father: The more he is disfigured, the more dear he is to me. Each of his wounds announces his tenderness to us and calls for ours. Behold that innocent body fastened to a disgraceful cross, hung up between heaven and earth, torn with deep gashes, and streaming with blood. Behold that head crowned with thorns, sinking under the weight of anguish which oppresses it; those eyes grow dim and drowned in tears, which yet cast a tender look toward us; that mouth drenched with vinegar and gall, which is only opened to utter a few pathetic words in a dying strain; those hands, which he still spreads in death to a people that believeth not, and contradicteth him (Rom. x. 21); above all, contemplate that tender heart of our loving Redeemer, racked with pain and anguish, and plunged in an ocean of distress.
But in contemplating this object, we are able by such tokens to discover the King of Glory, the God of Armies, the Son of the Most High, the tender object of his eternal complacency, now become a worm of the earth, the reproach of men, the contempt and outcast of the people. (Psalms 21:7) Ah! the Holy of Holies himself charged with the sins of the world, and sacrificed for sinners! He who reigns in the heavens, who has all power on earth and in hell, abandoned by his friends, betrayed by his disciples, given up to the rage of his executioners, forsaken by his Father, becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross. (Phil. 2:8) He who holds in his hands the treasures of heaven, stript of all, and reduced to extreme want! He, who gave being and life to men, crucified and put to death, even by those on whom he bestowed life! and though he is thus given over to excessive affliction and humiliations, he suffers with the meekness of a lamb; he suffers, as if he were criminal; he suffers in silence, which he only interrupts to pray for his enemies, and excuse the crime of Deicide, which they are committing against him. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).
A Christian, penetrated with a lively faith, and with a sense of the sufferings of Jesus, at the sight of his innumerable offenses, should rise up in arms against himself; turn all his hatred against his crimes; and take vengeance on himself for the outrages he has offered to his Savior. My love, says he, is crucified (St. Ign. M.), and I myself am the person who nailed him to the cross, who shed his blood, who brought him to death, and still I do not die with sorrow! But if I yet live, can I live for anything but to weep and suffer for him? Happy thus in sharing the sufferings of its divine Redeemer, this afflicted soul takes a particular satisfaction in uniting its exercises of penance to the penance of Jesus Christ, its tears to the tears of Jesus Christ.
Ah! far then be from us all worldly pleasures, the amusements of life, the criminal satisfaction of the senses; they were heretofore our enjoyments, now they would become our punishment. Faith and grace working in us, we give ourselves up to unrelenting sorrow; sorrow is made our chastisement and martyrdom, which we love and relish in preference to all the sweets of life; My chalice, which inebriateth me, how goodly is it! (Psalms 22:5). Hence arise in true penitents that generous attention continually to deaden nature, and subdue the suggestions of the senses; that hunger and ardent thirst of sufferings.