Thursday, April 13, 2006
The Week that changed the world, 2
The custom of meditating on Our Lord's Passion
We will not be able to share in Our Lord's Resurrection unless we unite ourselves with him in his Passion and death. If we are to accompany Christ in his glory at the end of Holy Week, we must first enter into his holocaust and be truly united to him as he lies dead on Calvary. So during these days let us accompany Jesus, in our prayers, along his painful way to Calvary and his death on the cross. As we keep him company let us not forget that we too were protagonists in all those horrors, for Jesus bore the burden of our sins, each and every one of them. We were freed from the hands of the devil and from eternal death at a great price, that of the Blood of Christ.
The custom of meditating on the Passion began in the very earliest days of Christianity. Many of the faithful in Jerusalem had themselves been present as Christ passed through the streets of the city on the eve of the Pasch. They would never forget Jesus' sufferings as he made his way to Calvary. The Evangelists dedicated a good part of their writings to the detailed account of those events. We should read our Lord's Passion constantly, said St. John Chrysostom; what great benefit we will gain by doing so. Even if you are as hard as stone, when you contemplate that He was sarcastically adorned, then ridiculed, beaten and subjected to the final agonies, you will be moved to cast all pride from your soul. How many people have been converted by careful meditation on the Passion!
In our meditation, the Passion of Christ comes out of its cold historical frame and stops being a pious consideration, presenting itself before our eyes as terrible, brutal, savage, bloody...yet full of love. We do well then to contemplate Our Lord's Passion... We picture ourselves as one more among the three who slept at Gethsemane when the Lord hoped that we would accompany him in his infinite loneliness; as one amonst those who heard Peter swear that he did not know Jesus; as one who heard the false testimonies at that travesty of a judgement and saw the Chief Priest make a great show of being shocked at Jesus' words; as one in the thick of the mob that screamed out for his death and saw him hoisted up on the cross on Calvary. We put ourselves among the onlookers and see the disfigured yet noble face of Jesus. Astonishingly, we feel his infinite patience.
The fruits of such meditation
If we are to know and follow Christ we must be moved by his pain and helplessness; we must feel the lashes, the thorns, the insults, the neglect, the degradation.
And this should be not as mere on-lookers, but as protagonists; for it was our sins that led him to Calvary. Therefore It is good for us to try to understand better the meaning of Christ's death. We must get beyond external appearances and cliches. We need to put ourselves really and truly into the scenes which we are re-living; to witness the sorrow of Jesus, his mother's tears, the disciples' flight, the courage of the holy women, the daring of those two Joseph and Nicodemus who ask Pilate for the body of Our Lord.
By meditating on Christ's Passion we will gain countless rewards. Firstly, it will help us to maintain a great aversion to all sin, since He was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins...
And we feel that sin cannot be regarded as just a trivial mistake. To sin is to crucify the Son of God, to tear his hands and feet with hammer blows, to make his heart break. A sin, therefore, is so much more than a simple 'human error.' Christ's sufferings will encourage us to avoid all that might be described as bourgeois attitudes, unwillingness and laziness.
If the Lord sometimes lets us suffer illness, pain or contradictions which are especially intense and serious, then it will be of great help and relief to consider the pain which Christ endured in his Passion. He experienced every kind of physical and moral pain since He suffered at the hands of the Gentiles and the Jews, of men and of women -- an example being the maids who accused Peter. He suffered at the hands of princes and their officials, at the hands of the ordinary people too. He suffered at the hands of relatives and friends and acquaintances, on account of Judas who betrayed him and of Peter who denied him. In short, Christ suffered as much as it is possible for man to suffer. Christ suffered at the hands of his friends who abandoned him, He suffered as blasphemies were hurled at him; his honour and self-esteem suffered from all the taunts and jibes; He was even stripped of his clothes, the only possessions he had. In his soul he felt sadness, emptiness and fear; in his body, the wounds and the cruel lashes of the whip.
In Conversation with God
Vol. 2 (Lent and Eastertide)