Saturday, 5 September 2009

Considerations on the passion of Jesus Christ - Introduction

How pleasing is it to Jesus Christ that we should often remember his Passion, and the shameful death which he suffered for us, can be well understood from his having instituted the most holy Sacrament of the Altar for this very end, that there might ever dwell in us the lively memory of the love which he bore to us in sacrificing himself on the cross for our salvation. Let us, then, recollect that on the night preceding his death he instituted this sacrament of love, and, when he had distributed his body to the disciples, he said to them, and through them to all of us, that in receiving the Holy Communion we should bear in mind what great things he has suffered for us: As often as ye shall eat this bread and drink this cup, ye shall show forth the Lord’s death.2 Therefore, in the Mass the Holy Church ordains that after the consecration the celebrant shall say, in the name of Jesus Christ, As often as ye do this, ye shall do it in memory of Me.3 And the angelic St. Thomas writes, “That the memory of the great things that he has done for us might ever remain with us, he left us his own body to be received as our food.”4 The saint then goes on to say that through this sacrament is preserved the memory of the boundless love which Jesus Christ has shown us in his Passion.5
If we were to endure injuries and stripes for the sake of a friend, and were then to learn that our friend, when he heard any one speak of what we had done, would not pay any heed to it, but turned the conversation, and said, “Let us talk of something else,” what pain we should suffer at the sight of the neglect of the ungrateful man! And, on the other hand, how glad we should be to find that our friend admitted that he was under an eternal obligation to us, that he constantly bore it in mind, and spoke of it with affection and with tears. Therefore the saints, knowing how much it pleases Jesus Christ that we should often call to mind his Passion, have been almost perpetually occupied in meditating on the pains and insults which our loving Redeemer suffered during his whole life, and still more in his death. St. Augustine writes that there is no more profitable occupation for the soul than to meditate daily on the Passion of the Lord.6 It was revealed by God to a holy anchorite, that there is no exercise more adapted to inflame the heart with divine love than the thought of the death of Jesus Christ. And to St. Gertrude, as Blosius7 records, it was revealed that as often as we look with devotion upon the crucifix, so often does Jesus look upon us with love. Blosius8 adds, that to consider or read of any portion of the Passion brings greater profit than any other devout exercise. Therefore St. Bonaventure writes, “O Passion worthy of love, which renders divine him who meditates upon it.”9 And, speaking of the wounds of the Crucified, he calls them wounds which pierce the hardest hearts, and inflame the coldest souls with divine love.10
It is related in the life of the Blessed Bernard of Corlione, a Capuchin, that when his brother religious desired to teach him to read, he went to take advice from Him who was crucified, and that the Lord replied to him, “What is reading? what are books? I who was crucified will be thy book, in which thou mayest read the love I bore thee.” Jesus crucified was also the beloved book of St. Philip Benitius; and when the saint was dying, he desired to have his book given him. Those who stood by, however, did not know what book he wanted; but Brother Ubaldo, his confidential friend, offered to him the image of the Crucified, on which the saint said, “This is my book;” and, kissing the sacred wounds, breathed out his blessed soul.
For myself, in my spiritual works, I have often written of the Passion of Jesus Christ, but yet I think that it will not be unprofitable to devout souls if I here add many other points and reflections which I have read in various books, or which have occurred to myself; and I have determined to commit them to writing, both for the use of others, and especially for my own profit; for finding myself, now that I am putting together this little treatise, near to death, at the age of seventy-seven years, I have been desirous to prolong these considerations, by way of preparing myself for the great day of account. And, in fact, I make my own poor meditations on these very points; often and often reading some portion, in order that, whenever my last hour shall come, I may find myself occupied in keeping before my eyes Jesus crucified, who is my only hope, and thus I hope to breathe out my soul into his hands. Let us, then, begin the proposed reflections.

1In this introduction, the saintly author informs us that when he wrote this treatise he was seventy-seven years of age. This was thirteen years after he had written the Simple Exposition of the Passion. The considerations he wrote less for the use of others than for his own spiritual advantage, being desirous of preparing himself well for death. He sent the little work to a pious person, with a letter dated September 8, 1773, in which he says: “You may use this little book in your prayers when you meditate on the Passion. I am using it myself every day. I desire that you should not allow a day to pass without recalling to your mind, with the aid of this or another book, something of the Passion. The Passion was for the saints a continual subject of meditation.” – Rev. Eugene Grimm C.SS.R.
2“Quotiescumque enim manducabitis panem hunt, et calicem bibetis, mortem Domini annuntiabitis.” – 1 Cor. xi. 26.
3“Hæc quotiescumque feceritis, in mei memoriam facietis.”
4“Ut autem tanti beneficii jugis in nobis maneret memoria, corpus suum in cibum sumendurn dereliquit.” – Opusc. 57.
5“Per quad recolitur memoria illius, quam in sua passione Christus monstravit, excellentissimre charitatis.”
6“Nihil tam salutiferum, quam quotidie cogitare quanta pro nobis pertulit Deus Homo.” – Ad Fr. in er. s. 32.
7Concl. an. p. 2, c. 2.
8Sac. an. p. 3, c. 21.
9“O passio mirabilis, quæ suum meditatorem reddit divinum!”
10“Vulnera, corda saxea vulnerantia, et mentes congelatas inflammantia.” – Stim. div. am. p. 1, c. 1.

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