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Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Spiritual Combat: MEDITATION ON THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST AND THE SENTIMENTS TO BE DERIVED FROM CONTEMPLATION OF THEM

The Spiritual Combat: MEDITATION ON THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST AND THE SENTIMENTS TO BE DERIVED FROM CONTEMPLATION OF THEM
WHAT I PRESCRIBED previously concerning the method of praying and meditating on the sufferings of our Lord and Savior regarded only the petition of those things of which we stand in need; now we are to proceed to the adoption of the proper sentiments from our considerations. For instance, if you have chosen the crucifixion and its attendant circumstances as the subject of your meditation, you may dwell on the following considerations.


Consider first the arrival of Jesus on Mount Calvary. His executioners rudely stripped Him, tearing off the garments which adhered to the torn flesh of His lacerated body. Consider next the fresh wounds made in His Sacred Head by the crown of thorns, removed and reset by his barbarous executioners. Next, visualize Him nailed to the cross with spikes, driven through the flesh and wood with a large hammer. Consider that His hands, not reaching the places designed for them, were stretched so violently that all His bones were disjointed, enabling the onlooker to count His very bones [Psalm XXL, 18]. Then think of the actual elevation of the cross, and the weight of Christ's body resting on nails which tore gaping wounds in His hands and feet, giving Him excruciating pain.
If, by these and similar considerations you wish to enkindle the flames of Divine love within your heart, try to attain by meditation a sublime knowledge of the infinite goodness of your Savior, Who for you condescended to suffer so much. For the more you advance in the knowledge of His love for you, the greater will be your love and affection for Him. Being convinced of His extraordinary charity, you will naturally conceive a sincere sorrow for having so often and so heinously offended Him, Who offered Himself as a sacrifice for your offenses.
Proceed then to make acts of hope, considering that this great God on the Cross had no other plan than to extirpate sin from the world, to free you from the devil, to expiate your crimes, to reconcile you to His Father, and to provide a resource for you in all your necessities. But if, after contemplating His passion, you consider its effects, your sorrow will be turned into joy. For observe that by Christ's death the sins of humanity were blotted out, the anger of a sovereign Judge appeased, the powers of Hell defeated, death itself vanquished, and the places of the fallen Angels filled in Heaven. And the joy arising from such reflection will be increased by thinking of the joy with which the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin, the church militant and triumphant received the glad, tidings of the redemption of mankind.
If you would have a lively sorrow for your sins, let your meditation convince you that if Jesus Christ suffered so much, it was to inspire you with wholesome self-contempt, and a hatred of your disorderly passions, particularly your greatest faults, which are naturally most offensive to Almighty God.
And if you would excite sentiments of admiration, you need only consider that nothing is more shocking than the sight of the Creator of the universe, the fountain of life, butchered by His own creatures, the right of the supreme majesty, as it were, annihilated, justice condemned, beauty defiled and lost in filth, the beloved of the Eternal Father become the hated of sinners. Light inaccessible is overwhelmed by the powers of darkness; uncreated glory and felicity are buried under ignominy and wretchedness.
To arouse compassion in your heart for the sufferings of your Savior and God, exclusive of His exterior pains, consider the most acute of His sufferings, His interior anguish. For if you are moved by the first, you will be pierced with grief at the sight of the second. The soul of Christ beheld the Divinity then as clearly as it does now in heaven. It knew how much God deserved to be honored, and as it infinitely loved Him, desired that all creatures should love Him with all the power of their souls. Seeing Him, therefore, so horribly dishonored throughout the world by countless, abominable crimes, it was overwhelmed with grief that the Divine majesty was not loved and served by all men. As the greatness of this desire of the soul of Christ that His Father be loved was beyond imagination, it is futile to try to comprehend the depths of His interior sufferings in the agonies of death.
Moreover, as this Divine Savior loved mankind to an ineffable degree, such an ardent and tender love must have caused Him much sorrow for the sins that would tear men from Him. For He knew that no one could sin mortally without destroying that sanctifying grace which is the bond between Him and the just. And this separation would cause Jesus greater anguish of soul than dislocated limbs caused His body. For the soul, altogether spiritual and immeasurably superior to the body, is much more delicately attuned to pain. But of all the afflictions of our blessed Savior, the most grievous, doubtless, was the sight of the damned, incapable of repentance, who must inevitably be banished from Him for all eternity.
If the contemplation of such suffering moves you to compassion for your dying Jesus, meditate further, and you will find that His excessive suffering was not caused by your sins alone; for His precious blood was shed not only to cleanse you from the sins you have committed, but to preserve you from those you might have committed were you unaided by Heaven. It is a fact that you will never be without motives for taking part in the sufferings of Jesus crucified. Know, moreover, that human nature never was, and never will be subject to any affliction that was unknown to Him. He suffered from injuries, reproaches, temptations, pains, loss of goods, voluntary austerities more acutely than those who groan under them. For as this tender Savior had a perfect comprehension of any affliction of mind or body to which we are prone-----even to the least pain or headache-----He must certainly have been moved with great compassion for us.
Who, however, can express what He felt at the sight of His Blessed Mother's affliction? For she shared in all the pangs and outrages which attended His passion, and with the same views and from the same motives. And although her sufferings .were infinitely short of His, they were excruciating beyond expression. The awareness of our Lady's agony redoubled the sorrows of Jesus, and pierced His heart still deeper. Hence it was that a certain devout soul compared the heart of Jesus to a burning furnace in which He voluntarily suffered from the ardent flames of Divine love.
Arid after all, what is the cause of such unspeakable agony? Nothing but our sins; this is the answer. Therefore, the greatest compassion and gratitude we can possibly show towards Him Who has suffered so much for us, is to be truly sorry for our past offenses out of pure love for Him; to detest sin with all the fervor of our soul because it is displeasing to Him; and to wage ceaseless war against our evil inclinations because they are His greatest enemies. Thus divesting ourselves of the old man, and putting on the new, we adorn our souls with virtue, in which alone their beauty consists.

Evangelium passionis et mortis Domini (Gregorian Chant)