In this last week of Lent, I thought I would share some of the meditations I've either discovered from approved sources or written myself for our "Online Lenten Retreat" - email messages which have been sent out to members of the Keeping It Catholic (KIC) email list. (One may "subscribe" to the KIC List by clicking on this link: KeepingItCatholicfirstname.lastname@example.org)
The following is one of the first installments for Keeping It Catholic's Online Lenten Retreat:
"The perfection of religion is to imitate whom you adore."
~Mediator Dei, #146 (1947)
THE IMPORTANCE of MEDITATION on the PASSION of CHRIST
“No aspect of our Blessed Lord’s life is made so much of by the Saints as His Passion; and at the same time nothing is so neglected, or indeed condemned by, unbelievers and the worldly Christian…Indeed, the sufferings of the God-Man are the most mysterious part of the mystery of the Incarnation. Why did Our Lord choose to suffer and suffer so intensely in soul and body? The reason – as we learn from the Saints – is that suffering gives a certain intensity to acts of the will, which nothing else can give. Our Lord chose it to prove the reality and depth of His love for us…
"An act of the will or of the heart may be strong and intense; but unless it is done under stress of pain, it is wanting in a certain species of intensity. We may test this in our own experience. There is a moment when, let us say, we kneel before Our Lord, happy, contented, peaceful, full of joy; our heart lifts itself up to God in sweet and earnest prayer; we experience the feeling that to love God, and to belong to Him, is indeed the only delight we crave."
"Then suppose we suddenly experience some suffering, annoyance, humiliation, darkness, contempt, grief or physical pain. Observe what happens. Up to that moment, we were unconscious of Self; things ran smoothly, peacefully, pleasantly; we seemed to have merged our weak nature in God and God’s love, and – as far as it went – adhesion to God’s will was genuine. Now there starts up into sight Self, with all its susceptibilities and selfishness – Self, which stands importunate beside us, protesting, crying, wailing, resisting."
"Then one of two things happens: either our adhesion and fidelity to God is broken, our recollection is scattered, and our loving attention and activity stopped dead by attention to that hurt and smarting Self, or we refuse to be turned from God even by interior or exterior pain. We seize the pain or trouble or bitterness, and offer it, turning it into fuel to feed the flame of our hearts – and so we intensify the act of our union and love…"
"Suffering spoils many people. There are numbers of pious souls who turn away from God through suffering. Self and its claims to attention are too strong – and then, love and devotion or fidelity to Our Lord give way to self-pity, murmuring, resistance, bitterness. Punishment and purification too frequently embitter the heart where Self prevails, turning(ing) it from its end…and hardens it in perversity…"
"But if under sufferings, humiliations, trials, and repugnances, we have the light, grace, and courage to accept them in submission, in resignation, and self-humiliation, and with a closer movement to the bosom of Our Heavenly Father…then never, never has our love of that Father…been more thorough, more effective, and more intensely sincere…"
"Meditation on the Passion of Our Lord is good for all persons and for all conditions of men. It has power to turn sinners from evil and rouse them to sorrow for their sins and abhorrence of them. It gives strength and a most powerful example of virtue to those who are making progress, and it is the most forcible incentive to love for the perfect."
"As the Passion of Our Lord was the last act of His life, so also it contains all that is highest and most complete in perfection; all (of) Our Lord’s examples of virtue, which were scattered over the whole of His Life, shine forth still more highly in the Passion; all of the instruction contained in His discourses, all His doctrine, and all His most excellent counsels are preached in His Passion. All the depth of suffering that anyone can undergo, all the extremities of misery to which anyone may be brought – all are in the Passion: all deliverance from illusion and all learning of the truth are in the Passion; all knowledge, understanding, and heavenly wisdom are to be found in the Passion…"
"The love of Jesus crucified! …How strongly and eloquently the Crucifix preaches charity in all its branches – love of Him and love of those He died to save. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Abide in my love…You are My friends, if you do the things that I command you.” We cannot expect Our Lord to admit us to the intimacy of a sensible and conscious love, so long as we hurt Him by unkindness, or lack of kindness, to those who are dear to Him. There is no better and surer means, whereby we may fit ourselves to receive His choicest gifts and blessings, than of self-sacrificing charity."
" 'He that loveth not,' says St. John, 'knoweth not God, for God is charity.' …As the root of all our modern evils is selfishness – which is eating like a cancer at the heart of modern civilization…we must school our own character to a consistent and persevering practice of unselfishness, after the pattern of Our Divine Master and Model.” [Excerpts from Meditation on the Passion, compiled by various sources, with an introduction by Rev. R. Walsh O.P.]
Meditating upon the Passion of Christ cultivates charity within our souls. In our day and age, we often forget the true meaning of charity - that "divinely infused virtue by which we prefer God as the sovereign good before all else." Charity is the virtue by which we love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and by which we love our neighbors for the love of God. It is with charity alone that we can do God's Will and with charity alone that we are united to Him. Charity is called the "queen of virtues," because it will rule forever in Heaven - but before we can hope to attain that Heaven, Charity must first become queen of our hearts.