"Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung the salvation of the world!"--so sings the Church on this day. In the Cross is our salvation, our strength against temptations, detachment from earthly pleasures; in the Cross is found the true love of God. We must, therefore, resolve to carry with patience the cross Jesus Christ sends, and die upon it for the sake of Jesus Christ Who died upon His Cross for the love of us.
In the Cross is our salvation, our strength against temptations, detachment from earthly pleasures; in the Cross is found the true love of God. We must, therefore, resolve to carry with patience that cross Jesus Christ sends us, and to die upon it for the sake of Jesus Christ Who died upon His Cross for the love of us. There is no other way to enter Heaven but to resign ourselves to tribulations until death. And thus may we find peace, even in suffering. When the cross comes, what means is there for enjoying peace, other than the uniting of ourselves to the Divine will? If we do not take this means, let us go where we will, let us do what we may, we shall never escape from the weight of the cross. On the other hand, if we carry it with good-will, it will bear us to Heaven, and give us peace upon earth.
What does he gain who refuses the cross? He increases its weight. But he who embraces it, and bears it with patience, lightens its weight, and the weight itself becomes a consolation; for God abounds with grace to all those who carry the cross with good-will in order to please Him. By the law of nature there is no pleasure in suffering; but Divine love, when it reigns in a heart, enables it to take delight in its sufferings.
Oh, that we would consider the happy condition we shall enjoy in Paradise, if we be faithful to God in enduring toils without lamenting; if we do not complain against God Who commands us to suffer, but say with Job: Let this be my comfort, that he should not spare in afflicting me, nor I contradict the words of the Holy One. (Job vi. 10). If we are sinners and have deserved hell, this should be our comfort in the tribulations which befall us, that we are chastised in this life; because this is the sure sign that God will deliver us from eternal chastisement. Miserable is that sinner who prospers in this world! Whoever suffers a bitter trial, let him cast a glance at the hell he has deserved, and thus the pains he endures will seem light. If, then, we have committed sins, this ought to be our continual prayer to God: "O Lord, spare not pains, but give me, I pray You, strength to endure them with patience, that I may not oppose myself to Your holy will. I will not oppose the words of the Holy One; in everything I unite myself to that which You will appoint for me, saying always, with Jesus Christ: Yea, Father; for so hath it seemed good in your sight." (Matt. xi. 26).
The soul which is governed by Divine love seeks only God. When a man has given all the substance of his house for love, he will despise it as nothing. (Cant. viii. 7). He that loves God despises and renounces everything that does not help him to love God; and in all the good works that he does, in his penitential acts and his labours for the glory of God, he seeks not consolations and sweetnesses of spirit; it is enough for him to know that he pleases God. In a word, he ever strives in all things to deny himself, renouncing every pleasure of his own; and then he boasts of nothing and is puffed up with nothing; but calls himself an unprofitable servant, and, setting himself in the lowest place, he abandons himself to the Divine will and mercy.
We must change our tastes in order to become Saints. If we do not arrive at a state in which bitter appears sweet and sweet bitter, we shall never attain to a perfect union with God. In this consists all our security and perfection: in suffering with resignation all things that are contrary to our inclinations, as they happen to us day by day, whether they are small or great. And we must suffer them for those purposes for which the Lord desires that we should endure them, namely, to purify ourselves from the sins we have committed, to merit eternal life, and to please God--which is the chief and most noble end at which we aim in all our actions.
Let us, then, ever offer ourselves to God, to suffer every cross that He may send us; and let us take care to be ever ready to endure every toil for the love of Him, in order that, when it comes, we may be ready to embrace it, saying, as Jesus Christ said to Peter when He was taken in the Garden by the Jews to be led to death: The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? (Jo. xviii. 11). God hath given me this cross for my good, and shall I say to Him that I will not receive it?
And whenever the weight of any cross seems very heavy, let us immediately have recourse to prayer, and God will give us strength to endure it meritoriously.
And let us then recollect what St. Paul said, that no tribulation of this world, however grievous it may be, can be compared with the glory which God prepares for us in the world to come. (Rom. viii. 18). Let us, therefore, reanimate our Faith whenever tribulations afflict us; let us first cast our eyes upon the crucified One Who was in agony for us upon the Cross, and let us look also at Paradise, and on the blessings that God prepares for those who suffer for His love; and thus we shall not be faint-hearted, but shall thank Him for the pains He gives us to suffer, and shall desire that He may give us even more. Oh, how the Saints rejoice in Heaven, not that they have possessed honours and pleasures upon earth, but that they have suffered for Jesus Christ! Everything that passes is trifling; that only is great which is eternal, and never passes away.
O my Jesus, how comforting is that which You said to me: Turn unto me, and I will turn to you. (Zack. i. 3). For the sake of creatures, and of my own miserable tastes, I have left You; now I leave all and turn to You; and I am confident that You will not reject me if I desire to love You; for You have told me that You are ready to embrace me. Receive me, then, into Your Grace: make me know the great Good that You are, and the love You have borne to me, that I may no more leave You. O my Jesus, pardon me! O my Beloved, pardon me the offences I have committed against You. Give me Your love and then do with me what You will; chastise me as much as You will; deprive me of everything, but deprive me not of Yourself. Were the whole world to come and offer me all its goods, I declare that I desire You alone, and nothing more. O my Mother Mary, recommend me to your Son. He gives you whatever ask for; in you I trust.
MEDITATION ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST
Meditation on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ is a great means of acquiring Divine love. It is certain that the fact of Jesus Christ being so little loved in the world arises from the negligence and ingratitude of mankind, and from not considering, at least occasionally, how much He has suffered for us, and the love wherewith He has suffered for us. "To mankind it has appeared foolish," as St. Gregory observes, "that God should die for us." It seems folly says the Saint, that God should have been willing to die in order to save us miserable slaves; and, nevertheless, it is of Faith that He has done so. He has loved us, and delivered himself for us. (Eph. v. 2). And He has willed to shed all His Blood in order to wash away our sins therewith: Who hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. (Apoc. i. 5).
St. Bonaventure says: "My God, so much hast You loved me, that through Your love for me, You seem to have gone so far as even to have hated Yourself." Besides, He has yet further willed that He Himself should become our Food in Holy Communion. And here the angelic Doctor, St. Thomas, speaking of this Most Holy Sacrament, says that God has so humbled Himself for us, that it is as if He were our servant, and each of us His God: "as though He were the servant of men, and each of them were God's God."
Hence it is that the Apostle says: For the charity of Christ presseth us. (2 Cor. v. 14). St. Paul says that the love Jesus Christ has borne us constrains us, and, in a certain sense, forces us, to love Him. O my God, what is there that men will not do out of love for some creature on which they have set their affections! And how little is their love for One Who is, moreover, God! For One Whose goodness and loveliness are infinite, and Who has even gone so far as to die upon a Cross for each one of us! Ah, let us all follow the example of the Apostle who said: But God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Gal. vi. 14). So spoke the holy Apostle; and what greater glory can I hope for in the world than that of having a God to sacrifice His Blood and Life, out of love for me?
And this is what everyone who has Faith must say, and if he has Faith, how will it be possible for him to love any other than God? O my God! how can a soul--contemplating Jesus crucified, as, suspended on three nails, He hangs from those same Wounds of His in His Hands and Feet, and dies of sheer anguish, through His love for us--not perceive itself drawn, and, as it were, constrained, to love Him with all its powers?
Let a soul be as cold as it can be in Divine love; if it have Faith, I know not how it be possible for it not to find itself urged to love Jesus Christ. Even the most hasty consideration of the Holy Scripture reveals to us the love which He manifested towards us in His Passion, and in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. As regards His Passion, we read in Isaias: Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows; and in the verse that follows: But he was wounded for our iniquities; he was bruised for our sins. (Is. liii. 4). So that it is of Faith that Jesus Christ has willed to suffer in His own person pains and afflictions, to set free from them us sinners to whom they were justly due. And why is it that He has done so, if it be not for the love He bore towards us? Christ hath loved us, and hath delivered himself for us (Eph. v. 2), as St. Paul says. And St. John says: Who hath loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood. (Apoc. i. 5). And in respect to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, it was Jesus Himself Who said to us all when He instituted it: Take ye, and eat; this is my body. (1 Cor. xi. 24). And in another passage: He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me and I in him. (John vi. 57). How can anyone who has Faith read this without feeling himself, as it were, forced to love his Redeemer, Who, after having sacrificed His Blood and Life out of love for him, left him His own Body in the Sacrament of the Altar, to be the Food of his soul, and the means of uniting him wholly to Himself in Holy Communion?
We may add one more brief reflection on the Passion of Jesus Christ. He shows Himself to us on the Cross pierced by three nails, with His Blood issuing from every pore, and agonizing in the pangs of death. I ask, why is it that Jesus manifests Himself to us in such a pitiable condition? Is it, perchance, that we may compassionate Him? No: it is not so much to gain our compassion as to become the object of our love that He has reduced Himself to so miserable a state. It ought to have been a motive more than sufficient to gain our love had He given us to know that His love for us was for all eternity: I have loved you with an everlasting love. (Jer. xxxi. 3). But seeing that this was not enough for our lukewarmness, the Lord, in order to move us to love Him according to His desires, willed thus to give us indeed a practical demonstration of the love He bore us, by showing Himself to us covered with Wounds, and dying with anguish through His love for us, that by means of His sufferings we may understand the immensity and tenderness of the love He cherishes towards us; as it is so well expressed in these words of St. Paul: He has loved us and delivered himself for us. (Eph. v. 2).
JESUS HANGING DEAD UPON THE CROSS
Raise up your eyes, my soul, and behold that crucified Man. Behold the Divine Lamb now sacrificed upon that altar of pain. Consider that He is the beloved Son of the Eternal Father; and consider that He is dead for the love that He has borne you. See how He holds His arms stretched out to embrace you; His Head bent down to give you the kiss of peace; His side open to receive you into His Heart. What do you say? Does not a God so loving deserve to be loved? Listen to the words He addresses to you from that Cross: "Look, My son, and see whether there be any one in the world who has loved You more than I have." No, my God, there is none that has loved me more than You. But what return shall I ever be able to make to a God Who has been willing to die for me? What love from a creature will ever be able to recompense the love of his Creator Who died to gain his love?
O God, had the vilest one of mankind suffered for me what Jesus Christ has suffered, could I ever refrain from loving him? Were I to see any man torn to pieces with scourges and fastened to a cross in order to save my life, could I ever call it to mind without feeling a tender emotion of love? And were there to be brought to me the portrait of him, as he lay dead upon the cross, could I behold it with a look of indifference, when I considered: "This man is dead, tortured thus, for love of me. Had he not loved me he would not so have died. "Ah, my Redeemer, O Love of my soul! How shall I ever again be able to forget You? How shall I ever be able to think that my sins have reduced You so low, and not always bewail the wrongs that I have done to Your goodness? How shall I ever be able to see You dead of pain on this Cross for love of me, and not love You to the uttermost of my power?
O my dear Redeemer, well do I recognize in these Your Wounds, and in Your lacerated Body, as it were through so many lattices the tender affection which You dost retain for me. Since, then, in order to pardon me, You hast not pardoned Yourself, oh, look upon me now with the same love wherewith You one day looked upon me from the Cross, whilst You were dying for me. Look upon me and enlighten me, and draw my whole heart to Yourself, so that, from this day forth, I may love none else but You. Let me not ever be unmindful of Your Death. You promised that, when raised up upon the Cross, You would draw all our hearts to You. Behold this heart of mine, which, made tender by Your Death and enamoured of You, desires to offer no further resistance to Your calls. Oh, do You draw it to Yourself, and make it all Your own.
You have died for me, and I desire to die for You; and if I continue to live, I will live for You alone. O Pains of Jesus, O Ignominies of Jesus, O Death of Jesus, O Love of Jesus, fix yourselves within my heart, and let the remembrance of you abide there always, to be continually smiting me, and inflaming me with love. I love You, O Infinite Goodness; I love You, O Infinite Love. You are and shall ever be, my one and only Love. O Mary, Mother of love, do you obtain me love.