Good Friday Meditation

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As I am at present uncertain of my availability tomorrow, I leave you with this lengthy meditation.

from Love of Eternal Wisdom
St. Louis de Montfort

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

SUMMARY OF THE UNBELIEVABLE SORROWS THE INCARNATE WISDOM CHOSE TO ENDURE OUT OF LOVE FOR US

[1. The most convincing reason for loving Wisdom]

154. Among all the motives impelling us to love Jesus Christ, the Wisdom incarnate, the strongest, in my opinion, is the sufferings he chose to endure to prove his love for us. "There is," says St Bernard, "one motive which excels all others which I feel most keenly and which urges me to love Jesus. It is, dear Jesus, the bitter chalice which you drank for our sakes, and the great work of our Redemption which makes you so lovable to us. Indeed this supreme blessing and incomparable proof of your love makes us want to return your love. This motive attracts us more agreeably, makes most just demands upon us, moves us more pressingly and influences us more forcibly." And he gives the reason in a few words, "Our dear Saviour has laboured and suffered much to accomplish our redemption. What pain and anguish he has endured!"

[2. The circumstances of his Passion]

155. But what makes us realise more clearly the infinite love of eternal Wisdom for us is the circumstances surrounding his sufferings.
(a) The first of these is the perfection of his person. Being infinite he gave infinite value to all the sufferings of his passion. Had God sent a seraph or an angel of the lowest order to become man and die for us, it would have been a stupendous thing and worthy of our eternal gratitude. But that the Creator of heaven and earth, the only Son of God, eternal Wisdom himself should come and offer up his life! This is inconceivable charity, for, compared with his life, the lives of all angels and all men and all creatures together are of infinitely less value than say, the life of a gnat when compared with the lives of the kings of this earth. Such an excess of love is shown to us in this mystery that our admiration and our gratitude should be great indeed.

156. (b) A second circumstance is the condition of the people for whom he suffered. They were human beings unworthy creatures and his enemies, from whom he has nothing to fear nor anything to hope for. We sometimes hear of people dying for their friends; but are we ever likely to hear of anyone but the Son of God dying for his enemies? But Jesus Christ proved how well he loved us because though we were sinners - and consequently his enemies he died for us.

157. (c) The third circumstance is the amount, the grievousness and the duration of his sufferings. Their extent was so great that he is called "Man of sorrows". "A man of every sorrow in whom there is no soundness from the sole of the foot to the top of the head." (Is 53.3) This dear friend of our souls suffered in every way exteriorly and inwardly, in body and soul.

158. He suffered even in material things, apart from the poverty of his birth, of his flight into Egypt and his stay there, and the poverty of his entire life; during his passion he was stripped of his garments by soldiers who shared them among themselves, and then fastened him naked to a cross without as much as a rag to cover his body.

159. He suffered in honour and reputation, for he was overwhelmed with insults and called a blasphemer, a revolutionary, a drunkard, a glutton and a possessed person. He suffered in his wisdom when they classed him as an ignorant man and an imposter, and treated him as a fool and a madman. He suffered in his power, for his enemies considered him a sorcerer and a magician who worked false miracles through a compact with the devil. He suffered in his disciples, one of whom bartered him for money and betrayed him; another, their leader, denied him; and the rest abandoned him.

160. He suffered from all kinds of people; from kings, governors, judges, courtiers, soldiers, pontiffs, priests, officials of the temple and lay members; from Jews and gentiles, from men and women; in fact, from everyone. Even his Blessed Mother's presence added painfully to his sufferings for, as he was dying, he saw her standing at the foot of the cross engulfed in a sea of sorrow.

161. Moreover, our dear Saviour suffered in every member of his body. His head was pierced with a crown of thorns. His hair and beard were torn out; his cheeks were buffeted; his face covered with spittle; his neck and arms bound with cords; his shoulders weighed down and bruised by the weight of the cross. His hands and feet were pierced by the nails, his side and heart opened by a lance; his whole body lacerated by more then five thousand strokes of the scourge, so that his almost fleshless bones became visible. All his senses were almost immersed in a sea of sufferings. He suffered in his sight as he beheld the mocking faces of his enemies and the tears of grief of his friends. He suffered in his hearing as he listened to insulting words, false testimonies, calumnious statements and horrible blasphemies which evil tongues vomited against him. He suffered in his sense of smell by the foulness of the filth they spat into his face. He suffered in his sense of taste by a feverish thirst in which he was only given gall and vinegar to drink. He suffered in his sense of touch by the excruciating pain of the lashes, thorns and nails.

162. His most holy soul was grievously tormented because every sin committed by man was an outrage against his Father whom he loved infinitely; because sin was the cause of the damnation of so many souls who would be lost despite his passion and death; and because he had compassion not only for all men in general but for each one in particular, as he knew them all individually. All these torments were much increased by the length of time they lasted, that is, from the first instance of his conception to the moment of his death, because all the sufferings he was to endure were, in the timeless view of his wisdom, always distinctly present to his mind. To all these torments we must add the most cruel and the most fearful one, namely his abandonment upon the cross which caused him to cry out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

[3. The great love with which he suffered]

163. From all this we must conclude with St. Thomas and the Fathers of the Church that our good Jesus suffered more than all the martyrs both those of past ages and those of the future up to the end of the world. Now if the smallest pain of the Son of God is more precious and more likely to stir our hearts than all the sufferings of angels and men together had they died and given up everything for us, how deep then should be our grief, our love and our gratitude for our Lord who endured for our sakes freely and with the utmost love all that a man could possibly suffer. "For the joy set before him, he endured the cross." (Heb 12.2) According to the Fathers of the Church, these words mean that Jesus Christ, Eternal Wisdom, could have remained in his heavenly glory, infinitely distant from our misfortunes. But he chose on our account to come down upon earth, take the nature of man and be crucified. Even when he had become man he could have imparted to his body the same joy, the same immortality, the same blessedness which he now enjoys. But he did not choose this because he wanted to be free to suffer.

164. Rupert adds to this that at the Incarnation, the eternal Father proposed to his Son the saving of the world either by joyful means or by suffering, by acquiring honours or by suffering contempt, by richness or by poverty, by living or by dying. Hence while remaining himself glorious and triumphant, he could have redeemed men and taken them with him along a way paved with joys, delights, honours and riches had he wished to do so. But he chose rather to endure the cross and sufferings in order to give to God his Father greater glory and to men a proof of greater love.

165. Further, he loved us so much that instead of shortening his sufferings he chose to prolong them and to suffer even more. That is why when he was hanging on the cross, covered with opprobrium and plunged deep in sorrow, as if not suffering enough, he cried out, "I thirst." For what was he thirsting? St. Laurence Justinian gives us the answer. "His thirst arose from the ardour of his love, from the depth and abundance of his charity. He was thirsting for us, thirsting to give himself to us and suffer for us."

[4. Conclusion]

166. Knowing all this are we not right in exclaiming with St. Francis of Paula, "O God who is love, what excesses of love you have shown us in suffering and in dying!" Or with St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi, kissing the crucifix, "O Love, how little are you known!" Or St. Francis of Assisi, trudging along the dusty streets, "Jesus, my crucified Love, is not loved." Holy Church makes us repeat every day, "The world does not know Jesus Christ," (Jn 1.10) incarnate Wisdom; and in truth, to know what our Lord has endured for us, and yet like the world not to love him ardently, is morally impossible.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on April 8, 2004 8:56 PM.

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