Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Contemplating Christ Crucified

"Because he drew daily great sweetness and compassion from the humility and footsteps of the Son of God, what was bitter to the body he took and held as sweet.  Daily [St. Francis grieved for the sufferings and anguish which Christ bore for us, and afflicted himself internally and externally for them, and took no thought for his own.

Once, a few years after his conversion, when he was walking one day alone along the road not far from the church of St. Mary of the Portiuncula, he wept and wailed with a loud voice.  As he thus went on, a pious man, whom we know and from whom we learnt this, who had given him much sympathy and comfort before he had any friars and likewise after, met him, and moved with pity towards him asked him: 'What is the matter, brother?'  For he thought he was in pain from some illness.  But St. Francis replied: 'I ought to go thus weeping and wailing without shame through the whole world for the passion of my Lord.'  Then both together they began to lament and weep bitterly."1 

I used to have a problem with the at-times graphic imagery of the Catholic crucifix, of Catholic art and imagery.  Though I was a Seventh-Day Adventist when I was young, raised in a church with an empty cross, I was still well-acquainted with the common sight of the crucifix.  I used to think how morbid it was, how ghastly to have the poor Christ hanging in seemingly perpetual agony in such a way upon the cross; when I was almost sent to a Catholic elementary school, I was terrified that such gruesome imagery hung upon the walls in classrooms, and yet no one seemed to blink twice at it.

Now, it is much different.  I do not look at the suffering Christ upon the crucifix as an image meant to frighten or repulse; in fact, I see it as much the opposite.  If one has a true understanding of what Christ suffered for us, what He in fact suffered for our sake that we might be free from sin and death, then the crucifix and the depictions of the suffering Christ become edifying and beautiful, because in them we see the love of Christ for His creation.  Through them, we can better meditate on what Christ endured, seeing before our eyes the Mystery of the Cross - "Suffering in the flesh, and rising from the dead, he revealed our nature as greater than death or corruption."2 (St. Cyril of Alexandria)

"Who will grant me that my request should come about and that God will give me what I long for, that having been totally transpierced in both mind and flesh, I may be fixed with my beloved to the yoke of the cross?"3 (St. Bonaventure)  That eminent and learned Franciscan, St. Bonaventure, used to say that all he ever knew and learned was from meditating upon the crucifix, and above we see the fruit of such meditations.  In contemplating Christ, as Christians we should wish to imitate Christ, and not only this, but to draw ever closer into a more intimate union with Him.  The Passion of Christ was what many of the saints meditated deeply upon, and it bore fruit in their lives.    

How can I not feel some kind of stirring within me, no matter how dry in prayer or cold in soul, when I gaze upon the cross whereupon Christ is nailed for my sake?  To look upon Christ crucified is to enroll in the school of humility, compassion, and love.

I do not recall where I heard this, but I remember hearing that when one gazes upon Christ on the crucifix with love, He gazes back at you with infinite love.  Let us look, then, upon the Lord Whom we preach (cf. 1 Cor 1:23), contemplating His Passion and His love for us, and allowing this to set fire to our hearts.

1 - Scripta Leonis, 37
2 - On the Unity of Christ
3 - The Tree of Life, 26

8 comments:

  1. Thank you for today's post, Jason - St Bonaventure has long been a favourite teacher of mine, but that particular quotation had never struck me before. I have added it to the 'Liske' notes that I keep in my prayerbook for 'kindling'. Your blog is one of my daily 'musts', and always provides much sustenance for prayer and reflection.

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  2. What devotional tools do you recommend for meditating on the passion of Christ daily? Prayers, saints writings, etc... I am thinking of something one can incorporate daily in their prayer life that will foster this devotion. Great post.

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  3. I use the Chaplet of the Holy Wounds (fairly easily available - try eBay) on which one meditates the Wounds in Our Lord's hands, feet and sides. Googling 'Wounds of Christ' will turn up some texts for praying it with. The 'Manual of Catholic Prayer' offers a few different ways of praying the Lord's Passion. Hope you find a way which nourishes you in your prayer.

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  4. One of my favorites is the writings of St. Paul of the Cross (and other Passionists).

    Also, I found this book IMMENSELY helpful in revealing the depth and truth of many aspects of our Lord's Passion:

    http://www.catholictradition.org/Passion/passion.htm#THORNS

    A favorite image is this one depicting the Arma Christi (the implements of the Passion) called the "Justo Juez" (see for example the image https://tinyurl.com/kexh9cs) You can do a image.google.com search to see other examples.

    Another image I found of St. Bernard carrying the implements of the passion. According to New Advent's page on the devotion to the Passion of our Lord, St Bernard of Clairvaux had a large part in its growth. (See http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11527b.htm). See also http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/914/Wounds_of_Christ_Saint_Bernard.html

    When I say the rosary, I look at all the images I've collected that depict all the different scenes of the Passion, the life of Mary & Joseph, etc.

    I could go on and on and on! There are just so many treasures when we delve into this topic, they are like grains of sand made of diamond on an endless shore :))

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  5. 'Anonymous' - very grateful for that last post of yours - shall be looking up your suggestions today!

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  6. THE HOLY WOUNDS OF CHRIST http://home.earthlink.net/~mysticalrose/wounds.html

    Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet--I can count all my bones. (Ps 22:16-17)
    "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. " (Isaiah 53:5)

    Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:24-28)

    The Sacred Wounds which Jesus received during His Passion are part of the price for our salvation: "By His wounds you were healed" (1 Peter 2:24).

    Prayer:
    Oh! Sacred Feet, all gashed and torn, bruised by the hammer's cruel blows, bathed in the life-blood dripping down from anguished Heart in bitter throes; I press You to my lips in tears, with contrite sorrow, fervent sigh. Dear precious Wounds, God's bleeding prayers, plead for me when death draws nigh.

    Oh, Mangled Hands, transfixed and wan, in suppliance raised to Heaven above, pierced by the nails that torture wrung, from breaking Heart of burning love; I press You to my lips in tears, with contrite sorrow, fervent sigh. Dear precious Wounds, God's bleeding prayers, plead for me when death draws nigh.

    Oh! Sacred Refuge, tender Side, rent by the lance with cruel thrust, there, where His Heart is, let me hide, there, where His love is, let me trust. I press Thee to my lips in tears, with contrite sorrow, fervent sigh. most Holy Wound, allay my fears, receive my soul when death draws nigh.

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  7. Devotion in Honor of the Five Holy Wounds
    As I kneel before Thee on the Cross, most loving Savior of my soul, my conscience tells me it is I who have nailed Thee to that Cross with these hands of mine, as often as I have fallen into mortal sin, wearing Thee with my monstrous ingratitude.

    My God, my chief and most perfect Good, worthy of all my love, seeing Thou hast ever loaded me with blessings, I cannot now undo my misdeeds, as I would most willingly, but I can and will loathe them, grieving greatly for having offended Thee Who art infinite Goodness. And now, kneeling at Thy feet, I will try at least to compassionate Thee, to give Thee thanks, to ask of Thee pardon and contrition. Wherefore, with heart and lips I say:

    (To the Wound of the Left Foot)
    Holy Wound of the Left Foot of my Jesus, I adore Thee! I compassionate Thee, O my Jesus, for that most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for the love whereby Thou was wearied in overtaking me on to way to ruin, and didst bleed amid the thorns and brambles of my sins. I offer to the Eternal Father the pain and love of Thy most Sacred Humanity, in atonement for my sins, all of which I detest with sincere and bitter contrition.

    (To the Wound of the Right Foot)
    Holy Wound of the Right Foot of my Jesus, I adore Thee! I compassionate Thee, O my Jesus, for that most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for the love which pierced Thee with such torture and shedding of blood in order to punish my wanderings and the guilty pleasures I have granted to my passions. I offer to the Eternal Father all the pain and love of Thy most Sacred Humanity, and I pray unto Him for grace to weep over my transgressions with burning tears, and to enable me to persevere in the good which I have begun, without ever swerving again from my obedience to the commandments of my God.

    (To the Wound of the Left Hand)
    Holy Wound of the Left Hand of my Jesus, I adore Thee! I compassionate Thee, O my Jesus, for that most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for having, in Thy love, spared me the scourges and eternal damnation which my sins have merited. I offer to the Eternal Father the pain and love of Thy most Sacred Humanity, and I pray Him to teach me how to turn to good account my span of life, and bring forth in it worthy fruits of penance, and so disarm the angry justice of my God.

    (To the Wound of the Right Hand)
    Holy Wound of the Right Hand of my Jesus, I adore Thee! I compassionate Thee, O my Jesus, for that most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for Thy graces lavished on me with such love, in spite of all my miserable obstinacy. I offer to the Eternal Father all the pain and love of Thy most Sacred Humanity, and I pray Him to change my heart and its affections, and make me do all my actions in accordance with the will of God.

    (To the Wound in the Sacred Side)
    Holy Wound in the Side of my Jesus, I adore Thee! I compassionate Thee, O my Jesus, for the cruel insult Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee, my Jesus, for the love which suffered Thy side and Heart to be pierced, that the last drops of Blood and water might issue forth, making my redemption to abound. I offer to the Eternal Father this outrage, and the love of Thy most Sacred Humanity, that my soul may enter once for all into that most loving Heart, eager and ready to receive the greatest sinners, and from it may never more depart.

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  8. Prayer to the Shoulder Wound of Christ (St Bernard of Clairvaux)
    Most loving Jesus, meek Lamb of God, I, a miserable sinner, salute and worship the most Sacred Wound of Thy Shoulder on which Thou didst bear Thy heavy Cross which so tore Thy flesh and laid bare Thy Bones as to inflict on Thee an anguish greater than any other wound of Thy Most Blessed Body. I adore Thee, O Jesus most sorrowful; I praise and glorify Thee, and give The thanks for this most sacred and painful Wound, beseeching Thee by that exceeding pain, and by the crushing burden of Thy heavy Cross to be merciful to me, a sinner, to forgive me all my mortal and venial sins, and to lead me on towards Heaven along the Way of Thy Cross. Amen.

    Saints Gertrude the Great and Mechtilde
    Jesus revealed to St. Gertrude that if any one of the following short prayers is repeated five times in honor of the Five Holy Wounds of the Lord, while spiritually kissing the Wounds devoutly and adding some prayers or good works, and offering them through the Sacred Heart of Jesus, they will be as acceptable to God as the most arduous devotion:

    You may also add the following oblation which Jesus asked St. Mechtilde to pray after each division of five:
    O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, accept this prayer, with that surpassing love, with which Thou didst endure all the Wounds of Thy most Holy Body. Have mercy on me, and on all sinners, and on all the Faithful, living and departed. Grant them grace and mercy, remission of sins, and everlasting life. Amen.

    Jesus, Savior of the World, have mercy on me. You to Whom nothing is impossible, bestow mercy to the wretched.
    O Christ, Who by Your Cross, hast redeemed the world, hear us.
    The Lord is my strength and my glory; He is my salvation.
    Hail Jesus, my loving Spouse. I salute You in the ineffable joys of Your Divinity; I embrace You with the affection of all creatures, and I kiss the Sacred Wound of Your love.
    Glory be to Thee, sweetest, most gentle, most benign, sovereign, transcendent, effulgent, and ever-peaceful Trinity, for the roseate wounds of Jesus Christ, my only Love!


    Sister Mary Martha Chambon "My Holy Wounds sanctify souls and insure their spiritual advancement...Offer Me your actions united to My Sacred Wounds, offer them for sinners, and for the souls in Purgatory."

    Eternal Father I offer Thee the Wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ to heal the wounds of our souls.My Jesus, pardon and mercy through the merits of Thy Sacred Wounds.

    Chaplet of the Holy Wounds To be said on the Crucifix and the first three beads of an ordinary Rosary:
    O Jesus, Divine Redeemer, be merciful to us and to the whole world. Amen.
    Strong God, holy God, immortal God, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Amen.
    Grace and mercy, O my Jesus, during present dangers; cover us with Your Precious Blood. Amen.
    Eternal Father, grant us mercy through the Blood of Jesus Christ, Your only Son; grant us mercy, we beseech You. Amen, Amen, Amen.

    The following prayers, composed by Our Lord, are to be said using the Rosary beads. On the large beads:
    Eternal Father, I offer You the Wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ. To heal the wounds of our souls.

    On the small beads:
    My Jesus, pardon and mercy, through the merits of Your Holy Wounds.

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