Friday, April 22, 2011

On The Interior Sufferings of Jesus Christ

Today, Good Friday, let us meditate on the interior sufferings of Our Lord taken from the book The Golden Key to Heaven by St. Anthony Mary Claret

First Point

Jesus Christ has suffered before we have, all the interior pains that we are met with on the road to perfection.

O my soul, with lively attention let us suppose you see your Divine Redeemer in the garden of Gethsemane. In your imagination try to penetrate deep into His Heart and understand those terrific pains with which He was oppressed...But bear in mind that the Divinity offered no relief to His Holy Humanity in this suffering, just as a holy soul that has gone to Heaven gives no aid to its body which it has abandoned to rot in the grave. Jesus suffered just as He would have suffered if He had been purely human and created as we are. With these thoughts, begin our meditation.

The first suffering of Jesus Christ was an immense sorrow.

There were two causes of this. The first was His burning Love. There was never a mother so devoted, who loved an only son with such tenderness as Jesus Christ loved each and every human being in particular. The second cause was His Infinite Knowledge. The Lord knew that, in spite of His Passion, the majority of men would come to perish eternally.*

(*Note - This does not say a majority of free creatures; and we know, according to the Holy Fathers, that angels vastly outnumber men and that just a third of them were lost. (Apoc. 12:4). Nor does this say a majority of all human beings, including infants; and we know that the majority of human deaths are of infants and fetuses, and an especially large majority when times are very wicked. "God bears up with men," writes St. Alphonsus Liguori, "but He does not bear forever. Were God to bear forever with sinners, no one would be damned: but the most common opinion is that the greater part of adults, even among Christians, are lost." "Wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat." (Mt. 7:13)

From this came a sorrow which was enough to cause Him death, even if there had been no other pains. To conceive an idea of this, suppose, my soul, there is a mother who has left her little children, whom she loves devotedly, playing in a field. Suppose she turns to see them all mangled by a beast which has come out of a nearby forest, an dafter the horrible slaughter, tender members of their bodies are left scattered here and there, clawed and torn to pieces. Could one ever sufficiently understand the pain of that devoted mother at the sight of her dear little ones so tragically slain?

Enter now, O my soul, into Jesus' Heart and see if you cannot find a similar pain there at the sight of so many souls purchased by the shedding of all His Precious Blood and lost forever in hell.

The second interior suffering of Jesus Christ was fear.

There is nothing that more cruelly crushes a man's heart than fear of death close at hand. Not seldom has it happened that persons told of approaching death - even young, robust persons - have broken down overnight so as to appear aged and very feeble. What impression would fear of approaching death not make on Jesus' Heart - a death He plainly foresaw with all the terrible circumstances that made it so bitter to Him?

The third interior suffering of Jesus was the battle waged within Him.

Nature and grace joined in Jesus' Heart to bring on this battle. Nature made His Passion unbearable in view of the horror of the death and the bitter pangs experienced from man's ingratitude; therefore He turned to His Father with these words: "Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me." Grace called for the great sacrifice and induced Him to add: "Father, not My Will, but Thine be done..."

Who will explain the violence of this battle waged within Him? It is enough to know that His Sacred Humanity could not stand it and was forced to sweat an abundance of His Blood through all His pores.

The fourth interior suffering of Christ was His mortal agony.

A man's greatest trial and torment is surely his death agony. Imagine, my soul, that you see a dying man. His forehead yields a cold sweat caused by the struggle within him, which is most bitter. His hands and feet are limp and cool. Only with the greatest effort can he breathe. His heart pounds and putters. One pulsation does not yield place to another, for all is continually irregular and abnormal. The mere sight of him is pitiful. Consider now, my soul, your Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, reduced by inner pain to this agonizing state, and have no doubt that He would have died if an angel who had been sent from Heaven, had not comforted Him in that crisis so that He could complete His Sacrifice.

Affective Acts

O my Jesus, how great are Thy sufferings, and how great is Thy fortitude in the midst of them! Thou art abandoned in a sea of bitterness, of anguish and sorrow.

Compared to Thy suffering, what is mine, O afflicted Jesus? Ah! My suffering, compared to Thine, is very slight. Yet any suffering, however small, is enough to make me quit what I had started well. Distaste and sadness at time of prayer, lack of mortification, fickleness about good resolution, dissipation of mind, faint-heartedness, mistrust - these are the unhappy results from the pains which you offer me so that I may be approved and gain merit. Oh, how I should blame myself and be filled with shame in Thy presence! Thou, Who are Innocence Itself, submitted to pain; and I, who am a sinner, want only consolation.

Second Point

The state of desolation is far more to our advantage that that of consolation. O my soul, in what peace you could live in the midst of darkness and desolation, if you knew the advantages which desolation brings with it! From the following truths you can form a fair concept:

First Truth - The state of desolation is more suitable for our offering God an acceptable sacrifice, than is the state of consolation. Oh, my soul, how we deceive ourselves, even in spiritual things! If by luck one enjoys a bit of inner peace, if he experiences a little more tender devotion in his heart, if his eyes moisten with sweet tears, he counts the day on which this occurs a happy one. But, oh how much more valuable beyond comparison is a day of desolation!

For on the day which you call fortunate, God gives you something; but you give nothing to God. When He has feasted you at His table and given you a taste of His Sweetness, it is a generosity that is all His. Nothing comes from you for Him. Ah! How many there are who show themselves faithful to God in time of consolation; but how few there are who show themselves equally faithful in time of desolation!

When one finds oneself without any light and zest, and with his emotions stirred up in rebellion, and assaults of temptation of every kind at every turn, and yet he continues faithfully in silence, in prayer, in recollection, in mortification, and in all other virtuous practices, then we have the sacrifice which is the most acceptable to God, the gift of ourselves which His Majesty regards with eyes of most devoted satisfaction.

Second Truth - The state of desolation leads the soul to perfect love for God more securely than does the state of consolation.

To love God perfectly is nothing but to seek solely and purely His good pleasure, and outside of this to care about nothing else, neither on earth nor in Heaven. He that reaches this state enters in an instant into the possession of the most perfect love for God and becomes perfected in His Divine Presence. How to arrive at this, the surest way one can take is the road of desolation; for when a faithful soul in this state is without all consolation from the outside world and God withdraws all inner sweetness, he becomes practically crucified and little by little he dies to self and to all creatures. As he finds no satisfaction in anything else but the Divine good pleasure, in this he finds rest and in God he finds perfect Divine Love.

Third Truth - In preference to the state of consolation, it is the state of desolation which leads a soul more surely and more promptly to close union with God. You should know, my soul, that just as fire purifies gold, and as it rids it of all impurity and leaves it beautiful and shining, so the state of desolation purifies the soul, and as it burns up within it all affections that do not refer to God, it very promptly makes it pleasing to God and puts it in immediate readiness for close union with the Supreme Good, enlightening it with His Heavenly Light and inflaming it with a holy love for Him.

The same thing happens to it as happens to a room which the sun brightens and warms only when the shade which is blocking the passage of its rays is lifted. One cannot say this of the state of consolation; for as it agrees so much with selfishness, out of a thousand souls in that state there will scarcely be one which reaches union with God. Therefore how much more desirable is the state of desolation!

Affective Acts

What, then, will I do? I see Jesus in the state of desolation. He is sorrowful even unto death. (mt. 26:38). I realize that this state is supremely profitable to me, as it is the one which brings me to union with God. Why, then, am I unwilling to experience it? Ah! No! I am not unwilling.

At this moment I bow, kneeling at Thy Most Holy Feet, O my Jesus, and I consecrate and dedicate myself entirely to Thy Divine Will. My heart is ready to be left without any light, without any consolation, without any satisfaction, to suffer darkness, to be forsaken, as Thou were in the garden. I am ready to experience grief, temptation, and whatever else Thou wish me to suffer, my God.

Henceforth my only contentment and consolation will be the fulfillment of Thy Divine good pleasure. My only joy, my only relief is in being deprived for Thy sake and in Thy company, of all consolation and rest, and in knowing that in this way Thy Holy Will is fulfilled in me.

Prayer to Obtain Fortitude

But here is where I see that I must raise my hands, my eyes, and my heart to Thee, O my sweet Jesus, to beg Thy Sweet Mercy on my behalf. To see no relief in creatures and to be faithful to Thee; to have our mind clouded with heavy darkness, our will distressed with painful dryness, our heart afflicted with continual desolation and yet not falter; to bear the attack of horrible temptation, to have our mind harassed with frightening thoughts, but not yield to discouragement; to experience feelings of bitterness, anxiety, rebellion, when it seems that all our wild impulses are let loose on us, and yet to remain constant in God's service - this is virtue without equal. (For we know it is one thing to experience wayward tendencies, another thing to consent to them.)

Herein lies true self-denial, complete detachment from all creatures, true faithfulness, pure love, and the surest pledge of union with God. But for an achievement so generous, no less is required than a powerful and effective grace from Heaven. Therefore I appeal to Thee with all my strength, O my Jesus. Do Thou help me, Lord.

(Pray the Our Father and the Hail Mary or other short prayers)

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