Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me: quia tu es Deus meus et fortitudo mea. Quare mea: quare me repulisti, et quare tristis incedo, dum affligit me iminicus. Emitte lucem tuam, et veritatem tuam: ipsa me deduexerunt, et adduxerunt in montem sanctum tuum, et in tabernacula tua.
Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man: for Thou art my God and my strength. Why has thou cast me off? and why do I go sorrowful whilst the enemy afflicteth me. O send out Thy light and Thy truth: they have led me and brought me unto Thy holy hill, even unto Thy tabernacles. (Psalm 42:1-2)
Passiontide began with First Vespers last night, Saturday, April 5, 2014. Today is Passion Sunday. We are to intensify our meditation upon the events leading up to Our Lord’s Passion and Death, calling to mind how our own sins caused the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made Man in Our Lady’s Virginal and Immaculate Womb to suffer unspeakable horrors in His Sacred Humanity.
The Introit for Passion Sunday is Psalm 42, which is prayed by a priest at the foot of the steps of the altar at every offering of the Immemorial Mass of Tradition except in Masses for the dead and the Masses offered during Passiontide. We want our cause to be distinguished from those who are unjust and deceitful. We want to rely upon the strength and the light given us by Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to be led up the holy hill of Calvary on a daily basis so that we might more worthily Him in Holy Communion and bear more willingly the crosses we are asked to bear without complaint, indeed bearing them in imitation of Him and of His Most Blessed Mother, who suffered in total communion with Him during His Passion and Death. Just as Septuagesima Sunday ushered in a period of preparation for the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, so is it the case that Passion Sunday ushers in a final week of preparation for Holy Week, which begins on Palm Sunday. We should be earnest about intensifying our Lenten practices, especially by seeking out the Mercy of the Divine Redeemer in the Sacred Tribunal of Penance.
We must meditate upon the full extent of the spiritual agony Our Lord experienced during His Passion and Death. He, the one mediator between His Co-Eternal Father and man, had to pay back in His Sacred Humanity the blood debt of our own sins to Himself in His Sacred Divinity as God. Our Lady, the Co-Redemptrix and the Mediatrix of all graces, suffered completely with the Word Who was made Flesh in her Virginal and Immaculate womb, having as a result of her Immaculate Conception a perfection communion of her Immaculate Heart with her Divine Son’s Sacred Heart. Only a handful of genuine, certified mystics, such as Saint Bridget of Sweden and Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich, have been permitted by Our Lord and His Blessed Mother to even begin to penetrate the depth of this suffering. The rest of us have to pray to grasp at least some of the horrors of this suffering by using our puny, finite minds and by spending time before the Blessed Sacrament in fervent prayer and reading solid books that give us some small clues as to what our sins caused the Divine Redeemer and His Most Blessed Mother to suffer in our behalves.
Our Lord fulfilled His Co-Equal and Co-Eternal Father’s will in order to save us from the guilt of our own sins and to make it possible for us to be the beneficiaries of the fruits of His Redemptive Act, administered to us by the working of God the Holy Ghost in the sacraments and by means of actual grace. Although He suffered unjustly by repaying a debt that was not His own, He extended mercy to His executioners, namely, each one of us, as He hung on the gibbet known as the Holy Cross. It is this unmerited mercy that we hope and pray will be extended to us if we, having cooperated with the graces He won for us on Calvary and that flow into our hearts and souls through the loving hands of Our Lady, she who is the Mediatrix of All Graces, persevere until our dying breaths in states of sanctifying grace. We do not merit Heaven. We do not merit God’s mercy and forgiveness, which are freely bestowed upon us in this life if we seek them out with a sincere and contrite heart in the hospital of Divine Mercy that is the confessional.
Forgiveness was one of the hallmarks of Our Lord’s Public Ministry. The Pater Noster, which includes seven specific petitions, teaches us that we must forgive others as we ourselves have been forgiven by the Divine Redeemer. Et dimmite nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimmitimus debitoribus nostris. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Those words are exact and precise. We must forgive others with the same degree of depth and spontaneity that Our Lord forgives us when we make a good, humble and contrite confession of our sins in the Sacrament of Penance, replete with a firm purpose of amendment to sin no more. There is nothing that anyone can do to us or say about us that is in the slightest bit the equal of what one of our least venial sins caused Our Lord to suffer in His Sacred Humanity during His Passion and Death. If He forgives us, who merit only condemnation and death because of our sins, so freely as the fruits of His Redemptive Act are applied to us who seek them out, then who are we to withhold, even for one moment, complete and total forgiveness to those who transgress against us?
We must forgive our family members when they misunderstand us.
We must forgive complete strangers who assign to us the basest of motives when they write or speak about us or our work, understanding there is much merit to be earned if we patiently endure calumny and detraction and humiliation and outright rejection in order to await the manifestation of the intentions of all hearts at the General Judgment of the Living and the Dead on the Last Day.
So what if either a relative or a stranger attacks us unjustly and misunderstands us or our work? So what?
So what if a friend of longstanding decides to end a friendship?
So what if people gossip about us?
So what if even relatives and former friends consider us crazy for our embrace of Tradition without compromise?
Painful? Sure. So was the Cross of the Divine Redeemer. Our focus at all times must be so entirely supernatural that we have the same spirit of ready forgiveness and an earnest recourse to fervent prayer whenever we have been done an injustice, content indeed to wait until the Last Day for the intentions of all hearts to be laid bare.
We must even forgive those in public life who are sworn enemies of the true Church, outside of which there is no salvation and without which there can be true social order.
We must forgive the enemies of Christ who are masquerading as “shepherds” within the confines of the counterfeit church of conciliarism. We must not only forgive these people who we may never meet personally but we must pray for them. Fervently. Ceaselessly.
The practice of saying three Ave Marias each morning upon arising and each night upon retiring (adding “O Blessed Mother, help us to be like thee”) is certainly one that we should rekindle as a means of making reparation for the harm to souls done by those in public life and in the counterfeit church of conciliarism who are promoting things contrary to the Deposit of Faith and to the patrimony of her authentic Tradition, to say nothing of a means to convert these people. Those of us who are totally consecrated to Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through Our Lady’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart know that she will use the fruit of our prayers and merits as she sees fit for ourselves and those we pray for. As her consecrated slaves, we give her everything to be disposed of as she sees fit for the honor and glory of the Blessed Trinity and for the sanctification and salvation of human souls.
“You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and the bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust. For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? Do not even the publicans do this? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? Do not also the heathens do this? Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:43-48)
Our love for others must be an imitation of God’s love for us, which is not a mere expression of sentimentality. God’s love for us is an act of His Divine Will. God wills our good, the ultimate expression of which is the salvation of our immortal souls. We love no one authentically if we do or say anything, by omission or commission, which in anyway interferes with the salvation of his immortal soul.
We must will, therefore, this good for all men and women in the world. We must pray for the conversion of everyone on this planet who is alive at present to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, doing so regardless of the degree of hostility they might have for us and/or for the Church at the moment we offer our prayers for them.
We are in need of constant conversion.
We are in need of prayers from others.
We are in need of making reparation for our own many sins.
We are in need of seeking forgiveness both from God in the Sacrament of Penance and from others. What a salutary thing it is, therefore, for us to put aside grudges and resentments and to offer forgiveness right readily, to quote Saint Thomas More, and to pray to the Immaculate Heart of Mary that all people will come to be totally consecrated to her so that they will know the Divine Mercy that flows from her Son’s Sacred Heart.
It may be necessary for us to remonstrate with others because of something they have said or done. One of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is to admonish the sinner. When such a situation presents itself, we must offer a word of correction without the slightest trace of righteousness. However, we must understand that there is the possibility that our obligation to comply with the injunction to admonish a sinner carries with it the possibility that we will be misunderstood and/or rejected, resented and reviled. If such an admonishment goes badly, then all we can do is to pray, hoping that the one who has been admonished will respond to the promptings of grace to have a change of heart. We must be careful never to condemn a person as we condemn the sinful things a person does. Our Lord taught this when He forgave Saint Mary Magdalene when she was caught in adultery:
“Then Jesus lifting up Himself, said to her: ‘Woman, where are they that accused thee? Hath no man condemned thee?’ Who said: ‘No man, Lord.’ And Jesus said: ‘Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.’” (Jn. 10-11)
Our Lord forgave His friend, understanding the weakness of fallen human nature. However, he did not reaffirm her in her sins. It is no act of “compassion” or “tolerance” to reaffirm someone in a life of unrepentant mortal sins. We cannot be a disciple of Our Lord and be indifferent to the effects of sin on the souls of ourselves or those who God’s Providence places in our lives. It is a fundamental act of both charity and justice to lead such souls into the Church if they are outside of her sheepfold and to lead those who have strayed back into the confessional. If we understand our own need for mercy and forgiveness, then we will be better able to help others who do not at first glance recognize their own need for same to became mendicants in the Sacrament of Penance and to make a firm purpose of amendment to reform their lives.
Father Edward Leen’s In the Likeness of Christ discussed the lack of mercy prior to Our Lord’s Incarnation and His Redemptive Act on the wood of the Holy Cross. We must show mercy to others in order to receive Divine Mercy.
Under the reign of Satan men were hard and unfeeling, without pity or tenderness. The one thing they looked up to was the physical power to dominate, and the one thing they feared was the helplessness of poverty. Their life was divided between pleasure and cruelty. Pride and haughtiness instead of being regarded as defects were regarded as manly virtues. Weakness was almost synonymous with vice, and all this tended to fashion hearts imperverious to the grace of God and to every human feeling. Conversion of heart was for them extremely difficult. What God required on the part of man as a necessary condition of their friendship with Him was to them abhorrent, for the practice of the Christian virtues of submission, humility, and patience would be regarded by them as degrading. They had to learn that what was not degrading to God–since nothing could degrade Him in reality–could not be degrading to them. Turning to God postulated on their part not only a change of heart, but also a change of mentality. Their human values were almost all wrong. In the terse words of St. Ignatius describing the pagan world” “They smite, they slay and they go down to Hell“.
In other words, it is the law of things as they actually are that we must continually suffer from others; it is the condition of our being that we shall be the victims of others’ abuse of their free wills; it belongs to our position that our desires and inclinations should be continually thwarted and that we should be at the mercy of circumstances. And it is our duty to bear that without resentment and without rebellion. To rebel is to assert practically that such things are not our due, that they do not belong to our position. It is to refuse to recognize that we are fallen members of a fallen race. The moment we feel resentment at anything painful that happens to us through the activity of men or things, at that moment we are resentful against God’s Providence.
We are in this really protesting against His eternal determination to create free beings; for these sufferings which we endure are a consequence of the carrying into effect of that free determination. If we expect or look for a mode of existence in which we shall not endure harshness, unkindness, misunderstanding, and injustice, we are actually rebelling against God’s Providence, we are claiming a position that does not belong to us as creatures. This is to sin against humility. It is pride. (Father Edward Leen, In The Likeness of Christ, Sheed and Ward, 1936, pp, 17-18; 182-183.)
Most of the disputes we encounter in life that result in the holding of grudges and the nurturing of resentments are pretty petty. Even if they are more significant and more frequent than we think beyond our capacity to forgive, we must remember the exchange between Saint Peter and Our Lord:
“Then Peter came unto Him and said: ‘Lord, how often shall my brother offend against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times.’
“Jesus saith to him: ‘I say not to thee, till seven times; but till seventy times seven times.’
” ‘Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened to a king, who would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to take the account, one was brought to him, that owed him ten thousand talents. And as he had not wherewithal to pay it, his lord commanded that he should be sold, and his wife and children all that he had, and payment to be made.
” ‘But that servant falling down, besought him, saying: “Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.” And the lord of that servant being moved with pity, let him go and forgave him the debt.
” ‘But when that servant was gone out, he found one of his fellow servants that owed him an hundred pence: and laying hold of him, he throttled him, saying: “Pay what thou owest.” And his fellow servant falling down, besought him, saying: “Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.” And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he paid the debt.
” ‘Now his fellow servants seeing what was done were very much grieved, and they came and told their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him; and said to him: “Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all the debt, because thou besoughtest me: Shouldst not thou then have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had compassion on thee?” And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers until he paid all the debt.
” ‘So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.’” (Lk. 18: 21-35)
These words are pretty plain. We must forgive everyone. We must seek forgiveness from those to whom we have done injustices. This does not mean that we have to restore someone who has hurt us to an intimate friendship or that we cannot seek justice without malice or recrimination when a situation demands. It does mean, however, that we must have hearts that are so closely bound to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus that we never surrender to the temptation to think that we are so important or that some hurt is so significant that we have license therefore to be exempt from the parable of Our Lord that Saint Luke recorded in his Gospel. And we must be ready to forgive others with the generosity of the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. This is not an option in the interior life of a Catholic. It is nothing other than a Divine command for us to obey lest we not be forgiven our own sins by God.
To accept the reality of our lives is to accept God’s Providence. We must be grieved because of our sins. But we cannot take back our actions. There is no taking back what is in the past. It is done. We need to be chastened by our misdeeds, to resolve to love God and others, and not to give in to the devil’s desire to use a sense of sorrow for sin as a means to withdraw from the work God expects us to do. To learn from the passing of time in one’s life is not to give rise to discouragement or despair. It is not to harden our hearts toward ourselves–or toward those who may have offended us. Moreover, to learn from the passing of time in one’s life is to trust more fully in God’s mercy.
As Father Leen noted:
“It is true that He cannot but look with hatred on sin, and that He cannot love us insofar as we are sinners. But He can, and does, love us for any little good that remains in us, and above all He loves us for what we can possibly become if we respond to the pressing appeals of His grace. He does not love sin, but He does love those who are sinners, and He never shrinks from contact with us, or from our contact with Him, as long as there remains the possibility of our rejecting that which is displeasing in His sight. It is to wrong Him to think otherwise; and the Devil never has got a fully decisive victory over a soul until he has robbed it of full confidence in the inexhaustible goodness of the Heart of Jesus to the wayward, the faithless, and the sinful. And not the very gravest of our infidelities inflict so cruel a wound on that Heart, as is that wound that is inflicted on it when we doubt of its tenderness and mercy.
“Those who came into contact with Him whilst He lived on earth never had this attitude of fear toward Him, even when they recognized His awe-inspiring holiness. In spite of the consciousness of grave sin that many who approached Him must have had, we see no trace in their dealings with Him of their having a tendency to shrink from His presence or to dread His approach. . . . It is evident that not only did the Savior show a habitual readiness to forgive sin, but He must have exhibited such graciousness, tenderness, sympathy, and kindness toward sinners that it caused comments and criticism amongst the rigidly righteous [the Pharisees]. . . .
“But when it is a question of the soul and the soul’s life-of its nearness to or remoteness from God, there are no limits to be placed to the extent of His anxious tenderness. Hence, His almost extravagant joy when the sinful or the lukewarm, surrendering to the assaults of His grace, turn to Him appealingly and cast themselves at His feet with a sincere confession of their helplessness and a humble appeal for help. The acknowledgment of our powerlessness leaves Him, as it were, powerless to resist our entreaties.”
One of the concrete things we can do this Passiontide, therefore, is to offer a word or two of forgiveness to someone who has hurt us–and to seek such forgiveness out from others we may have hurt. A person to whom we offer forgiveness might reject our offer and remain steadfast in a spirit of self-righteous resentment; a person from whom we seek forgiveness may refuse to give it to us. Nevertheless, we must make the effort, understanding once again that nothing is ever wasted with God. No prayer is ever wasted. No effort to offer forgiveness or to seek it is ever made in vain. For even if nothing is seen to result in human terms, we must, as noted above, trust that Our Lady will use what we give her in ways that might be made manifest to us only in eternity.
The Gospel for today’s Mass reminds us that Our Lord proclaimed Himself in no uncertain terms to be God. “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was made, I AM.” The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became man in Our Lady’s Virginal and Immaculate womb to redeem us on the wood of the Cross by paying back in His Sacred Humanity the debt of sin that we owed to Him in His Infinity as God. We owe it Him, therefore, to seek out His mercy with humility and to be administers of it to others without reservation and without counting the cost. If God in the Flesh could forgive His very executioners, who were the human instruments at one point in time by which all human sins took their toll upon His Body, then we can and must forgive all others.
Father Frederick Faber writing in The Foot of the Cross (published originally in England in 1857 under the title of The Dolors of Mary) discusses how the Passion of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ brought “an enormous accession of grief” into the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of His Most Blessed Mother, who stood at the foot of the Cross so valiantly:
Such were the outward, or rather let us call them the official, occupations of Mary during the first hour upon the Cross. Her inmost occupation, and yet outward also, was that which was above her, overshadowing her in the darkness, and felt more vividly even than if it had been clearly seen,–Jesus hanging upon the Cross! As our guardian angels are ever by our sides, engrossed with a thousand invisible ministries of love, and yet all the while see God, and in that one beatifying sight are utterly immersed, so it was with Mary on Calvary. While she seemed an attentive witness and listener of the men dividing our Lord’s garments among them, and of the nailing of the title to the Cross, or appeared to be occupied with the conversion of the thieves, she did all those things, as the saints do things, in ecstasy, with perfect attention and faultless accuracy, and yet far withdrawn into the presence of God and hidden in His light. A whole hour went by. Jesus was silent. His Blood was on fire with pain. His body began to depend from the Cross, as if the nails barely held it. The Blood was trickling down from the wood all the while. He was growing whiter and whiter. Every moment of that agony was an act of communion with the Father. Mysteries, exceeding all mysteries that had ever been on earth, were going on in His Heart, which was alternately contracted and dilated with agony too awful for humanity to bear without miraculous support. It had divine support; but divine consolation was carefully kept apart. The interior of that Heart was clearly disclosed to the Mother’s inward eye, and her heart participated in its sufferings. She, too, needed a miracle to prolong her life, and the miracle was worked. But with the same peculiarity. From her, also, all consolation was kept away. And so one hour passed, and grace had created many worlds of sanctity, as the laden minutes went slowly by, one by one, then slower and slower, like the pulses of a clock at midnight when we are ill, beating sensibly slower to reproach us for our impatient listening.
The second hour began. The darkness deepened., and there were fewer persons round the Cross. No diceing now, no disturbance of nailing the title to the Cross. All was as silent as a sanctuary. Then Jesus spoke. It seemed as if he had been holding secret converse with the Father, and He had come to a point when He could keep silence no longer. It sounded as if He had been pleading for sinners, and the Father had said that the sin of His Crucifixion was too great to be forgiven. To our human ears the word has that significance. It certainly came out of some depth, out of something which had been going on before, either His own thoughts, or the intensity of His pain, or a colloquy with the Father. “Father! forgiven them; for they know not what they do!” Beautiful, unending prayer, true of all sins and of all sinners in every time! They know not what they do. No one knows what he does when he sins. It is his very knowledge that the malice of sin is past his comprehension which is a great part of the malice of his sin. Beautiful prayer also, because it discloses the characteristic devotion of our dearest Lord! When He breaks the silence, it is not about His Mother, or the apostles, or a word of comfort that affectionate forlorn Magdalen, whom He loved so fondly. It is for sinners, for the worst of them, for His personal enemies, for those who crucified Him, for those who had been yelling after Him in the streets, and loading Him with the uttermost indignities. It is as if at Nazareth He might seem to love His Mother more than all the world beside, but that now on Calvary, when His agony had brought out the deepest realities and the last disclosures of His Sacred Heart, it was found that His chief devotion was to sinners. Was Mary hurt by this appearance? Was it a fresh dolor that He had not thought first of her? Oh, no! Mary had no self on Calvary. It could not have lived there. Had her heart cried out at the same moment with our Lord’s, it would have uttered the same prayer, and in like words would have unburdened itself of that of which it was most full. But the word did draw new floods of sorrow. They very sound of His voice above her in the obscure eclipse melted within her. The marvel of His uncomplaining silence was more pathetic now that He had spoken. Grief seemed to have reached its limits; but it had not. The word threw down the walls, laid a whole world of possible sorrow open to it, and poured the waters over it in an irresistible flood. The well-remembered tone pieced her [Our Lady] like a spear. They very beauty of the word was anguish to her. Is it not often so that deathbed words are harrowing because they are so beautiful, so incomprehensibly full of love? Mary’s broken heart enlarged itself, and took in the whole world, and bathed it in tears of love. To her that word was like a creative word. It made the Mother of God Mother of mercy also. Swifter than the passage of light, as that word was uttered, the mercy of Mary had thrown round the globe a mantle of light, beautifying its rough places, and giving lust re in the dark, while incredible sorrow made itself coextensive with her incalculable love.
The words of Jesus on the Cross might almost have been a dolor by themselves. They were all of them more touching in themselves than any words which ever have been spoken on the earth. The incomparable beauty of our Lord’s Soul freights each one of them with itself, and yet how differently? The sweetness of His Divinity is hidden in them, and for ages on ages it has ravished the contemplative souls who loved Him best. If even to ourselves these words are continually giving out new beauties in our meditations, what must they be to the saints, and then, far beyond that, what were they to His Most Blessed Mother? To her, each of them was a theology, a theology enrapturing the heart while it illumined he understanding. She knew they would be His last. Through life they had been but few, and now in less than two hours He will utter seven, which the world will listen to and wonder at until the end of time. To her they were not isolated. They recalled other unforgotten words. There were no forgotten ones. She interpreted them by others, and others again by them, and so they gave out manifold new meanings. Besides which, she saw the interior from which they came, and therefore they were deeper to her. But the growing beauty of Jesus had been consistently a more copious fountain of sorrow all through the Three-and-Thirty Years. It was not likely that law would be abrogated upon Calvary. And was there not something perfectly awful, even to Mary’s eye, in the way in which His divine beauty was mastering every thing and beginning to shine out in the eclipse? It seemed as if the Godhead were going to lay Itself bare among the very ruins of the Sacred Humanity, as His bones were showing themselves through His flesh. It was unspeakable. Mary lifted up her whole soul to its uttermost height to reach the point of adoration due to Him, and tranquilly acknowledged that it was beyond her power. her adoration sank down into profusest love, and her love condensed under the chill shadow into an intensity of sorrow, which felt its pain intolerably everywhere as the low pulsations of His clear gentle voice ran and undulated through her inmost soul.
The thought which was nearest to our Blessed Saviour’s Heart, if we may reverently venture to speak thus of Him, was the glory of His Father. We can hardly doubt that after that, chief among the affections of the created nature which He had condescended to assume, stood the love of His Immaculate Mother. Among His seven words there will be one, a word following His absolution of the thief at Mary’s prayer, a double word, both to her and of her. That also shall be like a creative word, creative for Mary, and still more creative for His Church. He spoke out of an unfathomable love, and yet in such mysterious guise as was fitted still more to deepen His Mother’s grief. He styles her “Woman,” as if He had already put off the filial character. He substitutes John for Himself, and finally appears to transfer to John His own right to call Mary Mother. How many things were there here to overwhelm our Blessed Lady with fresh affliction! She well knew the meaning of the mystery. She understood that by this seeming transfer she had been solemnly installed in her office of the second Eve, the mother of all mankind. She was aware that now Jesus had drawn her still more closely to Himself, had likened her to Himself more than ever, and had more their union more complete. The two relations of Mother and Son were two no longer; they had melted into one. She knew that never had He loved her more than now, and never shown her a more palpable proof of His love, of which, however, no proof was wanting. But each fresh instance of His love was a new sorrow to her; for it called up more love in her, and with more love, as usual, more sorrow. . . .
We have already spoken of the parallel between te Crucifixion and the Annunciation, which is another peculiarity of the fifth dolor. She became our Mother just when she lost Jesus. It was, as it were, a ceremonial conclusion to the Thirty-Three years she had spent with Him in the most intimate communion and at the same time a solemn opening of that life of Mary in the Church to which every baptized soul is a debtor for more blessings than it suspects. In the third dolor He had spoken to her with apparent roughness, as if her office of Mother was now eclipsed by the mission which His Eternal Father had trusted to Him. In this fifth dolor He, as it were, merges her Divine Maternity in a new motherhood of men. Perhaps no two words that he ever spoke to her were more full of mystery than that in the temple, and now this one upon the Cross, or ever caused deeper grief in her soul. They are parallel to each other. With such a love of souls as Mary had, immensely heightened by the events of that very day, the motherhood of sinners brought with it an an enormous accession of grief. The multitudes that were then wandering shepherdless over the wide earth, the ever-increasing multitudes of the prolific ages, all these she received into her heart, with the most supernatural enlightenment as to the malice of sin, the most keen perception of the pitiable case and helpless misery of sinners, the clearest foresight of the successful resistance which their free will would make to grace, and the most profound appreciation of the horrors of their eternal exile amidst the darkness and the flames of punishment. Our Lord’s word effected what it said. It made her the Mother of men, therefore, not merely by an outward official proclamation, but in the reality of her heart. He opened up there new fountains of inexhaustible love. He caused her to love men as He loved them, as nearly as her heart could dome to His. He, as it were, multiplied Himself in the souls of sinners millions of millions of times, and gave her love enough for all. And such love! so constant, so burning, so eloquent, so far above all earthly maternal love, both in hopefulness, tenderness, and perseverance! And what was this new love but a new power of sorrow? We cannot rightly understand Mary’s sorrow at the Crucifixion under any circumstances, simply because it is above us. But we shall altogether miss of those just conceptions which we may attain to unless we bear in mind that she became our Mother at the foot of the Cross, not merely by a declaration of appointment, but by a veritable creation through the effectual word of God, which at that moment enlarged her broken heart, and fitted it with new and ample affections, causing thereby an immeasurable increase of her pains. It was truly in labor that she travailed with us when we came to birth. The bitterness of Eve’s curse environed her spotless and unutterably in that hour of our spiritual nativity.
We must not omit to reckon also among the peculiarities of this dolor that which it shares with the fourth dolor, and in which it stands in such striking contrast to the sixth,–her inability to reach Jesus in order to exercise her maternal offices toward Him. So changeful can sorrow be in the human heart that the very thing which will minister sorrow to her by the fullness of its presence in the Taking down from the Cross is a sorrow to her here by its absence. But they have mourned little, too little for their own good, who have not long since learned to understand this contradiction. It is hard for a mother to keep herself quiet by the deathbed of her son. Grief must be doing some thing. The wants of the sufferer are the luxuries of the mourner. The pillows must be smoothed again, the hair taken out of the eyes, those beads of death wiped from the clammy brow, those bloodless lips perpetually moistened, that white hand gently chafed, that curtain put back to give more air, the weak eyes shielded from the light, the bedclothes pressed out of the way of his difficult breathing. Even when it is plain that the softest touch, the very gentlest of these dear ministries, is fresh pain to the sufferer, the mother’s hand can scarcely restrain itself; for her heart is in every finger. To be quite is desolation to her soul. She thinks it is not the sill of the experience of the nurse which dictates her directions, but her hard-heartedness, because she is not that fair boy’s mother; and therefore she rebels in her heart against her authority, even if the chances of being cruel do in fact restrain her hands. Surely that foam must be gathered from the mouth, surely that long lock of hair must tease him across his eye and dividing his sight, surely that icy hand should have the blood gently, most gently, brought back again. She forgets that the eye is glazed and sees no more, that the blood has gone to the heart, and even the mother’s hand cannot conjure it back again. And so she sits murmuring, her sorrow all condensed in her compulsory stillness. Think, then, what Mary suffered those three long hours beneath the Cross! Was ever deathbed so uneasy, so comfortless, as that rough-hewn wood? Was ever posture more torturing than to hang by nails in the hands, dragging, dragging down as the dead weight of the Body exerted itself more and more? Where was the pillow for His Head? If it strove to rest itself against the Title of the Cross, the crown of thorns drove it back again; if it sank down upon His breast, it could not quite reach it, and its weight drew the Body from the nails. Slow streams of Blood crept about His wounded Body, making Him tremble under their touch with the most painful excitement and uneasiness. His eyes were teased with Blood, liquid or half congealed. His Mouth, quivering with thirst, was also caked with Blood, while His breath seemed less and less to moisten. There was not a limb which was not calling out for the Mother’s tender hand, and it might not reach so far. There were multitudes of pains which her touch would have soothed. O mothers! have you a name by which we may call that intolerable longing which Mary had, to smooth that hair, to cleanse those eyes, to moisten those dear lips which had just been speaking such beautiful words, to pillow that blessed Head upon her arm, to ease those throbbing hands and hold up for a while the soles of those crushed and lacerated feet? It was not granted to her; and yet she stood there in tranquility, motionless as a statue, not a statue of indifference, not yet of stupor and amazement, but in that attitude of reverent adoring misery which was becoming to a broken-hearted creature who felt the very arms of the Eternal Father round her, holding her up to live, to love, to suffer, and to be still. (Father Frederick Faber, The Foot of the Cross, published originally in England in 1857 under the title of The Dolors of Mary, and republished by TAN Books and Publishers, pp. 248-252; 264-267.)
How can we even think about sinning again, even venially, my friends? How shallow is our appreciation for the Passion of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in which His Most Blessed Mother participated perfectly and suffered completely in her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. What thoughts must fill our hearts and souls when we assist at Holy Mass this day, Passion Sunday in 2010, and every day for the rest of our lives? The Mass is Calvary! The Mass is the means by which we have any chance to know forgiveness from God and thus to offer to others as He has bestowed it upon us so freely and at such a great cost. Oh, how we must strive to cooperate with the graces won for us on Calvary by the shedding of every single drop of the Most Precious Blood of the Divine Redeemer that flows into our hearts and souls through the loving hands of His Most Blessed Mother, she who is our Mediatrix, our Co-Redemptrix and Advocate. Who are we to hold back forgiveness from anyone when considering what our sins, both great and small, caused the Theandric Person and His Most Blessed Mother to suffer during His Passion and Death?
Father Benedict Baur, O.S.B., explained how deeply we must enter in Our Lord’s Passion during this Passiontide:
Christ and His members must be one. They must walk the same road, not only during the liturgical service, when they are lifted up together in the mysteries of the sacrifice, but also in every event of life. Christ welcomed suffering, and accepted it freely; He did not flee the hardships of life. He makes suffering in us, His members, serve the spirit; He uses it as a means of freeing us from the world and all that is temporal and thus raises us from things of his world to the thins that are eternal.
Now, during Passiontide, we must begin to love and treasure pain and suffering. In the cross, in suffering, in or crucifixion with Christ, we shall find salvation. For Him and with Him we should bear all the slight injustices committed against us. For Him we should suffer freely and willingly the unpleasant and disagreeable things that occur to us. But our faith is weak. We flee from from the cross instead of holding it dear, instead of loving it and welcoming it our as Savior did. (Father Benedict Baur, O.S.B., The Light of the World, Volume I, B. Herder Book Company, 1954, p. 595.)
Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., gave us some important food for thought as Passiontide begins today:
During the preceding four weeks, we have noticed how the malice of Jesus’ enemies has been gradually increasing. His very presence irritates them; and it is evident that any little circumstance will suffice to bring the deep and long-nurtured hatred to a head. The kind and gentle manners of Jesus are drawing to Him all hearts that are simple and upright; at the same time, the humble life He leads, and the stern purity of His doctrines, are perpetual sources of vexation and anger, both to the proud Jew that looks forward to the Messias being a mighty conqueror, and to the pharisee, who corrupts the Law of God, that he may make make it the instrument of his own base passions. Still, Jesus goes on working miracles; His discourses are more than ever energetic; His prophecies foretell the fall of Jerusalem, and such a destruction of its famous temple, that not a stone is to be left on a stone. The doctors of the Law should, at least, reflect upon what they hear; they should examine these wonderful works, which render strong testimony in favor of the Son of David; and they should consult these divine prophecies which, up to the present time, have been so literally fulfilled in His person. Alas! they themselves are about to carry out to the very last iota. There is not a single outrage or suffering foretold by David and Isaias, as having to be put upon the Messias, which these blind men are not scheming to verify.
In then, therefore, was fulfilled that terrible saying: ‘He that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in his world, nor in the world to come.’ The Synagogue is night to a curse. Obstinate in their error, she refuses to see or to hear; she has deliberately perverted her judgment; she has extinguished within herself the light of the holy Spirit; she will go deeper and deeper into evil, and at length fall into the abyss. This same lamentable conduct is but too often witnessed nowadays in those sinners who, by habitual resistance to the light, end by finding their happiness in sin. Neither should it surprise us, that we find in people of our own generation a resemblance to the murderers of Jesus; the history of His Passion will reveal to us many sad secrets of the human heart and its perverse inclinations; for what happened in Jerusalem, happens also in every sinner’s heart. His heart, according to the saying of St. Paul, is a Calvary, where Jesus is crucified. There, is the same ingratitude, the same blindness, the same wild madness, with this difference: that the sinner who is enlightened by faith, knows Him whom he crucifies; whereas the Jews, as the same apostle tells us, knew not the Lord of glory. Whilst, therefore, we listen to the Gospel, which relates the history of the Passion, let us turn the indignation which we feel for the Jews against ourselves and our own sins; let us weep over the sufferings of our Victim, for our sins caused Him to suffer and die.
Everything around us urges us to mourn. The images of the saints, the very crucifix on our altar, are veiled from our sight. The Church is oppressed with grief. During the first four weeks of Lent, she compassionated her Jesus fasting in the desert; His coming sufferings and crucifixion and death are what now fill her with anguish. We read in to-day’s Gospel, that the Jews threaten to stone the Son of God as a blasphemer: but His hour is not yet come/ He is obliged to flee and hide Himself. It is to express this deep humiliation, that the Church veils the cross. A God hiding Himself, that He made evade the anger of men–what a mystery! It is weakness? Is it, that He faces death? No; we shall soon see Him going out to meet His enemies: but at present He hides Himself from them, because all that had been prophesied regarding Him has not been fulfilled. Besides, His death is not to be by stoning: He is to die upon a cross, the tree of malediction, which, form that time forward, is to be the tree of life. Let us humble ourselves, as we see the Creator of heaven and earth thus obliged to hide Himself from men, who are bent on His destruction! Let us go back, in thought, to the sad day of the first sin, when Adam and Eve hid themselves because a guilty conscience told them they were naked. Jesus has come to assure us of our being pardoned, and lo! He hides Himself, not because He is naked-He that is to the saints the garb of holiness and immortality–but because He made Himself weak, that He might make us strong. Our first parents sought to hide themselves from the sight of God; Jesus hides Himself from the eyes of men. But it will not be thus for ever. The day will come when sinners, form whose anger He now flees, will pray to the mountains to fall on them and shield them from His gaze; but their prayer will not be granted,. and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with much power and majesty.
This Sunday is called Passion Sunday, because the Church begins, on this day, to make the sufferings of our Redeemer her chief thought. It is called also, Judica, from the first word of the Introit of the Mass; and again Neomania, that the Sunday of the new (or the Easter) moon, because it always falls after the new moon which. regulates the feast of Easter.
In the Greek Church, this Sunday goes under the simple name of the fifth Sunday of the holy fasts. (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year: Volume 6: Passiontide and Holy Week, pp. 104-107.)
May Our Lady, the Queen of Mercy, help us to have a blessed Passiontide, especially by praying as many Rosaries each day as the duties of our state-in-life permit, so that we might be ready to enter into the Easter Triduum in a spirit of solemn remembrance of the events of her Divine Son’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, which are made present in an unbloody matter on altars of Sacrifice on every day but Good Friday.
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!
Vivat Christus Rex! Viva Cristo Rey!
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, pray for us.