The devotion to the Passion (sufferings) of Our Lord and Saviour is, of all forms of Catholic devotions, the most ancient, the most venerable and the most universal. Jesus Himself has written the remembrance of His Passion deep into the hearts of His faithful. In order to imprint most deeply in our souls the remembrance of His Sacred Passion, Christ instituted Holy Mass, the unbloody renewal of the Sacrifice of the Cross. Perhaps there is no subject for meditation more suitable for every class of persons than the most sacred Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In it many sinners find the encouragement and graces necessary for their conversion; from it many beginners derive strength and fervour wherewith to subdue their passions; in it many good Christians discover fresh incentives to advance in the paths of virtue. In short, there are none who will not find in it an inexhaustible mine of hidden treasures, and an endless source of graces and spiritual blessings. In all ages it has been a favourite exercise of the Saints, who greatly to their consolation have been in the habit of spending hours, day and night, in meditation on the bitter sufferings of their Saviour. So much is not required of the average devout Christian, but he/she is expected to daily spend half, or at least a quarter of an hour, in attentive consideration of some point of the Passion of Jesus.
How to Meditate on the Passion of Christ
We can practice devotion to the Passion (sufferings) of Our Lord by:
(1) Performing the Stations of the Cross (not only during Lent, but throughout the year)
(2) Meditating on the Five Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary
(3) Saying prayers in honour of the Passion such as the famous fifteen prayers of St. Bridget which can be found in “PIETA” prayer book. A collection of prayers in honour of the passion can also be found in an excellent little publication (booklet) by TAN Books Publishers entitled “DEVOTION TO THE PASSION OF OUR LORD”.
Anne Catherine Emmerich’s famous book on the Passion – THE DOLOROUS PASSION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, is a great treasure. THE DOLOROUS PASSION has been inspiring thousands since it first appeared in 1833 — being based on the detailed visions of Our Lord’s Passion and Death as seen by Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774 – 1824), a German Augustinian nun, and recorded by Clemens Brentano, a prominent literary figure of the day. A saintly person from her youth and a great mystic and victim soul, Sister Emmerich was privileged by God during almost a lifetime of ecstatic visions to see all the events of Our Lord’s suffering and death, which visions we can now understand in hindsight were a great gift from God to the world. Her account of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ, while faithful to the Bible, is heart-rending, edifying and surprising — because of its intimate detail.
THE DOLOROUS PASSION recounts with incredible precision the horrendous sufferings undergone by Our Saviour in His superhumanly heroic act of Redemption. Also illuminating is its description of Mary’s participation in the sufferings of her Son, so that this book gives the reader a poignant understanding of why Our Lady is often called our “Co-Redemptrix” and “Queen of Martyrs”.
THE DOLOROUS PASSION is a singular book that conveys a lasting impression of the terrible Agony of Our Lord, of His infinite love for us that motivated His Agony, and how His Passion and Death were brought on by each person’s sins. Copies of the book are available in Pauline bookshops. Also useful for meditation on the Passion of Our Lord is a book entitled – THE MYSTERY OF THE CROWN OF THORNS written by a Passionist priest. But there can be no substitute for reading and meditating on the accounts of the passion narratives in the Gospels of St. Matthew, Mark and Luke in Catholic Bibles. In meditating on the Passion of Jesus, one should also meditate on the sorrows of Our Lady, especially those associated with Christ’s suffering and death. The Stabat Mater (At the Cross Her Station Keeping) hymn is perhaps one of the most poignant reminders of the sufferings of Our Lady. In order to facilitate the practice of this holy exercise, Fr. Ignatius of the Side of Jesus in his book on the Passion of Christ entitled – THE SCHOOL OF JESUS CRUCIFIED has arranged a Meditation, divided into three points, upon the principal mysteries of the Sacred Passion of Christ, for every day of the month. He advises that whatever mystery of the Passion one takes for the subject of meditation, one should always bestow attentive consideration on the following five points:
1. The infinite greatness of Him Who suffers.
2. The excess of suffering and ignominy which He endures.
3. How great is the love with which He suffers.
4. The infinite unworthiness and vileness of those for whom He suffers.
5. That His principal aim in all His sufferings is to be loved by men. In his words, Let these reflections sink deep into your mind, and if one of them, or any other point of the meditation which you are reading, should make a lively impression upon your heart, dwell awhile on it without caring to go on any further. You may even make your prayer upon the same point for several days, and even weeks, in succession, if you find it productive of good thoughts, reserving the other points for the following days, and you will soon perceive how useful such repetitions will be to your soul.
After your mind has been employed in attentively considering and reflecting upon the mystery and its attendant circumstances, it will not be difficult for your will to be excited and touched by different holy affections, which you ought to pass some short time in exercising with great calmness of spirit, giving free vent to the emotions of your heart, and following the sweet impulses of God’s grace. The principal affections to which one may excite one’s mind during meditation upon the sufferings of Jesus, according to Fr. Ignatius, are as follows:
1. Admiration — How is it possible, you may say, that a God can suffer so much for the love of me, a vile creature? Oh, what excessive love and charity!
2. Gratitude — By exciting yourself to interior emotions of gratitude and appreciation of the greatness of the benefits bestowed upon you by Jesus in His Passion, feeling how much you are indebted to your dear Redeemer, and resolving constantly to praise and thank Him for His infinite love toward you.
3. Compassion — By compassionating your Crucified Jesus overwhelmed with sorrow and suffering, and by earnestly desiring that you had been present to have afforded some relief to your most afflicted Lord.
4. Contrition for your sins — By considering all that those guilty pleasures in which you have indulged contrary to the law of God have cost Jesus Christ, and how large a share you have had in His Passion and Death. Bewail your sins at His feet, and firmly resolve to die rather than ever more to offend a Father so worthy of your love.
5. Love — By protesting that you will bestow all the affections of your heart upon Him who has so much loved you, and by desiring to have, if possible, a thousand hearts solely occupied in loving Him, and corresponding in some measure with His infinite charity. Offer and consecrate yourself entirely to the love of Jesus Crucified. Desire that He may be known and loved by all men.
6. Prayer — By asking of Our Lord grace to love Him, to imitate Him, and never to offend Him. Endeavour to inspire your heart with lively feelings of confidence that God will grant all your requests through the merits of the Passion of Jesus Christ. Your most fervent request ought to be for grace to correct some habitual fault, to overcome your predominant passion, and to practice that virtue in which you are most deficient, and which has occupied a prominent place in the subject of your meditation, thereby to imitate Jesus Christ; for the imitation of Christ should be the principal object of every meditation on His Passion.
Continues NEXT WEEK
• Prof. Michael Ogunu is the President and Coordinator of the World Apostolate of Fatima in Africa