The Passion and the Death of Jesus Christ
by St. Alphonsus
INVOCATION OF JESUS AND MARY.
O Saviour of the world, O Love of souls, O Lord most lovely of all beings! Thou by Thy Passion didst come to win to Thyself our hearts, by showing us the immense love that Thou didst bear to us in accomplishing a redemption which has brought to us a sea of benedictions, and which cost Thee a sea of pains and ignominies. It was principally for this end that Thou didst institute the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, in order that we might have a perpetual memorial of Thy Passion: ” That we might have forever a perpetual memorial of so great a benefit,” says St. Thomas, ” He gives his body to be the food of the faithful,” which St. Paul had already said. As often as you shall eat this bread, you shall show the death of the Lord. Oh, how many holy souls hast Thou persuaded by these prodigies of love, consumed by the flames of Thy love, to renounce all earthly goods, in order to dedicate themselves entirely to loving Thee alone, O most amiable Saviour! O my Jesus! I pray Thee make me always remember Thy Passion; and grant that I also, a miserable sinner, overcome at last by so many loving devices, may return to love Thee, and to show Thee, by my poor love, some mark of gratitude for the excessive love which Thou, my God and my Saviour, hast borne to me. Remember, my Jesus, that I am one of those sheep of Thine, to save which Thou didst come down on the earth and didst sacrifice Thy divine life. I know that, after having redeemed me by Thy death, Thou hast not ceased to love me, and that Thou dost still bear to me the same love that Thou hadst for me when Thou didst die for my sake. Oh, permit me no longer to lead a life of ingratitude towards Thee, my God, who dost so much deserve to be loved, and hast done so much to be loved by me!
And thou, O most holy Virgin Mary, who didst take so great a part in the Passion of thy Son, obtain for me, I beseech thee, through the merits of thy sorrows, the grace to experience a taste of that compassion which thou didst so sensibly feel at the death of Jesus, and obtain for me also a spark of that love which wrought all the martyrdom of thy afflicted heart. Amen.
“Let my mind, O Lord Jesus Christ, I beseech Thee, be absorbed in the fiery and honeyed sweetness of Thy love, that I may die for love of the love of Thee, who wert pleased to die for love of the love of me.”
TO THE READER.
In my book on the Glories of Mary, I promised to Write for you another that should treat of the love of Jesus Christ; but on account of my corporal infirmities, my Director would not permit me to keep my promise. I have been scarcely able to publish these short Reflections on the Passion of Jesus Christ. These Reflections, however, contain the gist of what I had gathered for my subject, withholding only what had reference to the Incarnation and birth of our Saviour, as I intended to compose from it a little work for the Novena of Christmas, which I shall afterwards publish, if I obtain permission. Nevertheless, I hope that the little work that I offer you to-day will be pleasing to you, especially since it will put before you, in regular order, the passages of Holy Scripture referring to the love that Jesus Christ showed us in his death; for there is nothing more apt to stimulate a Christian to the love of God than the word of God itself that is drawn from Holy Writ.
Let us, therefore, love Jesus Christ, who is our Saviour, our God, and our supreme good. This is the reason why I invite you to cast a glance at the Passion; for you will find therein all the motives that we can have to hope for eternal life and to love God; and in this our salvation consists.
All the saints cherished a tender devotion towards Jesus Christ in his Passion; this is the only means by which they sanctified themselves. Father Balthasar Alvarez, as we read in his life, used to say that one should not think of having done anything so long as one has not succeeded in constantly keeping in one’s heart Jesus crucified. His method of prayer consisted in placing himself at the feet of Jesus crucified, by meditating especially on his poverty, his humiliations, sorrows, and by listening to the lesson that our Lord made him hear from the height of the cross. You may also hope to sanctify yourself if you continue in like manner to consider what your divine Redeemer has done and suffered for you.
Ask him, without ceasing, to give you his love; -and this grace you should never weary to ask from your Queen, the Blessed Virgin, who is called the Mother of beautiful love. And when you ask this great gift for yourself, ask it also for me, who have desired to contribute to your sanctification in offering you this little work. I promise to do the same thing for you in order that, one day, in paradise, we may embrace each other in a holy charity, and may recognize each other as devoted servants of our most amiable Saviour, finding ourselves united there in the society of the elect to see forever, face to face, and love for all eternity, Jesus, our Saviour and our love. Amen.
HOW USEFUL IT IS TO MEDITATE ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST.
The lover of souls, our most loving Redeemer, declared that he had no other motive in coming down upon earth to become man than to enkindle in the hearts of men the fire of his holy love: I am come to cast fire on earth; and what will I but that it be kindled? And, oh, what beautiful flames of love has he not enkindled in so many souls, especially by the pains that he chose to suffer in his death, in order to prove to us the immeasurable love which he still bears to us!
Oh, how many souls, happy in the wounds of Jesus, as in burning furnaces of love, have been so inflamed with his love that they have not refused to consecrate to him their goods, their lives, and their whole selves, surmounting with great courage all the difficulties which they had to encounter in the observance of the divine law, for the love of that Lord who, being God, chose to suffer so much for the love of them! This was just the counsel that the Apostle gave us, in order that we might not fail, but make great advances in the way of salvation: Think diligently upon Him who endureth such opposition from sinners against Himself, that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds.
Wherefore St. Augustine, all inflamed with love at the sight of Jesus nailed on the cross, prayed thus sweetly: “Imprint, O Lord, Thy wounds in my heart, that I may read therein suffering and love: suffering, that I may endure for Thee all suffering; love, that I may despise for Thee all love. Write, he said, my most loving Saviour, write on my heart Thy wounds, in order that I may always behold therein Thy sufferings and Thy love. Yes, because, having before my eyes the great sufferings that Thou, my God, didst endure for me, I may bear in silence all the sufferings that it may fail to my lot to endure; and at the sight of the love which Thou didst exhibit for me on the cross, I may never love or be able to love any other than Thee.
And from what source did the saints draw courage and strength to suffer torments, martyrdom, and death, if not from the sufferings of Jesus crucified? St. Joseph of Leonessa, a Capuchin, on seeing that they were going to bind him with cords, for a painful incision that the surgeon was to make in his body, took into his hands his crucifix and said, ” Why these cords? why these cords? Behold, these are my chains — my Saviour nailed to the cross for love of me. He, through his sufferings, constrains me to bear every trial for his sake.” And thus he suffered the amputation without a complaint; looking upon Jesus, who, as a lamb before his shearers, was dumb, and did not open His mouth.
Who, then, can ever complain that he suffers wrongfully, when he considers Jesus, who was bruised for our sins? Who can refuse to obey, on account of some inconvenience, when Jesus became obedient unto death? Who can refuse ignominies, when they behold Jesus treated as a fool, as a mock king, as a disorderly person; struck, spit upon on his face, and suspended upon an infamous gibbet?
Who could love any other object besides Jesus when they see him dying in the midst of so many sufferings and insults, in order to captivate our love? A certain devout solitary prayed to God to teach him what he could do in order to love him perfectly. Our Lord revealed to him that there was no more efficient way to arrive at the perfect love of him than to meditate constantly on his Passion. St. Teresa lamented and complained of certain books which had taught her to leave off meditating on the Passion of Jesus Christ, because this might be an impediment to the contemplation of his divinity; and the saint exclaimed, ” O Lord of my soul, O my Jesus crucified, my treasure! I never remember this opinion without thinking that I have been guilty of great treachery. And is it possible that Thou, my Lord, couldst be an obstacle to me in the way of a greater good? Whence, then, do all good things come to me, but from Thee?” And she then added, ” I have seen that, in order to please God, and to induce him to grant us great graces, he wills that they should all pass through the hands of this most sacred humanity, in which his divine majesty declared that he took pleasure.”
For this reason, Father Balthasar Alvarez said that ignorance of the treasures that we possess in Jesus was the ruin of Christians; and therefore his most favorite and usual meditation was on the Passion of Jesus Christ. He meditated especially on three of the sufferings of Jesus, — his poverty, contempt, and pain; and he exhorted his penitents to meditate frequently on the Passion of our Redeemer, telling them that they should not consider that they had done anything at all, until they had arrived at retaining Jesus crucified continually present in their hearts.
“He who desires,” says St. Bonaventure, “to go on advancing from virtue to virtue, from grace to grace, should meditate continually on the Passion of Jesus. ”
And he adds that “there is no practice more profitable for the entire sanctification of the soul than the frequent meditation of the sufferings of Jesus Christ.”
St. Augustine also said that a single tear shed at the remembrance of the Passion of Jesus is worth more than a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, or a year of fasting on bread and water. Yes, because it was for this end that our Saviour suffered so much, in order that we should think of his sufferings; because if we think on them, it is impossible not to be inflamed with divine love: The charity of Christ presseth us, says St. Paul. Jesus is loved by few, because few consider the pains he has suffered for us; but he that frequently considers them cannot live without loving Jesus. “The charity of Christ presseth us.” He will feel himself so constrained by his love that he will not find it possible to refrain from loving a God so full of love, who has suffered so much to make us love him.
Therefore the Apostle said that he desired to know nothing but Jesus, and Jesus crucified; that is, the love that he has shown us on the cross: I judged not myself to know anything among you but Jesus Christy and Him crucified. And, in truth, from what books can we better learn the science of the saints — that is, the science of loving God — than from Jesus crucified? That great servant of God, Brother Bernard of Corlione, the Capuchin, not being able to read, his brother religious wanted to teach him, upon which he went to consult his crucifix; but Jesus answered him from the cross, “What is reading ? what are books ? Behold, I am the book wherein thou mayst continually read the love I have borne thee.” O great subject to be considered during our whole life and during all eternity ! A God dead for the love of us ! a God dead for the love of us ! O wonderful subject !
St. Thomas Aquinas was one day paying a visit to St. Bonaventure, and asked him from what book he had drawn all the beautiful lessons he had written. St. Bonaventure showed him the image of the Crucified, which was completely blackened by all the kisses that he had given it, and said, “This is my book whence I receive everything that I write; and it has taught me whatever little I know.”
In short, all the saints have learned the art of loving God from the study of the crucifix. Brother John of Alvernia, every time that he beheld Jesus wounded, could not restrain his tears. Brother James of Tuderto, when he heard the Passion of our Redeemer read, not only wept bitterly, but broke out into loud sobs, overcome with the love with which he was inflamed toward his beloved Lord.
It was this sweet study of the crucifix which made St. Francis become a great seraph. He wept so continually in meditating on the sufferings of Jesus Christ, that he almost entirely lost his sight. On one occasion, being found crying out and weeping, he was asked what was the matter with him. ” What ails me ?” answered the saint. ” I weep over the sorrows and insults inflicted on my Lord; and my sorrow is increased when I think of those ungrateful men who do not love him, but live without any thought of him.” Every time that he heard the bleating of a lamb, he felt himself touched with compassion at the thought of the death of Jesus, the Immaculate Lamb, drained of every drop of blood upon the cross for the sins of the world. And therefore this loving saint could find no subject on which he exhorted his brethren with greater eagerness than the constant remembrance of the Passion of Jesus.
This, then, is the book — Jesus crucified — which, if we constantly read it, will teach us, on the one hand, to have a lively fear of sin, and, on the other hand, will inflame us with love for a God so full of love for us; while we read in these wounds the great malice of sin, which reduced a God to suffer so bitter a death in order to satisfy the divine justice, and the love which our Saviour has shown us in choosing to suffer so much in order to prove to us how much he loved us.
Let us beseech the divine Mother Mary to obtain for us from her Son the grace that we also may enter into these furnaces of love, in which so many loving hearts are consumed, in order that, our earthly affections being there burned away, we also may burn with those blessed flames, which render souls holy on earth and blessed in heaven. Amen.
REFLECTIONS AND AFFECTIONS ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST.
SIMPLE EXPOSITION OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO THE NARRATION OF THE HOLY EVANGELISTS
With some Reflections and Affections.
St Augustine says that there is nothing more conducive to the attainment of eternal salvation than to think every day on the pains which Jesus Christ has suffered for the love of us. “Nothing is more salutary than to think daily on what the Man-God has endured for us.” And before him, Origen said that sin cannot reign in the soul that frequently meditates on the death of the Saviour. ” It is certain that, when the death of Christ is carried about in the soul, sin cannot reign in it. Besides, our Lord revealed to a holy solitary that there is no exercise better calculated to kindle in the heart the fire of divine love than the meditation on his Passion. Hence, Father Balthazar Alvarez used to say that ignorance of the treasures that we have in the Passion of Jesus Christ is the ruin of Christians. Hence, he would tell his penitents that they should not consider themselves to have done anything until they had succeeded in always keeping in the heart Jesus crucified. According to St. Bonaventure, the wounds of Jesus are wounds which soften the hardest hearts, and inflame the most frozen souls.
Hence, a learned author, Father Croiset, writes that there is nothing which unfolds to us the treasures contained in the sufferings of Jesus Christ better than the simple history of his Passion. To inflame a faithful soul with divine love, it is enough to reflect on the narration which the holy Evangelists have given of the sorrows of the Redeemer, and to view with the eyes of a Christian all that the Saviour has suffered in the three principal theatres of his Passion; that is, in the garden of Olives, in the city of Jerusalem, and on Mount Calvary. The contemplations which devout authors have made and written on the Passion are useful and beautiful; but certainly a single word from the Sacred Scriptures makes a greater impression on a Christian than a hundred and a thousand contemplations and revelations ascribed to certain holy souls; for the Scripture assures us that whatever they attest is certain with the certainty of divine faith.
Hence I have resolved, for the benefit and consolation of souls enamoured of Jesus Christ, to arrange in order, and to relate in simple language (adding a few brief reflections and affections) what the holy Evangelists say of the Passion of Jesus Christ. They supply abundant matter for the meditations of a hundred and a thousand years, and at the same time the most powerful motives to inflame us with holy charity towards our most loving Redeemer.
O God, how is it possible for a soul that has faith, and reflects on the sorrows and ignominies which Jesus Christ has suffered for us, not to burn with love for him, and not to conceive strong resolutions to become a saint, in order not to be ungrateful to so loving a God ? Faith is necessary; for had not faith assured us of it, who could ever believe what a God has actually done for the love of us ? He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant. Who, had he not the infallible assurance of faith, could, at the sight of Jesus, born in a stable, believe that he is the God who is adored by the angels in heaven ? How, without the aid of faith, can he who beholds the Saviour flying into Egypt, in order to escape from the hands of Herod, believe that he is omnipotent ? How could we, without the assurance of faith, believe that he whom we see sorrowful unto death in the Garden, is infinitely happy ? or that he who was bound to a pillar, and suspended on a gibbet, is the Lord of the universe ?
How great should be our astonishment if we saw a king become a worm, crawling along the earth, living in a filthy hole, and thence making laws, appointing ministers, and governing his kingdom ? O holy faith, unfold to us who Jesus Christ is, who this man is, who appears as insignificant as the rest of men. The Word was made flesh. St. John assures us that he is the eternal Word, the only- begotten of God. And what sort of life has this Man-God led on earth ? Behold it described by the prophet Isaias: And we have seen him . . . despised and most abject of men, a man of sorrows? He wished to be a man of sorrows; that is, he wished to be afflicted with ail sorrows, and not to be for a moment free from pain. He was a man of sorrows and loaded with insults: Despised and the most abject of men. Yes, for Jesus was the most insulted and maltreated of all mortals, as if he had been the last and most contemptible of men. A God bound as a malefactor by the officers of justice ! A God scourged as a slave ! A God treated as a mock king ! A God dying on an infamous gibbet !
How great the impression which these prodigies should make on him who believes them ? How great the desire which they should infuse of suffering for Jesus Christ ? St. Francis de Sales has said, “All the wounds of the Redeemer are, as it were, so many mouths which teach us how we ought to suffer for him. The science of the the saints consists in constantly suffering for Jesus; by constantly suffering for him we shall soon become saints. How ardent the love with which we shall be inflamed at the sight of the flames which are found in the bosom of the Redeemer ? Oh, what a happiness to burn with the same fire with which our God burns ? How delightful to be united to God with the chains of love !”
But why do so many Christians behold with indifference Jesus on the cross ? During the holy week they are present at the celebration of his death, but without sentiments of tenderness or gratitude, and as if they commemorated an event which never happened, or which does not concern them. Perhaps they neither know nor believe what the Gospels relate of the Passion of Jesus Christ ? I answer and say, that they know it and believe it, but they do not reflect on it. Ah ! for those who believe and reflect on the Passion of the Redeemer, it is impossible not to burn with love for a God who suffers such torments, and dies for the love of them. The charity of Christ presseth us. The Apostle meant to say that, in thinking on the Passion of our Lord, we should consider not so much the sorrows and insults which he suffered as the love with which he bore them; for Jesus Christ wished to submit to such torments, not only to save us (since for our salvation a single petition offered by him to his Father would be sufficient), but also to make us understand the affection which he entertained for us, and thus gain our hearts. Ah ! a soul that thinks of this love of Jesus Christ cannot but love him. The charity of Christ presseth us. It will feel itself bound and constrained, as it were by force, to consecrate all its affections to him. Hence Jesus Christ has died for us all, that we may live no longer to ourselves, but to this most loving Redeemer, who has sacrificed his divine life for our salvation.
O happy you, O loving souls, who frequently meditate on the Passion of Jesus ! You shall, says Isaias, draw waters with joy out of the Saviour’s fountains. From the blessed fountains of the wounds of the Saviour you shall continually draw waters of love and confidence. And how can even the greatest sinner (if he repent of his sins) ever despair of the divine mercy at the sight of Jesus crucified, when he knows that the Eternal Father has placed on his beloved Son all our sins, that he might atone for them ? And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all. How, says St. Paul, can we be afraid that God will refuse us any grace after having given us his own Son ? He that spareth not even His own Son, but delivereth Him up for us all, how hath He not also with Him given us all things ?
CONSIDERATIONS ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST
In this introduction, the saintly author informs us that when he wrote this treatise he was seventy-seven years of age. This was thirteen years after he had written the Simple Exposition of the Passion. The considerations he wrote less for the use of others than for his own spiritual advantage, being desirous of preparing himself well for death. He sent the little work to a pious person, with a letter dated September 8, 1773, in which he says: ” You may use this little book in your prayers when you meditate on the Passion. I am using it myself every day. I desire that you should not allow a day to pass without recalling to your mind, with the aid of this or another book, something of the Passion. The Passion was for the saints a continual subject of meditation.” — Ed.
How pleasing is it to Jesus Christ that we should often remember his Passion, and the shameful death which he suffered for us, can be well understood from his having instituted the most holy Sacrament of the Altar for this very end, that there might ever dwell in us the lively memory of the love which he bore to us in sacrificing himself on the cross for our salvation. Let us, then, recollect that on the night preceding his death he instituted this sacrament of love, and, when he had distributed his body to the disciples, he said to them, and through them to all of us, that in receiving the Holy Communion we should bear in mind what great things he has suffered for us: As often as ye shall eat this bread and drink this cup, ye shall shrnv forth the Lord’s death, Therefore, in the Mass the Holy Church ordains that after the consecration the celebrant shall say, in the name of Jesus Christ, As often as ye do this, ye shall do it in memory of Me. And the angelic St. Thomas writes, ” That the memory of the great things that he has done for us might ever remain with us, he left us his own body to be received as our food.”. The saint then goes on to say that through this sacrament is preserved the memory of the boundless love which Jesus Christ has shown us in his Passion.
If we were to endure injuries and stripes for the sake of a friend, and were then to learn that our friend, when he heard any one speak of what we had done, would not pay any heed to it, but turned the conversation, and said, “Let us talk of something else,” what pain we should suffer at the sight of the neglect of the ungrateful man ! And, on the other hand, how glad we should be to find that our friend admitted that he was under an eternal obligation to us, that he constantly bore it in mind, and spoke of it with affection and with tears. Therefore the saints, knowing how much it pleases Jesus Christ that we should often call to mind his Passion, have been almost perpetually occupied in meditating on the pains and insults which our loving Redeemer suffered during his whole life, and still more in his death. St. Augustine writes that there is no more profitable occupation for the soul than to meditate daily on the Passion of the Lord. It was revealed by God to a holy anchorite, that there is no exercise more adapted to inflame the heart with divine love than the thought of the death of Jesus Christ. And to St. Gertrude, as Blosius records, it was revealed that as often as we look with devotion upon the crucifix, so often does Jesus look upon us with love. Blosius adds, that to consider or read of any portion of the Passion brings greater profit than any other devout exercise. Therefore St. Bonaventure writes, ” O Passion worthy of love, which renders divine him who meditates upon it.” And, speaking of the wounds of the Crucified, he calls them wounds which pierce the hardest hearts, and inflame the coldest souls with divine love.
It is related in the life of the Blessed Bernard of Corlione, a Capuchin, that when his brother religious desired to teach him to read, he went to take advice from Him who was crucified, and that the Lord replied to him, ” What is reading ? what are books ? I who was crucified will be thy book, in which thou mayest read the love I bore thee.” Jesus crucified was also the beloved book of St. Philip Benitius; and when the saint was dying, he desired to have his book given him. Those who stood by, however, did not know what book he wanted ; but Brother Ubaldo, his confidential friend, offered to him the image of the Crucified, on which the saint said, “This is my book;” and, kissing the sacred wounds, breathed out his blessed soul.
For myself, in my spiritual works, I have often written of the Passion of Jesus Christ, but yet I think that it will not be unprofitable to devout souls if I here add many other points and reflections which I have read in various books, or which have occurred to myself ; and I have determined to commit them to writing, both for the use of others, and especially for my own profit; for finding myself, now that I am putting together this little treatise, near to death, at the age of seventy-seven years, I have been desirous to prolong these considerations, by way of preparing myself for the great day of account. And, in fact, I make my own poor meditations on these very points ; often and often reading some portion, in order that, whenever my last hour shall come, I may find myself occupied in keeping before my eyes Jesus crucified, who is my only hope, and thus I hope to breathe out my soul into his hands. Let us, then, begin the proposed reflections.
Necessity of a Redeemer, and his qualities. The Incarnation of the Word, his life. Error of the Jews. Prophecies. Figures of the Old Testament. Other prophecies. Thanks due to the Father and to the Son. The death of Jesus Christ is our salvation. It is an instruction and an example; it is a motive of confidence and of love
Prophecy of Isaias. Abasement of the promised Redeemer, Humiliations and sufferings of Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ suffered voluntarily for us, The sufferings of Jesus were extreme, Interior sufferings of our Saviour. Patience of Jesus Christ. Fruits of his death. Prophecies of David. Various circumstances. Jesus Christ is the true Messias. Superabundance of his merits
The scourging. The crowning with thorns. Jesus carries his cross. The crucifixion. Jesus upon the cross
Agony of Jesus on the cross. ” If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross,”. ” He saved others, himself he cannot save,”. “If God loves him, let him deliver him now”
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. “Amen, I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise”. “Woman, behold thy son. . . . Behold thy mother”. ” Eli, Eli, lamma Sabacthani ? that is, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”. ” I thirst”. ” It is consummated”. ‘ Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”
Jesus dies, and triumphs over death. Jesus dead on the cross. The fruits of the death of our Saviour.
Mourning of all nature. Darkness. The rending of the veil of the temple. The earthquake. Resurrection of the dead, and conversions. The Heart of Jesus is pierced. Burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
God so loved men, that he gave his own Son to redeem them. The Son of God offered himself for the love of us. Jesus died not only for us all, but for each one of us.
Jesus crucified is our only hope in all our wants. The hope that we have in Jesus Christ that he will pardon our sins. The hope that we have in Jesus Christ that he will grant us final perseverance. The hope that we have in Jesus Christ that he will grant us eternal happiness.
XI. The patience that we must exercise in company with Jesus Christ in order to obtain eternal salvation
It is necessary to suffer, and to suffer with patience. The sight of Jesus crucified consoles us and sustains us in sufferings. The Passion of our Saviour will give us strength when at the point of death. Confidence in Jesus Christ and love for him.
MEDITATIONS ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST FOR EACH DAY OF THE WEEK.
MEDITATIONS DRAWN FROM THE CONSIDERATIONS.
MEDITATIONS FOR THE LAST FIFTEEN DAYS OF LENT.
MEDITATIONS FOR THE EASTER FESTIVAL