Many saints write about the path to holiness as being paved by meditating on the Passion. These writings motivated me to use this Lenten season to develop that practice. I hope that it will stick long after Lent is over. Baby steps have marked my path thus far, but as I see it, baby steps are better than no steps.
As I reflected on this topic, I thought about how often we hear the story of the Passion, and how often we simply hear the words without letting them change us. I think that part of it is familiarity with the words and the story, and I think another part is not really being able to grasp them as being real. I shun violence. I recoil from it. Nothing of it draws me deeper to it. Yet this horrible act of violence differs from all others. It restores life. Its root is love. Its injustice justifies. Priest and victim are one.
I want this season’s Palm Sunday and Good Friday liturgies to steal my heart. This will only happen if I do my part. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). I am the one who must change. I must give Him my heart by entering more fully into His saving love on the Cross and on the road to Calvary.
In my quest to see what the saints say about meditating on the Passion, I found quite a bit of material. I though it might interest you to see what some say about the importance of this meditation. Perhaps their words will propel you on your path to sanctity. Below are quotes I found from an excellent website called “Saints and the Passion“. It has some excellent writings and practices.
Let’s begin with the words of St. Peter of Alcantara because he lays out in very clear terms what our response to the Passion should be. I pray the writings of these holy saints will inspire you to draw nearer to Jesus in His Most Sorrowful Passion.
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world! Anne
Reflections from the saints on meditating on the Passion of Our Lord
In the passion of our blessed Savior, six things chiefly are to be meditated upon.
the bitterness of his sorrow, that we may compassionate with him.
the greatness of our sins, which were the cause of his torments, that we may abhor them.
the greatness of the benefit, that we may be grateful for it.
the excellency of the divine charity and bounty therein manifested, that we may love him more fervently.
the conveniency of the mystery, that we may be drawn to admiration of it.
the multiplicity of virtues of our blessed Savior which did shine in this stupendous mystery, that we may partly imitate and partly admire them; wherefore, in the midst of these meditations, let us sometimes compassionate with our blessed Savior in the extremity of his sorrows; extreme indeed, both by reason of the tenderness of his body, as also, for the great affection he bore unto our souls.
He did suffer them without any manner of consolation, as we shall speak hereafter in its proper place. Sometimes let us stir up in ourselves compunction for our sins, which were the cause of his great sufferings. Sometimes let us kindle in our souls an ardent affection, considering his great affection towards us, which upon the cross he declared and manifested to the whole world. And the benefit which he bestowed upon us in his passion, because he bought us with the inestimable price of his precious blood, of which only, we reap the benefit and commodity.
St. Peter of Alcantara,
Seven other meditations of the Passion of Our Lord,
and the manner how it ought to be meditated upon.
A golden treatise of mental prayer. Chapter IV.
“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.
In our meditation, the Passion of Christ comes out of its cold historical frame and stops being a pious consideration, presenting itself before our eyes, as terrible, brutal, savage, bloody… yet full of Love.
—And we feel that sin cannot be regarded as just a trivial error: to sin is to crucify the Son of God, to tear his hands and feet with hammer blows, and to make his heart break.
St. Josemaría Escrivá
Furrow, Penance 993
“The remembrance of the most holy Passion of Jesus Christ is the door through which the soul enters into intimate union with God, interior recollection and most sublime contemplation…”
“The Passion of Christ is the greatest and most stupendous work of Divine Love. “The greatest and most overwhelming work of God’s love.”
“The most holy Passion of Jesus Christ is the most efficacious means to convert obstinate sinners.”
“The holy sufferings of Jesus is a sea of sorrows, but it is also a sea of love. Ask the Lord to teach you to fish in this sea. Immerse yourself in it, and, no matter how deeply you go, you will never reach the bottom. Allow yourself to be penetrated with love and sorrow. In this way you will make the sufferings of the gentle Jesus your own. Fish for the pearls of the virtues of Jesus. This holy fishing is done without words.” 8th April, 1758
St Paul of Cross,
The death and passion of Our Lord is the sweetest and most constraining motive that can animate our hearts in this mortal life… so, in the glory of heaven above, next to the Divine goodness known and considered in itself, Our Savior’s death shall most powerfully ravish the blessed spirits in the loving of God.
The religious who concerns himself intently and devoutly with our Lord’s most holy life and passion will find there an abundance of all things useful and necessary for him. He need not seek for anything better than Jesus.
He (St. Francis of Assisi ) was one day found by a gentleman shedding tears, and crying out with a loud voice: being asked the cause “I weep,” he answered, “over the sorrows and disgraces of my Lord: and what causes me the greatest sorrow is, that men, for whom he suffered so much, live in forgetfulness of him.” And on saying this he wept the more, so that this gentleman began also himself to weep.
As to the Passion of our Lord, …never in anything follow your own will and your own inclination, for that was the cause of His death and passion
if your soul is not elevated, go back to yourself, start from the beginning and review from head to foot all the ways in which this suffering God-man was afflicted and crucified. If you cannot regain and rediscover these ways in your heart, repeat them vocally, attentively and frequently; because what the lips say and repeat grants fervor and warmth to the heart
Beata Angela of Foligno,
Book of life, #18, p. 272.
Our Savior’s passion raises men and women from the depths, lifts them up from the earth, and sets them in the heights.
St. Maximus of Turin,
Sermons 53, 1-2. 4
One day,” writes Bonaventure, “while Francis was praying… Jesus Christ appeared to him fastened to the cross” “And the memory of Christ’s passion was so impressed on the innermost recesses of his heart that from that hour, whenever Christ’s crucifixion came to mind, he could scarcely contain his tears and sighs.”
But especially I commend earnest mental prayer to you, more particularly such as bears upon the Life and Passion of our Lord. If you contemplate Him frequently in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with Him, you will grow in His Likeness, and your actions will be moulded on His. He is the Light of the world; therefore in Him, by Him, and for Him we shall be enlightened and illuminated__