JESUS CHRIST AND HIS WORK OF REDEMPTION
SUFFERING WITH CHRIST
An Anthology of the Writings of Dom Columba Marmion, O.S.B.
COMPILED BY DOM RAYMUND THIBAUT, O.S.B.
THE NEWMAN PRESS
Nihil Obstat: Edward A. Cerny, 5.5., D.D. Censor librorum
Imprimatur: Francis P. Keough, DD. Archbishop of
March 17, 1952
B. Christ's Work of
I. HOW CHRIST
BEGAN HIS SACRIFICE FROM THE MOMENT OF HIS BIRTH
The sacrifice of this one Pontiff is on a par with His priesthood:
it was likewise from the moment of His Incarnation that Jesus
You know that in Christ, the soul, created like ours, was not, however,
subject to the progressive development of the corporal organism for the
exercise of the faculties proper to it, intelligence and will: His soul
had, from the first moment of its existence, the perfection of its own
life, as befitted a soul united to the Divinity.
Now, St. Paul reveals to us the first movement of the soul of Jesus at
the instant of His Incarnation.
In one and the same glance, it beholds the ages past, the abyss wherein
humanity lies powerless to liberate itself, the multiplicity and
fundamental insufficiency of all the sacrifices of the Old Law; for no
creature, however perfect, can worthily repair the injury committed by
sin against the Creator. Christ beholds the programme of immolation
that God demands of Him in order to work out the world's
What a solemn moment for the soul of
Jesus! What a moment too for the human race.
What does His soul do? With a
movement of intense love, it yields itself to perfect the work, both
human and Divine, which alone can render glory to the Father in saving
humanity. O Father, "sacrifice and oblation Thou wouldst not," they are
not sufficiently worthy of Thee, "but a body Thou hast fitted to Me":
Corpus autem aptasti mihi. And wherefore hast Thou given it to
requirest that I should offer it to Thee in sacrifice. "Behold I come.
In the head of the book [of My life] it is written of Me that I should
do Thy will, O God": Ecce venio, in
capite libri scriptum est de me ut
faciam, Deus, voluntatem tuam.
With a perfect will, Christ
accepted that sum of sorrows which began with the lowliness of the
manger only to be ended by the ignominy of the Cross. From His entrance
into this world, Christ offered Himself as Victim: the first action of
His life was a sacerdotal act.
What creature is able to measure
the love that filled this sacerdotal act of Jesus? Who is able to know
its intensity and describe its splendour? The silence of adoration can
alone praise it in some degree.
Never has Christ Jesus retracted
this act, nor withdrawn anything from this gift. All His life was
ordered in view of His sacrifice upon the Cross. Read the Gospel in
this light and you will see how in every mystery and state of Jesus is
found an element of sacrifice leading Him little by little to the
height of Calvary, so much is the character of High Priest, Mediator
and Saviour essential to His Person. We shall never grasp the true
physiognomy of the Person of Jesus unless we constantly have in view
His redeeming mission by the sacrifice and immolation of Himself. This
is why when St. Paul said that he summed up everything in the knowledge
of the mystery of Jesus, he immediately added: "and Him
crucified": Non enim judicavi
aliquid scire inter vos nisi Jesum
Christum, ET HUNC CRUCIFIXUM.
in His Mysteries, Part I, Chapter 5, Section 2
The human nature of Jesus, the Son of God, is similar in everything to
that of His brethren: Debuit per
omnia fratribus similari, says St.
Paul, excepting sin: Absque peccato.
Jesus has not known sin, nor that
which is the source and consequence of sin----ignorance, error,
sickness, all things unworthy of His wisdom, His dignity and His
But our Divine Saviour willed, during His mortal life, to bear our
infirmities, all those infirmities compatible with His sanctity. The
Gospel clearly shows us this. There is nothing in the nature of man
that Jesus has not sanctified; our labours, our sufferings, our tears.
He has made all these His own. See Him at Nazareth: during thirty years
He spent His life in the obscure toil of an artisan, so that when He
began to preach, His compatriots were astonished, for up to this time
they had only known Him as the son of the carpenter: Unde huic omnia
ista? Nonne hic est fabri filius?
Like us our Lord has felt hunger; after having fasted in the desert "He
was hungry": Postea esuriit.
He has suffered thirst: did He not ask the
Samaritan woman to give Him to drink, Da
mih bibere? and upon the Cross
did He not cry: "I thirst," Sitio?
Like us He has felt fatigue; He was
often fatigued by His long journeys throughout Palestine. When at
Jacob's well, He asked for water to quench His thirst. St. John tells
us that He was wearied; it was the hour of noon, and after having
walked far and being wearied, He sat down on the side of the well: Fatigatus ex itinere, sedebat sic supra
fontem. Hora erat quasi sexta.
Thus then, in the words of St. Augustine in the wonderful commentary he
has given us on this beautiful evangelical scene, "He Who is the very
Strength of God is overwhelmed with lassitude": Fatigatur Virtus Dei.
Slumber has closed His eyelids; He slept in the boat when the tempest
rose: Ipse vero dormiebat. He
really slept, so the Apostles fearing to
be engulfed by the angry waves, had to awaken Him. He wept over
Jerusalem, His Own city which He loved despite its ingratitude; the
thought of the disasters that, after His death, were to fall upon it
drew tears from His eyes: "If thou hadst also known . . . the things
are to thy peace!" Flevit super illam.
He wept at the death of Lazarus,
as we weep over those we cherish, so that the Jews who witnessed this
sight, said to one another: "Behold how He loved him!" Christ shed
tears because His Heart was touched; He wept for him who was His
friend; the tears sprang from the depth of His Heart. Several times too
it is said of Him in the Gospel that His Heart was touched with
the Life of the Soul, Part I, Chapter 2, Section 2
He burns to achieve His sacrifice: Baptismo autem habeo baptizari, et quomodo
There is in Jesus, if we may so speak, a kind of enthusiasm for His
sacrifice. See again in the Gospel how our Divine Saviour begins to
disclose to His Apostles, gradually in order to spare their weakness,
the mystery of His sufferings. One day He tells them that He must go to
Jerusalem, that He will suffer many things from His enemies, and will
be put to death. Then Peter immediately taking Him aside says: "Lord,
be it far from Thee." But Jesus answers: "Go behind me, Satan, thou art
a scandal unto Me; because thou savourest not the things that are of
God, but the things that are of men." In the midst of the splendours of
His Transfiguration upon Tabor of what did the Saviour speak with Moses
and Elias? Of His coming Passion.
Christ thirsted to give to His Father the glory which His sacrifice was
to procure for Him: Iota unum aut
unus apex non praeteribit a lege,
donec omnia fiant. He wishes to fulfill everything to the last
that is to say, to the least detail.
in His Mysteries, Part I, Chapter 5, Section 2
Still more than this, He has felt sadness, heaviness and fear: Coepit pavere et taedere, et maestus esse;
in His agony in the Garden of Olives, His soul is overwhelmed with
sorrow: Tristis est anima mea usque
ad mortem; anguish penetrated His
soul to the point of wringing from it "a strong cry and tears." All the
mockeries, all the outrages with which He was saturated in His Passion,
the being buffeted and spit upon, all these insults, far from leaving
Him insensible, caused Him intense suffering. His nature being more
perfect, His sensibility was the greater and more delicate. He was
plunged in an abyss of suffering. Lastly, after having shown Himself to
be truly man, like to us in all things, He willed to endure death like
all the sons of Adam: Et inclinato
capite tradidit spiritum.
the Life of the Soul, Part I, Chapter 2, Section 2
Finally upon Calvary, He consummates His immolation, and is able to
say, before drawing His last breath, that He has entirely fulfilled all
that His Father had given Him to do: Consummatum
est. This last cry of
the Divine Victim upon the Cross corresponds to the Ecce venio of the
Incarnation in the Virgin's bosom.
in His Mysteries, Part I, Chapter 5, Section 2
II. THE GREATNESS AND THE
FECUNDITY OF THE HIDDEN LIFE OF CHRIST
Out of a life of thirty-three years, He Who is Eternal Wisdom
chose to pass thirty of these years in silence and obscurity,
submission and labour.
Herein lies a mystery and teaching of which many souls, even pious
souls, do not grasp all the meaning.
He Who is infinite and eternal, one day after centuries of waiting,
humbles Himself to take a human form: Semetipsum
exinanivit, formam servi accipiens . . . et habitu inventus ut homo.
Although He is born of a spotless Virgin, the Incarnation constitutes
an incommensurable abasement for Him: Non
horruisti virginis uterum. And why does He descend into these
abysses? To save the world, in bringing to it the Divine Light.
Now----excepting those rays granted to a few privileged souls: the
shepherds, the Magi, Simeon and Anna----this Light is hidden; it
remains voluntarily, during thirty years, "under a bushel," sub modio,
to be at last manifested only for the duration of scarcely three years.
Is not this mysterious; is it not even disconcerting for our reason? If
we had known the mission of Jesus, should we not have asked Him, as
many of His kinsfolk did later, to manifest Himself to the world? Manifesta teipsum mundo.
But God's thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are higher than
our ways. He Who comes to redeem the world wills to save it first of
all by a life hidden from the eyes of the world.
Until He is thirty years old, Jesus, Who is God and comes to redeem the
human race, lives, in a poor workshop, a life of labour and submission
and obscurity. [He Who is to teach humanity and draw it out of the
abyss into which Adam's proud disobedience had plunged it chose to live
in silence and obey two creatures in the performance of the most
In the sight of His contemporaries, the life of Jesus Christ at
Nazareth then appeared like the ordinary existence of a simple artisan.
We see how true this is. Later, when Christ reveals Himself in His
public life, the Jews of His country are so astonished at His wisdom
and His words, at the sublimity of His doctrine and the greatness of
His works, that they ask each other: "How came this man by this wisdom
and miracles? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not His Mother called
Mary? . . . Whence therefore hath He all these things?" Unde huic sapientia haec et virtutes?
Nonne hic est fabri filius? Nonne mater ejus dicitur Maria? Unde ergo
huic omnia ista? Christ was a stumbling block for them.
This mystery of the hidden life contains teachings which our faith
ought eagerly to gather up.
First of all there is nothing great in the sight of God except that
which is done for His glory, through the grace of Christ. We are only
acceptable to God according to the measure in which we are like unto
His Son Jesus.
Christ's Divine sonship gives infinite value to His least actions;
Christ Jesus is not less adorable nor less pleasing to His Father when
He wields the chisel or plane than when He dies upon the Cross to save
humanity. In us, sanctifying grace, which makes us God's adoptive
children, deifies all our activity in its root and renders us worthy,
like Jesus, although by a different title, of His Father's complacency.
The most precious talents, the most sublime thoughts, the most generous
and splendid actions are without merit for eternal life if not vivified
by sanctifying grace. The passing world may admire and applaud them;
eternal life neither accepts them nor holds them of account. "What doth
it profit a man," said Jesus, the infallible Truth, "if he gain the
whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?"
What does it serve a man to conquer the world by the force of arms, by
the charm of eloquence or the authority of knowledge, if, not having
God's grace, he be shut out from the kingdom that has no end?
See, on the other hand, that poor workman who painfully gains his
livelihood, this humble servant ignored by the world, this beggar
disdained by all: no one heeds them. If Christ's grace animates them,
these souls delight the Angels, they are continual objects of love for
the Infinite Being; they bear within them, by grace, the very features
Sanctifying grace is the first source of our true greatness. It confers
upon our life, however commonplace it may seem, its true nobility and
But this gift is hidden. The kingdom of God is built up in silence; it
is, before all things, interior, and hidden in the depths of the soul: Vita vestra est abscondita cum Christo in
Undoubtedly grace possesses a virtue which nearly always overflows in
works of charity, but the principle of its power is entirely within. It
is in the depths of the heart that the true intensity of the Christian
life lies, it is there that God dwells, adored and served by faith,
recollection, humility, obedience, simplicity, labour and love.
Our outward activity has no stability nor supernatural fruitfulness
save insofar as it is linked to this interior life.
We shall truly only bear fruit outwardly according to the measure of
the supernatural intensity of our inner life.
What can we do greater here below than promote Christ's reign within
souls? What work is worth so much as that? It is the whole work of
Jesus and of the Church.
We shall, however, succeed in it by no other means than those employed
by our Divine Head. Let us be thoroughly convinced that we shall do
more work for the good of the Church, the salvation of souls, the glory
of our Heavenly Father, in seeking first of all to remain united to God
by a life of love and faith of which He is alone the object, than by a
devouring and feverish activity which leaves us no leisure to find God
again in solitude, recollection, prayer and self-detachment.
Nothing favours this intense union of the soul with God like the hidden
life. And this is why souls living the inner life, and enlightened from
on high, love to contemplate the life of Jesus at Nazareth. They find
in it a special charm and, moreover, abundant graces of holiness.
Truly, my Saviour, You are a hidden God: Deus absconditus, Israel Salvator.
Doubtless, O Jesus, You grow "in wisdom, age and grace with God and
men." Your soul possesses the fullness of grace from the first moment
Your entrance into this world, and all the treasures of knowledge and
wisdom, but this wisdom and this grace are only manifested little by
little. You remain a hidden God in the eyes of men. Your Divinity is
veiled beneath the outward appearance of a workman. O Eternal Wisdom
Who, to draw us out of the abyss into which Adam's proud disobedience
had plunged us, chose to live in a humble workshop and therein to obey
creatures, I adore and bless You!
----------Christ in His
Mysteries, Part II, Chapter 9, Section 4
III. THE LOVE OF CHRIST FOR HIS
FELLOW MEN DURING HIS PUBLIC LIFE
One of the principal and most touching aspects of the economy of the
Incarnation is the manifestation of the Divine perfections made to men
through the human nature of Jesus. God's attributes, His eternal
perfections are incomprehensible to us here below, they surpass our
understanding. But, in becoming man, the Incarnate Word reveals to the
most simple minds the inaccessible perfections of His Divinity, by the
words which fall from His human lips and by the actions performed by
His human nature. We are charmed and drawn to Him as He enables us to
grasp these Divine perfections by His visible actions: Ut dum visibiliter Deum cognoscimus, per
hunc in invisibilium amorem rapiamur.
It is above all during the public life of Jesus that this economy full
of wisdom and mercy is declared and carried into effect.
Of all the Divine perfections, love is certainly the one that the
Incarnate Word is most pleased to reveal to us.
The human heart needs a tangible love in order to realize something of
infinite love, deeper far as it is than this tangible love and
surpassing our understanding. Nothing, indeed, so much attracts our
poor hearts as to contemplate Jesus Christ, true God as well as true
Man, translating the eternal goodness into human deeds. When we see Him
lavishly scattering around Him inexhaustible treasures of compassion
and mercy, we are able to conceive something of the infinity of that
ocean of Divine kindness whence the Sacred Heart draws these treasures
Let us dwell on some traits; we shall see with what condescension, at
times surprising, our Saviour stoops towards human misery under every
form, sin included. And never forget that, even when He stoops towards
us, He remains the very Son of God, God Himself, the Almighty Being,
Infinite Wisdom, Who, ordering all things in truth, does nothing save
what is sovereignly perfect. This undoubtedly gives to the words of
kindness that He utters, to the deeds of mercy that He performs, an
inestimable value that infinitely enhances them, and especially wins
our hearts by manifesting to us the profound charms of the Heart of our
Christ, of our God.
You know the first miracle of the public life of Jesus: the water
changed into wine at the marriage feast of Cana, at the prayer of His
Mother. For our human hearts, what an unexpected revelation of the
Divine tenderness and delicacy! Some austere ascetics may be
scandalized to see a miracle asked for or wrought in order to hide the
temporal need of a poor household during a wedding banquet. And yet it
is this that the Blessed Virgin does not hesitate to ask, it is this
that Christ vouchsafes to work. Jesus allows Himself to be touched by
the embarrassment in which these poor people were about to find
themselves; so as to spare them, He works a great prodigy. And what His
Heart herein reveals to us of human goodness and humble condescension
is but the outward manifestation of Divine goodness whence the other
has its source. For, whatever the Son does, the Father does it also.
A short time afterwards, in the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus, quoting
from Isaias, appropriates to Himself these words unveiling the plan of
His work of love: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. Wherefore He hath
anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor, He hath sent Me to heal
the contrite of heart, to preach deliverance to the captives, and sight
to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the
acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of reward."
"This day," Jesus adds, "is fulfilled this scripture in your ears."
And indeed Jesus reveals Himself to all as a King full of meekness and
kindness. I should need to quote every page of the Gospel if I would
show you how misery, weakness, infirmity and suffering have the gift of
touching Him, and in so irresistible a manner that He can refuse them
nothing. St. Luke is careful to note how He is "moved with compassion":
Misericordia motus. The blind
and the lame, the deaf and dumb, those with the palsy, lepers come to
Him; the Gospel says that He "healed all": Sanabat omnes.
He welcomes them all too with unwearying gentleness. He allows Himself
to be pressed on all sides, continually, even "after sunset"; one day
He "could not so much as eat bread"; another time, on the shore of the
Lake of Tiberias, He is obliged to enter into a ship so as to be more
at liberty to distribute the Divine word. Elsewhere the multitude
throng into the house where He is, so that in order to enable a
paralytic man lying upon his bed to come near to Him, there is no other
resource save to let down the sick man through an opening made in the
The Apostles themselves were often impatient. The Divine Master took
occasion of this to show them His gentleness. One day they want to send
away the children that are brought to Him. "Suffer the little children
to come unto Me," Jesus says, "and forbid them not, for of such is the
kingdom of God." And He stays to lay His hands upon them and bless
them. Another time, the disciples, being angry because He had not been
received in a city of Samaria, urge Him to allow them to "command fire
to come down from Heaven" to consume the inhabitants: Domine, vis dicimus ut ignis descendat de
caelo? And Jesus immediately rebukes them: Et con versus increpavit illos:
"You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of man came not to
destroy souls, but to save."
This is so true that Jesus works miracles even to raise the dead to
life. Behold how at Naim He meets a poor widow following the mortal
remains of her only son. Jesus sees her, He sees her tears; His Heart,
deeply touched, cannot bear this sorrow. "O woman, weep not!" Noli flere.
And at once He commands death to give up its prey: "Young man, I say to
thee, arise." The young man sits up, and Jesus restores him to his
All these manifestations of the mercy and goodness of Jesus, which
reveal to us the sensibility of His human Heart, touch the deepest
fibres of our being; they reveal, under a form which we are able to
grasp, the infinite love of our God. When we see Christ weeping at the
tomb of Lazarus, and hear the Jews, who witnessed this sight, say to
one another: "Behold how He loved him," our hearts comprehend this
silent language of the human tears of Jesus, and we penetrate into the
sanctuary of eternal love that they unveil: Qui videt me, videt et Patrem.
We see too how everything that Christ does condemns our selfishness,
our harshness, our dryness of heart, our impulses of anger and revenge,
our resentment towards our neighbour! . . . We too often forget those
words of our Saviour: "As long as you did it to one of these My least
brethren, you did it to Me."
O Jesus, Who hast said: "Learn of Me because I am meek and humble of
Heart," make our hearts like to Thine. Following Thy example, may we be
merciful so that we may "obtain mercy" for ourselves, but above all so
that by imitating Thee, we may become like to our Father in Heaven.
----------Christ in His
Mysteries, Part II, Chapter 11, Section 3
Christ Jesus is both God and Man; perfect God, perfect Man; that is the
very mystery of the Incarnation. As "Son of Man," Christ has a Heart
like ours, a Heart of flesh, a Heart that beats for us with the
tenderest, the truest, the noblest, the most faithful love that ever
was. In his Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul told them that he
earnestly besought God that they might be able to comprehend what is
the breadth and length, and height and depth, of the mystery of Jesus,
so much was he dazzled by the incommensurable riches that it contained.
He might have said as much of the love of the Heart of Jesus for us; he
did say so in fact when he declared that this love "surpasseth all
knowledge." And, indeed, we shall never exhaust the treasure of
tenderness, of loveableness, of kindness and charity, of which the
Heart of the Man-God is the burning furnace. We have only to open the
Gospel and, on each page, we shall see shine out the goodness, the
mercy, the condescension of Jesus towards men. I have tried, in
pointing out some aspects of the public life of Christ, to show you how
deeply human and infinitely delicate is this love. This love of Christ
is not a chimera, it is very real, for it is founded upon the reality
of the Incarnation itself. The Blessed Virgin, St. John, Magdalen,
Lazarus knew this well. It was not only a love of the will, but also a
heartfelt love. When Christ Jesus said: "I have compassion on the
multitude," He really felt the fibres of His human Heart moved by pity;
when He saw Martha and Mary weeping for the loss of their brother, He
wept with them; truly human tears were wrung from His Heart.
----------Christ in His
Mysteries, Part II, Chapter 19, Section 2
Christ loved to give pleasure. The first miracle of His public life was
to change water into wine at the marriage feast of Cana, so as to spare
His hosts any confusion when the wine failed. We hear Him promise to
refresh all who labour and are burdened and come to Him. And how well
He has kept His promise! The Evangelists often repeat that it is
because He is "moved with compassion,"
that He works His miracles; it is from this motive He cures the lepers
and raises the son of the widow of Naim. It is because He has
compassion on the multitude who, having unweariedly followed Him during
three days, now suffer hunger, that He multiplies the loaves: Misereor super turbam.
Zacheus, a chief of the publicans, one of that class of Jews looked
upon as sinners by the Pharisees, ardently wishes to see Christ. But,
on account of his short stature, he cannot succeed in doing so, for the
multitude surrounds Jesus on every side. Therefore Zacheus climbs up
into a tree along the road where Jesus is about to pass, and our Lord
anticipates this publican's desire. Having come close up to him, He
tells him to come down for He wills to be his guest that very hour, and
Zacheus, full of joy, and at the height of his wishes, receives Him
into his house.
Christ, says St. Paul, who loves to employ this term, is the very
kindness of God appearing upon earth; He is a King, but a King full of
meekness, Who bids us forgive and proclaims those blessed who,
following His example, are merciful. St. Peter, who had lived with Him
three years, says that everywhere He went about doing good, Pertransiit
benefaciendo. Like the Good Samaritan, whose charitable action
wonderfully describes, Christ has taken humanity into His arms, He has
taken its sorrows into His soul: Vere
languores nostros ipse tulit, et dolores nostros ipse portavit.
He comes "for the destruction of sin," which is the supreme evil, the
only true evil; He drives out the devil from the bodies of the
possessed; but, above all, He drives him out from souls, in giving His
Own life for each one of us: Dilexit
me et tradidit semetipsum pro me.
What greater mark of love is there than this? There is none. Majorem hac dilectionem nemo habet ut
animam suam ponat quis pro amicis suis.
----------Christ in His Mysteries, Part II,
Chapter 11, Section 3
Christ Jesus does not change. He was yesterday, He is today: His Heart
remains the most loving and most lovable that could be met with. St.
Paul tells us explicitly that we ought to have full confidence in Jesus
because He is a compassionate High Priest Who knows our sufferings, our
miseries, our infirmities, having Himself espoused our
weaknesses----saving sin. Doubtless, Christ Jesus can no longer suffer:
Mors illi ultra non dominabitur,
but He remains the One Who was moved by compassion, Who suffered and
redeemed men through love: Dilexit
me et tradidit semetipsum pro me.
----------Christ in His Mysteries, Part II,
Chapter 19, Section 2
THE IMAGE PLAIN, LARGE-----------OUR LADY