Taken From

An Anthology of the Writings of Dom Columba Marmion, O.S.B.

Nihil Obstat: Edward A. Cerny, 5.5., D.D. Censor librorum
Imprimatur: Francis P. Keough, DD. Archbishop of Baltimore
March 17, 1952

B. Christ's Work of Redemption


The sacrifice of this one Pontiff is on a par with His priesthood: it was likewise from the moment of His Incarnation that Jesus inaugurated it.

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 me? Thou 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Never has Christ Jesus retracted this act, nor withdrawn anything from this gift.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.

----------Christ 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 Divinity.

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 that 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 compassion.

----------Christ, the Life of the Soul, Part I, Chapter 2, Section 2

He burns to achieve His sacrifice: Baptismo autem habeo baptizari, et quomodo COARCTOR usquedum perficiatur.

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 iota, that is to say, to the least detail.

----------Christ 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.

----------Christ, 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.
----------Christ in His Mysteries, Part I, Chapter 5, Section 2

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 ordinary actions.]

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 of Christ.

Sanctifying grace is the first source of our true greatness. It confers upon our life, however commonplace it may seem, its true nobility and imperishable splendour.

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 Deo. 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 of 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


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 for us.

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 roof.

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 mother.

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," Misericordia motus, 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 He so 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