How to Meditate on the Passion
Source: THE SCHOOL
OF JESUS CRUCIFIED, Fr. Ignatius of the Side of Jesus, TAN
with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1895
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 may sinners find the encouragement and graces necessary for their conversion; from it may beginners derive strength and fervor wherewith to subdue their passions; in it may the good 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 favorite 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 you, O devout Christian, but only that you should daily spend half, or at least a quarter of an hour, in attentive consideration of some point of the Passion of Jesus. The man who is desirous of ascertaining the degree of pungency possessed by a grain of mustard seed, chews it leisurely, tastes it deliberately, keeps it in his mouth, and is careful not to swallow it whole, by which means its heat is fully communicated to his palate so as to bring tears to his eyes. Similar are the mysteries of the Passion of Jesus Christ; swallowed, as it were, in one mouthful, they touch not the heart; superficially run over ny a single passing thought, their virtue is not experienced in the soul; but when slowly digested by attentive consideration, they give rise to holy affections and wonderful resolutions. Only make the attempt, apply your mind diligently to this holy exercise, and you will be convinced, by your own experience, how great a change of heart, reformation of life, hatred of sin, and love of God it will produce in your soul. Make the attempt, and you will behold all the difficulties foolishly apprehended in meditation by foolish worldlings vanish before your eyes, and you will feel how sweet it is to the soul to remain in silence, contemplating Jesus Crucified.
In order to facilitate the practice of this holy exercise, I have arranged a Meditation, divided into three points, upon the principal mysteries of the Sacred Passion of Christ, for every day of the month. Do not be satisfied with merely glancing your eye down it and reading its contents in a hasty cursory manner, but read it very slowly, and pause frequently, in order to reflect attentively upon what you are reading.
Whatever mystery of the Passion you take for the subject of your meditation, you may 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.
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 you may excite your mind during your meditation upon the sufferings of Jesus 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!
exciting yourself to interior emotions of gratitude and appreciation of
the greatness of the benefits bestowed upon you by Jesus in His
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. Endeavor 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. Having made the affections, you should proceed to resolutions. Promise Our Lord that you will never more displease Him by mortal or even deliberate venial sin. Determine to avoid such or such a fault (name it), and to make use of such or such means (specify which). For example, to fly from such or such a house, to avoid such and such a companion, instantly to dismiss this or that thought, immediately to curb those bursts of passion, to place a guard over your eyes, to keep silence on such and such occasions, etc.
Remember that the principal fruit of your prayer consists in these resolutions, and far more in keeping them faithfully. Place them in the sacred Wounds of Jesus, and in the hands of Mary, and implore grace to put them in practice. Keep them in view during the whole course of the day, and an occasional examination as to the manner in which You are practicing them will be a most efficacious means of ensuring your fidelity.
Whoever follows the instructions here given will discover by experience how easy a practice is meditation on the Passion of Jesus Christ, and will clearly perceive how greatly those are deceived who say that it is a practice suitable only to religious and too difficult for seculars. Meditation, as I have already said, is in fact nothing more than the exercise of the memory, understanding and will, upon some mystery or truth of our holy Faith. Now, if we are accustomed to exercise those powers from morning till night on sensible objects which are often sinful, why should we not be able, with the assistance of God's grace, to exercise them in the consideration of the bitter Passion of Jesus Christ, our most loving Redeemer?
ACTS OF PREPARATION FOR MEDITATION
An Act of Faith
I BELIEVE, O my God, that Thou art here present. Wherever I direct the eyes of my mind, there do I find Thee. O how wonderful and incomprehensible is the omnipresence of my God! Thou dost deign to converse with me during this hour, and to communicate Thyself to my poor soul with so much love and condescension. O how great is the goodness of my God!
An Act of Adoration
O MY God, from out of the deep abyss of my nothingness, I humbly adore Thine infinite Majesty and Greatness with my whole heart and soul. I acknowledge Thee for my First Beginning, and my most blessed Last End, for my great and only Good, and for my All in time and eternity. I would willingly adore Thee as Thou dost deserve, and as my own heart desires to adore Thee, but since I never could succeed in so doing, I offer Thee all the acts of adoration which have been, or will be offered to Thee for eternity by the Saints and Angels in Heaven, and by the blessed Virgin, as also those made by the most holy Soul of Jesus Christ now and during all eternity. Accept them, O my God, in the place of those which I am unable to offer Thy Sovereign Majesty.
An Act of Humility
WHO am I, O my God, that I should dare to present myself before Thine infinite Majesty? I am a most wretched creature, or rather, an abyss of nothingness, an abominable sinner immersed in a sink of uncleanness. I am an abyss of sin and misery, deserving of nothing but Hell, where I should long ago have dwelt, had not Thy mercy so lovingly delivered me. I acknowledge, O my God, my great unworthiness, and I confess that I deserve to be forever banished from Thee; nevertheless in Thy infinite condescension Thou dost call, invite, and command me to come to Thee, to address Thee, and to converse with Thee. How great must be Thy goodness, O my God, who disdaineth not to admit me to familiar intercourse with Thee! I most profoundly humble myself before Thy Divine Majesty, and from out of the abyss of my sins and nothingness do I raise my voice in suppliant accents to implore Thy mercy.
An Act of Contrition
HAVE mercy on me, O my God; I repent of having so often offended Thee, and I am deeply grieved at having by my sins outraged Thine infinite goodness, O Thou Who hast loved and still lovest me to such a degree. Would that my grief were such as might break this heart which has dared to be unfaithful to Thee. I promise Thee, with the help of Thy grace, never more to return to my hateful sins, and rather to forfeit life itself than Thy love.
An Act of PetitionBEHOLD me then, my God, prostrate at Thy feet, for the purpose of beginning my meditation; O do Thou assist me by Thy grace that my soul may be benefited by it; do Thou enlighten my mind that I may know how much Thou hast loved me, and give an impulse to my will that I may form an efficacious resolution of loving Thee. Give me courage to devote myself without delay to the fulfillment of Thy Will, whatever it may be, and grace faithfully to correspond with all Thy holy inspirations. Most holy Virgin Mary, my dear Mother, and thou, my blessed Angel Guardian, obtain for me the assistance necessary to make this meditation in a manner profitable to me.