|Devotion to Our Lady||
SAINT THOMAS, THE MAN
St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church, patron of all universities and of students. His feast day is January 28th. He was born toward the end of the year 1226., in Roccasecca, Italy, near Aquino, in what was then the Kingdom of Sicily. Thomas had eight siblings, and was the youngest child. His mother, Theodora, was countess of Teano. Though Thomas's family members were descendants of Emperors Frederick I and Henry VI, they were considered to be of lower nobility.
Before St. Thomas Aquinas was born, a holy hermit shared a prediction with his mother, foretelling that her son would enter the Order of Friars Preachers, become a great learner and achieve unequaled sanctity.
Thomas in Monte Cassino
Following the tradition of the period, at the age of five, St. Thomas Aquinas was sent by his father to the Abbey of Monte Cassino, which was only six miles to the south of Rossecca, to train among Benedictine monks. St. Thomas Aquinas is described as "a witty child" who "had received a good soul."
St. Thomas Aquinas remained at the monastery until he was 13 years old. Thomas was diligent in his studies and devoted to prayer and would often ask “What is God?” Landulf Sennebald was his uncle and fifth Abbot of the monastery. He appreciated the intellectual and spiritual talents of Thomas and so wrote to his father telling him Thomas talents should not be wasted. It was decided to Thomas should be sent to the University of Naples..
Thomas in Naples
So, around 1239, after 8 years of education at Monte Cassino, St. Thomas Aquinas spent the next 5 years completing his primary education at another Benedictine monastery in Naples. During those years, he studied the classical Greek philosopher Aristotle's work, which would later become a major launching point for St. Thomas Aquinas's own theology and philosophy.
At the Benedictine house, which was closely affiliated with the University of Naples, Thomas also developed an interest in more contemporary monastic orders. He was particularly drawn to those that emphasized a life of spiritual service, in contrast with the purely contemplative lifestyle he had observed at the Abbey of Monte Cassino.
St. Thomas Aquinas began attending the University of Naples. Here he learned grammar, logic, rhetoric, music, geometry and astronomy by very able teachers. Thomas had a retentive memory and a sense of logic which which enabled him to explain each lesson more deeply and clearly than his professors. However, there was a laxity of morals at the university or a source of temptation for Thomas. He avoided women and absorbed himself in his studies and prayer in churches he visited.
We discern the influence of St. Dominic in the life of Thomas. At the age of nine while at Monte Cassino he witnessed the canonization Mass of St. Dominic on August 5, 1234. Dominic was known as the "Doctor of the Church and Preacher of Grace."
From Benedictines to Dominicans
While at Naples he met a holy Dominican who spoke to him about God with zeal. "In the Dominican church at Naples, Thomas was often seen absorbed in prayer, while spreading rays of light shone from his head. The friars were well aware of it, so that, after witnessing the marvel for the third time, Fr. John of St. Julien said to him: "Our Lord has given you to our Order".
When he became of age to choose his state of life, St. Thomas renounced the things of this world and resolved to enter the Order of St. Dominic in spite of the opposition of his family.
In 1243, at the age of 17, he secretly joined the Dominican monks of Naples. receiving the habit in August of 1244.
Thomas' Family Kidnaps Him
When his parents heard of it a storm of indignation broke out. They were not against him becoming a religious but to join a Mendicant Order (Mendicant Orders would live in poverty and beg for a living) could not be accepted a son of a noble family.
His mother, Teodara, decided to travel to Naples to see her son and dissuade him from becoming a Dominican. When Thomas heard this he took the road to Rome and stayed at the Convent of Santa Clara, a Dominican former home. His mother pursued him to Rome but Thomas refused to see her. To get further way he decided to go to Paris.
So Teodora decided to capture him by using her other two sons, Landulf and Raynald, who commanded Emperor Frederick's forces in Tuscany. They came upon Thomas near the little town of Aquapendente while he was resting by a spring with two Friers. The brothers tried to tear off his habit but he resisted so they led him to Roccasecca. Since his family could not convince him to him to give up the Dominican way of life, they took him to the village of San Giovanni, two miles away, and there kept him prisoner in their Castle Tower for eighteen months.
18 Months of Imprisonment
During the time of his imprisonment, his family tried all kinds of ways to change his mind. His brothers tried to tempt him with a prostitute, but Thomas praying to God drove her out striking her with a firebrand. "Then falling into a slumber, ... he was visited by two angels, who seemed to gird him round the waist with a cord so tight that it awakened him, and made him to cry out. His guards ran in, but he kept his secret to himself It was only a little before his death that he disclosed this incident to Fr. Reynold, his confessor, adding that he had received this favor about thirty years before, from which time he had never been annoyed with temptations of the flesh." While in prison his sisters supplied him with the books of Aristotle's "Metaphysics", the "Sentences" of Peter Lombard and portion of Scripture. Thomas not only read them but memorized them.
The Dominicans complained to Pope Innocent IV and the Emperor Frederick about this unjust treatment of Thomas. Despite orders from them that he should be released, his brothers were not inclined to do so immediately. So the Dominicans plotted his escaped by having someone lower him down in a basket from a window into arms of some waiting Dominicans below.
Finally Pope Innocent IV was called upon to annul Thomas' profession. Thomas presented himself before the Pope who examined his intentions and decided that Thomas should be left alone to pursue his vocation.
Thomas in Cologne, Germany
The general of the Dominican Order, John of Wildeshausen, decided that Thomas should study under Albertus Magnus in Cologne, Germany. So John and Thomas set out out on foot from Rome in October 1245 carrying only satchel and a breviary. In the Middle Ages this journey of 1,500 miles was not an easy one especially for John who was on in years. Along the way they begged for food and lodging. At times they had to sleep on hay in a loft or stable. While walking they passed the time in conversation, silent meditation and recitation of the Breviary. They reached the ancient city of Cologne on the Rhine, in January 1246.
St. Albert the Great
Albertus Magnus also known as "Albert the Great", had studied at the university of Padua, Italy, from 1223-1228, rapidly gaining a reputation as "the Philosopher", which, in those days, meant a scientist, a naturalist and theologian. In 1240 he went to the University of Paris and obtained a Doctorate of Theology and was given the Chair of Theology.
St. Albert was a man of great learning, eloquence and sanctity, who attributed his knowledge to the Mother of God, Seat of Wisdom. During his lifetime he wrote 40 volumes on many subjects, his knowledge was encyclopedic. This is the friar who St. Thomas faced each day at the Dominican House of Studies in Cologne.
The Dumb Ox
Thomas was attentive but in his humility avoided disputation and display of knowledge, even though he was really a brilliant student. His silent ways and huge size, led up to the common verdict that Thomas was stupid, so a name was speedily found for him: it was "the dumb Sicilian ox". With them learning meant wrangling: with St. Thomas it was all thought. When asked later on in life why he had been silent so long at Cologne, he replied: "It was because I had not yet yet learned to speak before such a mind as Albert."
One day a novice offered to help Thomas with the next day lesson which he accepted. When the novice got tangled up in a argument, Thomas easily clarified it by his explanation. A short time after Albert invited the scholars to explain an obscure passage in the "Book of Divine Names". The same brother who had tried to help Thomas asked him to write down his explanation. The paper was delivered into Albert's hands, who at once recognized the imprint of a master mind, so straightway he set him up at the lector's desk to defend certain knotty questions which were subjects of discussion at the time.
Thomas explained the matter with such surprising clearness and force that his auditory was amazed. Nor did he handle with less skill the intricate objections raised, as he cut his way through with keen distinctions. The objector then interrupted sharply: "You seem to forget that you are not a master, to decide, but a disciple to learn how to answer arguments raised." Then came the simple reply: "I don't see any other way of answering the difficulty."
St. Albert now interjected: "Very well then, continue according to your method, but remember that I have my objections to make."
World Renowned Dumb Ox!
Albert realizing the intellectual brilliance of Thomas declared, "You call him 'a dumb ox,' but I declare before you that he will yet bellow so loud in doctrine that his voice will bellow through the whole world."
Albert obtained a cell for Thomas next to his own, allowed him to make use of the results of Albert's own laborious researches, and made him the companion of his walks.
It was while he was at Cologne that he was ordained a priest in 1250 at the age twenty-four.
After four years he was sent to Paris. The saint was then a priest. At the age of thirty-one, in 1257, he received his doctorate.
At Paris he was honored with the friendship of the King, St. Louis, with whom he frequently dined. In 1261, Urban IV called him to Rome where he was appointed to teach, but he positively declined to accept any ecclesiastical dignity.
St. Thomas not only wrote (his writings filled twenty hefty tomes characterized by brilliance of thought and lucidity of language), but he preached often and with greatest fruit. Clement IV offered him the archbishopric of Naples, which he also refused.
He left the great monument of his learning, the “Summa Theologica”, unfinished, for on his way to the second Council of Lyons, ordered there by Gregory X, he fell sick and died at the Cistercian monastery of Fossa Nuova in 1274.
St. Thomas was one of the greatest and most influential theologians of all time. He was canonized in 1323 and declared Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius V.
MEDITATIONS & READINGS FOR LENT
from St. Thomas Aquinas
The latest meditation will posted here, at the top of this page. For earlier meditations, please scroll down.
Meditation 44 : THURSDAY OF HOLY WEEK
"THE LAST SUPPER"
It was most fitting that the Sacrament of the Body of the Lord should have been instituted at the Last Supper.
1. Because of what that sacrament contains. For that which is contained in it is Christ Himself. When Christ in His natural appearance was about to depart from His disciples, He left Himself to them in a sacramental appearance, just as in the absence of the emperor there is exhibited the emperor’s image. Whence St. Eusebius says, “Since the body he had assumed was about to be taken away from their bodily sight, and was about to be carried to the stars, it was necessary that, on the day of His Last Supper, He should consecrate for us the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, so that what, as a price, was offered once should, through a mystery, be worshipped unceasingly.”
2. Because without faith in the Passion there can never be salvation. Therefore it is necessary that there should be, forever, among men something that would represent the Lord’s Passion and the chief of such representative things in the Old Testament was the Paschal Lamb. To this there succeeded in the New Testament the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which is commemorative of the past Passion of the Lord as the Paschal Lamb was a foreshadowing of the Passion to come.
And therefore was it most fitting that, on the very eve of the Passion, the old sacrament of the Paschal Lamb having been celebrated, Our Lord should institute the new Sacrament.
3. Because the last words of departing friends remain longest in the memory, our love being at such moments most tenderly alert. Nothing can be greater in the realm of sacrifice than that of the Body and Blood of Christ, no offering can be more effective. And hence, in order that the Sacrament might be held in all the more veneration, it was in His last leave-taking of the Apostles that Our Lord instituted it.
Hence St. Augustine says, “Our Savior, to bring before our minds with all His power the heights and the depths of this Sacrament, willed, before He left the disciples to go forth to His Passion, to fix it in their hearts and their memories as His last act.”
Let us note that this sacrament has a threefold meaning:
(i) In regard to the past, it is commemorative of the Lord’s Passion, which was a true sacrifice, and because of this the Sacrament is called a Sacrifice.
(ii) In regard to a fact of our own time, that is, to the unity of the Church and that through this Sacrament mankind should be gathered together. Because of this the Sacrament is called Communion. St. John Damascene says the Sacrament is called Communion because by means of it we communicate with Christ, and this because we hereby share in His body and in His divinity, and because by it we are communicated to and united with one another.
(iii) In regard to the future, die sacrament foreshadows that enjoyment of God which shall be ours in our fatherland. On this account the Sacrament is called Viaticum, since it provides us with the means of journeying to that fatherland.
And on this account, too, the Sacrament is also called Eucharist, that is to say, the good grace, either because the grace of God is life eternal, or because it really contains Christ who is the fullness of grace. In Greek the sacrament is also called Metalipsis, that is, Assumption, for through the Sacrament we assume the divinity of the Son of God.
(De Humanitate Christi.)
Meditation 43 : WEDNESDAY OF HOLY WEEK
"THREE THINGS ARE SYMBOLIZED BY THE WASHING OF THE FEET"
“He putteth water into a basin, and began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded” (John 13:3).
There are three things which this can be taken to symbolize.
1. The pouring of the water into the basin is a symbol of the pouring out of His blood upon the earth. Since the blood of Jesus has a power of cleansing it may in a sense be called water. The reason why water, as well as blood, came out of His side, was to show that this blood could wash away sin.
Again we might take the water as a figure of Christ’s Passion. He putteth water into a basin, that is, by faith and devotion He stamped into the minds of faithful followers the memory of His Passion. Remember my poverty, and transgression, the wormwood and the gall (Lamentations 3:15).
2. By the words and began to wash it is human imperfection that is symbolized. For the Apostles, after their living with Christ, were certainly more perfect, and yet they needed to be washed, there were still stains upon them. We are here made to understand that no matter what is the degree of any man’s perfection he still needs to be made more perfect still; he is still contracting uncleanness of some kind to some extent. So in the Book of Proverbs we read, “Who can say my heart is clean, I am pure from sin” (Proverbs 20:9).
Nevertheless the Apostles and the just have this kind of uncleanness only in their feet.
There are however others who are infected, not only in their feet, but wholly and entirely. Those who make their bed upon the soiling attractions of the world are made wholly unclean thereby. Those who wholly, that is to say, with their senses and with their wills, cleave to their desire of earthly things, these are wholly unclean.
But they who do not thus lie down, they who stand, that is, they who, in mind and in desire, are tending towards heavenly things, contract this uncleanness in their feet. Whoever stands must, necessarily, touch the Earth at least with his feet. And we, too, in this life, where we must, to maintain life, make use of earthly things, cannot but contract a certain uncleanness, at least as far as those desires and inclinations are concerned which begin in our senses.
Therefore Our Lord commanded His disciples to shake off the dust from their feet. The text says, “He began to wash,” because this washing away on Earth of the affection for earthly things is only a beginning. It is only in the life to come that it will be really complete.
Thus by putting water into the basin, the pouring out of His blood is signified, and by His beginning to wash the feet of His disciples the washing away of our sins.
3. There is symbolized finally Our Lord’s taking upon Him the punishment due to our sins. Not only did He wash away our sins but He also took upon Himself the punishment that they had earned. For our pains and our penances would not suffice were they not founded in the merit and the power of the Passion of Christ. And this is shown in His wiping the feet of the disciples with the linen towel, that is the towel which is His body.
(In John xiii.)
Meditation 42 : TUESDAY OF HOLY WEEK
"JESUS CAME TO SERVE, NOT TO BE SERVED"
“He riseth from supper, and layeth aside His garments, and having taken a towel, girded Himself” (John 13:4).
1. Christ, in His lowly office, shows Himself truly to be a servant, in keeping with His own words, “The Son of Man is not come to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give His life a redemption for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Three things are looked for in a good servant or minister :
(i) That he should be careful to keep before him the numerous details in which his serving may so easily fall short. Now for a servant to sit or to lay-down during his service, is to make this necessary supervision impossible. Hence it is that servants stand. And therefore the Gospel says of Our Lord, “He riseth from supper.” Our Lord Himself also asks us, “For which is greater, he that sitteth at table or he that serveth?” (Luke 22:27).
(ii) That the servant should show dexterity in doing, at the right time, all the things his particular office calls for. Now elaborate dress is a hindrance to this. Therefore Our Lord “layeth aside His garments.” And this was foreshadowed in the Old Testament, when Abraham chose servants who were well appointed (Genesis 14:14).
(iii) That the servant should be prompt, having ready to hand all the things he needs. St. Luke (10:40) says of Martha that she was busy about much serving. This is why Our Lord, “having taken a towel, girded Himself.” Thus He was ready not only to wash the feet, but also to dry them. So He (who came from God and goeth to God—John 13:3), as He washes their feet, crushes down for ever our swollen, human self-importance.
2. “After that, he putteth water into a basin, and began to wash” (John 13:5).
We are given for our consideration this service of Christ ; and in three ways his humility is set for our example.
(i) The kind of service this was, for it was the lowest kind of service of all! The Lord of all majesty bending to wash the feet of his slaves.
(ii) The number of services it contained, for, we are told, he put water into a basin, he washed their feet, he dried them and so forth.
(iii) The method of doing the service, for He did not do it through others, nor even with others helping him. He did the service Himself. “The greater thou art, the more humble thyself in all things” (Ecclesiasticus 3:20).
(In John xiii)
Meditation 41 : MONDAY OF HOLY WEEK
"IT IS NECESSARY TO BE CLEAN"
1. “If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with Me” (John 12:8). No one can be made a sharer in the inheritance of eternity, a co-heir with Christ, unless he is spiritually cleansed, for in the Apocalypse it is so stated. “There shall not enter into it anything defiled” (Apocalypse. 21:27), and in the Psalms we read: “Lord who shall dwell in thy tabernacle?” (Psalm 14) Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord ; or who shall stand in his holy place? The innocent in hands, and clean of heart (Psalm 23:3-4).
It is therefore as though Our Lord said: “If I wash thee not, thou shalt not be cleansed, and if thou art not cleansed, thou shalt have no part with Me.”
2. “Simon Peter saith to him: Lord, not only my feet but also my hands and my head” (John 13:9). Peter, utterly stricken, offers his whole self to be washed, so confounded is he with love and with fear. We read, in fact, in the book called The Journeying of Clement, that Peter used to be so overcome by the bodily presence of Our Lord, which he had most fervently loved, that whenever, after Our Lord’s Ascension, the memory of that dearest presence and most holy company came to him, he used so to melt into tears, that his cheeks seemed all worn out with them.
We can consider three parts in man’s body, the head, which is the highest, the feet, which are the lowest part, and the hands which lie in between.
In the interior man, that is to say, in the soul, there are likewise three parts. Corresponding to the head there is the higher reason, the power by means of which the soul clings to God. For the hands there is the lower reason by which the soul operates in good works. For the feet there are the senses and the feelings and desires arising from them.
Now Our Lord knew the disciples to be clean as far as the head was concerned, for He knew they were joined to God by faith and by charity. He knew their hands also were clean, for He knew their good works. But as to their feet, He knew that the disciples were still somewhat entangled in those inclinations to earthly things that derive out of the life of the senses.
Peter, alarmed by Our Lord’s warning (John 13:8), not only consented that his feet should be washed, but begged that his hands and his head should be washed too.
“Lord,” he said: “not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” As though to say: “I know not whether hands and head need to be washed.” “For I am not conscious to myself of anything, yet am I not hereby justified” (1 Corinthians 4:4). Therefore I am ready not only for my feet to be washed, that is, those inclinations that arise out of the life of mysenses, but also my hands, that is, my works, and my head, too, that is, my higher reason.
3. “Jesus saith to him: He that is washed, needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly. And you are clean” (John 13:10). Origen, commenting on this text, says that the Apostles were clean, but needed to be yet cleaner. For reason should ever desire gifts that are better still, should ever set itself to achieve the very heights of virtue, should aspire to shine with the brightness of justice itself. He that is holy, let him be sanctified still (Apocalypse 22:11).
(Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, chapter 13).
Meditation 40 : PALM SUNDAY
"THE PASSION IS OUR EXAMPLE"
The Passion of Christ is by itself sufficient to form us in every virtue. For whoever wishes to live perfectly, need do no more than scorn what Christ scorned on the cross, and desire what He there desired. There is no virtue of which, from the cross, Christ does not give us an example.
► If you seek an example of charity: “Greater love than this no man bath, than that a man lay down His life for his friends” (John 15:13), and this Christ did on the cross. And since it was for us that He gave his life, it should not be burdensome to bear for Him whatever evils come our way. “What shall I render to the Lord, for all the things that He bath rendered to me” (Psalm 115:12).
► If you seek an example of patience, in the cross you find the best of all. Great patience shows itself in two ways. Either when a man suffers great evils patiently, or when he suffers what he could avoid and forbears to avoid. Now Christ on the cross suffered great evils.” O all ye that pass by the way, attend and see, if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow (Lamentations 1:12). And He suffered them patiently, for: “when he suffered he threatened not” (I Pet. ii. 23) but “led as a sheep to the slaughter, he was dumb as a lamb before his shearer” (Isaias 53:7).
Also it was in His power to avoid the suffering and He did not avoid it. “Thinkest thou that I cannot ask My Father, and He will give Me presently more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). The patience of Christ, then, on the cross was the greatest patience ever shown. Let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us : looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame (Heb. 12:1-2).
► If you seek an example of humility, look at the crucified. For it is God who wills to be judged and to die at the will of Pontius Pilate. “Thy cause bath been judged as that of the wicked” (Job 36:17). Truly as that of the wicked, for “Let us condemn him to a most shameful death” (Wisdom 2:20). The Lord willed to die for the slave, the life of the angels for man.
► If you seek an example of obedience, follow Him who “became obedient unto death” (Philippians 2:8): “for as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners ; so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just” (Romans 5:19).
► If you seek an example in the scorning of the things of this world, follow Him who is the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom. Lo! On the cross He hangs naked, fooled, spit upon, beaten, crowned with thorns, sated with gall and vinegar, and dead. “My garments they parted among them ; and upon my vesture they cast lots” (Psalm 21:19).
Meditation 39 : SATURDAY AFTER PASSION SUNDAY
"WASHING EACH OTHER'S FEET"
“If I then being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).
1. Our Lord wishes that His disciples shall imitate His example. He says therefore: “If I,” who am the greater, being your master and the Lord: “have washed your feet, you also,” all the more who are the less, who are disciples, slaves even: “ought to wash one another’s feet. Whosoever will be the greater among you, let him be your minister. . . . Even as the Son of Man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister” (Matthew 20:26-28).
St. Augustine says every man ought to wash the feet of his fellows, either actually or in spirit. And it is by far the best, and true beyond all controversy, that we should do it actually, lest Christians scorn to do what Christ did. For when a man
bends his body to the feet of a brother, human feeling is stirred up in his very heart, or, if it be there already, it is strengthened. If we cannot actually wash his feet, at least we can do it in spirit. The washing of the feet signifies the washing away of stains. You therefore wash the feet of your brother when, as far as lies in your power, you wash away his stains. And this you may do in three ways:
(i) By forgiving the offences he has done to you. ”Forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another: even as the Lord bath forgiven you, so do you also” (Colossians 3:13).
(ii) By praying for the forgiveness of his sin, as St. James bids us: “Pray for one another, that you may be saved”(James 5:16). This way of washing, like the first, is open to all the faithful.
(iii) The third way is for prelates, who should wash by forgiving sins through the authority of the keys,according to the Gospel: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them” (John 20:23).
We can also say that in this one act Our Lord showed all the works of mercy. He who gives bread to the hungry, washes his feet, as also does the man who harbors the harborless or he who clothes the naked. ”Communicating to the necessities of the saints” (Romans 12:13).
(Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, chapter 13)
Meditation 38 : FRIDAY AFTER PASSION SUNDAY
"OUR LADY'S PASSION AND SORROWS"
“Thy own soul a sword shall pierce” (Luke 2:35).
In these words there is noted for us the close association of Our Lady with the Passion of Christ. Four things especially made the Passion most bitter for her.
Firstly, the goodness of her son: “Who did no sin” (1 Peter 2:22).
Secondly, the cruelty of those who crucified Him, shown, for example, in this that, as He lay dying, they refused Him even water, nor would they allow His mother, who would most lovingly have given it, to help Him.
Thirdly, the disgrace of the punishment: “Let us condemn Him to a most shameful death” (Wisdom 2:20).
Fourthly, the cruelty of the torment. ”O ye that pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow”(Lamentations 1:2). (Sermon)
Concerning the words of Simeon: “Thy own soul a sword shall pierce,” Origen, and other Doctors of the Church with him, explain with reference to the pain felt by Our Lady in the Passion of Christ. St. Ambrose, however, says that by the sword is signified Our Lady’s prudence, thanks to which she was not without knowledge of the heavenly mystery. For the word of God is a living thing, strong and keener than the keenest sword (cf. Hebrews 4:12).
Other writers again, St. Augustine for example, understand by the sword the stupefaction that overcame Our Lady at the death of her Son, not the doubt that goes with lack of faith, but a certain fluctuation of bewilderment, a staggering of the mind. St. Basil, too, says that as Our Lady stood by the cross with all the detail of the Passion before her, and, in her mind, the testimony of Gabriel, the message that words cannot tell of her divine conception, and all the vast array of miracles, her mind swayed, for she saw Him the victim of such vileness, and yet knew Him for the author of such wonders.
(Summa Theologica 3a, q. 27, art. 4, ad 2).
Meditation 37 : THURSDAY AFTER PASSION SUNDAY
"THE GREATEST SIGN OF LOVE"
It would seem that Christ gave us a greater sign of His love by giving us His body, as our food, than by suffering for us. For the love that will be in the life to come is a more perfect thing than the love that is in this life. And the benefit that Christ bestows on us, by giving us His body as food, is more like to the love of the life to come, in which we shall fully enjoy God. The Passion that Christ underwent for us is, on the other hand, more like to the love that is of this life, in which we, too, are to suffer for Christ. Therefore it is a greater sign of Christ’s love for us, that he delivered His body to us as our food, than that He suffered for us.
Nevertheless, it is an argument against this that, in St. John’s Gospel, Our Lord Himself says: “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
The strongest of human loves is the love with which a man loves himself. Therefore, this love must be the measure, by comparison, with which we estimate the love by which a man loves others than himself. Now, the extent of a man’s love for another is shown by the extent of good, desired for himself, that he forgoes for his friend. As Holy Scripture says: “He that neglecteth a loss for the sake of a friend, is just” (Proverbs 12:26). Now, a man wishes well to himself as to three things, namely, his soul, his body, and things outside himself.
► It is then already a sign of love that, for another, a man is willing to suffer loss of things outside himself.
► It is a greater sign if he is also willing to suffer loss in his body for another, that is, by bearing the burden of work, or undergoing punishment.
► It is the greatest of all signs of love if a man is willing, by dying for his friend, to lay down his very life.
Therefore, that Christ, in suffering for us, laid down His life was the greatest of all signs that He loved us. That He has given us His body for our food in the sacrament does not entail for Him any loss. It follows then that the first is the greater sign. Also this sacrament is a kind of memorial and figure of the Passion of Christ. But the truth is always greater than that which figures or symbolizes it, the thing is always greater than the memorial that recalls it.
The showing forth of the body of Christ in the sacrament has about it, it is true, a certain figure of the love with which God loves us in the life to come. But Christ’s Passion is associated with that love itself, by which God calls us from perdition to the life to come. The love of God, however, is not greater in the life to come than it is in this present life.
(Quodlibeta 5, q. 3, art. 2).
Meditation 36 : WEDNESDAY AFTER PASSION SUNDAY
1. The sepulcher is a figure by which is signified the contemplation of heavenly things. So, St. Gregory, commenting on the words of Job 3:22): “They rejoice exceedingly when they have found the grave,” says: “As in the grave the body is hidden away when dead, so in divine contemplation there lies concealed the soul, dead to the world. There, at rest from the world’s clamor, it lies, in a three days’ burial through, as it were, its triple immersion in Baptism. ‘Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy face, from the disturbance of men’ (Psalm 30:21). Those in great trouble, tormented with the hates of men, enter in spirit the presence of God and they are at rest.”
2. Three things are required for this spiritual burial in God, namely, that the mind be perfected by the virtues, that the mind be all bright and shining with purity, and that it be wholly dead to this world. All these things are shown figuratively in the burial of Christ.
(i) The first is shown in St. Mark’s Gospel where we read how Mary Magdalen anointed Our Lord for His burial by anticipation, as it were. ”She hath done what she could: she is come beforehand to anoint My body for the burial”(Mark 14:8). The ointment of precious spikenard (Mark 14:3) stands for the virtues, for it is a thing very precious, and in this life nothing is more precious than the virtues. The soul that wishes to be holy and to be buried in divine contemplation, must first, then, anoint itself by the exercise of the virtues. Job (5:26) says: “Thou shalt enter into the grave in abundance” —and the Gloss explains the grave as meaning here: “divine contemplation”--”as a heap of wheat is brought in its season,” and the explanation given in the Gloss is that eternal contemplation is the prize of a life of action, and therefore it must be that the perfect, first of all, exercise their souls in the virtues and then, afterwards, bury them in the barn where all quiet is gathered.
(ii) The second of the three things required is also noted in St. Mark, where we read (15:46) that Joseph bought a winding sheet, that is, a sheet of fine linen, which is only brought to its dazzling whiteness with great labor. Hence it signifies that brightness of the soul, which also is not perfectly attained except with great labor. ”He that is just let him be justified still” (Apocalypse 22:11). ”Let us walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4), going from good to better, through the justice inaugurated by faith to the glory for which we hope. Therefore it is that men, bright with a spotless interior life, should be buried in the sepulcher of divine contemplation. St. Jerome, commenting on the words: “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8), says: “The clean Lord is seen by the clean of heart.”
(iii) The third point for consideration is given by St. John where, in his Gospel (19:30), he writes: “Nicodemus also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.” This hundred pounds weight of myrrh and aloes, brought to preserve the dead body, symbolizes that perfect mortification of the external senses, the means by which the spirit, dead to the world, is preserved from the vices that would corrupt it. “Though our outward man is corrupted, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16), which is as much as to say the inward man is most thoroughly purified from vices by the fire of tribulation.
Therefore man’s soul must first, with Christ, become dead to this world, and then, afterwards, be buried with Him in the hiding place of divine contemplation. St. Paul says: “You are dead” with Christ, to the things that are vain and fleeting: “and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
(De humanitate Christi, chapter 42.)
Meditation 35 : TUESDAY AFTER PASSION SUNDAY
"THOUGHTS ON THE BURIAL OF CHRIST"
“She hath wrought a good work upon Me. She in pouring this ointment upon me bath done it for My burial” (Matthew 26:10-12).
It was right that Christ should be buried.
1. It proved that He had really died. No one is placed in the grave unless he is undeniably dead. And, as we read in St. Mark (chapter 15), Pilate, before he gave leave for Christ to be buried, made careful enquiry to assure himself that Christ was dead.
2. The very fact that Christ rose again from the grave gives a hope of rising again through Him to all others who lie in their graves. As it says in the Gospel: “All that are in the grave shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And they that hear shall live” (John 5:28, 25).
3. It was an example for those who, by the death of Christ, are spiritually dead to sin, for those, that is, who are hidden away from the turmoil of human affairs. So St. Paul says: “You are dead; and your life is hid with Christ in God”(Colossians 3:3). So, too, those who are baptized, since by the death of Christ they die to sin, are as it were buried with Christ in their immersion, as St. Paul again says: “We are buried together with Christ by baptism unto death”(Romans 6:4).
As the death of Christ efficiently wrought our salvation, so too is His burial effective for us. St. Jerome, for example, says: “By the burial of Christ we all rise again,” and explaining the words of Isaias (53:9): “He shall give the ungodly for his burial,” the Gloss says: “This means He shall give to God and the Father the nations lacking in filial devotion: for through His death and burial He has obtained possession of them.”
The Psalmist (Psalm 87:6) says: “I am become as a man without help, free among the dead.” Christ by being buried showed Himself free among the dead indeed, for His being enclosed in the tomb was not allowed to hinder His coming forth in the Resurrection. (Summa Theologica 3a, q. 51, art. 1).
Meditation 34 : MONDAY AFTER PASSION SUNDAY
"THE PASSION IS A REMEDY FOR SIN"
We find in the Passion of Christ a remedy against all the evils that we incur through sin. Now these evils are five in number.
(i) We ourselves become unclean. When a man commits any sin he soils his soul, for just as virtue is the beauty of the soul, so sin is a stain upon it. ”How happeneth it, O Israel, that thou art in thy enemies’ land? Thou art grown old in a strange country, thou art defiled with the dead” (Baruch 3:10-11).
The Passion of Christ takes away this stain. For Christ, by His Passion, made of His blood a bath wherein He might wash sinners. The soul is washed with the Blood of Christ in Baptism, for it is from the Blood of Christ that the sacrament draws its power of giving new life. When therefore one who is baptized soils himself again by sin, he insults Christ and sins more deeply than before.
(ii) We offend God. As the man who is fleshly-minded loves what is beautiful to the flesh, so God loves spiritual beauty, the beauty of the soul. When the soul’s beauty is defiled by sin God is offended, and holds the offender in hatred. But the Passion of Christ takes away this hatred, for it does what man himself could not possibly do, namely, it makes full satisfaction to God for the sin. The love and obedience of Christ was greater than the sin and rebellion of Adam.
(iii) We, ourselves, are weakened. Man believes that, once he has committed the sin, he will be able to keep from sin for the future. Experience shows that what really happens is quite otherwise. The effect of the first sin is to weaken the sinner and make him still more inclined to sin. Sin dominates man more and more, and man left to himself, whatever his powers, places himself in such a state that he cannot rise from it. Like a man who has thrown himself into a well, there he must lie, unless he is drawn up by some divine power. After the sin of Adam, then, our human nature was weaker, it had lost its perfection and men were more prone to sinning.
But Christ, although He did not utterly make an end of this weakness, nevertheless greatly lessened it. Man is so strengthened by the Passion of Christ —and the effect of Adam’s sin is so weakened—that he is no longer dominated by it. Helped by the grace of God, given him in the sacraments, which derive their power from the Passion of Christ, man is now able to make an effort and so rise up from his sins. Before the Passion of Christ, there were few who lived without mortal sin, but since the Passion many have lived and do live without it.
(iv) Liability to the punishment earned by sin. This the justice of God demanded, namely, that for each sin the sinner should be punished, the penalty to be measured according to the sin. Whence, since mortal sin is infinitely wicked, seeing that it is a sin against what is infinitely good, that is to say, God whose commands the sin despises, the punishment due to mortal sin is infinite too.
But by His Passion Christ took away from us this penalty, for He endured it Himself. ”Who His own self bore our sins, that is the punishment due to us for our sins, in His body upon the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).
So great was the power and value of the Passion of Christ that it was sufficient to expiate all the sins of all the world, reckoned by millions though they be. This is the reason why baptism frees the baptized from all their sins, and why the priest can forgive sin. This is why the man who, more and more, fashions his life in conformity with the Passion of Christ, and makes himself like to Christ in His Passion, attains an ever fuller pardon and ever greater graces.
(v) Banishment from the kingdom. Subjects who offend the king are sent into exile. So, too, man was expelled from Paradise. Adam, having sinned, was straightway thrown out and the gates barred against him.
But, by His Passion, Christ opened those gates, and called back the exiles from banishment. As the side of Christ opened to the soldier’s lance, the gates of Heaven opened to man, and as Christ’s Blood flowed, the stain was washed out, God was appeased, our weakness taken away, amends made for our sins, and the exiles were recalled. Thus it was that Our Lord said immediately to the repentant thief: “This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Such a thing was never before said to any man, not to Adam, nor to Abraham, nor even to David. But This day, the day on which the gate is opened, the thief does but ask and he finds. ”Having confidence in the entering into the holies by the Blood of Christ” (Hebrews 10:19). (Commentary on the Creed)
Meditation 33 : PASSION SUNDAY
"THE PASSION OF CHRIST"
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish; but may have life everlasting” (John 3:14-15).
We may note here three things.
1. The Figure of the Passion. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert. When the Jews said: “Our soul now loathes this very light food” (Numbers 21:5), the Lord sent serpents in punishment, and afterwards, for a remedy, He commanded the brazen serpent to be made—as a remedy against the serpents and also as a figure of the Passion. It is the nature of a serpent to be poisonous, but the brazen serpent had no poison. It was but the figure of a poisonous serpent. So also Christ had no sin, which is the poison, but He had the likeness of sin. ”God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and of sin” (Romans 8:3). Therefore Christ had the effect of the serpent against the movements of our blazing desires.
2. The Mode of the Passion. So must the Son of Man be lifted up. This refers to His being raised upon the cross. He willed to die lifted up,
(i) To purify the air: already He had purified the earth by the holiness of His living there, it still remained for Him to purify, by His dying there, the air;
(ii) To triumph over the devils, who in the air, make their preparations to war on us;
(iii) To draw our hearts to His heart: “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself” (John 12:32). Since, in the death of the cross, He was exalted, and since it was there that He overcame His enemies, we say that He was exalted rather than that He died. ”He shall drink of the torrent by the wayside; therefore shall He lift up His head” (Psalm 109:7).
The cross was the cause of His exaltation. ”He became obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross, wherefore God bath exalted Him” (Philippians 2:8).
3. The Fruit of the Passion. The fruit is eternal life. Whence Our Lord says Himself: “Whosoever believeth in Him, doing good works, may not perish, but may have life everlasting” (John 3:6).
And this fruit corresponds to the fruit of the serpent that foreshadowed Him. For whoever looked upon the brazen serpent was delivered from the poison and his life was preserved. Now the man who looks upon the Son of Man lifted up is the man who believes in Christ crucified, and it is in this way that he is delivered from the poison that is sin and preserved for the life that is eternal. (Commentary on John, chapter 3).
Meditation 32 : SATURDAY AFTER THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
"IT DOESN'T GETTING ANY BETTER THAN THIS!"
THERE WAS NOT ANY MORE FITTING WAY TO FREE THE HUMAN RACE, THAN THROUGH THE PASSION OF CHRIST
The suitability of any particular way for the attainment of a given end is reckoned according to the greater or lesser number of things useful to that end, which the way in question brings about. The more things helpful to the end of the method chosen brings about, the better and more suitable is that method or way. Now owing to the fact that it was through the Passion of Christ that man was delivered, many things, helpful to man’s salvation, came together—in addition to his being freed from sin.
(i) Thanks to the fact that it was through the Passion that man was delivered, man learns how much God loves him, and is thereby stimulated to that love of God, in which is to be found the perfection of man’s salvation. ”God commendeth His charity towards us: because when as yet we were sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
(ii) In the Passion He gave us an example of obedience, humility, constancy, justice and of other virtues also, all of which we must practice if we are to be saved. ”Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
(iii) Christ, by His Passion, not only delivered man from sin, but also merited for man the grace which makes him acceptable to God, and the glory of life with God for eternity.
(iv) The fact that it is through the Passion that man has been saved, brings home to man the need of keeping himself clear from sin. Man has only to realize that it was at the price of the Blood of Christ that he was bought back from sin. ”You are bought with a great price. Glorify God and bear him in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
(v) The fact that the Passion was the way chosen, heightens the dignity of human nature. As it was man that was deceived and conquered by the devil, so now it is man by whom the devil in turn is conquered. As it was man who once earned death, so it is man who, by dying, has overcome death. ”Thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through Our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians15:57).
(Summa Theologica 3a, q. 46, art. 3).
Meditation 31 : FRIDAY AFTER THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
"THE POWER OF THE PRECIOUS BLOOD"
1. Through the Blood of Christ the New Testament was confirmed. ”This chalice is the new testament in My Blood”(1 Corinthians 11:23). The word “Testament” has a double meaning.
(i) It may mean any kind of agreement or pact.
Now God has twice made an agreement with mankind. In one pact God promised man temporal prosperity and deliverance from temporal losses, and this pact is called the Old Testament. In another pact God promised man spiritual blessings and deliverance from spiritual losses, and this is called the New Testament: “I will make a new covenant, saith the Lord, with the house of Israel and with the house of Juda: not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt: but this shall be the covenant: I will give My Law in their bosoms and I will write it in their hearts and I will be their God and they shall be My people” (Jeremias 31:31-33).
Among the ancients it was customary to pour out the blood of some victim in confirmation of a pact. This Moses did when, taking the blood, he ”sprinkled it upon the people and he said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you’“ (Exodus 24:8). As the Old Testament or pact was thus confirmed in the figurative blood of oxen, so the New Testament or pact was confirmed in the Blood of Christ, shed during His Passion.
(ii) The word “Testament” has another more restricted meaning when it signifies the arrangement of an inheritance among the different heirs, i.e., a will. Testaments, in this sense, are only confirmed by the death of the testator. As St. Paul says: “For a testament is of force, after men are dead: otherwise it is as yet of no strength, whilst the testator liveth”(Hebrews 9:17).
God, in the beginning, made an arrangement of the eternal inheritance we were to receive, but under the figure of temporal goods. This is the Old Testament. But afterwards He made the New Testament, explicitly promising the eternal inheritance, which indeed was confirmed by the Blood of the death of Christ. And therefore, Our Lord, speaking of this, says: “This chalice is the New Testament in my Blood (1 Corinthians 11:25), as though to say: “By that which is contained in this chalice, the new testament, confirmed in the Blood of Christ, is commemorated.”
(Commentary on 1 Corninthians, chapter 12).
2. There are other things which make the blood of Christ precious. It is:
(i) A cleansing of our sins and uncleanness. ”Jesus Christ hath loved us and washed us from our sins in His own Blood” (Apocalypse 1:5).
(ii) Our redemption: “Thou hast redeemed us in Thy Blood” (Apocalypse 1:9).
(iii) The peacemaker between us and God and His angels: “making peace through the Blood of His cross, both as to the things that are on earth and the things that are in the heavens” (Colossians 1:20).
(iv) A draught of life to all who receive it. ”Drink ye all of this” (Matthew 26:27). ”That they might drink the purest blood of the grape” (Deuteronomy 32:14).
(v) The opening of the gate of Heaven. ”Having therefore, brethren, a confidence in the entering into the holies by the Blood of Christ” (Hebrews 10:19), that is to say, a continuous prayer for us to God. For His Blood daily cries for us to the Father, as again we are told: “You are come to the sprinkling of Blood which speaketh better than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24). The blood of Abel called for punishment. The blood of Christ calls for pardon.
(vi) Deliverance of the saints from Hell. ”Thou also by the Blood of Thy testament hast sent forth Thy prisoners out of the pit, wherein is no water” (Zacharias 9:11).
(Sermon for Passion Sunday.)
Meditation 30 : THURSDAY AFTER THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
"THE DEATH OF A FRIEND"
1. ”Lazarus, our friend, sleepeth” (John 11:11).
“Our friend” — for the many benefits and services he rendered us, and therefore we owe it not to fail in his necessity.
“Sleepeth,” therefore we must come to his assistance: a brother is proved in distress (Proverbs 17:17).
“He sleepeth,” I say, as St. Augustine says, to the Lord. But to men he was dead, nor had they power to raise him.
Sleep is a word we use with various meanings. We use it to mean natural sleep, negligence, blameworthy inattention, the peace of contemplation, the peace of future glory, and we use it also to mean death. ”We will not have you ignorant, concerning the last sleep, that you be not sorrowful, even as others that have no hope,” says St. Paul (1 Thessalonians 4:12).
Death is called sleep because of the hope of resurrection, and so it has been customary to give death this name since the time when Christ died and was raised again: “I have slept and have taken my rest” (Psalm 3:6).
2. ”I go that I may awake him out of sleep” (John 11:11).
In these words Jesus gives us to understand that He could raise Lazarus from the tomb as easily as we raise a sleeper from his bed. Nor is this to be wondered at, for He is none other than the Lord who ”raiseth up the dead and giveth life”(John 5:21). And hence He is able to say: “The hour cometh when all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God” (John 5:28).
3. Let us go to him (John 11:15).
Here it is the mercifulness of God that we are shown. Men, living in sin and as it were dead, unable to any power of their own to come to Him, He mercifully draws, anticipating their desire and need. Jeremias speaks of this when he says: “Thus saith the Lord: ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee’“ (Jerermias 31:3).
4. Jesus therefore came and found that he had been four days already in the grave (John 11:17).
St. Augustine sees in the four-days’ dead Lazarus a figure of the fourfold spiritual death of the sinner. He dies in fact through Original Sin, through Actual Sin, against the Natural Law, through Actual Sin against the written Law, through Actual Sin against the Law of the Gospel and of grace.
Another interpretation is that the first day represents the sin of the heart: “Take away the evil of your thoughts,” says Isaias (1: i6); the second day represents sins of the tongue; ”Let no evil speech proceed from your mouth,” says St. Paul (Ephesians 4:29); the third day represents the sins of evil action: “Cease to do perversely” (Isaias 1:16); the fourth day stands for the sins of wicked habit.
Whatever explanation we give, Our Lord at times does heal those who are four days dead, that is, those who have broken the Law of the Gospel and are bound fast by habits of sin.
(Commentary on John, chapter 11).
Meditation 29 : WEDNESDAY AFTER THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
"THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST CRUCIFIED"
1. Christ assumed human nature in order to restore fallen humanity. He had therefore to suffer and to do, according to human nature, the things which could serve as a remedy against the sin of the fall.
Man’s sin consists in this, that he so cleaves to bodily goods that he neglects what is good spiritually. It was, therefore, necessary for the Son of God to show this in the humanity He had taken, through all He did and suffered, so that men should repute temporal things, whether good or evil, as nothing, for otherwise, hindered by an exaggerated affection for them, they would be less devoted to spiritual things.
(i) Christ therefore chose poor people for His parents, people, nevertheless, perfect in virtue, so that none of us should glory in the mere rank or wealth of our parents.
(ii) He led the life of a poor man, to teach us to set no store by wealth.
(iii) He lived the life of an ordinary man, without any rank, to wean men from an undue desire for honours.
(iv) Toil, thirst, hunger, the aches of the body, all these He endured, to encourage men, whom pleasures and delights attract, not to be deterred from virtue by the austerity a good life entails.
(v) He went so far as to endure even death, lest the fear of death might at any time tempt man to abandon the truth.
(vi) And, lest any of us might dread to die even a shameful death for the truth, He chose to die by the most accursed death of all, by crucifixion.
2. That the Son of God, made man, should suffer death was also fitting for this reason, that by His example He stimulates our courage, and so makes true what St. Peter said: “Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). (Contra Armen. Sarac. 7)
“Christ truly suffered for us, leaving us an example” in anxieties, contempts, scourgings, the cross, death itself, that we might follow in His steps. If we endure for Christ our own anxieties and sufferings, we shall also reign together with Christ in the happiness that is everlasting.
St. Bernard says: “How few are they, O Lord, who yearn to go after Thee, and yet there is no one that desireth not to come to Thee, for all men know that in Thy right hand are delights that will never fail. All desire to enjoy Thee, but not all to imitate Thee. They would willingly reign with Thee, but spare themselves from suffering with Thee. They have no desire to look for Thee, whom yet they desire to find.” (De humanitate Christi, chapter 47).
Meditation 28 : TUESDAY AFTER THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
"THE DIVINE FRIEND"
“His sisters sent to Him saying: ‘Lord, behold, he, whom Thou lovest, is sick!” (John 11:3).
Three things here call for thought.
1. God’s friends are, from time to time, afflicted in the body. It is not, therefore, in any way a proof that a man is not a friend of God that he is from time to time sick and ailing. Eliphaz argued falsely against Job when he said: “Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished being innocent? Or when were the just destroyed?” (Job 4:7).
The Gospel corrects this when it says: “Lord, behold, he, whom Thou lovest, is sick,” and the Book of Proverbs, too, where we read: “For whom the Lord loveth, He chastiseth: and as a father in the son, he pleaseth himself” (Proverbs 3:12).
2. The sisters do not say: “Lord, come and heal him.” They merely explain that Lazarus is ill, they say: “He is sick.” This is to remind us that, when we are dealing with a friend, it is enough to make known our necessity, we do not need to add a request. For a friend, since he wills the welfare of his friend as he wills his own, is as anxious to ward off evil from his friend as he is to ward it off from himself. This is true most of all in the case of Him who, of all friends, loves most truly. ”The Lord keepeth all them that love Him” (Psalm 114:20).
3. These two sisters, who so greatly desire the cure of their sick brother, do not come to Christ personally, as did the centurion and the man sick of the palsy. From the special love and familiarity which Christ had shown them, they had a special confidence in Him. And, possibly, their grief kept them at home, as St. Chrysostom thinks. ”A friend if he continue steadfast, shall be to thee as thyself, and shall act with confidence among them of thy household” (Ecclesiasticus 6:11) (Commentary on John, chapter 11).
Meditation 27 : MONDAY AFTER THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
"THE PASSION MERITS EXALTATION"
“He became obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross: for which cause God hath exalted Him” (Philippians 2:8).
1. Merit is a thing which implies a certain equality of justice. Thus St. Paul says: “To him that worketh, the reward is reckoned according to debt” (Romans 4:4).
Now, since a man, who commits an injustice, takes for himself more than is due to himself, it is just that he suffer loss even in what is actually due to him. If a man steals one sheep, he shall give back four as it says in Holy Scripture (Exodus 22:1). And this is said to be merited, inasmuch as, in this way, the man’s evil will is punished. In the same way, the man who acts with such justice, that he take less than what is due to him, merits that more shall be generously superadded to what he has, as a kind of reward for his just will. So, for instance, the Gospel tells us: “He, that humbleth himself, shall be exalted”(Luke 14:11).
2. Now, in His Passion, Christ humbled Himself below His dignity in four respects:
(i) In respect of His Passion and His death, things which He did not owe to undergo.
(ii) In respect to places, for His body was placed in a grave and His soul in Hell.
(iii) In respect to the confusion and shame that He endured.
(iv) In respect to His being delivered over to human authority, as He said Himself to Pilate: “Thou shouldst not have any power against Me, unless it were given thee from above” (John19:11).
3. Therefore, on account of His Passion, He merited a fourfold exaltation.
(i) A glorious resurrection. It is said in Psalm (138:1): “Thou hast known my sitting down,” that is, the humiliation of my Passion: “and my rising up.”
(ii) An ascension into Heaven. Whence it is said: “He descended first into the lower parts of the earth: He that descended is the same also that ascended above all the heavens” (Ephesians 4:9-10).
(iii) To be seated at the right hand of the Father, with His divinity made manifest. Isaias (52:13) says: “He shall be exalted, and extolled, and shall be exceeding high. As many have been astonished at thee, so shall his face be inglorious among men”, and St. Paul says: “He became obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God hath exalted Him and hath given Him a Name which is above all names” (Philippians 2:8-9)., that is to say, He shall be named God by all, and all shall pay Him reverence as God. And this is why St. Paul adds: “That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth” (Philippians 2:10).
(iv) A power of judgment. For it is said: “Thy cause hath been judged as that of the wicked. Cause and judgment thou shalt recover” (Job 36:17). (Summa Theologica, 3a, q. 49, art. 6).
Meditation 26 : THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
"THE PASSION OPENS THE GATES OF HEAVEN"
“We have a confidence in the entering into the holies by the Blood of Christ” (Hebrews 10:19).
The closing of a gate is an obstacle hindering men’s entrance. Now men are hindered from entrance to the heavenly kingdom by sin, for Isaias says: “It shall be called the holy way: the unclean shall not pass over it” (Isaias 35:8).
1. Now the sin that hinders man’s entrance into Heaven is of two kinds.
(i) There is, first of all, the sin of our first parents. By this sin access to the kingdom of heaven was barred to man.
We read in Genesis (3:24) that after the sin of our first parents God ”placed before the paradise of pleasure Cherubims and a flaming sword, turning every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”
(ii) The other kind of hindrance arises from the sins special to each individual, the sins each man commits by his own particular action.
2. By the Passion of Christ we are freed not only from the sin common to all human nature, and this, both as to the sin and as to its appointed penalty, since Christ pays the price on our behalf, but also we are delivered from our personal sins, if we are numbered among those who are linked to the Passion by faith, by charity and by the sacraments of the Faith.
Thus it is that through the Passion of Christ the gates of Heaven are thrown open to us. And hence St. Paul says that”Christ, being come a High Priest of the good things to come, by His own Blood entered once into the holies, having obtained a redemption that is eternal” (Hebrews 9:11).
And this was foreshadowed in the Old Testament, where we read (Numbers 35:25, 28): “the man-slayer shall abide there, that is, in the city of refuge, until the death of the high priest, that is anointed with holy oil. And after he is dead, then shall the man-slayer return to his own country.”
The holy fathers, who (before the coming of Christ) wrought works of justice, earned their entrance into Heaven through faith in the Passion of Christ, as is written: “The saints by faith conquered kingdoms, wrought justice” (Hebrews 11:33). By faith, too, it was that individuals were cleansed from the sins they had individually committed.
But faith or goodness, no matter who the person was that possessed it, was not enough to be able to move the hindrance created by the guilty state of the whole human creation. This hindrance was only removed at the price of the Blood of Christ. And, therefore, before the Passion of Christ, no one could enter the heavenly kingdom to obtain that eternal happiness that consists in the full enjoyment of God.
Christ by His Passion merited for us an entrance into Heaven, and removed what stood in our way. By His Ascension, however, He, as it were, put mankind in possession of Heaven. And therefore it is that He ascended opening the way before them. (Summa Theologica, 3a, q. 49, art. 5).
Meditation 25 : SATURDAY AFTER THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
"THE PASSION RECONCILES US TO GOD"
“We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10).
1. The Passion of Christ brought about out reconciliation to God in two ways.
(i) It removed the sin that had made the human race God’s enemy, as it says in Holy Scripture: “To God the wicked and his wickedness are alike hateful” (Wisdom 14:9), and again: “Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity” (Psalm 5:7).
(ii) Secondly, the Passion was a sacrifice most acceptable to God. It is in fact the peculiar effect of sacrifice to be itself a thing by which God is placated: just as a man remits offenses done against him for the sake of some acknowledgment, pleasing to him, which is made. Whence it is said: “If the Lord stir thee up against me, let Him accept of sacrifice” (1 Kings 26:19). Likewise, the voluntary suffering of Christ was so good a thing in itself, that for the sake of this good thing found in human nature, God was pleased beyond the totality of offenses committed by all mankind, as far as concerns all those who are linked to Christ in His suffering by faith and by charity.
When we say that the Passion of Christ reconciled us to God we do not mean that God began to love us all over again, for it is written: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jeremias 31:3). We mean that by the Passion the cause of the hatred was taken away, on the one hand by the removal of the sin, on the other hand by the compensation of a good that was more than acceptable. (Summa Tehologica, 3a, q. 49, art. 4).
2. As far as those who slew Our Lord were concerned the Passion was indeed a cause of wrath. But the love of Christ suffering was greater than the wickedness of those who caused Him to suffer. And therefore the Passion of Christ was more powerful in reconciling to God the whole human race, than in moving God to anger.
God’s love for us is shown by what it does for us. God is said to love some men because He gives them a share in His own goodness, in that vision of His very essence, from which there follows this, that we live with Him, in His company, as His friends, for it is in that delightful condition of things that happiness (beatitude) consists.
God is then said to love those whom He admits to that vision, either by giving them the vision directly, or by giving them what will bring them to the vision—as when He gives the Holy Spirit as a pledge of the vision.
It was from this sharing in the divine goodness, from this vision of God’s very essence, that man, by sin, had been removed, and it is in this sense that we speak of man as deprived of God’s love. And inasmuch as Christ, making satisfaction for us by His Passion, brought it about that men were admitted to the vision of God, therefore it is that Christ is said to have reconciled us to God. (2 Dist. 19, q. 1, art. 5).
Meditation 24 : FRIDAY AFTER THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
"THE PASSION FREES US FROM PUNISHMENT"
“Surely He hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows” (Isaias 53:4).
By the Passion of Christ we are freed from the liability to be punished for sin, with the punishment that sin calls for, in two ways, directly and indirectly.
1. We are freed directly inasmuch as the Passion of Christ made sufficient and more than sufficient satisfaction for the sins of the whole human race. Now once sufficient satisfaction has been made, the liability to the punishment mentioned is destroyed.
2. We are freed indirectly inasmuch as the Passion of Christ causes the sin to be remitted, and it is from the sin that the liability, to the punishment mentioned, derives.
3. Souls in Hell, however, are not freed by the Passion of Christ, because the Passion of Christ shares its effect with those to whom it is applied by faith and by charity and by the sacraments of faith. Therefore the souls in Hell, who are not linked up with the Passion of Christ in the way just mentioned, cannot receive its effects.
4. Now although we are freed from liability to the precise penalty that sin deserves, there is, nevertheless, enjoined on the repentant sinner a penalty or penance of satisfaction. For in order that the effect of the Passion of Christ be fully worked out in us, it is necessary for us to be made of like form with Christ.
Now, we are made of like form with Christ in baptism by the sacrament, as is said by St. Paul: “We are buried together with Him by baptism into death” (Romans 6:4). Whence it is that no penalty of satisfaction is imposed on those who are baptized. Through the satisfaction made by Christ they are wholly set free. But since ”Christ died once for our sins” (1 Peter 3:18), once only, man cannot a second time be made of like form with the death of Christ through the sacrament of Baptism.
Therefore those who, after Baptism, sin again, must be made like to Christ in His suffering, through some kind of penalty or suffering which they endure in their own persons.
If death, which is a penalty due to sin, continues to subsist, the reason is this: The satisfaction made by Christ produces its effect in us in so far as we are made of one body with Him, in the way limbs are one body with the head.
Now, it is necessary that the limbs be made to conform to the head.
Wherefore, since Christ at first had, together with the grace in his soul, a liability to suffer in His body, and came to His glorious immortality through the Passion, so also should it be with us, who are His limbs.
By the Passion we are indeed delivered from any punishment, as a thing fixed on us, but we are delivered in such a way that it is in the soul we first receive the spirit of the adoption of sons, by which we are put on the list for the inheritance of eternal glory, while we still retain a body that can suffer and die.
It is only afterwards, when we have been fashioned to the likeness of Christ in his sufferings and death, that we are brought into the glory of immortality. St. Paul teaches this when he says: “If sons, heirs also ; heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him” (Romans 8:17). (Summa Theologica 3a, q. 49, art. 3).
Meditation 23 :THURSDAY AFTER THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
"THE SAMARITAN WOMAN"
“The woman therefore left her water-pot, and went her way into the city” (John 4:28).
This woman, once Christ had instructed her, became an apostle. There are three things which we can gather from what she said and what she did.
1. The entirety of her surrender to Our Lord. This is shown :
(i) From the fact that she left lying there, almost as if forgotten, that for which she had come to the well, the water and the water-pot. So great was her absorption. Hence it is said: “The woman left her water-pot and went away into the city,” went away to announce the wonderful works of Christ. She cared no longer for the bodily comforts in view of the usefulness of better things, following in this the example of the Apostles of whom it is said that: “Leaving their nets they followed the Lord” (Mark1:18).
The water-pot stands for fashionable desire, by means of which men draw up pleasures from those depths of darkness signified by the well, that is, from practices which are of the earth earthy. Those who abandon such desires for the sake of God are like the woman who left her water-pot.
(ii) From the multitude of people to whom she tells the news, not to one, nor to two or three, but to a whole city.This is why she went away into the city.
2. A method of preaching.
“She saith to the men there: ‘Come, and see a man who has told me all things whatsoever I have done. Is not he the Christ?’“ (John iv. 29.
(i) She invites them to look upon Christ: “Come, and see a man”—she did not straightway say that they should give themselves to Christ, for that might have been for them an occasion for blasphemy, but, to begin with, she told them things about Christ which were believable and open to observation. She told them he was a man. Nor did she say: “Believe!”, but”come and see,” for she knew that if they, too, tasted of that well, looking that is upon Our Lord, they, too, would feel all she had felt. And she follows the example of a true preacher in that she attracts the men, not to herself, but to Christ.
(ii) She gives them a hint that Christ is God when she says: “A man who has told me all things whatsoever I have done,” that is to say, how many husbands she had had. She is not ashamed to bring up things that make for her own confusion, because the soul, once it is lighted up with the divine fire, in no way looks to earthly values and standards, cares neither for its own glory nor its shame, but only for that flame which holds and consumes it.
(iii) She suggests that this proves the majesty of Christ, saying: “Is not he the Christ?” She does not dare to assert that He is the Christ, lest she have the appearance of wishing to teach others, and the others, irritated thereat, refuse to go out to Him. Nor, on the other hand, does she leave the matter in silence, but she puts it before them questioningly, as though she left it to their own judgment. For this is the easiest of all ways of persuasion.
3. The Fruit of Preaching.
“They therefore went out of the city, and came unto Christ” (John 4:30).
Hereby it is made clear to us that, if we would come to Christ, we too must go out of the city, which is to say, we must lay aside all love of bodily delights. ”Let us go forth therefore to Him outside of the camp” (Hebrews 13:13). Commentary on John, chapter 4).
Meditation 22 : WEDNESDAY AFTER THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
"THE PRICE OF REDEMPTION"
“You are bought with a great price” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
The indignities and sufferings anyone suffers are measured according to the dignity of the person concerned. If a king is struck in the face, he suffers a greater indignity than does a private person. But the dignity of Christ is infinite, for He is a divine person. Therefore, any suffering undergone by Him, even the least conceivable suffering, is infinite. Any suffering at all, then, undergone by Him, without His death, would have sufficed to redeem the human race.
St. Bernard says that the least drop of the blood of Christ would have sufficed for the redemption of us all. And Christ could have shed that one drop without dying. Therefore, even without dying He could, by some kind of suffering, have redeemed, that is, bought back, all mankind.
Now in buying two things are required, an amount equal to the price demanded and the assigning of that amount to the purpose of buying. For if a man gives a price that is not equal in value to the thing to be bought, we do not say that he has bought it, but only that he has partly bought it, and has partly been given it. For example, if a man buys for ten dollars a book that is worth twenty dollars, he has partly bought the book and it has, partly, been given to him. Or again, if he puts together a greater price, but does not assign it to the buying, he is not said to buy the book.
If, therefore, when we speak of the redemption and buying back of the human race, we have in view the amount of the price, we must say that any suffering undergone by Christ, even without His death, would have sufficed, because of the infinite worth of His person. If however, we speak of the redemption with reference to the setting of the price to the purpose in hand, we have, then, to say that no other suffering of Christ, less than His death, was set by God and by Christ as the price to be paid for the redemption of mankind. And this was so for three reasons:
1. That the price of our redemption should not only be infinite in value, but be of the same kind as what it bought, i.e., that it should be with a death that He bought us back from death.
2. That the death of Christ would be not only the price of our redemption, but also an example of courage, so that men would not be afraid to die for the truth. St. Paul makes mention of this and the preceding cause when he says: “That, through death, He might destroy him who had the empire of death (this is the first cause), and might deliver them, who through the fear of death were all their lifetime subject to servitude” (this for the second cause) (Hebrews 14:15).
3. That the death of Christ might be a sacrament to work our salvation; we, that is, dying to sin, to bodily desires and to our own will, through the power of the death of Christ. These reasons are given by St. Peter when he says,”Christ who died once for our sins, the just for the unjust; that He might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:8). And so it is that mankind has not been redeemed by any other suffering of Christ without His death.
But, as a matter of fact, Christ would have paid sufficiently for the redemption of mankind not only by giving His own life, but by suffering any suffering no matter how slight, if this slight suffering had been the thing divinely appointed, and Christ would, thereby, have paid sufficiently, because of the infinite worth of His person. (Quodlibet 2, q. 1, art. 2).
Meditation 21 : TUESDAY AFTER THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
"A TRUE REDEEMER"
“You were redeemed with the precious Blood of Christ, as of a Lamb unspotted and undefiled” (1 Peter 1:19).
1. By the sin of our first parents, the whole human race was alienated from God, as is taught in the second chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians. It was not from God’s power that we were thereby cut off, but from that sight of God’s face to which His children and His servants are admitted.
Then again we descended beneath the usurped power of the devil. Man had consented to the devil’s will and, thereby, had made himself subject to the devil; subject, that is to say, as far as lay in man’s power, for since he was not his own property, but the property of another, he could not really give himself away to the devil.
2. By His Passion, then, Christ did two things.
(i) He freed us from the power of the enemy, conquering him by virtues which were the very contraries to the vices by which he had conquered man—by humility, namely, by obedience and by an austerity of suffering that was in direct opposition to the enjoyment of forbidden food.
(ii) Furthermore, by making satisfaction for the sin committed, Christ joined man with God and made him the child and servant of God.
This emancipation had about it two things that make it a kind of buying. Christ is said to have bought us back, or to have redeemed us, inasmuch as He snatched us from the power of the devil, as a king is said, by hard-fought battles, to redeem his kingdom that the enemy has occupied. Christ is again said to have redeemed us, inasmuch as He placated God for us, paying, as it were, the price of His satisfaction on our behalf, that we might be freed both from the penalty and from the sin.
This price, His precious blood, He paid—that he might make satisfaction for us—not to the devil, but to God. Again, by the victory that His Passion was, he took us away from the devil.
The devil had indeed had dominion over us, but unjustly, since what power he had was usurped. Nevertheless, it was but just that we should fall under his yoke, seeing that it was by him we were overcome. This is why it was necessary that the devil should be overcome by the very contrary of the forces by which he had himself overcome. For he had not overcome by violence, but by a lying persuasion to sin. (3 Dist. 19 91, art. 4).
Meditation 20 : MONDAY AFTER THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
"THE PASSION FREES FROM THE DEVIL"
Our Lord said, as His Passion drew near: “Now shall the princes of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself” (John 12:31-32).
He was lifted up from the earth by His Passion on the cross. Therefore by that Passion the devil was driven out from his dominion over men. With reference to that power, which, before the Passion of Christ, the devil used to exercise over mankind, three things are to be borne in mind.
1. Man had, by his sin, earned for himself enslavement to the devil, for it was by the devil’s temptation that he had been overcome.
2. God, Whom man in sinning had offended, had, by His justice, abandoned man to the enslavement of the devil.
3. The devil by his own most wicked will stood in the way of man’s achieving his salvation.
With regard to the first point, the Passion of Christ set man free from the devil’s power because the Passion of Christ brought about the forgiveness of sin.
As to the second point, the Passion delivered man from the devil, because it brought about a reconciliation between God and man.
As to the third point, the Passion of Christ freed us from the devil’s power because in his action, during the Passion, the devil over-reached himself. He went beyond the limits of the power over men allowed to him by God, when he plotted the death of Christ, upon Whom, since He was without sin, there lay no debt payable by death.
Whence St. Augustine’s words: “The devil was overcome by the justice of Christ. In Him the devil found nothing that deserved death, but, none the less, he slew Him. And it was but just that those debtors, that the devil detained, should go free, since they believed in Him Whom, though He was under no bond to him, the devil had slain.”
The devil still continues to exercise a power over men. He can, God permitting it, tempt them in soul and in body. There is, however, made available for man a remedy in the Passion of Christ, by means of which he can defend himself against these attacks, so that they do not lead him into the destruction of eternal death. Likewise all those who, before the Passion of Christ, resisted the devil, had derived their power to resist from the Passion, although the Passion had not yet been accomplished. But in one point, none of those, who lived before the Passion, had been able to escape the hand of the devil, namely, they all had to go down into Hell, a thing from which, since the Passion, all men can, by his power, defend themselves.
God also allows the devil to deceive men in certain persons, times and places, according to the hidden character of His designs. Such, for example, will be anti-Christ. But there always remains, and for the age of anti-Christ too, a remedy prepared for man through the Passion of Christ, a power of protecting himself against the wickedness of the devils. The fact that there are some who neglect to make use of this remedy, does not lessen the efficacy of the Passion of Christ.
(Summa Theologica, 3a, q. 49, art.2).
Meditation 19 : THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
"THE PASSION FREES FROM SIN"
“He hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Apocalypse 1:5).
The Passion of Christ is the proper cause of the remission of our sins, and that in three ways.
1. Because it provokes us to love God. St. Paul says: “God commendeth His charity towards us ; because when as yet we were sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Through charity we obtain forgiveness for sin, as it says in the Gospel: “Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much” (Luke 7:47).
2. The Passion of Christ is the cause of the forgiveness of sins because it is an act of redemption. Since Christ is Himself our head, He has, by His own Passion—undertaken from love and obedience—delivered us His members from our sins, as it were at the price of His Passion. Just as a man might, by some act of goodness done with his hands, buy himself off for a wrong thing he had done with his feet. For as man’s natural body is a unity, made up of different limbs, so the whole Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is reckoned as a single person with its own head, and this head is Christ.
3. The Passion of Christ was a thing equal to its task. For the human nature through which Christ suffered His Passion is the instrument of His divine nature. Whence all the actions and all the sufferings of that human nature wrought to drive out sin, are wrought by a power that is divine.
Christ, in His Passion, delivered us from our sins in a causal way, that is to say, He set up for us a thing which would be a cause of our emancipation, a thing whereby any sin might at any time be remitted, whether committed now, or in times gone by, or in time to come: much as a physician might make a medicine from which, all who are sick, may be healed, even those sick in the years yet to come.
But since what gives the Passion of Christ its excellence is the fact that it is the universal cause of the forgiveness of sins, it is necessary that we each of us ourselves make use of it for the forgiveness of our own particular sins. This is done through Baptism, Penance and the other sacraments, whose power derives from the Passion of Christ.
By faith also we make use of the Passion of Christ, in order to receive its fruits, as St. Paul says: “Christ Jesus, whom God hath proposed to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:25). But the faith by which we are cleansed from sin is not that faith which can exist side by side with sin—the faith that is called “formless”—but faith formed, that is to say, faith made alive by charity. So that the Passion of Christ is not through faith applied merely to our understanding, but also to our will. Again, it is from the power of the Passion of Christ that the sins are forgiven which are forgiven by faith in this way. (Summa Theologica, 3a, q. 49, art. 1).
Meditation 18 : SATURDAY AFTER THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
"HOW YOU WERE SAVED"
St. Peter says: “You were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver, from your vain conversation of the tradition of your fathers: but with the Precious Blood of Christ, as of a Lamb unspotted and undefiled” (1 Peter 1:18).
St. Paul says: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). He is said to be accursed in our place inasmuch as it was for us that He suffered on the cross. Therefore by His Passion He redeemed us.
Sin, in fact, had bound man with a double obligation.
(i) An obligation that made him sin’s slave. For ”Jesus said, whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). A man is enslaved to whoever overcomes him. Therefore since the devil, in inducing man to sin, had overcome man, man was bound in servitude to the devil.
(ii) A further obligation existed, namely between man and the penalty due for the sin committed, and man was bound in this way in accord with the justice of God. This too was a kind of servitude, for to servitude or slavery it belongs that a man must suffer otherwise than he chooses, since the free man the man who uses himself as he wills.
Since then the Passion of Christ made sufficient, and more than sufficient, satisfaction for the sins of all mankind and for the penalty due to them, the Passion was a kind of price through which we were free from both these obligations. For the satisfaction itself—that by means of which one makes satisfaction, whether for oneself or for another—is spoken of as a kind of price by which one redeems or buys back oneself or another from sin and from merited penalties. So in Holy Scripture it is said: “Redeem thou thy sins with alms” (Daniel 4:24).
Christ made satisfaction not indeed by a gift of money, or anything of that sort, but by a gift that was the greatest of all, by giving for us Himself. And thus it is that the Passion of Christ is called our redemption.
By sinning man bound himself, not to God but to the devil. As far as concerns the guilt of what he did, he had offended God and had made himself subject to the devil, assenting to his will.
Hence he did not, by reason of the sin committed, bind himself to God, but rather, deserting God’s service, he had fallen under the yoke of the devil. And God, with justice if we remember the offence committed against Him, had not prevented this.
But, if we consider the matter of the punishment earned, it was chiefly and in the first place to God that man was bound, as to the supreme judge. Man was, in respect of punishment, bound to the devil only in a lesser sense, as to the torturer, as it says in the gospel, Lest the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer (Matthew 5:45), that is, to the cruel minister of punishments.
Therefore, although the devil unjustly, as far as was in his power, held man—whom by his lies he had deceived—bound in slavery, held him bound both on account of the guilt and of the punishment due for it, it was nevertheless just that man should suffer in this way. The slavery which he suffered on account of the thing done God did not prevent, and the slavery he suffered as punishment God decreed.
Therefore it was in regard to God’s claims that justice called for man to be redeemed, and not in regard to the devil’s hold on us. And it was to God the price was paid and not to the devil. (Summa Theologica, 3a, q. 48, art. 4).
Meditation 17 : FRIDAY AFTER THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
"THE BURIAL SHROUD OF CHRIST"
“Joseph taking the body, wrapped it up in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new monument” (Matthew 27:59).
1. By this clean linen cloth three things are signified in a hidden way, namely:
(i) The pure body of Christ. For the cloth was made of linen which by much pressing is made white and in like manner it was after much pressure that the body of Christ came to the brightness of the resurrection. ”Thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead the third day” (Luke 24:46).
(ii) The Church, ”which without spot or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5:27), is signified by this linen woven out of many threads.
(iii) A clear conscience, where Christ reposes.
2. ”And laid him in his own new monument.”
It was Joseph’s own grave, and certainly it was somehow appropriate that He who had died for the sins of others should be buried in another man’s grave.
Notice that it was a new grave. Had other bodies already been laid in it, there might have been a doubt which had arisen. There is another fitness in this circumstance, namely that He who was buried in this new grave, was He who was born of a Virgin Mother.
As Mary’s womb knew no child before Him nor after Him, so was it with this grave. Again we may understand that it is in a soul renewed that Christ is buried by faith, ”that Christ may dwell by faith in our hearts” (Ephesians 3:17).
St. John’s Gospel adds, ”Now there was in the place where He was crucified, a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher” (John 19:41). Which recalls to us that as Christ was taken in a garden and suffered His agony in a garden, so in a garden was He buried, and thereby we are reminded that it was from the sin committed by Adam in the garden of delightfulness that, by the power of His Passion, Christ set us free, and also that through the Passion the Church was consecrated, the Church which again is as a garden closed. (Commentary on St. Matthew, chapter 26).
Meditation 16 : THURSDAY AFTER THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
"CHRIST SATISFIES BY SACRIFICE"
1. A sacrifice properly so called is something done to render God the honor specially due to Him, in order to appease Him. St. Augustine teaches this, saying, ”Every work done in order that we may, in a holy union, cleave to God is a true sacrifice—every work, that is to say, related to that final good whose possession alone can make us truly happy.” Christ in the Passion offered Himself for us, and it was just this circumstance, that He offered Himself willingly, which was to God the most precious thing of all, since the willingness came from the greatest possible love. Whence it is evident that the Passion of Christ was a real sacrifice.
And as He Himself adds later. The former sacrifices of the saints were so many signs, of different kinds, of this one true sacrifice. This one thing was signified through many things, as one thing is said through many words, so that it may be repeated often without beginning to weary people.
St. Augustine speaks of four things being found in every sacrifice, namely, (1) a person to whom the offering is made, (2) one by whom it is made, (3) the thing offered and (4) those on whose behalf it is offered. These are all found in the Passion of Our Lord. It is the same person, the only, true mediator himself, who through the sacrifice of peace reconciles us to God, yet remains one with Him to Whom He offers, Who makes one with Him those for whom He offers, and is Himself one who both offers and is offered.
2. It is true that in those sacrifices of the old law which were types of Christ, human flesh was never offered, but it does not follow from this that the Passion of Christ was not a sacrifice. For although the reality and the thing that typifies it must coincide in one point, it is not necessary that they coincide in every point, for the reality must go beyond the thing that typifies it.
It was then very fitting that the sacrifice in which the flesh of Christ is offered for us was typified by a sacrifice not of the flesh of man but of other animals, to foreshadow the flesh of Christ which is the most perfect sacrifice of all. It is the most perfect sacrifice of all.
(i) Because since it is the flesh of human nature that is offered, it is a thing fittingly offered for men and fittingly received by men in a sacrament.
(ii) Because, since the flesh of Christ was able to suffer and to die it was suitable for immolation.
(iii) Because since that flesh was itself without sin, it had a power to cleanse from sin.
(iv) Because being the flesh of the very offerer, it was acceptable to God by reason of the unspeakable love of the One Who was offering His own flesh.
Whence St. Augustine says: “What is there more suitably received by men, of offerings made on their behalf, than human flesh, and what is so suitable for immolation as mortal flesh? And what is so clean for cleansing mortal viciousness as that flesh born, without stain of carnal desire, in the womb and of the womb of a virgin? And what can be so graciously offered and received as the flesh of our sacrifice, the body so produced of our priest?” (Summa Theologica, 3a, q. 48, art. 3).
Meditation 15 : WEDNESDAY AFTER THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
"THERE IS NO MERIT WITHOUT CHRIST"
1. Grace was given to Christ not only as to a particular person, but also as far as he is the head of the Church, in order that the grace might pass over from him to his members. And the good works Christ performed, therefore, stand in this same way in relation to Him and to His members, as the good works of any other man in a state of grace stand to himself.
Now it is evident that any man who, in a state of grace, suffers for justice’ sake, merits for himself, by this very fact alone, salvation. As is said in the Gospel: “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake” (Matthew 5:10).
Whence Christ by His Passion merited salvation not only for Himself but for all His members.
Christ, indeed, from the very instant of His conception, merited eternal salvation for us. But there still remained certain obstacles on our part, obstacles which kept us from possessing ourselves of the effect of what Christ had merited. Wherefore, in order to remove these obstacles: “it behoved Christ to suffer” (Luke 24:46).
Now although the love of Christ for us was not increased in the Passion, and was not greater in the Passion than before it, the Passion of Christ had a certain effect which His previous meritorious activity did not have. The Passion produced this effect not on account of any greater love shown thereby, but because it was a kind of action fitted to produce that effect, as is evident from what has been said already on the fitness of the Passion of Christ. (Summa Theologica 3a, q. 48, art. 1).
Head and members belong to one and the same person. Now Christ is our head, according to His divinity and to the fullness of His grace, which overflows upon others also. We are His members. What Christ then meritoriously acquires is not something external and foreign to us, but, by virtue of the unity of the mystical body, it overflows upon us too (3 Dist. xviii. 6).
2. We should know, too, that although Christ, by His death, acquired merit sufficient for the whole human race, there are special things needed for the particular salvation of each individual soul, and these each soul must itself seek out.
The death of Christ is, as it were, the cause of all salvation, as the sin of the first man was the cause of all condemnation. But if each individual man is to share in the effect of a universal cause, the universal cause needs to be specially applied to each individual man.
Now the effect of the sin of the first parents is transmitted to each individual through his bodily origin (i.e., through his being a bodily descendant of the first man). The effect of the death of Christ is transmitted to each man through a spiritual rebirth, a re-birth in which man is, as it were, conjoined with Christ and incorporated with Him.
Therefore it is that each individual must seek to be born again through Christ, and to receive those other things in which works the power of the death of Christ. (Contra Gentiles, iv. 55.)
Meditation 14 : TUESDAY AFTER THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
"ONLY CHRIST CAN SATISFY"
“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
1. Satisfaction for offenses committed is truly made when there is offered, to the person offended, a thing which he loves as much as, or more than he hates the offenses committed.
Christ, however, by suffering out of love and out of obedience, offered to God something greater by far than the satisfaction called for by all the sins of all mankind, and this for three reasons. In the first place, there was the greatness of the love which moved Him to suffer. Then there was the value of the life which He laid down in satisfaction, the life of God and man. Finally, on account of the way in which His Passion involved every part of His being, and of the greatness of the suffering He undertook.
So it is that the Passion of Christ was not merely sufficient, but superabundant, as a satisfaction for men’s sins. It would seem indeed to be the case that satisfaction should be made by the person who committed the offence. But head and members are as it were one mystical person, and therefore the satisfaction made by Christ avails all the faithful as they are the members of Christ. One man can always make satisfaction for another, so long as the two are one in charity. (Summa Theologica 3a, q. 48, art. 2).
2. Although Christ, by his death, made sufficient satisfaction for Original Sin, it is not unfitting that the penal consequences of Original Sin should still remain, even in those who are made sharers in Christ’s redemption. This has been done fittingly and usefully, so that the penalties remain, even though the guilt has been removed.
(i) It has been done so that there might he conformity between the faithful and Christ, as there is conformity between members and head. Just as Christ first of all suffered many pains and came in this way to his glory, so it is only right that his faithful should also first be subjected to sufferings and thence enter into immortality, themselves bearing as it were the livery of the Passion of Christ so as to enjoy a glory somewhat like to his.
(ii) A second reason is that if men, coming to Christ, were straightway freed from suffering and the necessity of death, only too many would come to Him attracted rather by these temporal advantages than by spiritual things. And this would be altogether contrary to the intention of Christ, who came into this world that He might convert men from a love of temporal advantages and win them to spiritual things.
(iii) Finally, if those, who came to Christ, were straightway rendered immortal and impassible, this would in a kind of way compel men to receive the faith of Christ, and so the merit of believing would be lessened. (Contra Gentiles, iv. 55).
Meditation 13 : MONDAY AFTER THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
"IT WAS FITTING THAT CHRIST SUFFERED AT THE HANDS OF THE GENTILES"
“They shall deliver Him to the Gentiles, to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified” (Matthew 20:19).
1. In the very manner of the Passion of Our Lord, its effects are foreshadowed.
(i) In the first place, the Passion of Our Lord had for its effect the salvation of Jews, many of whom were baptized in His death.
(ii) Secondly, by the preaching of these Jews, the effects of the Passion passed to the Gentiles also. There was thus a certain fitness in Our Lord’s Passion beginning with the Jews and then, the Jews handing Him on, that it should be completed at the hands of the Gentiles.
To show the abundance of the love which moved Him to suffer, Christ, on the very cross, asked mercy for His tormentors. And since He wished that Jew and Gentile alike should realise this truth about His love, so he wished that both should have a share in making him suffer.
2. It was the Jews, and not the Gentiles, who offered the figurative sacrifices of the Old Law. The Passion of Christ was an offering through sacrifice, inasmuch as Christ underwent death by His own will moved by charity. But in so far as those who put Him to death were concerned, they were not offering a sacrifice, but committing a sin.
When the Jews declared, ”It is not lawful for us to put any man to death” (John 19:31), they may have had many things in mind. It was not lawful for them to put anyone to death on account of the holiness of the feast they had begun to keep.
Perhaps they wished Christ to be killed, not as a transgressor of their own law, but as an enemy of the state, because He had made himself a king, a charge concerning which they had no jurisdiction. Or again, they may have meant that they had no power to crucify—which was what they longed for—but only to stone, as they later stoned St. Stephen. Or, the most likely thing of all, that their Roman conquerors had taken away their power of life and death. (Summa Theologica 3a, q. 47, art. 4)
Meditation 12 : THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
"GOD THE FATHER DELIVERED HIS SON TO HIS PASSION"
“God spared not even His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32).
Christ suffered willingly, moved by obedience to His Father. Wherefore, God the Father delivered Christ to His Passion, and this in three ways :
1. Because the Father, of His eternal will, preordained the Passion of Christ as the means whereby to free the human race. So it is said in Isaias, ”The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (lsaias 3:6), and again, ”The Lord was pleased to bruise Him in infirmity” (Isaias 53:10).
2. Because He inspired Our Lord with the willingness to suffer for us, pouring into His soul the love which produced the will to suffer. Whence the prophet goes on to say: ”He was offered because it was His own will” (Isaias 53:7).
3. Because He did not protect Our Lord from the Passion, but exposed Him to His persecutors. Whence we read in St. Matthew’s Gospel, that as He hung on the cross Christ said: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). For God the Father, that is to say, had left Him at the mercy of His torturers.
To hand over an innocent man to suffering and to death, against his will, compelling him to die as it were, would indeed be cruel and wicked. But it was not in this way that God the Father handed over Christ. He handed over Christ by inspiring Him with the will to suffer for us. By so doing, the severity of God is made clear to us, that no sin is forgiven without punishment undergone, which St. Paul again teaches when he says: “God spared not his own Son.”
At the same time God’s good-heartedness is shown in the fact that whereas man could not, no matter what his punishment, sufficiently make satisfaction, God has given man someone who can make that satisfaction for him. Which is what St. Paul means by: “He delivered Him up for us all,” and again when he says: “God hath proposed Christ to be a propitiation, through faith in His Blood” (Romans 3:25).
The same activity in a good man and in a bad man is differently judged inasmuch as the root from which it proceeds is different. The Father, for example, delivered over Christ and Christ delivered Himself, and this from love, and therefore They are praised. Judas delivered Him from love of gain, the Jews from hatred, Pilate from the worldly fear with which he feared Caesar, and these are rightly regarded with horror. (Summa Theologica, 3a, q. 47, art. 3).
Christ therefore did not owe to death the debt of necessity, but of charity—the charity to men by which He willed their salvation, and the charity to God by which He willed to fulfill God’s will, as it says in the Gospel: ”Not as I will but as Thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). (2 Dist. xx. 1 5)
Meditation 11 : SATURDAY AFTER THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
"THE LOVE OF GOD SHOWN IN THE PASSION OF CHRIST"
“God commendeth His charity towards us: because when as yet we were sinners, according to the time, Christ died for us”(Romans 5:8-9).
1. ”Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). This is a great thing if we consider who it is that died, a great thing also if we consider on whose behalf He died. ”For scarce for a just man, will one die” (Romans 5:6), that is to say, that you will hardly find anyone who will die even to set free a man who is innocent, nay even it is said, ”The just perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart” (Isaias 57:1).
Rightly therefore does St. Paul say scarce will one die. There might perhaps be found one, some one rare person who out of superabundance of courage would be so bold as to die for a good man. But this is rare, for the simple reason that so to act is the greatest of all things. ”Greater love than this no man hath,” says Our Lord Himself, ”that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
But the like of what Christ did Himself, to die for evildoers and the wicked, has never been seen. Wherefore rightly do we ask in wonderment why Christ did it.
2. If in fact it be asked why Christ died for the wicked, the answer is that God in this way ”commendeth His charity towards us.” He shows us in this way that He loves us with a love that knows no limits, ”for while we were as yet sinners Christ died for us.”
The very death of Christ for us shows the love of God, for it was His son whom He gave to die that satisfaction might be made for us. ”God so loved the world, as to give His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). And thus as the love of God the Father for us is shown in His giving us His Holy Spirit, so also is it shown in this way, by His gift of His only Son.
The Apostle says God ”commendeth,” signifying thereby that the love of God is a thing which cannot be measured. This is shown by the very fact of the matter, namely the fact that He gave His Son to die for us, and it is shown also by reason of the kind of people we are for whom He died. Christ was not stirred up to die for us by any merits of ours, when as yet we were sinners. ”God, who is rich in mercy, for his exceeding charity wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ” (Ephesians 2:4). (Commentary on Romans, chapter 5).
3. All these things are almost too much to be believed. ”A work is done in your days, which no man will believe when it shall be told” (Habacuc 1:5). This truth that Christ died for us is so hard a truth that scarcely can our intelligence take hold of it. Nay it is a truth that our intelligence could in no way discover. And St. Paul, preaching, makes echo to Habacuc, ”I work a work in your days, a work which you will not believe, if any man shall tell it to you” (Acts 13:14).
So great is God’s love for us and His grace towards us, that He does more for us than we can believe or understand. (Commentary on Articles of the Creed).
Meditation 10 : FRIDAY AFTER THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
"THE HOLY LANCE AND THE NAILS OF THE LORD"
“One of the soldiers with a spear opened His side, and immediately there came out blood and water” (John 19:34).
1. The Gospel deliberately says opened and not wounded, because through Our Lord’s side there was opened to us the gate of eternal life. ”After these things I looked, and, behold, a gate was opened in Heaven” (Apocalypse 4:1). This is the door opened in the Ark, through which enter the animals who will not perish in the flood.
2. But this door is the cause of our salvation. Immediately there came forth blood and water, a thing truly miraculous, that, from a dead body, in which the blood congeals, blood should come forth.
(i) This was done to show that by the Passion of Christ we receive a full absolution, an absolution from every sin and every stain. We receive this absolution from sin through that blood which is the price of our redemption. ”You were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver, from your vain conversation with the tradition of your fathers; but with the Precious Blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled” (1 Peter 1:18).
(ii) We were absolved from every stain by the water, which is the laver of our redemption. In the prophet Ezechiel it is said, ”I will pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleaned from all your filthiness” (Ezechiel 36:28), and in Zacharias,”There shall be a fountain open to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for the washing of the sinner and the unclean woman” (Zacharias 13:1).
And so these two things may be thought of in relation to two of the Sacraments, (1) the water to Baptism and (2) the blood to the Holy Eucharist. Or both may be referred to the Holy Eucharist since, in the Mass, water is mixed with the wine. Although the water is not of the substance of the Sacrament.
Again, as from the side of Christ asleep in death on the cross there flowed that blood and water in which the Church is consecrated, so from the side of the sleeping Adam was formed the first woman, who herself foreshadowed the Church.
(Commnetary on John, chapter 19).
Meditation 9 : THURSDAY AFTER THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
"IT WAS FITTING THAT CHRIST WAS CRUCIFIED BETWEEN TWO THIEVES"
Christ was crucified between the thieves because such was the will of the Jews, and also because this was part of God’s design. But the reasons why this was appointed were not the same in each of these cases.
1. As far as the Jews were concerned Our Lord was crucified with the thieves on either side to encourage the suspicion that He too was a criminal. But it came out otherwise. The thieves themselves have left not a trace in the remembrance of mankind, while His cross is everywhere held in honour. Kings laying aside their crowns have embroidered the cross on their royal robes. They have placed it on their crowns; on their coats of arms. It has its place on the very altars. Everywhere, throughout the world, we behold the splendor of the cross.
In God’s plan Christ was crucified with the thieves in order that, as for our sakes He became accursed of the cross, so, for our salvation, He is crucified like an evil thing among evil things.
2. The Pope, St. Leo the Great, says that the thieves were crucified, one on either side of Him, so that in the very appearance of the scene of His suffering there might be set forth that distinction which should be made in the judgment of each one of us. St. Augustine has the same thought. ”The cross itself,” he says, ”was a tribunal. In the centre was the judge. To the one side a man who believed and was set free, to the other side a scoffer and he was condemned.” Already there was made clear the final fate of the living and the dead, the one class placed at His right, the other on His left.
3. According to St. Hilary the two thieves, placed to right and to left, typify that the whole of mankind is called to the mystery of Our Lord’s Passion. And since division of things according to right and left is made with reference to believers and those who will not believe, one of the two, placed on the right, is saved by justifying faith.
4. As St. Bede says, the thieves who were crucified with Our Lord, represent those who, for the faith and to confess Christ, undergo the agony of martyrdom, or the severe discipline of a more perfect life. Those who do this for the sake of eternal glory are typified by the thief on the right hand. Those whose motive is the admiration of whoever beholds them, imitate the spirit and the actions of the thief on the left-hand side.
As Christ owed no debt in payment for which a man must die, but submitted to death of His own will, in order to overcome death, so also He had not done anything on account of which He deserved to be put with the thieves. But of His own will he chose to be reckoned among the wicked, that by His power He might destroy wickedness itself. Which is why St. John Chrysostom says that to convert the thief on the cross and to turn him to Paradise was as great a miracle as the earthquake. (Summa Theologica, 3a, q. 46, art. 11)
Meditation 8 : WEDNESDAY AFTER THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
"HOW GREAT WERE CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS?"
“Attend and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow” (Lamentations 1:12).
Our Lord as He suffered felt really, and in His senses, that pain which is caused by some harmful bodily thing. He also felt that interior pain which is caused by the fear of something harmful and which we call sadness. In both these respects the pain suffered by Our Lord was the greatest pain possible in this present life. There are four reasons why this was so.
1. The causes of the pain.
The cause of the pain in the senses was the breaking up of the body, a pain whose bitterness derived partly from the fact that the sufferings attacked every part of His body, and partly from the fact that of all species of torture death by crucifixion is undoubtedly the most bitter. The nails are driven through the most sensitive of all places, the hands and the feet, the weight of the body itself increases the pain every moment. Add to this the long drawn-out agony, for the crucified do not die immediately as do those who are beheaded.
The cause of the internal pain was :
(i) All the sins of all mankind for which, by suffering, he was making satisfaction, so that, in a sense, He took them to him as though they were His own. “The words of my sins,” it says in the Psalms (Psalm 21:2).
(ii) The special case of the Jews and the others who had had a share in the sin of his death, and especially the case of His disciples for whom His death had been a thing to be ashamed of.
(iii) The loss of His bodily life, which, by the nature of things, is something from which human nature turns away in horror.
2. We may consider the greatness of the pain according to the capacity, bodily and spiritual, for suffering of Him who suffered. In His body He was most admirably formed, for it was formed by the miraculous operation of the Holy Ghost, and therefore its sense of touch—that sense through which we experience pain—was of the keenest. His soul likewise, from its interior powers, had a knowledge as from experience of all the causes of sorrow.
3. The greatness of Our Lord’s suffering can be considered in regard to this that the pain and sadness were without any alleviation. For in the case of no matter what other sufferer the sadness of mind, and even the bodily pain, is lessened through a certain kind of reasoning, by means of which there is brought about a distraction of the sorrow from the higher powers to the lower. But when Our Lord suffered this did not happen, for He allowed each of His powers to act and suffer to the fullness of its special capacity.
4. We may consider the greatness of the suffering of Christ in the Passion in relation to this fact that the Passion and the pain it brought with it were deliberately undertaken by Christ with the object of freeing man from sin. And therefore He undertook to suffer an amount of pain proportionately equal to the extent of the fruit that was to follow from the Passion.
From all these causes, if we consider them together, it will be evident that the pain suffered by Christ was the greatest pain ever suffered. (Summa Theologica, 3a, q. 46, art. 6).
Meditation 7 : TUESDAY AFTER THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
"CHRIST SUFFERED EVERY KIND OF SUFFERING"
“Every kind of suffering.” The things men suffer may be understood in two ways. By ”kind” we may mean a particular, individual suffering, and in this sense there was no reason why Christ should suffer every kind of suffering, for many kinds of suffering are contrary the one to the other, as for example, to be burnt and to be drowned.
We are of course speaking of Our Lord as suffering from causes outside Himself, for to suffer the suffering effected by internal causes, such as bodily sickness, would not have become Him. But if by “kind” we mean the class, then Our Lord did suffer by every kind of suffering, as we can show in three ways:
1. By considering the men through whom He suffered.
(i) For He suffered something at the hands of Gentiles and of Jews, of men and even of women —as the story of the servant girl who accused St. Peter goes to show.
(ii) He suffered, again, at the hands of rulers, of their ministers, and of the people, as was prophesied, ”Why have the Gentiles raged; and the people devised vain things? The kngs of the earth stood up, and the princes met together against the Lord and against His Christ” (Psalm 2:1-2).
(iii) He suffered, too, from His friends, the men He knew best, for Peter denied Him and Judas betrayed Him.
2. If we consider the things through which suffering is possible.
(i) Christ suffered in the friends who deserted Him, and in His good name through the blasphemies uttered
(ii) He suffered in the respect, in the glory, due to Him through the derision and contempt bestowed upon Him.
(iii) He suffered in things, for He was stripped even of His clothing; in His soul, through sadness, through weariness and through fear; in His body through wounds and the scourging.
3. If we consider what He underwent in His various parts. His head suffered through the crown of piercing thorns,(i) His hands and feet through the nails driven through them, His face from the blows and the defiling spittle, and His whole body through the scourging.
(ii) He suffered in every sense of His body. Touch was afflicted by the scourging and the nailing, taste by the vinegar and gall, smell by the stench of corpses as He hung on the cross in that place of the dead which is called Calvary. His hearing was torn with the voices of mockers and blasphemers, and He saw the tears of His mother and of the disciple whom He loved.
if we only consider the amount of suffering required, it is true that one suffering alone, the least indeed of all, would have sufficed to redeem the human race from all its sins. But if we look at the fitness of the matter, it had to be that Christ should suffer in all the kinds of sufferings. (Summa Theologica, 3a, q. 46, art. 5).
Meditation 6 : MONDAY AFTER THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
"CHRIST HAD TO BE TEMPTED IN THE DESERT"
“He was in the desert forty days and forty nights: and was tempted by Satan” (Mark 1:13).
1. It was by Christ’s own will that He was exposed to the temptation by the devil, as it was also by His own will that He was exposed to be slain by the limbs of the devil. Had He not so willed, the devil would never have dared to approach Him.
The devil is always more disposed to attack those who are alone, because, as is said in Sacred Scripture, ”If a man shall prevail against one, two shall withstand him easily” (Ecclesiasticus 4:12). That is why Christ went out into the desert, as one going out to a battle-ground, that there he might be tempted by the devil. Whereupon St. Ambrose says that Christ went into the desert for the express purpose of provoking the devil. For unless the devil had fought, Christ would never have overcome him for me.
St. Ambrose gives other reasons too. He says that Christ chose the desert as the place to be tempted for a hidden reason, namely that he might free from his exile Adam who, from Paradise, was driven into the desert; and again that he did it for a reason in which there is no mystery, namely to show us that the devil envies those who are tending towards a better life.
2. We say with St. Chrysostom that Christ exposed himself to the temptation because the devil most of all tempts those whom he sees alone. So in the very beginning of things he tempted the woman, when he found her away from her husband. It does not however follow from this that a man ought to throw himself into any occasion of temptation that presents itself.
Occasions of temptation are of two kinds. One kind arises from man’s own action, when, for example, man himself goes near to sin, not avoiding the occasion of sin. That such occasions are to be avoided we know, and Holy Scripture reminds us of it. ”Stay not in any part of the country round about Sodom” (Genesis 19:17). The second kind of occasion arises from the devil’s constant envy of those who are tending to better things, as St. Ambrose says, and this occasion of temptation is not one we must avoid.
So, according to St. John Chrysostom, not only Christ was led into the desert by the Holy Ghost, but all the children of God who possess the Holy Ghost are led in like manner. For God’s children are never content to sit down with idle hands, but the Holy Ghost ever urges them to undertake for God some great work. And this, as far as the devil is concerned, is to go into the desert, for in the desert there is none of that wickedness which is the devil’s delight. Every good work is as it were a desert to the eye of the world and of our flesh, for good works are contrary to the desire of the world and of our flesh.
To give the devil such an opportunity of temptation as this is not dangerous, for it is much more the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, who is the promoter of every perfect work, that prompts us than the working of the devil who hates them all. (Summa Theologica, 3a, q. 41, art. 2).
Meditation 5 : THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
"IT WAS FITTING THAT CHRIST SHOULD BE TEMPTED"
“Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1).
Christ willed to be tempted:
1. That He might assist us against our own temptations. St. Gregory says, ”That our Redeemer, who had come on earth to be killed, should will to be tempted was not unworthy of Him. It was indeed but just that He should overcome our temptations by His own, in the same way that He had come to overcome our death by His death.”
2. To warn us that no man, however holy he be, should think himself safe and free from temptation. Whence again His choosing to be tempted after His baptism, about which St. Hilary says: ”The devil’s wiles are especially directed to trap us at times when we have recently been made holy, because the devil desires no victory so much as a victory over the world of grace.” Whence too, the scripture warns us, ”Son, when thou comest to the service of God, stand in justice and in fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation” (Ecclesiasticus 2:1).
3. To give us an example how we should overcome the temptations of the devil, St. Augustine says, ”Christ gave Himself to the devil to be tempted, that in the matter of our overcoming those same temptations He might be of service not only by His help but by His example too.”
4. To fill and saturate our minds with confidence in His mercy. ”For we have not a high priest who cannot have compassion on our infirmities, but one tempted in all things, like as we are, without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). (Summa Theologica 3a, q. 41, art. 1).
Meditation 4 : SATURDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY
"THE GRAIN OF WHEAT"
“Unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone” (John 12:24).
1. We use the grain of wheat in two ways, for bread and for seed. Here the word is to be taken in the second sense, grain of wheat meaning seed and not the matter out of which we make bread. For in this sense it never increases so as to bear fruit. When it is said that the grain must die, this does not mean that it loses its value as seed, but that it is changed into another kind of thing. So St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:36) says: “That which then thou sowest is not quickened, except it die first.”
The Word of God is a seed in the soul of man, in so far as it is a thing introduced into man’s soul, by words spoken and heard, in order to produce the fruit of good works: “The seed is the Word of God” (Luke 8:11). So also the Word of God garbed in flesh is a seed placed in the world, a seed from which great crops should grow, whence it is compared in St. Matthew’s Gospel (13:31-32) to a grain of mustard seed.
Our Lord therefore says to us: “I came as seed, something meant to bear fruit and therefore I say to you, ‘Unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone,’” which is as much as to say: “Unless I die the fruit of the conversion of the Gentiles will not follow.”
He compares Himself to a grain of wheat, because He came to nourish and to sustain the minds of men, and to nourish and sustain are precisely what wheaten bread does for men. In the Psalms it is written: “That bread may strengthen man’s heart” (Psalm 103:15), and in St. John: “The bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:52).
2. “But if it die it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:25). What is here explained is the usefulness of the Passion. It is as though the Gospel said: “Unless the grain fall into the earth through the humiliations of the Passion, no useful result will follow, for the grain ‘itself remaineth alone.’ But if it shall die, done to death and slain by the Jews, ‘it bringeth forth much fruit,’” for example:
(i) The remission of sin. “This is the whole fruit, that the sin thereby should be taken away” (Isaias 27:9). And this is the fruit of the Passion of Christ as is declared by St. Peter: “Christ died once for our sins, the just for the unjust that he might offer us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
(ii) The conversion of the Gentiles to God. “I have appointed you that you shall go forth and bring forth fruit and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16). This fruit the Passion of Christ bore: “If I be lifted up from the Earth, I will draw all things to Myself” (John 12:32).
(iii) The fruit of Glory. “The fruit of good labours is glorious” (Wisdom 3:15). And this fruit also the Passion of Christ brought forth; “We have therefore a confidence in the entering into the Holies by the blood of Christ: a new and living way which He hath dedicated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh” (Hebrews 10:19).
(In John, chapter 12).
For earlier meditations, please scroll down.
Meditation 3 : FRIDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY
"A LENTEN CROWN"
“Go forth, ye daughters of Sion, and see king Solomon in the diadem, wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the joy of his heart” (Canticles 3:11).
This is the voice of the Church inviting the souls of the faithful to behold the marvellous beauty of her spouse. For the daughters of Sion, who are they but the daughters of Jerusalem, holy souls, the citizens of that city which is above, who with the angels enjoy the peace that knows no end, and, in consequence, look upon the glory of the Lord?
1. “Go forth,” shake off the disturbing commerce of this world so that, with minds set free, you may be able to contemplate Him whom you love. “And see king Solomon,” the true peacemaker, that is to say, Christ Our Lord.
“In the diadem wherewith his mother crowned him,” as though the Church said: “Look on Christ garbed with flesh for us, the flesh He took from the flesh of his mother.” For it is His flesh that is here called a diadem, the flesh which Christ assumed for us, the flesh in which He died and destroyed the reign of death, the flesh in which, rising once again, He brought to us the hope of resurrection.
This is the diadem of which St. Paul speaks: “We see Jesus for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour” (Hebrews 2:9). His mother is spoken of as crowning Him because Mary the Virgin it was who from her own flesh gave Him flesh.
“In the day of His espousals,” that is, in the hour of his Incarnation, when He took to himself the Church not having spot or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:27), the hour again when God was joined with man. “And in the day of the joy of His heart.” For the joy and the gaiety of Christ is for the human race salvation and redemption. And coming home, he calls together his friends and neighbours saying to them: “Rejoice with Me, because I have found My sheep that was lost” (Luke 15:6).
2. We can however refer the whole of this text simply and literally to the Passion of Christ. For Solomon, foreseeing through the centuries the Passion of Christ, was uttering a warning for the daughters of Sion, that is, for the Jewish people.
“Go forth and see king Solomon,” that is, Christ, in His diadem, that is to say, the crown of thorns with which His mother the Synagogue has crowned Him; “in the day of His espousals,” the day when He joined to Himself the Church; “and in the day of the joy of His heart,” the day in which He rejoiced that by His Passion He was delivering the world from the power of the devil. Go forth, therefore, and leave behind the darkness of unbelief, and see, understand with your minds that He who suffers as man is really God.
“Go forth,” beyond the gates of your city, that you may see him, on Mount Calvary, crucified.
(In Canticles, chapter 3)
Meditation 2 : THURSDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY
1. We fast for three reasons.
(i) To check the desires of the flesh. So St. Paul says “in fastings, in chastity” (2 Corinthians 6:5), meaning that fasting is a safeguard for chastity. As St. Jerome says, “Without Ceres, and Bacchus, Venus would freeze,” as much as to say that lust loses its heat through spareness of food and drink.
(ii) That the mind may more freely raise itself to contemplation of the heights. We read in the book of Daniel that it was after a fast of three weeks that he received the revelation from God (Daniel 10:2-4).
(iii) To make satisfaction for sin. This is the reason given by the prophet Joel: “Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting and in weeping and in mourning” (Joel 2:12). And here is what St. Augustine writes on the matter. “Fasting purifies the soul. It lifts up the mind, and it brings the body into subjection to the spirit. It makes the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of desire, puts out the flames of lust and enkindles the true light of chastity.”
2. There is commandment laid on us to fast. For fasting helps to destroy sin, and to raise the mind to thoughts of the spiritual world. Each man is then bound, by the natural law of the matter, to fast just as much as is necessary to help him in these matters. Which is to say that fasting in general is a matter of natural law.
To determine, however, when we shall fast and how, according to what suits and is of use to the Catholic body, is a matter of positive law. To state the positive law is the business of the bishops, and what is thus stated by them is called ecclesiastical fasting, in contradistinction with the natural fasting previously mentioned.
3. The times fixed for fasting by the Church are well chosen. Fasting has two objects in view:
(i) The destruction of sin, and
(ii) the lifting of the mind to higher things.
The times self-indicated for fasting are then those in which men are especially bound to free themselves from sin and to raise their minds to God in devotion. Such a time especially is that which precedes that solemnity of Easter in which baptism is administered and sin thereby destroyed, and when the burial of Our Lord is recalled, for “we are buried together with Christ by baptism into death” (Romans 6:4). Then, too, at Easter most of all, men's minds should be lifted, through devotion to the glory of that eternity which Christ in his resurrection inaugurated.
Wherefore the Church has decreed that immediately before the solemnity of Easter we must fast, and, for a similar reason, that we must fast on the eves of the principal feasts, setting apart those days as opportune to prepare ourselves for the devout celebration of the feasts themselves.
(Summa Theologica, 2a-2ae, q. 97, articles 1, 3, 5).
Meditation 1 : ASH WEDNESDAY
“By one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death” (Romans 5:12).
1. If for some wrongdoing a man is deprived of some benefit once given to him, that he should lack that benefit is the punishment of his sin.
Now, in man's first creation he was divinely endowed with this advantage that, so long as his mind remained subject to God, the lower powers of his soul were subjected to the reason, and the body was subjected to the soul.
But because, by sin, man's mind moved away from its subjection to God, it followed that the lower parts of his mind ceased to be wholly subjected to the reason. From this there followed such a rebellion of the bodily inclination against the reason, that the body was no longer wholly subject to the soul.
Whence followed death and all the bodily defects. For life and wholeness of body are bound up with this, that the body is wholly subject to the soul, as a thing which can be made perfect is subject to that which makes it perfect. So it comes about that, conversely, there are such things as death, sickness and every other bodily defect, for such misfortunes are bound up with an incomplete subjection of body to soul.
2. The rational soul is of its nature immortal, and therefore death is not natural to man in so far as man has a soul. It is natural to his body, for the body, since it is formed of things contrary to each other in nature, is necessarily liable to corruption, and it is in this respect that death is natural to man.
But God, Who fashioned man, is all powerful. And hence, by an advantage conferred on the first man, He took away that necessity of dying which was bound up with the matter of which man was made. This advantage was however withdrawn through the sin of our first parents.
Death is then natural, if we consider the matter of which man is made and it is a penalty, inasmuch as it happens through the loss of the privilege whereby man was preserved from dying. (Summa Theologica, 2a-2ae, q. 164, art. 1).
3. Sin—Original Sin and Actual Sin—is taken away by Christ, that is to say, by Him who is also the remover of all bodily defects. “He shall quicken also your mortal bodies, because of his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11).
But, according to the order appointed by a wisdom that is divine, it is at the time which best suits that Christ takes away both the one and the other, i.e., both sin and bodily defects.
Now it is only right that, before we arrive at that glory of impassibility and immortality which began in Christ, and which was acquired for us through Christ, we should be shaped after the pattern of Christ's sufferings. It is then only right that Christ's liability to suffer should remain in us too for a time, as a means of our coming to the impassibility of glory in the way He himself came to it. (Summa Theologica, 1a-2ae, q. 85, art. 5, ad 2).