ADVICE FROM THE SAINTS ON MEDITATING THE PASSION AND DEATH OF OUR LORD
“St. Augustine assures us that there is no spiritual exercise more fruitful or more useful than the frequent reflection on the sufferings of Our Lord. St. Albert the Great, who had St. Thomas Aquinas as his student, learned in a revelation that by simply thinking of or meditating on the Passion of Jesus Christ, a Christian gains more merit than if he had fasted on bread and water every Friday for a year, or had beaten himself with the discipline once a week till blood flowed, or had recited the whole Book of Psalms every day” (The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis Marie de Montfort, “Twenty-Eighth Rose”).
St. Alphonsus Liguori writes:
“Our time is no time for fear as we are witnesses of a God who gave up His own life out of love for us. The Passion of Jesus was an excess of the love of God, so anyone who meditates on it, will follow Him to the end.
“If you wish to advance in your spiritual life, think of the Lord’s sufferings every day, because by thinking of them, it is impossible not to be overwhelmed with love capable of making other effects relative when compared to His own sufferings, and receiving strength to overcome with joy the inevitable burdens and trials of life.
“Who could be without hope or irritated by the [imagined] injustice of his own sufferings when seeing Jesus wounded and broken? Who could refuse to yield to the demands of the common good when remembering that Christ became obedient even unto death? Who could be fearful if he embraces the Cross of our Redeemer?
“St. Teresa lamented that some books had advised her to stop meditating on the passion because the humanity of Christ could prevent the contemplation of His divinity; aware of the error, she exclaimed: ‘O my good Lord, Jesus crucified, I seemed to have betrayed Thee so greatly, since, from where did all blessings come to me except from Thy Cross?’
“St. Paul said that his sole ambition was to know the science of the Cross, referring to the love that it contains: ‘For I resolved to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 11:2).
“When St. Bonaventure was asked where he got the copious and abundant doctrine that was found in his works, he said, showing a crucifix: ‘This is the book that tells me everything I write. Here I have learned what little I know.’
“Would you hesitate to consecrate yourself entirely to your Redeemer if you really knew the mystery of the Cross? How having He loved you to madness, still has not yet attained to govern over your heart? Keep in mind that, He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.’”
Quote from the book THE SCHOOL OF JESUS CRUCIFIED, Fr. Ignatius of the Side of Jesus:
"Perhaps there is no subject for meditation more suitable for every class of persons than the most sacred Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. In it may sinners find the encouragement and graces necessary for their conversion; from it may beginners derive strength and fervor wherewith to subdue their passions; in it may the good discover fresh incentives to advance in the paths of virtue. In short, there are none who will not find in it an inexhaustible mine of hidden treasures, and an endless source of graces and spiritual blessings. "In all ages it has been a favorite exercise of the Saints, who greatly to their consolation have been in the habit of spending hours, day and night, in meditation on the bitter sufferings of their Savior. So much is not required of you, O devout Christian, but only that you should daily spend half, or at least a quarter of an hour, in attentive consideration of some point of the Passion of Jesus. The man who is desirous of ascertaining the degree of pungency possessed by a grain of mustard seed, chews it leisurely, tastes it deliberately, keeps it in his mouth, and is careful not to swallow it whole, by which means its heat is fully communicated to his palate so as to bring tears to his eyes. "Similar are the mysteries of the Passion of Jesus Christ; swallowed, as it were, in one mouthful, they touch not the heart; superficially run over ny a single passing thought, their virtue is not experienced in the soul; but when slowly digested by attentive consideration, they give rise to holy affections and wonderful resolutions. Only make the attempt, apply your mind diligently to this holy exercise, and you will be convinced, by your own experience, how great a change of heart, reformation of life, hatred of sin, and love of God it will produce in your soul. Make the attempt, and you will behold all the difficulties foolishly apprehended in meditation by foolish worldlings vanish before your eyes, and you will feel how sweet it is to the soul to remain in silence, contemplating Jesus Crucified.
"In order to facilitate the practice of this holy exercise, I have arranged a Meditation, divided into three points, upon the principal mysteries of the Sacred Passion of Christ, for every day of the month. Do not be satisfied with merely glancing your eye down it and reading its contents in a hasty cursory manner, but read it very slowly, and pause frequently, in order to reflect attentively upon what you are reading.
"Whatever mystery of the Passion you take for the subject of your meditation, you may always bestow attentive consideration on the following five points:
1. The infinite greatness of Him Who suffers. 2. The excess of suffering and ignominy which He endures. 3. How great is the love with which He suffers. 4. The infinite unworthiness and vileness of those for whom He suffers. 5. That His principal aim in all His sufferings is to be loved by men.
"Let these reflections sink deep into your mind, and if one of them, or any other point of the meditation which you are reading, should make a lively impression upon your heart, dwell awhile on it without caring to go on any further. You may even make your prayer upon the same point for several days, and even weeks, in succession, if you find it productive of good thoughts, reserving the other points for the following days, and you will Soon perceive how useful such repetitions will be to your soul. After your mind has been employed in attentively considering and reflecting upon the mystery and its attendant circumstances, it will not be difficult for your will to be excited and touched by different holy affections, which you ought to pass some short time in exercising with great calmness of spirit, giving free vent to the emotions of your heart, and following the sweet impulses of God's grace.
"The principal affections to which you may excite your mind during your meditation upon the sufferings of Jesus are as follows:
1. Admiration—How is it possible, you may say, that a God can suffer so much for the love of me, a vile creature? Oh, what excessive love and charity!
2. Gratitude—By exciting yourself to interior emotions of gratitude and appreciation of the greatness of the benefits bestowed upon you by Jesus in His Passion, feeling how much you are indebted to your dear Redeemer, and resolving constantly to praise and thank Him for His infinite love toward you.
3. Compassion—By compassionating your Crucified Jesus overwhelmed with sorrow and suffering, and by earnestly desiring that you had been present to have afforded some relief to your most afflicted Lord. 4. Contrition for your sins—By considering all that those guilty pleasures in which you have indulged contrary to the law of God have cost Jesus Christ, and how large a share you have had in His Passion and Death. Bewail your sins at His feet, and firmly resolve to die rather than ever more to offend a Father so worthy of your love.
5. Love—By protesting that you will bestow all the affections of your heart upon Him who has so much loved you, and by desiring to have, if possible, a thousand hearts solely occupied in loving Him, and corresponding in some measure with His infinite charity. Offer and consecrate yourself entirely to the love of Jesus Crucified. Desire that He may be known and loved by all men.
6. Prayer—By asking of Our Lord grace to love Him, to imitate Him, and never to offend Him. Endeavor to inspire your heart with lively feelings of confidence that God will grant all your requests through the merits of the Passion of Jesus Christ. Your most fervent request ought to be for grace to correct some habitual fault, to overcome your predominant passion, and to practice that virtue in which you are most deficient, and which has occupied a prominent place in the subject of your meditation, thereby to imitate Jesus Christ; for the imitation of Christ should be the principal object of every meditation on His Passion. Having made the affections, you should proceed to resolutions. Promise Our Lord that you will never more displease Him by mortal or even deliberate venial sin. Determine to avoid such or such a fault (name it), and to make use of such or such means (specify which). For example, to fly from such or such a house, to avoid such and such a companion, instantly to dismiss this or that thought, immediately to curb those bursts of passion, to place a guard over your eyes, to keep silence on such and such occasions, etc.
"Remember that the principal fruit of your prayer consists in these resolutions, and far more in keeping them faithfully. Place them in the sacred Wounds of Jesus, and in the hands of Mary, and implore grace to put them in practice. Keep them in view during the whole course of the day, and an occasional examination as to the manner in which You are practicing them will be a most efficacious means of ensuring your fidelity.
"Whoever follows the instructions here given will discover by experience how easy a practice is meditation on the Passion of Jesus Christ, and will clearly perceive how greatly those are deceived who say that it is a practice suitable only to religious and too difficult for seculars. Meditation, as I have already said, is in fact nothing more than the exercise of the memory, understanding and will, upon some mystery or truth of our holy Faith. Now, if we are accustomed to exercise those powers from morning till night on sensible objects which are often sinful, why should we not be able, with the assistance of God's grace, to exercise them in the consideration of the bitter Passion of Jesus Christ, our most loving Redeemer?" (click here to proceed to the First Station)