True devotion in its highest meaning includes love for and imitation of, the person to whom we are devoted, and Holy Mother the Church presents for our prayerful devotion during Lent the Sacred Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, with the fervent hope that we shall be aroused to imitate Him.
“We should,” writes Father Degnam, S.J., “go through the different circumstances of the Passion, and compare them with the occasions of sufferings we meet with in life. They are drops of the chalice which our Lord asks us to drink with Him. His sufferings of the scourging, our physical pain; He is treated as a fool by Herod; He was rejected for Barabbas; are we not sometimes rejected for another – set aside for some one who is certainly more worthy than ourselves? Is not the gall they gave Him to drink like the bitterness we receive when we are longing for consolation? As we look at the dead Body of our Lord hanging on the Cross, we see that His Passion was one long act of submission.”
Gratitude should fill our hearts at the thought of God’s goodness to us in giving us His own adorable Son as a Model to imitate, so that we have only to look at Him to know what we have to do. Hear Christ Himself say: “I have given you an example, that as I have down to you, so you also should do.” (Jn 13:15) Christ is the only way we must follow, especially in the practice of virtue, and it was during the Passion that His practice of the virtues was strikingly sublime and heroic. In the most trying circumstances our Lord gave us during the Passion examples of those virtues we somehow seem to lack – meekness, mercy, charity, silence, patience, abandonment, and obedience to His Father’s will – even unto death.
Well did St. Bonaventure say: “He who desires to go on advancing from virtue to virtue, from grace to grace, should constantly meditate on the Passion of Jesus Christ.”
Daily, during the holy season of Lent, let us consider together some detail of the Sacred Passion and death of our Saviour, beginning with the agony in the Garden. Endeavor to seize upon one thought and keep turning it over in your mind during the day. Try to see the virtue practiced by the Master and resolve to imitate that virtue. Strive to find some lesson in each of these daily considerations and resolve to put it into practice during the day. In your examination of conscience at night, examine yourself on how you kept the resolution taken that morning. Little good will result from the study of the Passion unless such a study results in our imitation of Christ. “O foolish Galatians!” cried out St. Paul, “who has bewitched you [that you should not obey the truth], before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been depicted crucified?” (Gal. 3:1)
After the Last Supper, Christ gathered the Apostles around Him and they set out together for Gethsemani, the Garden of Agony. The name “Gethsemani” is interesting in that it means “oilpress”; in other words, it was a place where the fresh olives were pressed and the oil extracted. What a symbolic spot chosen by the Sacred Redeemer of Mankind for the initial and awful beginning of the Passion! Here He was to take upon Himself the sins of the world and be so crushed under their terrible weight that His Precious Blood flowed from every pore of His Body.
With reverence, then, and with contrite hearts let us begin our contemplation of the Passion of Our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemani and pray that your heart and soul will be inflamed with love and aroused to imitate all the virtues practiced by the Saviour in His Passion.
Decide now on one positive act of mortification to be practiced this very day, recalling these words of the Imitation of Christ: “The more thou dost violence to thyself, the greater thy progress will be.”
Tomorrow we shall see our Lord separating Peter, James, and John from the other Apostles and taking them with Him into the midst of the Garden. Thus we shall begin our study of the Passion.
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*From Reflections on the Passion by Father Charles Hugo Doyle, S.J., The Bruce Publishing Company, 1957, p. 15-17