The Passion and the Way of Perfection

This excerpt is from Flowers of the Passion: a collection of the thoughts and teachings of Saint Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists.

Chapter I: The Passion and the Way of Perfection

The Passion of Christ is the door which opens into the delicious pastures of the soul. Our divine Saviour has said: ” I am the door. By Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” (John x. 9.)

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Imagine yourself seriously indisposed, and that I, who love you tenderly, call to see you. After saying a few words of sympathy and consolation, I should certainly look at you with compassion and, through love of you, make your sufferings my own. Thus when we meditate on the Passion of Christ, seeing Him in such affliction, we ought to compassionate Him, and then to remain looking upon Him in so great torments, and, through compassionate love, make His sufferings our own.

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Suppose that you had fallen into the river, and that a charitable person threw himself into the water to save you. What would you say to such kindness? Moreover, suppose that, hardly drawn from the water, you had been attacked by assassins, and that your rescuer again came to your assistance, and saved your life at the risk of his own. What would you do in return for such friendship? It is certain that you would do all in your power to heal the bruises he received on your account. So ought we to act towards Christ: we must contemplate Him engulfed in an ocean of sorrows to save us from the eternal abyss; consider Him all covered with wounds and bruises to purchase for us eternal life. Then let us make His pains our own, sympathize with His sorrows, and consecrate to Him all our affections.

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Keep a continual remembrance of the sufferings of your heavenly Spouse. Endeavor to fathom the love with which He endured them. The shortest way is to lose yourself completely in that abyss of sufferings. Truly does the prophet call the Passion of Jesus a sea of love and of sorrow. Ah! therein lies the great secret which is revealed only to humble souls. In this vast sea the soul fishes for the pearls of virtues, and makes her own the sufferings of her Beloved. I have a lively confidence that your Spouse will teach you this divine method of fishing; He will teach it to you if you keep yourself in interior solitude, your mind free from all distraction, detached from all earthly affection, from every created thing, in pure faith and holy love.

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Hold yourself interiorly on the bosom of God, in the passive way; this is the surest means of losing yourself in God, passing, however, continually through the Gate divine, which is Jesus Christ crucified, making His sufferings yours. Love teaches all, for the Passion with its bitter sorrows is the work of infinite love.

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How can you, by love, make your own the sufferings of our sweet Jesus? God will teach you how when it pleases Him, for He alone can do so. The soul inflamed with the love of God, without distraction, in pure and simple faith, suddenly finds herself, when God pleases, penetrated with the sufferings of Jesus; in a glance of faith she sees them all, without understanding; for the Passion of Our Saviour is a labor of love, and the soul thus lost in God, Who is all charity, all love, makes of herself a fount of love and sorrow.

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Our sweet Jesus has pierced your heart so deeply with the thorns of His sorrows that you will say henceforth: To suffer and not to die! or else: To suffer or to die! or better still: Neither to suffer nor to die, but entire submission to the good pleasure of God. Love has an unitive quality, and makes the sufferings of the beloved its own. If you feel yourself penetrated interiorly and exteriorly with the sufferings of your divine Spouse, rejoice; but I may say that this joy is experienced only in the furnace of divine love, for the fire which burns into the marrow of the bones transforms the loving soul into the object of her love; and there, love and sorrow are so sublimely blended that the one can no longer be distinguished from the other, and the loving soul rejoices in her sorrow, and finds her happiness in her dolorous love. Persist in the study of your nothingness, and be faithful in the practice of virtue, above all in the imitation of our sweet Saviour in His patience, for this is the cardinal point of pure love. Never neglect to offer yourself as a holocaust to the infinite goodness of God. This sacrifice ought to be made in the fire of divine charity; light it with a bouquet of myrrh, that is, with the sufferings of your Saviour. All this should be done behind closed doors, that is, apart by yourself, in pure and simple faith.

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1-christ-contemplated-by-the-christian-soul-diego-velazquez
Christ Contemplated by the Christian Soul – Diego Velazquez

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In times of aridity arouse your spirit gently, by acts of love; then rest in the will of God. It is thus that the soul gives the strongest proof of her fidelity toGod. Make a bouquet of the sufferings of Jesus, and place it on the bosom of your soul, as I have told you. You can from time to time call them to mind, and say sweetly to your Saviour: O good Jesus, how swollen, bruised, and defiled with spittle do I behold Thy countenance! O my Love! why do I see Thee all covered with wounds? O Infinite Sweetness! why are Thy bones laid bare? Ah, what sufferings! what sorrows! O my God! for what art Thou all wounded! Ah, dear sufferings, dear wounds! I wish to keep you always in my heart.

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The days of the Passion are days when the very stones melt into tears. What! the High Priest is dead, and we cannot weep over Him? We must have lost faith, O my God!

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The thought of Friday is suggestive of reflections so sad as to make one that truly loves, sorrowful unto death; for was it not on that day that my Incarnate God suffered for me, even to immolating Himself for me, on the infamous gibbet of the cross?

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Let us always wear mourning in our hearts, in memory of the Passion and death of Jesus. We should never fail to preserve a continual and sorrowful remembrance of it. Let each of us endeavor to lead others to meditate on the sufferings of our most sweet Jesus.

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[St. Paul of the Cross writing to a spiritual daughter in the days leading up to the Holy Triduum]:

My very dear child in Jesus crucified, I invite you to Calvary, to assist at the obsequies of Our Saviour. Ah! would that we could, for once, remain there, wounded by divine charity wounded so deeply as to die of love and sorrow over the Passion and death of our only Good! I will celebrate the divine mysteries during these holy days, and each time I do so I will place the heart of this spiritual child whom God has given me in the most pure and agonizing Hearts, of Jesus and Mary. Do likewise for the poor spiritual father whom divine Providence has given to you. Adieu, my child; and may Jesus bless you, and inflame you with divine love.

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