Reflections on the Passion

Some have already started to try to figure out what penances they will take up for Lent. For Lent, I am going to reproduce short meditations and exhortations from a little book I own entitled Reflections on the Passion, by Father Charles Hugo Doyle. The work was published in 1956 by The Bruce Publishing Company. Take on prayer this Lent. Take 15 minutes of your day to read and reflect on the posts that will be reproduced here.

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And now to the introduction of Reflections on the Passion:

Love moves and governs all things. Tell me what you love, and I shall tell you what you are. If your love is for the world, you are its slave. If your love is for Jesus Christ, you are free; you are becoming conformed to His image; your conversations, that is your life and conduct even here below, are continually in heaven.

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Jesus Christ is alone worthy of your whole heart. But you cannot love Him if you do not know Him. It is not enough to know that “God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son,” that “He emptied Himself out,” and that “He laid down His life for His flock.” We must know the details of His sufferings, if we would know the excess of His love.

The meditations, that is, reflections, on the Passion will provide short, pointed considerations for quiet prayer. May they be a benefit to your spiritual life and an assistance through the journey of Lent, wherein we conform ourselves to Christ, and put off the world, the flesh, and the devil.

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Yea, and when I cry…

How many dimensions there are to this text of Scripture! We obviously hear Christ crying out in His Passion. We hear ourselves, in our sorrow, our sadness, our weakness and imperfections. We hear the Church crying out, the Bride of the Forsaken One. How far we are from Him, Whom we have scourged and crucified. How far we stray from the Truth. 


The third lesson for Tenebrae of Good Friday:

Lam 3:1-9

1 Aleph. I am the man that see my poverty by the rod of his indignation.

2 Aleph. He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, and not into light.

3 Aleph. Only against me he hath turned, and turned again his hand all the day.

4 Beth. My skin and my flesh he hath made old, he hath broken my bones.


5 Beth. He hath built round about me, and he hath compassed me with gall and labour.

6 Beth. He hath set me in dark places as those that are dead for ever.

7 Ghimel. He hath built against me round about, that I may not get out: he hath made my fetters heavy.

8 Ghimel. Yea, and when I cry, and entreat, he hath shut out my prayer.

9 Ghimel. He hath shut up my ways with square stones, he hath turned my paths upside down

Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Return unto the Lord thy God.


R. I had planted thee a noble vineyard;

* How then art thou turned into a degenerate plant, which willest that Barabbas should be released unto thee, and that I should be crucified.

V. I fenced thee, and gathered out the stones from thee, and built a tower in the midst of the land.

R. How then art thou turned into a degenerate plant, which willest that Barabbas should be released unto thee, and that I should be crucified.

R. I had planted thee a noble vineyard; * How then art thou turned into a generate plant, which willest that Barabbas should be released unto thee, and that I should be crucified.

Lectio III: Tenebrae of Good Friday, Victoria

Let that be enough…

​My friendship is pure gift. It is the gift of My Sacred Heart and I offer it freely. So few souls understand this. You are sanctified by living in My friendship. All the rest is secondary. Love Me and believe in My unconditional love for you. Trust Me. Show Me that you have confidence in My merciful goodness, especially when you experience weakness, or shame, or fear, and I will renew the grace of My love in your heart. I will uphold you with the gift of My unfailing presence. I am the Friend who will never forsake you. Let that be enough for you.

Behold, I knock

The following is a meditation attributed to St. Teresa of Calcutta. It takes a bit of time to get through, but it might be something that some have never heard. I encourage you to spend the 10-15 minutes it takes to read this when you have time.
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It is true. I stand at the door of your heart, day and night. Even when you are not listening, even when you doubt it could be Me, I am there. I await even the smallest sign of your response, even the least whispered invitation that will allow Me to enter.

And I want you to know that whenever you invite Me, I do come always without fail. Silent and unseen I come, but with infinite power and love, and bringing the many gifts of My spirit. I come with My mercy, with My desire to forgive and heal you and with a love for you beyond your comprehension- a love every bit as great as the love I have received from the Father ( As much as the Father has loved me, I have loved you…”[John.15:9]). I come – longing to console you and give you strength, to lift you up and bind all your wounds. I bring you My light, to dispel your darkness and all your doubts. I come with My power, that I might carry you and all of your burdens; with My grace, to touch your heart and transform your life; and My peace I give to still your soul.

I know you through and through – I know everything about you. The very hairs of your head I have numbered. Nothing in your life is unimportant to Me. I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you – even in your wanderings. I know every one of your problems. I know your needs and your worries. And yes, I know all your sins. But I tell you again that I love you- not for what you have or haven’t done – I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity My Father gave you by creating you in His own image. It is a dignity you have often forgotten, a beauty you have tarnished by sin. But I love you as you are, and I have shed My Blood to win you back. If you only ask Me with faith, My grace will touch all that needs changing in your life; and I will give you the strength to free yourself from sin and all its destructive power.

I know what is in your heart- I know your loneliness and all your hurts- the rejections, the judgments, the humiliations. I carried it all before you. And I carried it all for you, so you might share My strength and victory. I know especially your need for love – how you have thirsted in vain, by seeking that love selfishly, striving to fill the emptiness inside you with passing pleasures- with the even greater emptiness of sin. Do you thirst for love? “Come to Me all of you who thirst…”(John 7:37). I will satisfy you and fill you. Do you thirst to be cherished? I cherish you more than you can imagine – to the point of dying on a cross for you.

I thirst for you. Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe My love for you: I THIRST FOR YOU. I thirst to love you and to be loved by you – that is how precious you are to Me. I THIRST FOR YOU. Come to Me and I will fill your heart and heal your wounds. I will make you a new creation and give you peace, even in all your trials. I THIRST FOR YOU. You must never doubt My mercy, My acceptance of you, My desire to forgive, My longing to bless you and live My life in you. I THIRST FOR YOU. If you feel unimportant in the eyes of the world, that matters not at all. For Me, there is no one any more important in the entire world than you. I THIRST FOR YOU. Open to Me, come to Me, thirst for Me, give Me your life- and I will prove to you how important you are to My Heart.

Don’t you realize that My Father already has a perfect plan to transform your life, beginning from this moment? Trust in Me. Ask Me every day to enter and take charge of your life- and I will. I promise you before My father in heaven that I will work miracles in your life. Why would I do this? Because I THIRST FOR YOU. All I ask of you is that you entrust yourself to Me completely. I will do all the rest.

Even now I behold the place My Father has prepared for you in My kingdom. Remember that you are a pilgrim in this life, on a journey home. Sin can never satisfy you or bring the peace you seek. All that you have sought outside of Me has only left you more empty, so do not cling to the things of his life. Above all, do not run from Me when you fall. Come to Me without delay. When you give Me your sins, you give Me the joy of being your Saviour. There is nothing I cannot forgive and heal, so come now and unburden your soul.

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No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life, there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change: I THIRST FOR YOU – just as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your belief in My love that will change you. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day- standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the cross, look at My Heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood My cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you:”I THIRST….”(John 19:28). Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the psalm-verses I was praying says of Me: “I looked for love, and I found none…”(Ps 69:21). All your life I have been looking for your love- I have never stopped seeking to love you and be loved by you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to Me, right now, more than you ever have before.

Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear Me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit: “No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake. Come to Me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of you heart and knock…Open to ME, for I THIRST FOR YOU…”

It is not good that you should be alone

​Put Me first. Put My friendship before all else. You cannot live without My friendship. It is not good that you should be alone. Seek My Face at all times and in all things.Seek My open Heart present in the Sacrament of My love. I have called you to be My friend. I have revealed Myself to you as the Friend whom you have always desired, the Friend who will never mislead you, never disappoint you, never abandon you. Open your heart to My friendship. Seek My Face. Converse with Me. Listen to Me. Remain in My presence. Know that at every moment My eyes rest upon you. My Heart is, at every moment, ready to welcome you. I desire your presence. I want the attention of your heart. I want your friendship in response to the friendship I have offered you. My Heart has a particular love for you, a love that My Father destined for you alone and for no other from all eternity.

How it grieves My Heart when the unique love I offer a soul is spurned, or ignored, or regarded with indifference! I tell you this so that you may make reparation to My Heart by accepting the love I have for you and by living in My friendship. Receive My gifts, My kindnesses, My attention, My mercies for the sake of those who refuse what I so desire to give them.

Text taken from In Sinu Jesu.

The Fruits of the Mass

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Any valid Mass is a renewal of the Sacrifice of the Cross, which is of infinite value, and therefore as long as a Mass is valid it, too, is of infinite worth, and hence equally efficacious for those who participate. This would be considering the intrinsic value of the Mass.

In considering all the fruits of the Mass, we must distinguish between the intrinsic value and the extrinsic value. Since the Mass is essentially identical to the Sacrifice of Christ, the Primary Sacrificial Priest, on Calvary, which was itself of infinite worth, the intrinsic value of any Mass is infinite.

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The extrinsic value of the Mass can be considered in relation to God to Whom it is offered and in relation to man for whom it is offered. Considering the first, since God is an infinite being, capable of receiving an infinite act, the adoration and thanksgiving offered to God by the Sacrifice is itself infinite. And the second, man, who is a finite creature, is incapable of receiving infinite effects, therefore the “fruits of the Mass,” that is, the effects of the Mass in relation to man are limited. In The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Fr. Gihr states that the external value of the Mass in relation to God is indeed infinite, adding:

“[T]he case is different when the Eucharistic Sacrifice is considered in its relation to man. From this point of view it aims at procuring our salvation and sanctification, and is, consequently, a means of grace, or rather a source of grace, bringing us the riches of heavenly blessings…The fruits which the Sacrifice of the Mass obtains for us from God are only finite, that is, restricted to a certain number and determining measure… The Sacrifice of the Mass, therefore, with respect to man can have only a restricted efficacy, and in its fruits is capable of only limited application.” (The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Gihr, ch. 3, art. 2, sect. 17, p. 137-138)

This limited efficacy “does not lie in the essence or value of the Sacrifice, since it possesses infinite power for producing every effect”. Rather, “the final and decisive reason for the more or less plentiful application of the sacrificial graces is the will of Christ, in other words, is to be sought in the positive ordinance of God”. That is, while the Mass itself is an infinite source of grace, when it comes to “the distribution of His gifts, God requires our cooperation.” (Ibid., p. 138-139)

The fruits of the Mass, that is, the consideration of the grace received by individuals, derive from four factors:

  1. The personal piety and devotion of an individual,
  2. The holiness of the priest,
  3. The external glory given to God by the ritual, and
  4. The general holiness of the Church in its members.

The last three points are external factors which affect the amount of grace a person receives, in such a way, that the devout hearing of one mass can derive greater fruits than an equally devout hearing of another mass.

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The Holiness of the Church

One factor determining the efficacy of the Mass is the general holiness of the Church in its members at a given time, including the bishops and reigning pope. Regarding this point, the Catholic Encyclopedia says “the greatness and extent of this ecclesiastical service is dependent on the greater or less holiness of the reigning pope, the bishops, and the clergy throughout the world, and for this reason in times of ecclesiastical decay and laxity of morals (especially at the papal court and among the episcopate) the fruits of the Mass, resulting from the sacrificial activity of the Church, might under certain circumstances easily be very small.” (<http://home.newadvent.org/cathen/10006a.htm&gt;, accessed 11 January 2017)

On this same point, Fr. Gihr wrote:

“But since the holiness of the Church consists in the sanctity of her members, it is not always and invariably the same, but greater at one period than another; therefore, the Sacrifice of the Church is also at one time in a greater, at another in a lesser degree pleasing to God and beneficial to man.” (Gihr, ch. 3, art. 2, sect. 17, p. 144)

This factor effects the Church as a whole, for it is based upon the moral condition of the Church. The effect then will be equal for all Masses offered at a given time in history. Following, in considering the Priest and the Ritual, it will be seen how these factors are specific circumstances and thus have a direct effect on the efficacy of individual Masses.

The Priest

St. Thomas teaches that the fruits to be derived from a particular Mass are based, in part, on the holiness of the priest celebrant who intercedes for the faithful, “and in this respect there is no doubt but that the Mass of the better priest is the more fruitful.” ST III, Q. 82, art. 6, res.)

A Mass celebrated irreverently by an unworthy priest, or worse still, by one who violates the rubrics, will be less efficacious, and therefore produce fewer fruits than a one celebrated by a holy priest who says Mass with devotion and follows the rubrics with precision. 

The following explains in a way that cannot be ignored or disputed, if we would only considering the action of the priest, as just that, a moral action:

“The more holy and pleasing to God a priest is, the more acceptable are his prayers and oblations; and the greater his devotion, the greater the benefit to be derived from his Mass. For just as other good works performed by a pious man gain merit in proportion to the zeal and devotion with which they are performed, so Holy Mass is more or less profitable both to the priest who says it and to the persons for whom it is said, according as it is celebrated with more or less fervor”. (quoting a Cardinal Bona, d. 1674, Explanation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Rev. Martinus von Cochem, O.S.F., p. 285)

The Ritual

The degree of external glory the ritual gives to God effects the efficacy of the Mass, as well. In this respect, not all Rites of the Church are equal; neither does a low Mass have the same efficacy as a High Mass. On this point, Fr. Gihr says:

“The Church not only offers the Sacrifice, but she moreover unites with its offering various prayers and ceremonies. The sacrificial rites are carried out in the name of the Church and, therefore, powerfully move God to impart His favors and extend His bounty to the living and the dead. By reason of the variety of the formulas of the Mass, the impetratory efficacy of the Sacrifice can be increased… also the nature of the prayers of the Mass and even of its whole rite exerts accordingly an influence upon the measure and nature of the fruits of the Sacrifice. From what has been said there follow several interesting consequences. Among others, that, on the part of the Church, a High Mass solemnly celebrated has greater value and efficacy than merely a low Mass…At a Solemn High Mass the external display is richer and more brilliant than at a low Mass; for at a solemn celebration the Church, in order to elevate the dignity of the Sacrifice, manifests greater pomp, and God is more glorified thereby…This grander and more solemn celebration of the Sacrifice is more acceptable to God and, therefore, more calculated to prevail upon Him to grant us, in His mercy, the favors we implore; – that is, to impart greater efficacy to the petitions and supplications of the Church.” (Gihr, ch. 3, art. 2, sect. 17, p. 144-145)

In addition, the celebration of such exalted rituals demands a certain decorum fitting of the majesty and the exalted nature of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Lacking in respect to such demand, the extrinsic merit of a particular Mass would be affected. Simply put, ugly things please God less, and, thus, the merit to be gained in offering such things to God is less.

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Conclusion

On Calvary, our Lord offered His Passion and Death to the Father in order to merit our salvation. At the Mass, we, being present at Calvary, are offered by Jesus Christ to the Father and the fruits of His Passion become open to us. The infinite Font of Grace, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is the greatest gift given to us. It is there that we encounter the love of Christ most intimately. It is there that we can seek the graces needed in the vale of tears. Are we attentive to this?

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As shown, the fruits of the Mass are finite in their application, and contingent on many factors. The holiness of the priest, and the manner in which he says the Mass, will affect the fruits of the Mass. The greater the solemnity and grandeur of the Mass, the greater will be the graces God pours out on those who assist. The problem so rampant these days in the Church, is that we do not consider these points when we approach a particular Mass. If we would consider these points, would we reconsider where and how we attend the Holy Mass?

Let the words of Saint John Vianney inspire us:

If we knew the value of the Mass, we would die!

 

At the Foot of the Cross

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An excerpt from In Sinu Jesu, dated January 10, 2008:

…I want you to learn to remain before My Eucharistic Face, silent, adoring, listening to Me, and loving Me for those who do not adore Me, those who do not listen to Me, those who never express their love for Me in this way. If only My priests would spend time before My Eucharistic Face, I should heal them, purify them, sanctify them, and change them into apostles set all ablaze with the living flame that consumes My Heart in the Blessed Sacrament. But they stay away. They prefer so many other things, vain pursuits and things that leave them empty, bitter, and weary. They forget My words, “Come to Me . . . and I will refresh you.” My priests will be renewed in holiness and in purity when they begin to seek Me out in the Sacrament of My love…

Not only priests will be renewed in holiness but also those religious and lay faithful who seek the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

I have learned from a devout priest that we should spend at least 15 minutes each day at the foot of the Cross. It is there that we can give everything, our whole selves, to Our Lord Crucified. But it must be noted who of the Apostles was able to remain at the Foot of the Cross, Saint John, the Beloved Apostle. Why was this so?

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It was Saint John who rested his head upon the breast of Jesus, wherein he was able to receive the strength, the power, the love to remain with Our Lord as He hung upon the Cross.

It will thus be the same for us, who, with a solid resolve, attend to Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. If we are unable to receive Our Lord daily in Holy Communion, let us at least make a Spiritual Communion uniting our hearts to the Lord and begging to receive the graces necessary to love Him. Let us not do so with haste, but with gratitude for such a great gift. Do not delay in each day spending time with Our Lord, away from all other distractions. Even if you cannot physically get to the Church, can you not transport your heart in spirit near the Tabernacle where Our Lord awaits you?

Let us learn from the example of Saint John, we will only be able to bear the crosses in our life, to remain at the Foot of the Cross of Our Lord, if we lovingly receive the strength, the fortitude, the peace of the Sacrament of Love, the Most Holy Eucharist!

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