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CHAPTER XIV. On The Unspeakable Advantages to Be Derived From Meditating on The Divine Passion.
The Servant.—Truly, Lord, the unfathomable good which is found in Thy Passion for those who avail themselves of the time and place to meditate on it is a thing hidden from all hearts. Oh, what a sure path is the way of Thy Passion, along the way of truth, up to the very pinnacle of all perfection. All hail to thee, glorious St Paul! thou noble light among all the stars of heaven, who was wrapt up so high and initiated so deeply into the mysteries of the Godhead, when thou didst hear the deep words which it is not given to man to utter, and who yet wast so sweetly touched in thy heart by this very passion of infinite love, above everything else, that thou didst exclaim: “I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”66 1 Cor. ii.2 Blessed be thou, too, among all doctors, sweet St. Bernard, whose soul was so illuminated with the brightness of the eternal Word that most sweetly did thy tongue exhale from a full heart the passion of His humility, when thy fervent soul thus spoke: The green bunch of myrrh of my Lord’s bitter Passion have I fondly taken betwixt my breasts, and tenderly pressed to my heart; I do not ask, like the bride, where He rests at noon whom I embrace in the midst of my heart: I do not ask where He feeds His flock at noon, whom my soul so longingly beholds on the cross; that is certainly loftier, but this is sweeter and easier to attain. From this love-o’erflowing Passion, I take what fully makes up for the insufficiency of my own small merits; herein lies my complete justification; to meditate on this Passion, I call eternal wisdom, the perfection of all knowledge, the riches of all salvation, an entire satisfaction of all desert; it casts me down in prosperity, it raises me up in adversity, it keeps me in an even balance between this world’s weal and woe, and guards me against all evil in complete security. Sometimes I have drunk out of it a draught of salutary bitterness, but at other times I have also drunk out of it a draught of spiritual consolation and divine sweetness.77 Sancti Bernardi Sermones in Cantica Canticorum. Sermo xliii. O sweet St. Bernard, therefore is it but just that thy tongue should overflow with sweetness, since thy heart was so wholly sweetened with sweet suffering. O Eternal Wisdom, in this, I observe that, whoever is desirous of great reward and everlasting salvation, of high knowledge and deep wisdom, of standing erect in joy and sorrow, of possessing full security against all evil, whoever wishes to drink a draught of Thy bitter Passion, and Thy singular sweetness, must carry Thee at all times, O crucified Jesus, before the eyes of his heart.
Eternal Wisdom.—Thou dost not rightly know what good is lodged in it. Behold, assiduous meditation on My Passion makes out of a simple man a master of high knowledge; truly it is a living book in which everything is to be found. How right blessed is that man who has it ever before his eyes and studies it! What wisdom, grace, consolation, sweetness, what cleansing from all imperfection, may not such a man obtain through the devout contemplation of My living presence! Respecting which, listen to what follows. It fell out many years ago, that a certain preacher in the beginning of his conversion had a bitter affliction of inordinate despondency, which, at times, so overpowered him that no heart which had not experienced it could conceive it. And, as he once sat after meat in his cell, his affliction was so great that he could neither study nor pray, nor perform any other good deed, except sitting there so sadly in his cell, and laying his hands in his lap, as though he meant only to take care of the cell, for God’s sake, because he was no longer of any use in spiritual things. And, as he thus sat disconsolate, it suddenly seemed to him as though he heard these words distinctly addressed to him: Why dost thou sit here? Arise and betake thee to My sorrowful Passion, for then wilt thou overcome thy own sorrow. And immediately he arose, for the words were the same to him as though they came from heaven, and he began to meditate on the sorrowful Passion of the Lord, in which all his own sorrow was lost, so that he never felt it again in the same manner.
The Servant.—O my sweet Wisdom, Thou understandest all hearts, and knowest that, above all things, I desire to have my heart penetrated with Thy Passion, in the face of all men, and my eyes turned day and night into running fountains of bitter tears. Alas! there is just now in my soul a bitter complaint, that Thy Passion does not at all times thoroughly penetrate my heart, and that I do not meditate on it so affectionately as in reason I ought to do, and as is worthy of Thee, my Lord elect; teach me, therefore, how I ought to comport myself!
Eternal Wisdom.—The meditation on My torments must not be made by going through them in a hasty manner, when one has time and opportunity, but it must be made by going through them with heartfelt love and a compassionate searching into their mysteries; for, otherwise, the heart remains as unaffected by devotion, as the mouth by unchewed sweet-tasting food. If thou hast no liking to meditate on My Passion with weeping eyes, because of the bitter agony I suffered, then oughtest thou to meditate on it with a laughing heart, because of the joyous benefit thou wilt find in it. But if thou hast no mind either to laugh or to cry, thou oughtest to meditate on it in the dryness of thy heart, to My honour and praise, by doing which thou wilt have done no less than if thou hadst been dissolved in tears or steeped in sweetness; for then thou actest from love of virtue, without regard to thyself. And that thou mayest take it all the more to heart, listen to what follows. Such is My severe justice that it permits no wrong deed in all nature, be it great or small, to pass without atonement and without being made good. Now, how should a great sinner, who has perhaps committed more than a hundred mortal sins, and for every mortal sin subjected himself, by the law of My Church, to do penance seven years long, or else to complete his unperformed penance in the furnace of grim purgatory—how should such a miserable soul fulfill her penance? When would there be an end to her sighs and tears? Oh, how long, how much too long, would it not appear to her! Behold, she has speedily made all good by means of My innocent, meritorious Passion! With reason, then, let her grasp the treasure of My acquired merits, and apply it to herself, in virtue of which, even if she ought to burn a thousand years in Purgatory, she will be able, in a short time, to discharge her guilt and penance, so as to attain heaven without any purgatory at all.
The Servant.—O tender and Eternal Wisdom, teach me this in Thy goodness; how glad should I be to make such a grasp!
Eternal Wisdom.—The way to make such a grasp is this. Let a man often and seriously weigh with a penitent heart the greatness and multitude of his evil deeds, by which he has so wantonly incensed the eyes of his Heavenly Father; in the next place, let him account as nothing the works of his own satisfaction, since, reckoned against his sins, they are but as a little drop in the deep ocean; and then, let him confidently weigh the immeasurable greatness of My satisfaction; for the least drop of My precious Blood, which everywhere flowed without measure out of My body, would alone suffice to atone for the sins of a thousand worlds. Every man, therefore, appropriates so much of My satisfaction to himself, in proportion as he assimilates himself to Me by sympathetic participation in My sufferings. Moreover let a man humbly and modestly merge the smallness of his works in the greatness of My satisfaction or atonement. And to tell it thee in a few words, know then, that all the masters of numbers and measures would be unable to calculate the immeasurable benefit which lies hidden in the zealous meditation of My Passion.
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