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THE WAY OF THE CROSS ACCORDING TO ST THOMAS AQUINAS: Mediations by Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P.

Friday, January 14, 2005
May Our Lord grant us the grace of deep devotion to His Cross and Passion and give us the grace to carry our daily crosses for the sake of souls offered to Him through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Omnia Pro Jesu Per Mariam!
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Mediations by Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P.

1. Jesus is condemned to death

God's justice and infinite mercy lie hidden beneath men's injustice. The Father delivered up His Son to death when He inspired Him to offer Himself for us at the very moment when He came into the world. By sending His Son to death and giving Him up to the torment of the cross, the Father willed to glorify Him by having Him obtain the greatest of all victories, His triumph over sin and Satan, a hidden victory, far greater than that which He achieved on Easter by the resurrection, His victory over death being a striking sign, but only a sign and effect, of the victory that preceded it.

Redemption, and redemption through the cross, is the very motive of the Incarnation. First and foremost Jesus is the Saviour “qui propter nostram salutem descendit de coelis et incarnatus est.” Let us ask Him to bring us to some understanding of the motive of the Incarnation, a motive of mercy responding to our misery. From all eternity sin was permitted only in view of a greater good, and the Saviour's mercy in lifting us up from our fall is the most beautiful manifestation of the all-powerful goodness of God: “And where sin abounded, grace did more abound.”

My Jesus, pardon and mercy, by the merits of Thy sacred wounds. Father, we offer Thee the wounds of Thy Son for the healing of our wounded souls.

2. Jesus is made to bear His cross

In bearing His cross Jesus makes an interior offering of Himself for us; the fullness of the gift of self is achieved in the complete sacrifice, the perfect holocaust which is about to be consumed. The transports of St. Andrew when faced with his cross, of St. Ignatius when he gave expression to his desire to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, are but feeble echoes of Christ's ardent desire, invested as He was with the fullness of grace for the accomplishment of His mission as the Redeemer of sinful mankind. This fullness of grace acted like a weight in His soul drawing Him toward Calvary, a “pondus crucis”; it drove deep into Him an unfathomable attraction for the cross, the ardour of His love leading Him to that sacrifice which would render all glory to God and accomplish the salvation of men: “Love is the weight that draws me.”

My Jesus, pardon and mercy, by the merits of Thy sacred wounds. Father, we offer Thee the wounds of Thy Son for the healing of our wounded souls.

3 . Jesus falls beneath the weight of the cross

Jesus falls, not because He is overcome by weariness against His will but because His love aspires to the farthest limits of suffering that we may know His love for us. He wills to experience not only a holy enthusiasm for His oblation because of the abundant grace that is His but to become acquainted with overwhelming anguish that He may offer it up in the pure intensity of His supernatural love for the Father and for us.

Men lay the cross upon Jesus. He is absolutely innocent; yet He sees the justice of God in men's injustice. If we who are guilty of so many hidden faults with which no one reproaches us happen to suffer some injustice from others, let us see in it God’s purifying justice.

My Jesus, pardon and mercy, by the merits of Thy sacred wounds. Father, we offer Thee the wounds of Thy Son for the healing of our wounded souls.

4. Jesus meets His Blessed Mother

Who knows better than Mary the motive of our Lord's sufferings, the love with which He bore them, and their value for our souls?

Let us ask the Blessed Mother to help us understand the mystery of the cross that we may accept and carry our cross not in revolt and vexation but with thankfulness and then with love, or at least with the beginning of love, which will keep on increasing through daily Communion, by personal merit and by love itself, which by its own action obtains an increase of grace. After the Saviour no one else can so well obtain for us a wholly supernatural understanding of the mystery of the cross as the Immaculate Virgin; and no one else can so clearly reveal to us its effect upon our daily life.

My Jesus, pardon and mercy, by the merits of Thy sacred wounds. Father, we offer Thee the wounds of Thy Son for the healing of our wounded souls.

5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry His cross

What would we have said if we had met our Lord carrying His cross and He had asked us, “Will you help Me?” Today when a cross comes to us, it is Jesus who comes, Jesus who loves us, Jesus who desires to reproduce in us His own traits, Jesus whom we love. Just as the first cause does not rob secondary causes of their usefulness, so our Saviour's redemptive action does not render our efforts useless but on the contrary brings them into being and communicates to them their salutary and meritorious value.

We fail to realize how much we need the cross for our own purification and for the humble measure of work which God is good enough to let us do for the salvation of our neighbour. In a sense Jesus continues His agony to the end of the world in His mystical body, offering to let us help Him by carrying the cross prepared for us from all eternity and adapted by Him to our strength as sustained by His grace. We all have a cross, just as we all have a predominant fault and a particular supernatural attraction; our cross may be some sickness, some worry, or some other special trial. Through contemplation and love our cross becomes healing for us and radiant for others, helping them to carry their own holily. We really know others only when we know the cross they carry. The hidden apostolate exercised by contemplative souls consists chiefly in helping others to bear their cross by prayer and immolation.

My Jesus, pardon and mercy, by the merits of Thy sacred wounds. Father, we offer Thee the wounds of Thy Son for the healing of our wounded souls.

6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

Our Lord's expression, the look in His eyes especially, speaks His thoughts and His love. What are His thoughts? From the first moment of the Incarnation Jesus possessed the beatific vision in His soul, beholding the immediate vision of the divine essence, which constitutes the joy of the blessed He preserved this vision even during the sorrows of the passion, during the great grief that He endured at the sight of the sins of all men, which He had taken upon Himself to expiate. Our Lord's sacred face, His look, expressed highest peace and deepest sorrow. Sentiments so opposed as to seem even contrary and contradictory arose from the same source, that is, the fullness of His grace, which was itself the result of the uncreated grace of the personal union with the Word.

Our Saviour's fullness of grace acted as the principle of the beatifying light of glory in His soul, as the principle of His great love, happier in giving than in receiving, and of His suffering at the sight of men's sins, which caused Him anguish in proportion to His love.

The sacred face of the Saviour is the face of the Master of masters, the Master of apostles and doctors and of great contemplatives; it may be marked with bruises and spittle, but it loses nothing of its nobility and greatness and bears the reflection of His sacred soul, which even in this life contemplated the divine essence unveiled and looked upon the life of eternity to which He was leading us. But He willed to confine the light of glory to the summit of His intellect and gave Himself up to every humiliation and opprobrium during that hour when Veronica came forward to wipe His bloodstained face.

Lord, help us to strike the right mean between depressing sadness and feigned optimism and teach us to suffer for love of Thee and give us peace in suffering. My Jesus, pardon and mercy, by the merits of Thy sacred wounds. Father, we offer Thee the wounds of Thy Son for the healing of our wounded souls.

7. Jesus falls the second time

It would be a serious mistake to believe that Jesus suffered only in His sensory powers, those which we share in common with the animals. Jesus suffered most of all because of sin, the greatest of evils, a spiritual affliction to be found in the higher faculties. Jesus suffered because of the sins of all men of every race and time. And His suffering was proportionate to His wisdom: He knew better than anyone else the number and gravity of men's crimes; they lay open before Him somewhat as we see the purulent sores of a body consumed with disease. His immense love of God, whom sin offends, and for our souls, which sin ravages and destroys, served also as the measure of His suffering. From this source: sprang the sorrow that prostrated and crushed Him and surpassed the grief of all contrite hearts, afflicted for their sins. Jesus' full ness of grace: augmented His capacity for suffering, whereas the egoism that keeps us living on the surface of ourselves, allows us to find pain only in whatever touches us personally and renders us incapable of supernatural suffering arising out of love of God and souls, an anguish unknown to superficial minds.

Lord, give us great sorrow for our sins. My Jesus, pardon and mercy, by the merits of Thy sacred wounds. Father, we offer Thee the wounds of Thy Son for the healing of our wounded souls.

8. Jesus consoles the daughters of Jerusalem

“Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me....” No one takes My life away from Me. I give it freely. Nothing can give you so striking a proof of My love for you as My Passion. Through the mystery of the cross, God tells you of His love for goodness and His hatred of evil, of injustice in every form. My grievous Passion makes known to you also My Father's ardent love for Me in willing to glorify Me with victory over sin. Lastly, it expresses His incomprehensible love for your souls, since to save them, He delivered up His own beloved Son.

“Weep for yourselves....” Blessed are they who weep the holy tears of contrition. Weep not for your crosses, which serve to purify you and make you free, but weep for your sins. “If any man will come after Me, let him...take up his cross....” There is no other way to follow Me. “Weep for your children...,” for all who fail to understand, who curse and blaspheme the divine mystery of the cross.

My Jesus, pardon and mercy, by the merits of Thy sacred wounds. Father, we offer Thee the wounds of Thy Son for the healing of our wounded souls.

9. Jesus Falls the third time

Jesus saw plainly the whole plan of Providence and could not suffer because of the divine permission for evil, holy as it is and ordered to the manifestation of mercy and justice; but He suffered beyond all reckoning because of sin itself. He willed to drink to the dregs the terrible chalice presented to Him in Gethsemane and containing all the shame and iniquity of the world, taking it for Himself and giving us in exchange the chalice of His precious blood, a blessed cup filled to overflowing with grace issuing from His bruised heart. These two chalices form the two scales of a balance, one containing all goodness and the other all evil and they sum up and show forth the whole profound story of sinning and redeemed mankind.

Jesus is going to give us the chalice of His precious blood shed for us, but for Himself He wills no mitigation of His sufferings. He prevents the light of glory beatifying the summit of His soul from shining down on the lower part of His higher faculties and on His sensuous appetency, limiting it to the peak of His intellect, as if He were to cease hearing the countless choir of the elect chanting, “0 happy fault! Where sin abounded, grace did more abound.” He gives Himself up to suffering that He may expiate our sins. His imminent triumph is not allowed to assuage His grief as He falls once more face downward on the ground, just as He fell in the Garden of Olives.

My Jesus, pardon and mercy, by the merits of Thy sacred wounds. Father, we offer Thee the wounds of Thy Son for the healing of our wounded souls.

10. Jesus is stripped of His garments

Our Lord's garments adhere to the wounds made by the scourging and, as they are torn off, His body flames with pain. This exterior and humiliating divestment symbolizes another and interior divestment which our Lord asks of us. We ought to strip ourselves of that self compounded of egoism, self-love under all its many forms, and of pride, that we may be clothed with humility and divine charity, which will enlarge our hearts and give them in a sense the great-heartedness of God by making us love everything as He loves it.

The saints understand the lesson of inner divestment, renouncing themselves and in a sense losing their own personality in the very personality of God. The spirit of faith rules their minds; God's judgments and God's will take the place of their own; they have become servants of God in somewhat the same way that our hand is the servant of our will. At the same time they have reached a kind of independence of all things created and rule over them with God, who makes all things, even evil, work together unto good.

Above and beyond the saints, our Lord not only divested Himself of all judgments except God's, all desires other than God's, but He also has no human “I” or self at the root of His faculties, at the base of His sacred soul. In its stead reigns the sovereignly adorable “I” of the Word made flesh, possessed from all eternity of the divine nature and in time taking upon Himself human nature that He may become our Saviour.

We should not consider it a deprivation for 'Jesus to have no human self: it is, quite the contrary, a supreme perfection. The full development of human personality consists in making ourselves more and more independent of what is inferior to us and more and more dependent upon God; the full development of human personality consists in losing ourselves in a sense in the personality of God by an ever more intimate union; in Jesus this is identity. He Himself says to us, “Let Me live in thee and die in thee.”

The uncreated person of the Word made flesh is the principle of the infinite value of His merits and His reparative death. Seen from above, as God and His angels behold it, how glorious is the cross of Christ!

My Jesus, pardon and mercy, by the merits of Thy sacred wounds. Father, we offer Thee the wounds of Thy Son for the healing of our wounded souls.

11. Jesus is nailed to the cross

St. Luke tells us: “And when they were come to the place called Calvary, they crucified Him there: and the robbers, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. And Jesus said: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” How different are these three crosses! Lord, never let ours be useless like the bad thief's, make them like the good thief's, the Convert thief's, and even more than that, like Thine own.

The words of Jesus, “Father, forgive them....” express the highest act of fortitude and meekness combined. In the midst of His sufferings He not only preserves the profoundest peace within Himself but communicates its overflowing abundance to the most afflicted and erring of men, provided that they do not refuse the light. At the very moment when His executioners crucify Him He is meriting grace for them and asking the Father that they may have eternal life. Many martyrs will repeat His prayer, and it will serve as evidence that their strength and their perfect charity toward their persecutors are not simply human but truly divine. Thus the Saviour's great prayer and suffering is continued, So to speak, in the mystical body until the end of time. If we must suffer from another, let us pray for him; if on our part we make others suffer, let us think that perhaps God inspires them to pray for us; let us remember that He most certainly prayed for us who were the cause of His death.

Because the crucifixion was our Lord's hour, His great hour and the highest point of the whole history of the world, let us look at every moment of our lives in relation to it, that we may be faithful to the grace of the present moment. Then let us see each minute not merely in the horizontal plane of fleeting time, poised between a past which is gone and must be left at God's mercy and a future which is shrouded in uncertainty for us, but let us live in the present moment in a higher and more realistic way, seeing it in the vertical order, as it connects with the unique instant of changeless eternity, that moment of eternal dawn which never passes. We shall then come to know the infinite riches of the present moment. It slips away, but my body keeps on existing and my soul too, together with the grace, which urges it, the influence of the Saviour, and the three divine persons indwelling within me, provided I am in the state of grace. The present moment, no matter how laborious and lackluster it may appear, holds an infinite treasure; let us live it in such away as to make it part of eternity, preparing for a good death, a sacrifice of adoration, of reparation, and of thanksgiving in union with our Lord.

Let us pray for those in their agony and those undergoing severe trials. My Jesus, pardon and mercy, by the merits of Thy sacred wounds. Father, we offer Thee the wounds of Thy Son for the healing of our wounded souls.

12. Jesus dies on the cross

Agonized and overwhelmed with suffering, Jesus preserved that peace which is the tranquility of the order that His love restores to us. His last words express deep and radiant peace.

To the good thief: “This day thou shalt be with Me in paradise”: a word of peace to all great penitents, that they may know themselves pardoned.

To Mary and to John: “Woman, behold thy son.... Behold thy mother”: words producing what they signify, greatly increasing the Virgin's motherly love for all redeemed souls represented by the beloved apostle.

The cry of unequaled sorrow: “My God, my God, why hast thou abandoned me?” is the first verse of Psalm 21, the Messianic psalm consummated in perfect abandonment by Him who restores peace to the world and bears in our stead the malediction due to sin.

“I thirst”: the Saviour thirsts for souls and He Himself leads them to the living water of grace to purify, refresh, and save them.

“It is consummated”: the perfect holocaust prefigured by the sacrifices of the Old Law is offered; it will be perpetuated in substance in the holy Mass until the end of the world. His fullness of grace made Jesus desire to suffer for us even to this extremity and it now overflows on all souls not closed against God's love.

“Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit”: these words consecrate and offer the sacrifice of the cross. Because the boundless love of the Word made flesh inspires His oblation, it has an infinitely meritorious and satisfactory value and achieves more to please God than all the sins of all men accomplish to displease Him.

My Jesus, pardon and mercy, by the merits of Thy sacred wounds. Father, we offer Thee the wounds of Thy Son for the healing of our wounded souls.

13. Jesus is taken down from the cross and laid in the arms of His Mother

The Blessed Virgin and, in some measure, those who remained faithful, St. John and the holy women, apprehended the mystery accomplished on Calvary, the ardent love of the Son of God offering Himself for us, the victory achieved over sin and Satan. Receiving into her arms the body of her Son, Mary glimpsed by faith to some extent God's infinite mercy for sinners and she adores the divine justice to which Jesus made perfect reparation.

What shall we ask of Mary, now that the sufferings of the cross have passed and their immense worth becomes more and more apparent? Let us not have the presumption to ask for crosses, which we might perhaps carry imperfectly, but let us ask of the Virgin of sorrows love for those crosses made ready for us from all eternity. Give us, O Lord, love for them, whatever they may be and even if they must be carried in lonely martyrdom of heart and soul and mind; give us the grace not to exaggerate our crosses but to bear them just as they are and will be, without turning in upon Ourselves, and simply out of love for Thee, Lord, and for souls. Mary Immaculate will lead us to bear them with more ease and perhaps with more merit, for she will obtain for us an increase of charity, the principle of merit, and help us efficaciously by consoling us in our struggles.

My Jesus, pardon and mercy, by the merits of Thy sacred wounds. Father, we offer Thee the wounds of Thy Son for the healing of our wounded souls.

14. Jesus is placed in the sepulchre

The Saviour's body rests in the tomb; in three days it will rise again. Through the cross Jesus has won the greatest of all triumphs, the victory over sin and Satan, and He can say to His disciples: “In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world.” During the agonies of the Passion He remained the great Peacemaker, pouring out upon us the river of divine mercies. The resurrection or victory over death comes as a striking sign of that incomparably greater victory won over sin on Good Friday. “Sin entered into the world, and by sin death,” death being a chastisement for sin. By the transcendent logic of supernatural mysteries, He who has vanquished sin should also defeat death. In prayer let us ask for understanding of this mystery that we may live more and more for God through, in, and with Christ.

My Jesus, pardon and mercy, by the merits of Thy sacred wounds. Father, we offer Thee the wounds of Thy Son for the healing of our wounded souls. Amen.
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