On the Merits of the Passion of Our Lord

Photo by Kimberly King rscj (USC)

My dear Daughters, we especially ought to have a profound devotion for these mysteries of the Cross, for as you know, it is in the last act of the cruelty exercised on the revered body of the Savior that our Society was born.  It was then that devotion to the Sacred Heart was revealed, in a way.  In fact, it remained to Jesus Christ only his Heart which was not wounded, since without a miracle, that could not be before the death of the Savior.  All his body was nothing but a wound and according to the expression of the prophet from the soles of his feet to the top of his head there was nothing left that had not been stripped. His feet and hands were pierced with large nails, his revered flesh had been tattered by the scourging, and, finally, sharp thorns crowned his head.  Oh! if you had seen the thorns of the holy crown! They had the size and length of a finger, and they had dug up to the knuckle into the head of Our Lord.  Imagine such intolerable suffering!

Well, I told you with reason that the Heart alone remained intact; but our divine Master, who desired to deliver himself entirely for us, allowed the cruelty of a soldier to open this Heart, which was to serve as our refuge, and made the blood that remained in Jesus to flow out drop by drop.  Ah! my good Daughters, is it not astonishing that these memories make only a passing impression on us?  And why is that?  It is because we do not usually enter into these thoughts, that we do not fill ourselves with the sentiments of God; we are easily overcome by profane, vain, and useless thoughts.  Yes, the lack of reflection alone prevents us from tasting these mysteries in a profound and practical way.  It is unthinkable to see the suffering of the least creatures, which is a small part of the suffering the Man-God endured for us.  If we understand the story of the death of the martyrs, we are moved with admiration and pain; we share in some way their anguish.  How much more the memory of the Passion ought to move our emotion, and fill us with a love always new for the Cross.  Oh!  my good Daughters, it is only by that which we obtain the spirit of our vocation, and our earthly paradise is also bound to the study of Jesus and union with his Cross.

I remember a thought on this subject from St. Bernard, who has written much with great zeal on the Passion.  “Yes,” wrote the great saint, “I shed tears of gratitude and joy when I think of the error of our first parents, which is truly a happy fault, for in the place of a garden of delight, which it lost for us, it has earned us a paradise many times more beautiful in the possession of Jesus.”  In fact, without Adam and Eve’s fall, God would not have made known to us so intimately what he has done in Jesus, and we would have had neither the Cross nor the altar, for we cannot doubt that God to reward the obedience of the first parents would have allowed them to eat from the fruit of the forbidden tree, and in this food they would have gained strength and life, the source of a thousand temporal goods and the exclusion of all evil such as illness and death.  In a word this tree would have been for us a tree of life.

But since the Son of God is clothed in our nature to expiate the sin of Adam, since he has lived intimately with us, that he became one of us, that he took on all of our weakness and suffering, is it not true that he came closer to his creature than he had in the first earthly Paradise, and that he placed at our disposition a true Paradise, whose possession depends on us.

Yes, we also have there a tree of life, and this tree is the Cross.  The goods which are attached to it are in truth of a nature other than the first, far more precious.  We do not find there the same enjoyment for nature, but this Cross can be changed by love into a Paradise of delights. …

Is it not on the Cross that the saints placed their happiness?  St. Francis Xavier, St. Francis of Assisi had superabundant joy in suffering, and the martyrs rejoiced with St. Paul to have been judged worthy to suffer for Jesus Christ.  I do not ask, my good Daughters, that you have already arrived at that perfection, moreover there are some of you who are just beginning, and even the eldest are still far from being perfect.  There should be at least a tendency toward that life, and a sure means to achieve it is a great fidelity to silence.

Here our very Reverend Mother was interrupted, and promised us to continue her instruction another day,
but her occupations prevented it.
Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat
Conference 97
Paris, 27 March 1852

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