lenten meditation

The Sorrowful Mysteries....In Closing


Holy Church, through Saint Dominic, has handed the Rosary down to us as a spiritual aid.  The Sorrowful Mysteries take us through the Story of Our Lord's Passion and Death.  It is difficult to contemplate these things, but as Father Benedict Groeschel once said in a Good Friday sermon, "Never think about death without thinking about the Resurrection."  The whole purpose of the Rosary meditations which accompany each set of ten "Hail Marys," is to help us toward our own Resurrection.

Stepping away and looking at the Sorrowful Mysteries as a whole, a picture begins to emerge.  It is the picture of each human being walking along his own life's path to his final destination.  The Agony in the Garden represents the MIND.  The Scourging at the Pillar, the FLESH.  The Crowning with Thorns, the IDENTITY, or the soul.  These three components comprise God's greatest creation, the one made in His own image and likeness, the Human Being. The Carrying of the Cross is the life JOURNEY....and the Crucifixion is the END.  Within the Passion of Our Lord lies an imprint of every human life for which He goes to His death.

The Sorrowful Mysteries tell the triumphant Story of the Messiah's Love for humanity and the Father's willingness to give His Only Son for our Redemption.  It is a Story which brings tears to our eyes for this great Love which it gives testimony to.  In return, we are called not merely to a humanist virtue, but to the heroism of Sainthood and Life Everlasting.

Good Friday: The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery....

The Crucifixion of Our Lord

The Carrying of the Cross was a journey-the Crucifixion at Golgotha, its destination.   In fact, the Crucifixion was the destination of Christ's entire life on earth.  From His very Incarnation, this was the plan.  We may have difficulty understanding why it had to be this way, but we must believe, since His way is always perfect, it was the perfect way.  Looking at the Crucifixion forces us all to ask:  "What is my own destination and how is each day I live bringing me closer to it?"

Our Lord ascended to Heaven so that we could follow Him there-this is the end for which we were created.  Jesus said of His Apostles, "They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world."  We must be in the world, not of the world.  Set a course to Heaven and do not deviate from it.  The only thing that can derail us is sin, a word our "enlightened" times has forgotten.

What was the meaning of Christ's cruel impalement to the Cross?  It shows us we must let go of all the things we wish to possess which are unhealthy to our souls, which turn us away from our path to Heaven.  Our Blessed Lord could not possibly have been more helpless upon the Holy Cross.  He could not move and could hardly speak.  He arms were outstretched to all the universe, imploring us to come to Him and yet unable to grasp at anything.  We too, must open our hands when we are tempted to reach for, and take hold of sin.  We must take Christ's example of yielding.  In all things, He walks before us.  From the Cross, Jesus shows us the very key to the Kingdom of Heaven.

But how are we to resist temptation?  The sacraments of the Church Christ founded are the tools which have been given to us.  He said, "I will not leave you orphans."  The same body which was crucified, comes to us in Holy Communion-to help us stretch out our arms and let go.  This Body could not give us life until it tasted death.  We cannot receive that life until we taste the death of our sins.  The more our own will shrinks, the more beautiful we become.  The greater He becomes within us, the greater we become.

Our Lord never left His course toward the Holy Cross.  We must never leave our course toward the Kingdom of Heaven.  It will twist and turn and there will be traps to ensnare us.  But if we continue to flee to the Holy Cross and the Victim upon it-we will one day hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant...enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."  Dear Jesus, whose death on the Cross has won my Redemption, show me in my moments of temptation, Thy holy arms unable to embrace and Thy sacred hands unable to grasp.  Amen.


The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery....

The Carrying of the Cross

The unique aspect of the Carrying of the Cross, among the Sorrowful Mysteries, is the fact that it is a journey.  In western culture today, we seem always to be rushing from one destination to another.  The destination is important, but often we forget the importance of the journey itself.  So what do we learn on this Journey of Journeys, a microcosm of every human being’s life path, in addition to the grand historical path of all humanity, the Via Dolorosa?

Like any journey, this one involves a series of events.  Holy Scripture confirms for us that Christ carries His own Cross.  Tradition tells us He falls three times under its weight.  Scripture tells us He becomes so weak, Simon of Cyrene must take up the Cross.  Our Lord speaks to some sorrowful women and Saint Veronica wipes His Holy Face, a miraculous image resulting.  So here we have four basic events:  the Taking Up of the Cross, the Fallings, the Giving Up of the Cross and the Message.  All sealed with a miracle.

Tremendously weak after the brutal Scourging, Jesus takes the Cross upon His shoulders and begins to walk the Way of Sorrow.  The One who is sinless takes on the burden of all humanity's sins, soon to be expiated on this very Cross He carries, when He arrives at the destination.  This is an example of courage for us, when we feel terribly burdened by life's difficulties.  We know He walks before us always.  It is not so remarkable that He falls three times under this heavy piece of wood.  What is remarkable, is that He gets back up two times to continue carrying it.  But the third time, He is all out of strength.  The Almighty God makes Himself weak so that we can be strong.  Another example and profound encouragement for His children.  When we fall, when we break-whether through suffering or temptation, all is not lost.  There is always hope for those who trust in God.  He will give us the strength to go on.  And just as Simon was provided to take the Holy Cross from His hands, He too, will take our own crosses from us when the time comes.  We are asked only to trust.

When Our Lord addresses the "Daughters of Jerusalem" who are following Him on this Journey, He gives us a glimpse into His very mind as He carries the Cross.  He is thinking not of Himself on His final journey as He goes to His death.  He thinks only of us, only of humanity's final journey at the end of time.  "Weep not over Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For behold, the days shall come, wherein they will say:  Blessed are the barren and the wombs that have not borne and the paps that have not given suck.  Then shall they begin to say to the mountains:  Fall upon us, and to the hills:  Cover us."  This is a message to humanity-a warning, an End Times marker, reiterated by Saint John in Apocalypse.  Is it possible that He was describing our own times?

Every human life is similarly, a journey-some very short, some long, some privileged, some full of suffering.  But in the end, it all evens out-all is fair, all is just.  And upon each and every precious human life for which Christ suffered, lies the imprint of the Carrying of the Cross.  It is our joy, our hope, our consolation.  He did it all for us.  Good Jesus, give me strength when I begin to weary beneath my own crosses, that I may go on to reach that final destination, where Thou Art, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, the Glorious Kingdom of Heaven.  Amen.

2 More to Come....

It is a custom to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary each day of Lent.  Even better if you can pray them before the Most Blessed Sacrament or together as a family after dinner.  Wishing you continued Lenten blessings and we have 2 more meditations to come...one this Friday and the last on Good Friday.  After that, we will begin meditations on the Glorious Mysteries!

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelic Doctor, pray for us!  Saints Perpetua & Felicity, great martyrs of Holy Mother Church, pray for us!

Image courtesy http://beads-of-joy-blog.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-sorrowful-mysteries.html

The Third Sorrowful Mystery...

The Crowning with Thorns

The Crowning with Thorns upon Our Lord's sacred head, must be seen as part of a larger Mystery:  the Mockery of the Kingship of Our Lord.  It is one of a three-part costume the Roman soldiers dressed Him in:  the Crown, the Scepter and the Robe.  When we look at this piece of theater, the one Act upon the human stage which emanates like lightning, putting asunder all man’s theatrical fantasy.....what reveals itself to us?

The Romans performed this mockery in response to Christ’s alleged crime, “The King of the Jews.”  What motivated them to play out this obscene insult?  A fatal flaw, a deep chasm, a mortal wounding, took place in the Garden of Eden.  Our Lord's Passion is the culmination of this tragic event.  This mockery represents of every sinner’s response to God, the unwillingness to be subject to Him and give Him due respect as Creator.

One could not honestly look at Christ without seeing His innocence, especially a non-Jew, with no investment in the matter.  We know this was very clear to Pilate, which is why he “washed his hands” of it.  In order to punish so cruelly an innocent man, they had to disguise him-plunging themselves into the sin of committing the evil, whereas the Jews were guilty of ordering it.  It is common practice to dehumanize those you wish to kill.  Broken from the Scourging, blood streaming down His face from the sharp thorns of the Crown, dressed up and derided, they proceeded to carry out the death sentence.

Woven thorns, a reed, a red cloak....the makings of a King.  Why go through so much trouble?  Looking for branches of thorns and weaving them together?  Searching for a large reed and a red garment?  Why were all three components of the kingly garb so necessary?  Because they had to completely convince themselves and this can only be done by over-reaching.  We do the same with the unborn, with sexual immorality, with our quest to be Godlike in playing with every fundamental aspect of nature, whether it be biology, botany or physics.  Going beyond the pale makes it easier to commit the crime.

The Crown, the Scepter, the Robe:  three identifiers of a King.  Here we arrive at the crux of the Mockery, Our Blessed Lord’s Identity itself.  The words upon the Holy Cross were true:  “King of the Jews.”  And King of us all, only Son of the Father, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.  This is His Identity, Whom the world must deny to commit its countless evils.  But the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith will never deny Him, the King of Kings.  The gates of Hell will not prevail against her.

The world will try to tell us who we are, who it wants us to be.  Our own pride will delude us-we sew our own costumes, make our own crowns.  But it is only in confessing the Kingship of Our Lord and entering into the humility of His Crowning with Thorns, that we can ever know our own true identities....who we were created to be.  O my Jesus, Who asked of Thine Apostles, “Whom do you say that I am?,” I in turn ask this of Thee.  Amen.

The Second Sorrowful Mystery...

The Scourging at the Pillar

The Scourging of Our Lord was so terrible, it is difficult to contemplate.  But we must, because it is an important part of the Story-His story and humanity’s story.  Of all stories, this is the ONE we must pay attention to.  This is the ONE we may not fall asleep listening to.  The rest of the world may forget.  But we, as recipients of the fruit of His sufferings, those redeemed by His Blood, must never forget.

Pontius Pilate, Roman Procurator of Judea.....man of the world....who would expect him to be so naive?  He thought a brutal scourging would appease the enemies of Our Lord, but even this would not appease them.  Even the broken, battered Man brought before them once again, one last chance, would not change their corrupt hearts.  But we, looking at this same Man, are moved to pity and sorrow, not only for Christ, but for His mother and also His Father in Heaven.  “Why?” we ask, “Why must this have happened?  And what is this story to me?”

The unabashed chastisement of the sacred Body of Our Lord seems to enfold within itself every sin of the flesh ever committed-whether it be sexual sin, over-indulgence or simply the desire for comfort at too high a cost.  This perfectly describes the current state of the western world, deconstructed Christendom-a miserable field of debris, from sparkling, glowing screens to the body parts of unborn babies.  We must all enter into Our Lord’s Scourging because we are all guilty.  Having passed through it, we are made pure again.  In Holy Communion, we receive this same Body, bloodied for our Redemption-this Precious Blood, which soaked the ground of Jerusalem. 
As rainwater hydrates the earth, the Blood of Christ creates a substantial change, which requires something of all who walk upon it.  It is ignored at one’s own peril.  The glory of the Passion of Christ is that we are resurrected with Him.  It is the Story with the happiest ending.

Seductive images which stand in contrast to the image of our Scourged Savior, sacrilegious sacraments of matrimony, all manner of impurity....we must stand up and be a light to the world, reminding all of the sacredness of the body.  O Jesus, cruelly scourged for my sins, give me strength to stand against the tide of this corrupt culture, to rescue those drowning in the onslaught and bring them home to Thee.  Amen.

Lenten Meditations on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary

Several years ago, I began writing a series of meditations on the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary.  I published them on the former Nomen Christi Apostolate website.  The project went very well and was well received, but I never finished it.  I did complete the Sorrowful Mysteries, which I will re-publish here, starting with "The Agony in the Garden" today.  This Friday, I'll post the next Mystery and so forth on the remaining Fridays in Lent.  I am doing some slight editing in this re-publishing.  I will resume this project one of these days and complete all 20 Mysteries. 

These meditations are very personal for me, since I draw on many of my own life experiences, including some of the most difficult.  The only research I do is the reading of Scripture, since I wish these thoughts to be as original as possible.  With each meditation, I am seeking to uncover a fundamental aspect or nature of the event and to show some practical application to our own daily lives.  I hope you find these meditations enriching and please feel free to share them with others.  Come back this Friday for the next one!

The Agony in the Garden

It seems strange that Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, would feel fear so intense, that it would produce the Bloody Sweat of His Agony.  One might expect Him to approach His death with greater stoicism.  Why would He suggest to the Father that this “cup” be taken from Him?  What was the nature of this Agony and what do we have to learn from it?

Our Lord was fully God, but also fully man.  His Agony shows us how very human He was and how much He understands our sufferings, particularly those of the mind.  The drama in the Garden of Gethsemane comes down to the two qualities of God that are wholly unique:  omniscience and omnipotence, the two things desired by Adam and Eve.  This is another garden where the reverse struggle plays out, only now, the right choice is made.  Rather than man attempting to assume the qualities of God, God assumes the weakness of man.  This right choice is precisely the moment which leads to our Redemption, secured on the Cross, reversing the curse of our first parents.  The moment before Our Lord was physically apprehended, presents the Mystery of the Agony in the Garden.  This is where the final yielding of His Spirit occurred, when He speaks the words, “Thy Will be done.”  All work begins in the mind and our Redemption was no exception.  Once Our Lord was apprehended, there could be no turning back.  He was then fully prepared to enter into His Passion.

Our Lord possessed in that garden, the complete knowledge of what awaited him.  Man’s ignorance makes it easier for him to approach fearful situations.  Complete knowledge made it excruciating for Christ.  He also possessed the power to run away, the power to obliterate the enemy coming for Him.  At the very moment when humanity’s Redemption was held in the balance, surely all hell’s power was leveled against this one Man.  It must have been excruciating for Satan as well-never before or since would a task require more of him.  If the right choice was made, so many souls would escape his grasp.  So here may lie the nature of the Agony in the Garden:  to proceed in spite of Divine Knowledge and to withhold Divine Power.

What must I do in spite of my fear and how must I withhold my power?  It has been said that our age has no lack of virtue, only a lack of heroism.  Dear Jesus, make me stand firm in my own little agonies, that I may receive the Redemption Thou hast so grievously won.  Give me the courage to say, "Thy Will be done."  Amen.