We have arrived at the time of the Paschal Triduum of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
As is the case each year, of course, we have much upon which to meditate these next three days, starting with the unsurpassed love that the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity made Man in His Most Blessed Mother’s Virginal and Immaculate Womb by the power of God the Holy Ghost had for us to pay back the debt of Adam’s sin in His own Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross. The love that Our Lord had for His Co-Equal and Co-Eternal Father and for each and every one of us impelled Him to embrace to take upon Himself the guilt of human sin although He, the God-Man, was guilty of nothing.
We must admit that our hearts, so stained by our sins, by our indifference and by our indifference, are puny, filled with so little real love of the Holy Cross upon which Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ wrought our very own salvation. We tend to be immersed in the world, preoccupied with our own problems, intent on maintaining our own “respect” and “dignity” in the eyes of others, convinced that no one is suffering as we suffer, reading the worst possible motives into the words and actions of others who we once considered our friends, personally offended by the slightest insult or word of criticism. We fail to understand that every cross that is sent to us from the loving hand of God, Who is love itself, is meant to purify us, to beat pride out of us, to help us to make reparation for our sins in this passing, mortal vale of tears as we offer all of the travails of daily living and all of the misunderstandings and estrangements that have taken place in this time of apostasy and betrayal to Him through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Are our hearts really ready after six weeks of prayer, fasting, penance, mortification and almsgiving to enter deep into the mysteries of Our Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, especially by thanking Him for each and every single one of our own crosses and seeing in them the means by which we can save our own souls and help others in the Church Militant to save theirs as we can help to expedite the passage to Heaven of the souls detained in the Church Suffering in Purgatory? Do we really, really understand that there is nothing that we we can suffer in this life that is the equal of what one of our least Venial Sins caused Our Lord to suffer in these days of His Passion and Death, during which time His Most Blessed Mother had the Fourth through the Seven Swords of Sorrow pierce her Immaculate heart through and through?
Our all-merciful God, Who extended His arms for us on the horizontal beam of the Holy Cross to lift us up to Him on the vertical beam, gives us lengths of years so that we can be purified and refined by our patience endurance of our crosses and by coming to pray for them as grow in love of God and desire to win for Him more and more souls as we seek to make reparation for our own many sins. This Paschal Triduum, which begins today, Maundy Thursday, with the Mass commemorating Our Lord’s institution of the Holy Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist and His washing of the feet of His Apostles, including the traitor Judas, gives us yet another opportunity to reflect upon our need for the Cross in our own daily lives, remembering that it is from Sacrifice that Our Lord effected the Holy Cross that we are fed His very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in Holy Communion. Our Lord was born for us in the wood of the manger, a feeding trough for animals, to die for us on the wood of Holy Cross, which has become for us the true manger for us unto eternal life itself if we persevere until the end in a state of Sanctifying Grace as a member of the Catholic Church.
Although other thoroughly inadequate and grossly insufficient reflections of mine that have been written over the years have sought to expatiate on the mystery of the Holy Cross, I thought that it would be useful as we begin the Paschal Triduum today to draw upon the true wisdom of Saint Louis Grignion de Montfort, who explained to us how difficult it is for human beings to love the Cross, explaining to us as well how necessary it is to do so and to see the Cross as the very means by which we can die to self so as to let the very inner life of the Most Blessed Trinity in Sanctifying Grace abide in our souls all the more as we store up treasures for all eternity.
Consider these few passages from Saint Louis Grignion de Montfort’s A Circular Letter to the Friends of the Cross:
50. Ninth. The love you are told to have for the Cross is not sensible love, for this would be impossible to human nature.
It is important to note the three kinds of love: sensible love, rational love and love that is faithful and supreme; in other words, the love that springs from the lower part of man, the flesh; the love that springs from the superior part, his reason; and the love that springs from the supreme part of man, from the summit of his soul, which is the intellect enlightened by faith.
51.God does not ask you to love the Cross with the will of the flesh. Since the flesh is the subject of evil and corruption, all that proceeds from it is evil and it cannot, of itself, submit to the will of god, and His crucifying law. It was this aspect of His human nature which Our Lord referred to when He cried out, in the Garden of Olives: “Father, . . . not My will but Thine be done.” (Luke 22, 42). If the power powers of Our Lord’s human nature, though holy, could not love the Cross without interruption, then, with still greater reason, will our human nature, which is very much vitiated, repel it. At times, like many of the saints, we too may experience a feeling of even sensible joy in our sufferings, but that joy does not come from the flesh though it is in the flesh. It flows from our superior powers, so completely filled with the divine joy of the Holy Ghost, that it spreads to our lower powers. Thus a person who is undergoing the most unbearable torture is able to say: “My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God” (Ps. 83, 3).
52. There is another love of the Cross which I call rational, since it springs from the higher part of man, his reason. This love is wholly spiritual. Since it arises from the knowledge of the happiness there is in suffering for God, it can be and really is perceived by the soul. It also gives the soul inward strength and joy. Though this rational and perceptible joy is beneficial, even very beneficial, it is not an indispensable part of joyous, divine suffering.
53.That is why there is another love, which the masters of the spiritual life call the love of the summit and highest point of the soul and which the philosophers call the love of the intellect. When we possess this love, even though we experience no sensible joy or rational pleasure, we love and relish, in the light of pure faith, the cross we must bear, even though the lower part of our nature may often be in a state of warfare and alarm and may groan, weep and sigh for relief; and thus we repeat with Jesus Christ: “Father . . . not My will but Thine be done” (Luke 22, 42), or with the Blessed Virgin: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto Thy word” (Luke 1, 38). (Saint Louis de Montfort, A Circular Letter to the Friends of the Cross, Montfort Publications, p. 24.)
To perfectly love the Cross, Saint Louis de Montfort explains, we must be willing to suffer all things well, to suffer them with equanimity and joy. This has special application today in this time of apostasy and betrayal when so many families are so torn apart from by the apostasies and sacrileges wrought by the conciliarists, allies of the devil who have set believing Catholics against each other in the most bitter terms. It is difficult to lose the respect and esteem of others, especially family members and close friends, when one has come to recognize that those who defect knowingly from even one article contained in the Deposit of Faith have expelled themselves from the Catholic Church and cannot hold ecclesiastical office within her legitimately. It is difficult to persevere in the truth when all manner of pressure is brought to bear to conform to the “mainstream” of opinion. This is how many Catholics went over to Arianism in the Fourth Century and how many Catholics in England defected to Protestantism in the Sixteenth Century. It is hard to go against the tide of prevailing views. It is, however, necessary to do so to be faithful to Our Lord, Who was abandoned by all but one of His Apostles at the foot of the Cross:
54. Tenth. Be resolved then, dear Friends of the Cross, to suffer any kind of cross without excepting or choosing any: all poverty, all injustice, all temporal loss, all illness, all humiliation, all contradiction, all calumny, all spiritual dryness, all desolation, all interior and exterior trials. Keep saying: “My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready” (Ps. 56, 8) Be ready to be forsaken by men and angels, and seemingly by God Himself. Be ready to to be persecuted, envied, betrayed, calumniated, discredited and forsaken by everyone. Be read to undergo hunger, thirst, poverty, nakedness, exile, imprisonment, the gallows, and all kinds of torture, even though you are innocent of everything with which you may be charged. What if you were cast out of your our home like Job and St. Elizabeth of Hungary; thrown, like this saint, into the mire; or dragged upon a manure pile like Job, malodorous and covered with ulcers, without any to bandage your wounds, without a morsel of bread, never refused to a horse or a dog? Add to these dreadful misfortunes, all the temptations with which God allows the devil to prey upon you, without pouring into your soul the least feeling of consolation.
Firmly believe that this is the summit of divine glory and real happiness for the true, perfect Friend of the Cross.
Many of you have suffered these exact things, have you not? Recognize these sufferings, especially that come from the ones who are closest to you, as gifts that unite you to Our Lord and Our Lady and to the red martyrs of Holy Mother Church who shed their blood for the Holy Faith and to the white martyrs who died interiorly a thousand times because of the sufferings imposed upon them by their own kith and kin. We must, as Saint Louis de Montfort wrote, see the very hand of of God in all that happens to us, that God is pleased when we fight against the riches of the world itself:
55. Eleventh. For proper suffering, form the pious habit of considering four things:
First, the Eye of God. God is like a great king, who from the height of a tower observes with satisfaction his soldier in the midst of battle, and praises his valor. What is it on earth that attracts God’s attention? Kings and emperors on their thrones? He often looks at that with nothing but contempt. Brilliant victories of a nation’s armies, precious stones, any such things that are great in the eyes of men? “What is great to men, is an abomination before God” (Luke 16, 15). What then does God look upon with pleasure and delight? It is about the man who is fighting for Him against riches, against the world, hell and himself, the man who is cheerfully carrying his cross. Hast thou not seen upon the earth that great wonder which the heavens consider with admiration? said the Lord to Satan; “hast thou considered My servant Job” (Job 2, 3) who is suffering for Me?
56. Second, the Hand of God. Every disorder in nature, from the greatest to the smallest, is the work of His almighty Hand. The Hand that devastates an army of a hundred thousand (4 Kings 19, 35) will make a leaf drop from a tree and a hair fall from your head (Luke 21, 18). The Hand that was laid so heavily upon Job is particularly light when it touched you with some little trial. This Hand fashions day and night, sun and darkness, good and evil. God permits the sin which provokes you; He is not the cause of its malice, although He does allow the act.
If anyone then, treats you as Semei treated King David (2 Kings 16, 5-11), loading you with insults and casting stones at you, say to yourself, “I must not mind; I must not take revenge for this is an ordinance of God. I know that I have deserved every abuse and it is only right that God punish me. Desist, my hands, and strike not; desist, my tongue, and speak not; the person who injures me by word or deed is an ambassador, mercifully sent by God to punish me as His love alone knows how. Let us not incur His justice by assuming His right to vengeance. Le us not despise His mercy by resisting the affectionate strokes of His lash, lest, for His vengeance, He should remand us to the rigorous justice of eternity.
Consider how God bears you up with one Hand, of infinite power and wisdom, with with the other He chastises you. With the one He deals out death, while with the other He dispenses life. He humbles you and raises you up. With both arms, He reaches sweetly and mightily (Wisdom 8, 1). from the beginning of your life to its end. Sweetly: by not allowing you to be tempted or afflicted beyond your strength. Mightily: by favoring you with a powerful grace, proportioned to the vehemence and duration of your temptation or affliction. Mightily:–and the spirit of His holy Church bears witness–”He is your stay on the brink of a precipice, your guide along a misleading road, your shade in the scorching heat, your raiment in the pouring rain or the biting cold. He is your conveyance when you are utterly exhausted, your help in adversity, your staff on the slippery way. He is your port of refuge when, in the throes of a tempest, you are threatened with ruin and shipwreck. (Saint Louis de Montfort, A Circular Letter to the Friends of the Cross, Montfort Publications, pp. 25-26.)
The only way to win the crown of glory in eternal life is to be willing to have a crown of thorns beat into our own skulls each and every day of our loves, considering our sufferings as nothing in comparison to those endured by Our Divine Redeemer during this days of His Passion and Death. The Cross is indeed the solution to every problem that we face in our lives:
57. Third, consider the Wounds and Sorrows of our crucified Jesus. Hear what He himself has to say: “All ye that pass along the thorny and crucifying way I had to follow, look and see. Look with the eyes of your body; look with the eye of contemplation, and see if your poverty, nakedness, disgrace, sorrow, desolation are like unto Mine. Behold Me, innocent, as I am, then will you complain, you are guilty” (Lam. 1, 12).
The Holy Ghost tells us, by the mouth of the Apostles, that we should keep our eyes on Jesus Crucified (Gal. 3, 1) and arm ourselves with this thought of Him (1 Pet. 4, 1) which is our most powerful and most penetrating weapon against all our enemies. When you are assailed by poverty, disrepute, sorrow, temptation or any other cross, arm yourselves with this shield, this breastplate, this helmet, this two-edged sword (Eph. 6, 12-18), that is, with the thought of Jesus crucified. There is the solution to your every problem, the means you have to vanquish all your enemies.
58. Fourth, lift up your eyes, behold the beautiful crown that awaits you in Heaven if you carry your cross as you should. That was the reward which kept patriarchs and prophets strong in faith under persecution. It gave heart to the Apostles and martyrs in their labors and torments. Patriarchs used to say as Moses had said: “We would rather be afflicted with the people of God,” so as to enjoy eternal happiness with Him, “than to have the pleasure of sin for a short time (Heb. 11, 25-26). The prophets repeated David’s words: “We suffer great persecutions on account of the reward (Ps. 68, 8; 118, 112). The Apostles and martyrs voice the sentiments of St. Paul: We are, as it were, men appointed to death: we are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men,” by our sufferings “being made the offscouring of the world,” (1 Cor. 4, 913), “by reason of the exceeding and eternal weight of glory, which this momentary and light tribulation worketh in us” (2 Cor. 4, 17).
Let us see and listen to the angels right above us: “Be careful not to forfeit the crown that is set aside for you if you bravely bear the cross that is given to you. If you do not bear it well, someone will bear it in your stead and will take your crown. All the saints warn us: fight courageously, suffer patiently and you will be given an everlasting kingdom.” Let us hear Jesus: “To him only will I give my reward who shall suffer and overcome through patience” (Apoc. 2, 6; 11, 17; 3, 5; 21,7). (Saint Louis de Montfort, A Circular Letter to the Friends of the Cross, Montfort Publications, p. 26-27.)
As one who was born and raised and who has lived about two-thirds of my life in and around the New York City metropolitan area, I know what it is to complain. I used to do a whole lot of it, especially when teaching in the cornfields of central Illinois from 1977-1979. Why did I complain? Because Illinois was not what I was used to in New York. Oh, I enjoyed my teaching. I simply could not stand the environment in which I lived. I refused to accept God’s Holy Will with joy and equanimity. I murmured, quite loudly at times. I gave bad Catholic example. Very bad.
As noted before, however, God gives us length of years to learn a few things by the graces He sends to us through the loving hands of Our Lady, she who is the Mediatrix of All Graces. It is only by the graces won for us by Our Lord’s shedding of every single drop of His Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross and that flows into our hearts and souls through the loving hands of Our Lady that we can learn to rejoice in our crosses, especially in those that beat down our pride and make us look like utter fools to most of the rest of the people in the world. To this we should say a hearty “Deo gratias!” and rejoice.
59. Twelfth. Never murmur or deliberately complain about any created thing that God may use to afflict you. It is important to note the three kinds of complaints that may arise when misfortune assails you. The first is natural and involuntary. This happens when the human body moans and groans, sobs and sighs and weeps. If, as I said, the higher point of the soul submits to the will of God, there is no sin. The second is rational. Such is the case when we complain and disclose our hardship to some superior or physician who is able to remedy it. This complaint may be an imperfection, if too eagerly made, but it is no sin. The third is sinful. This happens when a person complains of others either to rid himself of suffering they cause him, or to take revenge. Or else when he wilfully complains about the sorrow he must bear and shows signs of grief and impatience. (Saint Louis de Montfort, A Circular Letter to the Friends of the Cross, Montfort Publications, p. 27-28.)
Impatience? Impatience? Impatience? Impatience? Why, why, why, who’s Saint Louis de Montfort talking about? I know that he is talking about me, that’s who, me!
By Our Lady’s graces, however we can come to accept and to embrace our crosses with such love and patience that we look for voluntary crosses because our love grows every time we bear the cross with patience and joy:
60.Thirteenth. Whenever you are given a cross, be sure to embrace it with humility and gratitude. If God, in his infinite goodness, favors you with a cross some importance, be sure to thank him in a special way and have others join join you in thanking him. Do as that poor woman did who, through an unjust lawsuit, lost everything she owned. She immediately offered the last few pennies she had, to have a Mass said in thanksgiving to Almighty God for the good fortune that had come to her.
61. Fourteenth. If you wish to be worthy of the best crosses, those that are not of your choice, then, with the help of a prudent director, take on some that are voluntary.
Suppose you he a piece of furniture that you do not need but prize. Give it to some poor person, and say to yourself: “Why should I have things I do not need, when Jesus is destitute?”
Do you dislike certain kinds of food, the practice of some particular virtue, or some offensive odor? Taste this food, practice this virtue, endure this odor, conquer yourself.
Is your affection for some person or thing too ardent and tender? Keep away, deprive yourself, break away from things that appeal to you.
Have you that natural tendency to see and be seen, to be doing things or going some place? Mind your eyes and hold your tongue, stop right where you are and keep to yourself.
Do you feel a natural aversion to some person or thing? Rise above self by keeping near them.
62. If you are truly Friends of the Cross, then, without your knowing it, love, which is always ingenious, will discover thousands of little crosses to enrich you. Then you need not fear self-conceit which often accompanies the patient endurance of conspicuous crosses and since you have been faithful in a few things, the Lord will keep His promise and set you over many things (Matt. 25, 21, 23): over many graces He will grant you; over many crosses He will send you; over much glory He will prepare for you. . . . (Saint Louis de Montfort, A Circular Letter to the Friends of the Cross, Montfort Publications, p. 28.)
Although our Lenten penances and fastings will end with the conclusion of the Easter Vigil Mass on morning or the evening of Holy Saturday, April 4, 2015, our love of the Cross must grow with each beat of our hearts, consecrated as they must be to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. We will consider it pure joy to spend more time before Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament and to pray more Rosaries each day, especially by turning off the radio and the television (what are still doing with that thing in your house?) and refusing to listen or watch the naturalists blather on about the events of the day that they truly know nothing about as they refuse to refer everything that happens in the world to the standard of the Holy Cross as It is lifted high today by Holy Mother Church even as she suffers her Mystical Passion, Death and Burial in this time of apostasy and betrayal.
Yes, we enter into the Sacred Mysteries of our redemption today. We must follow Our Lord through these events, concentrating this evening on the time He spent in His Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, during which time He shed droplets of His Most Precious Blood as He contemplated the horror of each one of the sins of every human being from the beginning to the end of the world. To aid the very few readers of this site in meditating on the suffering that Our Lord experience at the foot of the Mount of Olives before He was betrayed with the kiss of Judas Iscariot and arrested to be taken to His “trial” before the Sanhedrin, I am providing in the appendix below a few passages from the Venerable Mary of Agreda’s The Mystical City of God. You will find them to be of great help in realizing the torments that our sins imposed upon Our Lord and His Most Blessed Mother and, of course, the great love He showed us by enduring those torments to the point of shedding every single drop of His Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross.
Are you a friend of the Cross?
May we ask Our Lady, who stood so valiantly by the foot of her Divine Son’s Holy Cross on Good Friday, to help us to be more a friend of the Cross than we have been in the past, especially by assisting faithfully at true offerings of the Holy Mass offered by bishops and priests who give conciliarism no quarter at all and by making sure to spend time in fervent prayer before the King of Love on Calvary in His Real Presence.
A blessed Maundy Thursday to you all.