Saturday, March 23, 2013

They Crucified HIm: Staion VIII

This series is not my own work, but all taken from Rev Robert Nash, S.J.'s reflections on the Stations of the Cross: They Crucified Him. I will post one Station a day in these final days before (and concluding on) Good Friday. Here is the Eighth Station.
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In the sixth station, we saw Our Lord accept the comfort offered to Him by Veronica, and we might have noticed the same when He allowed Simon to relieve Him of the weight of the cross. But, for the few isolated instances wherein He accepts, there are very many wherein He refuses to avail of the consolation offered. Indeed, the whole Passion is a seeking out of what is hard and repellent to human nature. In the eighth station, we find the holy women weeping tears of compassion for Him in His truly heart-rending condition, but He does not, in this case, take what is offered to Him. Instead, He directs them to weep over their own sins.

Why does He refuse consolation and why should this be His more ordinary mode of procedure? In His case, there could have been no danger of His seeking it inordinately. If He was to accept the sympathy offered, as He did when He met Veronica, or when He ate with sinners, it is beyond question that He would have pleased the Father by doing so, and that His choice would have been determined by that motive only.

But He has come to give us an example and He knows all that is in man. He knows, therefore, that we are biased in favour of what pleases us naturally, and that there is need to suspect ourselves if we yield easily and frequently to our tastes and fancies, even if we tell ourselves that our motive is pure. “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent bear it away.” The hard way is, generally, the safer way, if the soul is to advance in holiness. It is true that the hard way too has its dangers of pride, or imprudence, or lack of perseverance, but one must remember that the easier way is also beset with subtleties and snares. The question therefore is, which road has fewer perils, and the example of Our Lord and the saints indicates unmistakably that it is ordinarily the hard one. In an individual case, there may be room for doubt whether to take what is pleasant or hard, but the general principle stands firm.

“Let each one reflect,” writes Saint Ignatius — and the words have been cited as being an epitome of his whole teaching — “that he will make progress in all spiritual things in just the same proportion as he divests himself of self-love and self-will and self-satisfaction.” “Without mortification, and I say it boldly,” Saint John of the Cross tells us, “we shall make no progress towards perfection, nor in the knowledge of God and of ourselves, notwithstanding all our efforts, any more than the seed will grow which is thrown away on uncultivated ground.” And, in many subsequent pages he goes on to lament bitterly over those souls who come to the service of God and advance a certain distance and who do not ordinarily fall into serious sin, but who yet, because they lean on creature comforts inordinately lose the immense graces which God would pour into them if they were only more generous in the practice of detachment. “Even one unruly desire, though not a mortal sin, sullies and deforms the soul, and indisposes it for the perfect union with God, until it be cast away.”

These are hard sayings, but they mark the way traced by Jesus and Mary on the road to Calvary. And it is the unanimous teaching of the saints, who accept these hard sayings literally and aim consistently at living them — it is their experience that once they seriously undertook the task of self-abnegation, tolerating in themselves no deliberate fault and ruthlessly suppressing the movements of self-love — that from that day they can recall how a generous God flooded them with light and grace, and poured into them a torrent of joyousness such that no earthly satisfaction could compare with it.

Saint John of the Cross was nine months in a dark prison cell, during which time he was flogged every day, and nearly starved, and insulted, and taunted. Afterwards he assured a Carmelite nun that so great was the joy he experienced in his soul during that long period of imprisonment, that, for a moment of it a hundred years’ such privation would be a small price to pay. Is it any wonder that he waxed eloquent on the disastrous loss sustained by many tolerably good souls because they cling inordinately to merely human consolations like those which Jesus rejects in this station?


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