On Our Lord’s Humility as Displayed in His Passion.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On Our Lord’s Humility as Displayed in His Passion.
Imagine that you see our blessed Redeemer on the way of the cross; that you see Him terribly disfigured by blood and wounds, groaning beneath the heavy burden of the cross, painfully staggering along the hard and thorny road that leads to Calvary. Hear how He calls to you: “Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” (St. Matt. xi. 29.) Truly humility is a lesson which we may well learn from our suffering Lord if we study His example in His Passion.
1st. All the masters of the spiritual life teach us that humility manifests itself in a fourfold manner;
- first, by flying from the honors men would confer on us;
- secondly, as St. Anselm says, by bearing contempt with patience;
- thirdly, by cheerfully enduring insult and ignominy;
- fourthly, by submitting to each and every one just as if oneself was the least and lowest of all.
Our Lord ascended these four several degrees of humility on His path of suffering, the way of the cross. When the people desired to make Him a king, He fled from them and hid Himself, He refused the honor; but now, when they treat Him as an assassin and a robber, He does not try to escape from them, He bears every mark of contempt with the utmost patience, He allows Himself to be loaded with insults and reproaches; nay, He takes delight in them, He rejoices, and as a giant He runs His way, that way being the way of the cross. Only see how cheerfully He submits to every one, as if He were indeed the meanest of all. He acquiesces in the unjust sentence pronounced by Pilate, He permits the executioners to bind Him with cords, He tolerates being placed on a par with Barabbas, the highway robber, and offers no resistance when He is nailed to the cross and lifted up between two thieves. “Is this to be tolerated,” exclaims St. Bernard, “that a miserable worm of earth should exalt and magnify himself, when he sees the most high Son of God thus profoundly humiliated?”
2d. Consider how, in the opinion of theologians, perfect humility consists principally in not priding oneself upon the extraordinary gifts one has received from God. This degree of humility, says St. Bonaventure, is attained by those who are already perfected in virtue and who humble themselves the more in proportion as they increase in perfection. It is nothing wonderful, as the saint remarks, that a wicked man should know himself to be wicked, but it is matter for surprise, and a mark of extraordinary humility, if a man of tried virtue, one on whom God has lavished His graces, and who is truly great in God’s sight, should nevertheless consider himself to be the least of his brethren. Now no one ever had greater graces than Jesus had; no one was ever more perfect, more holy than He; no one was ever greater in God’s sight than He, Himself the Son of God – and yet regard Him in His Passion. He stands before Herod possessed of miraculous powers, but He conceals these gifts and allows Himself to be taken for a fool. He, the holiest of any whoever trod this earth, does not let His sanctity appear, and permits a murderer to be preferred to Him. No one ever exhibited greater charity towards mankind, no one ever be stowed greater benefits upon them. Yet He does not say a word to remind them of these benefits; in silence He suffers Himself to be nailed to the cross, as if He were man’s deadliest foe. O great example of humility, brilliant luminary, compared with Thee the humility even of the saints is but a feebly glimmering spark!
3d. Consider indeed, what is it after all if a man flies from honor, bears contempt, loves reproaches, and does not boast of the graces he receives from the hand of God, after God, the God of infinite majesty, has done the same in the most perfect manner possible. Yet you find it so difficult to practise these exercises of humility; you think you have done wonders if you do not ostensibly seek honor, if you have in the main obeyed the orders of your Superior. Oh learn to-day of Jesus to be truly humble; learn of Him who has gone before you as your example and your model. Raise your eyes to Him, if an act of humility seems too difficult for your powers. If your pride revolts at having to hold intercourse with the vulgar, think of Him who was crucified in the company of thieves. If you cannot bear to see others preferred before you, imagine that you hear the cry: “Release unto us not this man, but Barabbas!” If you consider you have reason to complain that your services are underrated, look at Jesus, clothed in the robe of a fool. Yes verily, our Lord’s Passion is the remedy for our pride. But mark this, as St. Augustine says: “If this remedy is inefficacious to cure our pride, I know not how it can be cured.” Examine yourself therefore, my soul; see in what respects you are deficient in humility, and when you have discovered your failing, then turn your eyes upon your crucified Saviour in His deep abasement, and make your own the words of a pious abbot, who at the thought of Christ’s humility exclaimed: “Thou hast conquered, Lord, Thou hast conquered my pride. I give myself a captive to Thee. Take me to be Thy servant from hence forth and forever.”
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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