31 March 2023

Bishop Challoner's Meditations - March 31st



Consider first, the foresight the Blessed Virgin had of the passion of her Son, from the time that she heard that prophetic prediction addressed to her by holy Simeon, Luke ii. 34, 35, that he should ‘be set for a sign which should be contradicted, and that a sword should pierce her own soul.’ Yes, blessed Lady, a sword indeed, far more sharp and penetrating than any earthly steel, which can only pierce the body and cannot reach the soul, whereas this sword, of more than mortal anguish, which thou sufferest by occasion of the passion of thy Son, inflicts a most bitter, deep, and deadly wound in the very midst of thy soul. A wound which began to be inflicted at the time of this prophecy, by the sense which the heavenly Father then gave thee of what thy Son was to suffer; a wound which was a most bitter alloy of all those consolations which thou receivedst from the sight, conversation, and embraces of thy Jesus; a wound which thou carriedst about with thee in thy soul all the time of his mortal life, still growing upon thee as the time of his Passion drew nearer, and not healed but by his glorious Resurrection. Christians, see how the greatest favourite of heaven by divine appointment meets with the greatest crosses in this mortal pilgrimage. But no wonder Christ himself was first to suffer, and so to enter into his glory; his blessed Mother and all the Saints were to walk in the same road in order to follow him and to partake us his glorious kingdom. O! think not much if your Lord chooses for you what he chose for himself, for his blessed Mother, and for all his elect.

Consider 2ndly, how much the affliction and anguish of this Virgin Lady was increased, when the news was brought her of her Son’s being betrayed by Judas, apprehended, bound, and dragged away in that inhuman manner before the council, and what treatment he had met with there, after being condemned by them. But as the sight usually affects us more than the hearing, so doubtless this blessed Mother was oppressed with a far more killing grief, when on the next morning she was an eye-witness of all the injuries, outrages, and torments which he suffered in the different stages of his passion. For as no love that any person upon earth has ever experienced could any ways approach to the love she bore our Lord, not only as her Son, but much more as her God; so, in proportion to her love her anguish and sorrow to see him treated in that cruel, and barbarous, and outrageous manner, was the greatest that any pure creature could ever sustain, and nothing less than a miracle could have supported her or kept her alive under so dreadful a torture. Ah, Christians the whips, thorns, and nails that pierced his flesh pierced her heart with inexpressible pain and sorrow, which none surely could ever exceed, but those of her Son, ‘the man of sorrows.’ O take pity, my soul, on the sorrows of them both, and see thou never more concur to grieve them by sin.

Consider 3rdly, more in particular how the Blessed Virgin was affected when she first saw her Son in the morning in the hands of his enemies, all disfigured by their blows, with his hands tied behind him, his face covered with spittle, and his hair all rent and torn. O my soul, even so hard a heart as thine could scarce bear such a sight as this, much less her tender heart! But what was this in comparison with what she endured when he was so cruelly scourged at the pillar; when he was crowned with piercing thorns, and buffeted by a whole band of soldiers! O what pangs did she suffer when she saw him presented to the people with the ‘Ecce homo!’ Behold the man! How did she then feel in her soul all those wounds she there discovered in his head and body? Nor did she suffer less, but rather much more, when she followed him in his last journey to Mount Calvary, bearing his cross on his mangled shoulders, and marking the way with his sacred blood. But what was all this if compared with what she endured, when she heard the strokes of the hammer driving the nails into his hands and feet; when she saw him hoisted up into the air, and there hanging, extended as upon a rack, and supported by his wounds; when standing near the cross, she saw the extremity of the torture he there endured; contemplated the multitude and variety of his sufferings, heard his last dying words, and saw him give up the ghost? O how truly might she then cry out with the Prophet, ‘O all you that pass by the way, attend and see, if there be sorrow like to my sorrow!’ Lament. i. 12. Learn my soul, from this Queen of sorrows, with what eye thou oughtest to look upon the sufferings of the Son of God, and how to bewail those sins which have given cause to them.

Conclude to imitate the virtues of which this blessed Lady has given us an illustrious example in this martyrdom she endured under the cross of her Son - especially learn her courage and fortitude under such bitter suffering; her patience and perfect conformity to the will of God; her lively faith and hope. These must support thee also under all thy crosses.

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