Post by Hildegard on Mar 30, 2020 15:36:24 GMT
How to Arrive at the Perfect Love of Jesus
From the Introduction by St. Alphonsus Liguori to his book The Passion and the Death of Jesus Christ.
The lover of souls, our most loving Redeemer, declared that he had no other motive in coming down upon earth to become man than to enkindle in the hearts of men the fire of his holy love: I am come to cast fire on earth; and what will I but that it be kindled? [Luke 12:49.] And, oh, what beautiful flames of love has he not enkindled in so many souls, especially by the pains that he chose to suffer in his death, in order to prove to us the immeasurable love which he still bears to us!
Oh, how many souls, happy in the wounds of Jesus, as in the burning furnaces of love, have been so inflamed with his love that they have not refused to consecrate to him their goods, their lives, and their whole selves, surmounting with great courage all the difficulties which they had to encounter in the observance of the divine law, for the love of that Lord who, being God, chose to suffer so much for love of them!
Wherefore St. Augustine, all inflamed with love at the sight of Jesus nailed on the cross, prayed thus sweetly: “Imprint, O Lord, Thy wounds in my heart, that I may read therein suffering and love: suffering, that I may endure for Thee all suffering; love, that I may despise for Thee all love.” “ Write,” he said, “my most loving Savior, write on my heart Thy wounds, in order that I may always behold therein Thy sufferings and Thy love. Yes, because having before my eyes the great sufferings that Thou, my God, didst endure for me, I may bear in silence all the sufferings that it may fall to my lot to endure; and at the sight of the love which Thou didst exhibit for me on the cross, I may never love or be able to love any other than Thee.”
Who, then, can ever complain that he suffers wrongfully, when he considers Jesus, who was bruised for our sins? [Isa 53:5.] Who can refuse to obey, on account of some inconvenience, when Jesus became obedient unto death? [Phil 2:8.] Who can refuse ignominies, when they behold Jesus treated as a fool, as a mock king, as a disorderly person, struck, spit upon his face, and suspended upon an infamous gibbet?
Who could love any other object besides Jesus when they see him dying in the midst of so many sufferings and insults, in order to captivate our love? A certain devout solitary prayed to God to teach him what he could do in order to love him perfectly. Our Lord revealed to him that there was no more efficient way to arrive at the perfect love of him than to meditate constantly on his Passion.
St. Teresa lamented and complained of certain books which had taught her to leave off meditating on the Passion of Christ, because this might be an impediment to the contemplation of his divinity; and the saint exclaimed, “O Lord of my soul, O my Jesus crucified, my treasure! I never remember this opinion without thinking that I have been guilty of great treachery. And is it possible that Thou, my Lord, couldst be an obstacle to me in the way of a greater good? Whence, then, do all good things come to me, but from thee?” And she then added, “I have seen that, in order to please God, and to induce him to grant us great graces, he wills that they should all pass through the hands of his most sacred humanity, in which his divine majesty declared that he took pleasure.”
For this reason, Father Balthasar Alvarez said that ignorance of the treasures that we possess in Jesus was the ruin of Christians; and therefore his most favorite and usual meditation was on the Passion of Jesus Christ. He meditated especially on three of the sufferings of Jesus – his poverty, contempt, and pain; and he exhorted his penitents to meditate frequently on the Passion of our Redeemer, telling them that they should not consider that they had done anything at all, until they had arrived at retaining Jesus crucified continually present in their hearts.
“He who desires,” says St. Bonaventure, “to go on advancing from virtue to virtue, from grace to grace, should meditate continually on the Passion of Jesus.” And he adds that “there is no practice more profitable for the entire sanctification of the soul than the frequent meditation on the sufferings of Jesus Christ.”
St. Augustine also said that a single tear shed at the remembrance of the Passion of Jesus is worth more than a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, or a year of fasting on bread on water. Yes, because it was for this end that our Savior suffered so much, in order that we should think of his sufferings; because if we think on them it is impossible not to be inflamed with divine love: The charity of Christ presseth us, says St. Paul [2 Cor. 5: 14.] Jesus is loved by few because few consider the pains he suffered for us; but he that frequently considers them cannot live without loving Jesus. “The charity of Christ presseth us.” He will feel so constrained by his love that he will not find it possible to refrain from loving a God so full of love, who has suffered so much to make us love him.
Therefore the Apostle said that he desired to know nothing but Jesus, and Jesus crucified; that is, the love that he has shown us on the cross: I judged not myself to know anything among you but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified [1 Cor 2:2]. And, in truth, from what books can we better learn the science of the saints – that is the science of loving God – than from Jesus crucified?
St. Thomas Aquinas was one day paying a visit to St. Bonaventure, and asked him from what book he had drawn all the beautiful lessons he had written. St. Bonaventure showed him the image of the Crucified, which was completely blackened by all the kisses that he had given it, and said, “This is my book whence I receive everything that I write; and it has taught me whatever little I know.”
In short, all the saints have learned the art of loving God from the study of the crucifix. Brother John of Alvernia, every time that he beheld Jesus wounded, could not restrain his tears. Brother James of Tuderto, when he heard the Passion of our Redeemer read, not only wept bitterly, but broke into loud sobs, overcome with the love with which he was inflamed toward his beloved Lord.
It was this sweet study of the crucifix which made St. Francis become a great seraph. He wept so continually in meditating on the sufferings of Jesus Christ, that he almost entirely lost his sight. On one occasion, being found crying out and weeping, he was asked what was the matter with him. “What ails me?” answered the saint. “I weep over the sorrows and insults inflicted on my Lord; and my sorrow is increased when I think of those ungrateful men who do not love him, but live without any thought of him.” Every time that he heard the bleating of a lamb, he felt himself touched with compassion at the thought of the death of Jesus, the Immaculate Lamb, drained of every drop of blood upon the cross for the sins of the world. And therefore this loving saint could find no subject on which he exhorted his brethren with greater eagerness than the constant remembrance of the Passion of Jesus.
This, then is the book – Jesus crucified – which, if we constantly read it, will teach us, on the one hand, to have a lively fear of sin, and, on the other hand, will inflame us with love for a God so full of love for us; while we read in these wounds the great malice of sin, which reduced a God to suffer so bitter a death in order to satisfy the divine justice, and the love which our Savior has shown us in choosing to suffer so much in order to prove to us how much he loved us.
Let us beseech the divine Mother Mary to obtain for us from her Son the grace that we also may enter into these furnaces of love, in which so many loving hearts are consumed, in order that, our earthly affections being there burned away, we also may burn with those blessed flames, which render souls holy on earth and blessed in heaven. Amen.