Prayer on the Passion of Christ
Behind the Lord's silence is trust
The Church offers us the Season of Lent in order to help us contemplate Christ's path and to follow it more closely; retracing with Jesus the sorrowful road that began with the tribunal's wicked sentence, reached the agonising suffering of the Cross and ended in the silence of the tomb.
In this drama Jesus silence is particularly striking.
We already feel that with the announcement of the Lord's death the grave silence of consternation descends upon our consciences. This silence was to envelop the Church and the world, especially on Good Friday, broken only during the great Easter Vigil.
After his arrest, the Gospel says, Jesus kept his lips sealed. This silence was to accompany him throughout his Passion, when his words were indeed few. It is as if his words of offering at the Last Supper extinguished all other words. Jesus was henceforth handed over to men and abandoned every defence. Consciously and with a free heart, he seemed to be surrendering himself totally to his enemies.
What was the secret of this renunciation of every defence?
By contemplating the Crucified Lord and fixing our gaze on his painful and humiliating wounds, we can go beyond the threshold of the visible to penetrate the secret motives of Christ's Heart and discover, as far as we are able, his feelings.
It is striking that St. Paul of the Cross, the great contemplator of God Crucified, was able to perceive in Jesus' silence a profound and steadfast trust in God and a testimony of unreserved goodness. He used to say that God's infinite mercy for the world shines out from Jesus' silence during his Passion. In that silence, overflowing with goodness, St. Paul of the Cross saw the grace of God and his fidelity to us.
The silence of Jesus' love is indeed the true word that sets us free from our human sin. It is the silence of a heart, like that of Jesus, which accepts the sacrifice of life in order to redeem humanity, the victim of evil, thereby responding with an act of immense love to the tremendous wickedness of our injured hearts.
Sweet Jesus ever in our hearts
Indeed, in a letter St. Paul of the Cross wrote on 16 December 1733, to Agnese Grazi, a spiritual directee, he invited her to live in this attitude of the "silence of love" to which Jesus bore witness during his Passion. He states: "May the most sweet Jesus dwell in our hearts always. My daughter in Jesus Christ, may the grace of the Holy Spirit be with you always. Amen. Yesterday, after writing the little rule for the distribution of the Exercises in accordance with one's present state. I received a letter from you and I thank God that through his infinite mercy he has divested you of all sentiments of tangible devotion.
"Thus, detached from all things. may you live abandoned in God and learn in prayer to adore his immense majesty in spirit and truth.
"I therefore feel that you cannot meditate as you did before, nor imagine the place. and that the spirit is suffering and desires to break free. Deo gratias".
Resting in God's loving embrace
At this point, St. Paul of the Cross suggested that she should allow herself to be attracted by that silence of love which Jesus offered us in his Passion:
"So do this. Be in God's presence with a pure and simple loving attention to this immense Good, in a sacred silence of love, resting the whole of your spirit in this holy silence against the loving breast of our eternal God; and when your recollection ceases, awaken your spirit tenderly, with a few impulses of love.
"'O, beloved goodness! O, infinite charity! O, dear God, I am yours, O infinite sweetness!'. Use these or other exclamations that God may inspire in you, but be aware that if in expressing these impulses of love the soul is at peace and recollected in God, there is no need to do anything other than to carry on with this loving silence, this resting of your spirit in God, who incomparably understands all the possible discourses that we ourselves could make.
"And when you do not feel this inner peace, that is, recollection, and when the soul cannot meditate either, it is necessary to leave it alone; however, you must always retain loving attention to God with the supreme part of your spirit.
"In this case, therefore, stand before God as before a statue in its niche, detached from every consolation.... And if, when you are saying prayers aloud, you feel drawn to mental prayer and profound recollection, stop and turn to mental prayer and continue later with vocal prayers. Give them time, recite them slowly but sweetly, with your spirit in God".
The Lord never abandons the just
What then is the reason for Jesus' silence?
The answer comes to us from a text of the Prophet Isaiah: "The Lord God assists me; therefore. I have not been confounded: therefore, I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near" (50:7-8).
The servant of the Lord accepts all unjust abuse in silence and remains at peace, for his heart is filled with a profound and steadfast trust in God.
He is deeply convinced that the Lord is faithful and does not abandon the righteous but loves them with a love that never fails, despite any appearances to the contrary.
And this applies to Jesus, too. "When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted in him who judges justly" (I Pt 2:23).
Thus, Jesus' silence is infinitely more eloquent than a torrent of words. It proclaims and testifies to total trust in the Father and immense benevolence to sinful humanity in need of infinite mercy.
Weekly Edition in English
13 February 2008, page 10
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