A Lenten Reflection for Saturday after the Third Sunday in Lent from Holy Cross Publications
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 the Threefold Torture of Scourging.
Represent to yourself to-day, with feelings of heartfelt compassion and profound contrition, the awful spectacle of our Lord’s scourging. Brutal executioners, the glint of whose cold, steely eyes bespeaks them to be destitute of the ordinary sentiments of humanity, and who have been known to take a savage delight in beating unfortunate criminals to death, lay hold on the immaculate Saviour and lead Him to the pillar of scourging. Quivering and trembling in every limb, delivered up to the coarsest and lowest of mankind, without protection, without help of any kind, Jesus stands there, a sacrificial Victim, at the mercy of His barbarous executioners, who, when He has claspt His arms around the pillar, tear the clothes off His tender body and bind Him fast.
1st. Consider the torture thus inflicted on the chaste and modest Saviour. He, the Holy of Holies, stands in the nakedness of His human nature at the pillar where criminals are chastised, defenceless in the hands of the rough, coarse men, who give free play to the cruelty of their nature, and whose filthy language and ribald mockery wound His pure heart more deeply than the stripes of their scourges wound His delicate body. O see, my soul, how painfully our Lord has to expiate in this lonesome hall of scourging the sin and shame of those who, in what the Apostle calls “chambering and impurities,” degrade and debase the image of God in themselves; see how painfully He has here to atone for the torture inflicted on His sanctity, His modesty, for the shamelessness of the unhappy sinner, and perhaps for the sins you have committed in this respect.
2d. Consider the torture which the tender body of our Lord had to endure. “The wicked have wrought upon My back; they have lengthened their iniquity.” Literally indeed were these words of the Psalmist accomplished in the person of the persecuted Redeemer. He starts and writhes like a worm under the brutal blows of the executioners. The blows fall in quick succession. Already His tender body is black and blue, crimsoned with blood, covered with weals. His sacred blood trickles down to the ground. Our Lord quivers and trembles under the intense agony caused by the blows, but His tormentors do not grow weary. Now they belabor Him afresh with scourges of leather set with knobs and spikes of iron, striking Him with such violence that the skin of His sacred body is torn, His flesh is seamed with wounds from which the blood spurts forth on all around; even the arms of the executioners are besprinkled with it. He turns His eyes, suffused with blood, on His merciless torturers, entreating them to have pity on Him; but in vain, they only go on with greater fury than ever. See, my soul, how bitter is the atonement which Jesus, bending beneath the awful physical pain of the scourging, has to make for the voluptuousness, the sensual indulgence wherewith sinners flatter their bodies. You perhaps have also sinned in this manner.
3d. Consider how this twofold martyrdom was accentuated by the biting mockery and contempt which the executioners heaped upon Him for His greater torture. See how your persecuted Lord, when the scourging was ended, lies on the ground naked and bleeding, exhausted and bruised like a worm that has been trodden on, with difficulty gathering together His clothes, to cover Himself, and trying to gain a brief respite, that He may recover Himself a little. But no, not even a breathing space, a moment of comparative repose after the terrible torture, is granted Him. Though there is not a spot left upon His sacred body on which to inflict fresh torture, they can at least torment His soul. Now that cruel mockery of our Lord begins when His persecutors throw a rough scarlet robe round His lacerated body and torture Him by hypocritical genuflections whom they dare no longer to trample upon physically, lest they cause His death. This Jesus also endures in expiation of the sins of the voluptuous. When you see man, who was destined to be lord of creation, whom God so ennobled, selling his kingly dignity by the indulgence of degrading sensuality, and making the image of God within him the sport of the devil, know that this shameful act was expiated in this painful manner by the Redeemer when He was scourged and set at naught and mocked with regal ceremony. From henceforth, my soul, practise corporal and spiritual scourging with this threefold object, for yourself and for unhappy sinners; and let it not trouble you if the world despises and derides you for this physical and spiritual discipline. For if our Lord met with nothing but scoffing and contempt as the recompense of the painful scourging which He underwent to atone for our luxury, you can expect nothing better for the works of penance and impetration which you as a Priest and a Religious, voluntarily perform on behalf of a miserable, sinful world.
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.