We are grateful to a friend in the Resistance for bringing Fr. Groenings’ excellent work to our attention.
In the Preface, Fr Groenings writes: “This book is not, strictly speaking, a series of sermons or meditations of the sufferings of our Redeemer, but it is rather an explanation of the history of the Passion”. The author bypasses private revelations and relies strictly on the biblical account of the Passion and Death of Christ in order to bring to light the hidden meaning of the events of the Passion and to explain how the events apply to ourselves.
Considerations on the sufferings of the soul of Our Lord:
To us, indeed, who know so little of the supernatural, sin often appears in more subdued colors. We excuse it, we consider it a mere weakness, something natural, a result of youth and temperament. We fear at most the penalties of sin threatened by God’s anger. But the soul of Christ saw, clearly and distinctly, not only the entire series of sins, from the disobedience of our first parents down to the desolations of dooms-day, but also all the malice, all the abomination, the revolt, the contempt, the dark ingratitude contained in each and every sin.
Even when we recognize the wrong done to Almighty God by our sins, we take it little to heart, because we love Him so little. But the soul of Christ, which sought nothing more strenuously than the glory of His heavenly Father and which loved Him with an immeasurable love greater than that of all the Cherubim and Seraphim, felt most vividly the wrong inflicted on the Divine Majesty by sin. The sorrows of David over the injustices of the chosen people, the grief and indignation of Elias at the scandals and the idolatries of Israel, the tears of the prophet Jeremiah over the infidelities of Jerusalem were merely faint figures of the sadness of Jesus when He beheld the sins of the entire world.
And if this be true, we cannot shut out from our hearts another consideration. At the sight of our sins a God is seized with painful disquiet, and we remain calm. A God is sad over our sins, and we take pleasure therein. A God sweats blood for our sins, and we never shed a tear. We sin and, instead of hesitating and trembling, we think, perhaps, “I have sinned and what harm hath befallen me?” At the sight of our sins a God-Man writhes in agony, and we, perhaps, live on in a dreadful torpor which is an insult to the agony of Christ, in a false security, which, in a way, is more terrible than sin itself.
We, perhaps, shall slumber on in utter blindness until that hour in which the voice of the eternal Judge will awaken us. Oh, dreadful moment in which the Redeemer, now mute and patient in the Garden of Olives, burdened down with the mountain of our sins, will unsheathe before the sinner the flaming sword of vengeance! Oh, dreadful moment, in which the same Redeemer, who now sheds His blood for our sins, will demand of the sinner an account of the blood shed in vain! Oh, most dreadful moment, in which the heart, now tortured out of love for us, even unto death, will appear glowing with eternal wrath! (p 10-12)
Considerations on the importance of the place:
Let us consider first the circumstances of place. Christ began His Passion in a garden, more precisely, in an olive-garden.
When the Redeemer felt that the hour of His capture was drawing nigh, He left the Cenacle. He would not cause discomfort to the good man who had generously opened his house to Him for the institution of the Most Holy Sacrament. He wished to spare this friend all annoyance which might come to him, were the Lord to be seized in his house. He left the city altogether. Beyond its walls, in God’s open country, He decided to begin and to end His Passion, to show that He shed His blood not for Jerusalem alone, but for the entire world.
For the beginning of His Passion, He chose a wonderfully beautiful garden. How significant this choice was! In a garden the first Adam had committed the first sin, the sin of disobedience; therefore it was in a garden that the second Adam should say to His Father, “Not what I will, but what thou wilt.” In a garden Adam, by an abuse of liberty, had plunged the entire human race into the most shameful captivity; in a garden, therefore, by the bonds of Christ our fetters were to be broken. In a garden God had pronounced the death-penalty upon Adam; hence, in a garden Christ would take upon Himself this judgment and this curse. In a garden the human race was lost; and usually an object is sought where it was lost.
Christ had come into the world to lay out a garden wherein, amid splendor and abundance, there should thrive the violet of humility, the myrtle of mortification, the rose of love, the lily of virginal souls, the laurel of confessors and the palm of martyrs. It was necessary, then, that He should water and render fertile by His precious blood the soil of this garden.
The garden of Gethsemane was furthermore an olive garden, at least it contained quite a number of olive trees, and, according to several interpreters of Holy Writ, the oil for the use of the temple was obtained here. This circumstance, again, is full of significance. “Oil illumines,” says St. Bernard, “it nourishes and heals.” All these effects were to be produced by the blood of Christ in the Christian temple, and that in an infinitely greater degree than by the fruit of the olive-tree in the Jewish temple. For Christ is the great olive-tree, on which the heathen were grafted, according to St. Paul the Apostle. Now as the oil, before it could be used in divine service, had to be pressed forcibly from the fruit, so the blood of Christ also must be forced from His Sacred Body in His mighty agony. (p 14-16)
Considerations on the importance of time:
There remain the circumstances of time to be considered. It was towards eight o’clock in the evening when Christ set forth to begin His passion. … From nine until twelve o’clock at night, Christ was sad unto death. He trembled and quaked, He fell in agony, He shed a bloody sweat. What an awful contrast this picture of the suffering Saviour presents to the noisy carousals, frivolous dances, shameless ballets, secret meetings, lustful orgies which in exactly these hours of the night, defy the blood of Christ. At the sight of these abominations the heart of the God-Man would fain lose its strength and its courage: He trembled and shrank back in fear. (p 18)
(We have subdivided the original paragraphs to make reading easier. Sr C)
The Passion of Jesus and Its Hidden Meaning, by Fr. James Groenings, S.J., Copyright 1900 by Joseph Gummersbach, Tan Books and Publishers, 6th Edition, 1987, 461 pages.
Pax et Bonum
Sister Constance TOSF