This painting by Guido Reni, dating from 1625, shows the Infant Jesus asleep on the Cross with the Crown of Thorns and the Nails on the ground before Him. He is, moreover, naked, just as He will be naked on Calvary. He sleeps; it signifies the sleep of the New Adam upon the nuptial bed of the Cross, during which the New Eve, the Church, comes forth from His Sacred Side, washed clean in the water and the blood of His Sacred Heart. This is a theme not uncommon in the art of the Catholic Reformation. Was Caryll Houselander influenced by one of these images when she wrote The Passion of the Infant Christ?
Saint Benedict’s Teaching
Marianna, a reader of Vultus Christi wrote me the other day, asking me the meaning of Saint Benedict’s words in the Prologue of the Holy Rule, “sharing in the sufferings of Christ through patience, so as to share also in his kingdom.” (RB Pro: 50)
Patience derives from the Latin patior, meaning to suffer, to undergo, to bear, or to endure. The connotation of Saint Benedict’s patientia is a humble acceptance of the hard and painful things that come upon us, motivated by a desire to imitate Our Lord Jesus Christ and to be united to Him in His love of the Father and in His obedience to the Father’s will. Saint Benedict is telling us that by accepting the weaknesses, losses, detachments, and other sufferings that come upon us in the course of a day or a lifetime, and by uniting our acceptance of these painful things to the Passion and Death of Christ, we will, at length, come to share in the glory of HIs Kingdom.
With Christ Priest and Victim
Saint Benedict’s teaching is consoling to all those who ask if suffering can have any meaning or value. He is, in fact, echoing the teaching of the Apostle Saint Paul who, in Colossians 1:24, writes: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church.” Saint Paul is writing here of the sufferings of the whole Christ, Head and Members. Christ continues to suffer in His the members of His Mystical Body. Our sufferings are His and His are ours. Christ the Head of the Mystical Body, and our Eternal High Priest, associates His members, and all the sufferings they endure in union with Him, to His Sacrifice and to His triumph. Every suffering accepted in union with Our Lord’s obedient love for the Father becomes, by the grace of Holy Spirit, meritorious and fruitful for the whole Church.
The Morning Offering
The so-called Morning Offering is a simple way of freely choosing to “share in the sufferings of Christ through patience” — that is, through the painful or costly things that may come upon us in the course of a day — and of giving to those sufferings a supernatural worth. Thus do we begin to live in communion with Christ, Priest and Victim. This is why I pray, and invite others to pray each day:
The Morning Offering for Priests
Father most holy, *
I offer Thee the prayers, works,
joys, and sufferings of this day *
by placing them in the holy and venerable hands
of Jesus, the Eternal High Priest, *
and by saying, as He did upon entering the world, *
“Behold, I come to do Thy will” (Hebrews 10:9). *
For the sake of all His priests, *
[and in particular for Fathers N. and N.,]
I entreat Thy beloved Son to unite my offering
to the Sacrifice of the Cross,
renewed upon the altars of Thy Church *
from the rising of the sun to its setting (Malachy 1:11).
Most merciful Father, *
look upon these men chosen by Thy Son
to show forth His death until He comes (1 Cor 11:26); *
keep them from the Evil One (John 17:15) *
and sanctify them in the truth (John 17:17).
Bind them by a most tender love
to the Virgin Mary, their Mother *
that, by her intercession, *
they may be overshadowed by the power of the Holy Ghost (Luke 1:35)
in every act of their sacred ministry; *
thus may their priesthood reveal
the Face of Jesus and the merciful love of His Heart, *
for the fruitfulness of His spouse, the Church. *
and the praise of Thy glory. Amen.