This is the fifth in a series of posts reflecting line-by-line on the Anima Christi.
It’s all about the cross ~ A crucifix, that is. Cross plus corpus, for in Christ’s passion is the reminder and promise of love and salvation that strengthens the suffering.
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).” Jesus freely accepted the physical, spiritual, and mental suffering that we call His passion. Had he not the choice, the free will, He would not have been fully human. He walked with people, wept with people, talked with people, listened to people, and touched all manner of people. He does this still today. He understands: “Because He himself was tested through suffering, He is able to help those who are being so tested (Hebrews 2:18).” We suffer with Him; we are redeemed with Him. Look at Jesus on the cross. He loves us.
“Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered and became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him (Hebrews 5:8-9).” Christ is also fully divine. When we go to Mass to offer our sacrifice for sin, we present Jesus, the most perfect Lamb, because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His sacrifice then is efficacious right now. “Through His suffering He will justify many…He will take away the sins of many and win pardon for their offenses (Isaiah 53:11b,12b).” We cannot ignore so great a salvation. Look at Jesus on the cross. He is God.
Time spent looking at a crucifix, contemplating His passion, is a reminder of Jesus’ humanity and divinity, His love, pain, and salvation. It can strengthen we who are sad and suffering. John Henry Newman translated the line Passio Christi conforta me as Passion of Christ my comfort be and I can attest to this. When I am stricken with anger and grief over cystic fibrosis or kidnapped schoolgirls or lying politicians or fatal accidents, staring at Jesus on a cross is a deep comfort. To think of His hurt, His love, and His gift gentles my heavy heart. The book of Hebrews tells of many saints who “died in faith, not having received what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar, acknowledging themselves strangers on earth (11:13-14).” This is how I feel when I sit with a crucifix (or if I’m lucky, sit before the huge one at my church): I greet from afar the promise of health and heaven and come to grips with living on the earth. Further on in Hebrews (12:2), we read, “Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.” So I stare at Jesus’ passion on that cross and let His love and salvation flood my sad self until I think I can handle cystic fibrosis and the news without bitterness. I am strengthened and comforted. “I can do all these things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).” He is God; He loves us; He suffered for us; He won salvation for us and is preparing a place for us with Him.
“Our light and momentary afflictions are producing an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to what is seen but what is unseen, for what is seen is transitory but what is unseen is eternal (II Corinthians 4:17-18).”
Passion of Christ strengthen me.
Passion of Christ my comfort be.