(Source: "Meditations for Lent from St. Thomas Aquinas", pp. 60-62, 1937 Imp.)
HOW GREAT WAS THE SORROW
OF OUR LORD IN HIS PASSION?
Attend and see if there be any sorrow like unto my
sorrow. -Lam. i. 12.
Our Lord as He suffered felt really, and in his
senses, that pain which is caused by some harmful
bodily thing. He also felt that interior pain which
is caused by the fear of something harmful and
which we call sadness. In both these respects
the pain suffered by Our Lord was the greatest
pain possible in this present life. There are four
reasons why this was so.
1. The causes of the pain.
The cause of the pain in the senses was the break-
ing up of the body, a pain whose bitterness derived
partly from the fact that the sufferings attacked every
part of His body, and partly from the fact that of
all species of torture death by crucifixion is un-
doubtedly the most bitter. The nails are driven
through the most sensitive of all places, the hands
and the feet, the weight of the body itself increases
the pain every moment. Add to this the long
drawn-out agony, for the crucified do not die
immediately as do those who are beheaded.
The cause of the internal pain was:
(i) All the sins of all mankind for which, by
suffering, he was making satisfaction, so that, in a
sense, he took them to him as though they were
his own. The words of my sins, it says in the Psalms
(Ps. xxi. 2).
(ii) The special case of the Jews and the others
who had had a share in the sin of his death, and
especially the case of his disciples for whom his
death had been a thing to be ashamed of.
(iii) The loss of his bodily life, which, by the
nature of things, is something from which human
nature turns away in horror.
2. We may consider the greatness of the pain
according to the capacity, bodily and spiritual, for
suffering of Him who suffered. In his body He
was most admirably formed, for it was formed
by the miraculous operation of the Holy Ghost,
and therefore its sense of touch that sense through
which we experience pain was of the keenest.
His soul likewise, from its interior powers, had a
knowledge as from experience of all the causes of
3. The greatness of Our Lord's suffering can
be considered in regard to this that the pain and
sadness were without any alleviation. For in
the case of no matter what other sufferer the sad-
ness of mind, and even the bodily pain, is lessened
through a certain kind of reasoning, by means of
which there is brought about a distraction of the
sorrow from the higher powers to the lower.
But when Our Lord suffered this did not happen,
for he allowed each of his powers to act and suffer
to the fullness of its special capacity.
4. We may consider the greatness of the suffer-
ing of Christ in the Passion in relation to this fact
that the Passion and the pain it brought with it
were deliberately undertaken by Christ with the
object of freeing man from sin. And therefore
he undertook to suffer an amount of pain pro-
portionately equal to the extent of the fruit that
was to follow from the Passion.
From all these causes, if we consider them
together, it will be evident that the pain suffered
by Christ was the greatest pain ever suffered.
(3 46 6.)
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