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The Greatness of the Pain of Christ in the Passion

Taken from Medulla S. Thomae Aquinatis which arranges various short texts from St. Thomas Aquinas' corpus based on the liturgical year. I will be posting the day's meditation each day and will be bringing it into print once I'm through it.

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Wednesday after the First Sunday of Lent

The Greatness of the Pain of Christ in the Passion

O all ye that pass by the way attend, and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow. (Lamentations 1:12)

There was true and sensible pain in the suffering Christ, which is caused by something hurtful to the body: also, there was internal pain, which is caused from the apprehension of something hurtful, and this is termed sadness. And in Christ each of these was the greatest in this present life. This arose from four causes:

1. From the sources of His pain. For the cause of the sensitive pain was the wounding of His body; and this wounding had its bitterness, both from the extent of the suffering, and from the kind of suffering, since the death of the crucified is most bitter, because they are pierced in nervous and highly sensitive parts—to wit, the hands and feet; moreover, the weight of the suspended body intensifies the agony, and besides this there is the duration of the suffering because they do not die at once like those slain by the sword. The cause of the interior pain was:

1° All the sins of the human race, for which He made satisfaction by suffering; hence He ascribes them, so to speak, to Himself, saying (Ps 21:2): The words of my sins.

2° Especially the fall of the Jews and of the others who sinned in His death, chiefly of the apostles, who were scandalized at His Passion.

3° The loss of His bodily life, which is naturally horrible to human nature.

2. The magnitude of His suffering may be considered from the susceptibility of the sufferer as to the soul and as to the body. As to His body, it was endowed with a most perfect constitution, since it was fashioned miraculously by the operation of the Holy Spirit; consequently, Christ’s sense of touch, the sensitiveness of which is the reason for our feeling pain, was most acute. His soul likewise, from its interior powers, apprehended most vehemently all the causes of sadness.

3. The magnitude of Christ’s suffering can be estimated from the singleness of His pain and sadness. In other sufferers the interior sadness is mitigated, and even the exterior suffering, from some consideration of reason, by some derivation or redundance from the higher powers into the lower; but it was not so with the suffering Christ, because He permitted each one of His powers to exercise its proper function.

4. The magnitude of the pain of Christ’s suffering can be reckoned by this, that the pain and sorrow were accepted voluntarily, to the end of men’s deliverance from sin; consequently He embraced the amount of pain proportionate to the magnitude of the fruit which resulted therefrom.

From all these causes weighed together, it follows that Christ’s pain was the very greatest.

(Selections from ST.III.Q46.A6)

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