O good St. Paul of the Cross, you revealed the wonders of God’s power by proclaiming the Passion of God’s only Son. By your words and mighty deeds, you became a spiritual guide and preacher of the Gospel to a world grown cold to the love of Jesus Christ. Turn our hearts and minds to the merciful cross of Jesus. Help us to persevere in faith and love, and assist us in every need. By sharing the Passion of Jesus in this life, may we come to share in the glory He has promised. Amen.
Our Novena readings are taken from the book In This Sign, by Fr. Martin Bialas, CP.
The intermingling of love and suffering stands out in Paul's writings. On a human level, deep and authentic love yields not only true peace and contentment but also a desire to share the pain of the beloved. There is no human love without suffering. What is true of love on a human level is also true of our relationship with God. Faith is an I-thou relationship and comes to maturity in the depths of the human person. Paul, accepting this, strove to immerse himself in that mysterious work of God's love, the passion of Jesus, and he drew from the passion the strength and encouragement he needed to bear the sufferings of love.
Immersion in the sufferings of Jesus and deep, interior intimacy with God were springs from which Paul's words flowed and which, to this day, contain a power that moves the hearts of people. This power is love. "Love," Paul writes, "is a unifying virtue which takes upon itself the torments of its beloved Lord. It is a fire reaching through to the inmost soul. It transforms the lover into the one loved. More deeply, love intermingles with grief, and grief with love, and a certain blending of love and grief occurs. They become so united that we can no longer distinguish love from grief nor grief from love. Thus, the loving heart rejoices in its sorrow and exults in its grieving love". These words, showing Paul to be a tremendous lover, were derived from his being engulfed in that miracle of miracles of divine love, the passion of Jesus.
Contemplation of the passion of Jesus
Paul was eager to take every opportunity which presented itself to encourage people to contemplate the passion of Jesus. He was so filled with the love of Jesus Crucified, which the cross proclaimed, that he spared no effort to lead others to this lofty perfection. Paul saw contemplation of the passion as the most efficacious means to sanctity: "Above all, I ask the good Jesus to impress upon your heart a continuous, tender, and devout memory of his most sacred passion. This is the best way to sanctify your own way of life". In the following, he encouraged another never to omit this holy devotion: "You tell me you are unable to contemplate anything save the life, passion, and death of our Savior. Continue to pray in this way with the blessing of God, because true wisdom is learned in this most holy school. Here is where all the saints learned much".
Through his letters, Paul taught that immersion in the infinite love of God made visible in the passion is a unique way to grow closer to God; and that, at each stage of perfection, meditation on the passion retains its validity and can never be surpassed: "Even after you have attained a great degree of recollection and have reached a very high degree of prayer this still remains the door through which the soul enters into union with God, to deep recollection, and true contemplation".