Matthew 7:7 says ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened. To seek God’s Truth is, to me, the fundamental principle on which to approach contemplating the meaning of the Passion, Christ’s persecution and torture, before His suffering on the Cross, His death and Resurrection.
When I first fell into the most horrendous agonised place of continuous physical suffering, almost three decades ago and there remained, without adequate understanding, treatment or support, I had to learn to get through each tormenting day, each horrendous hour, each magnified minute, each unbearable second, every unresolvable moment. The only way I could begin to survive and more than that, grow, was to turn to God and truly seek to comprehend His message and His meaning.
This is what I believe is the true meaning of this Gospel; that God will always answer your questions if you ask Him, He will always open the door to you so that you can meet Him, if you choose to knock and He will always give you greater knowledge of Himself should you seek Him. This then is how I learned the true meaning of suffering and drew closer to God as He hung on His Cross. I knocked, I sought, I asked, till it was revealed to me.
Lying hour after hour, day after day in total, uncontrolled untreated pain, unable to move, needing total care, was how I lived my life. Internally I knew this was not some quick fix thing that I had. The pain was off the scale. The suffering was complex, multi-layered, unrelenting and ultimately affected my mind and my spirit as well.
Questions I had were, how did Jesus save us? What was the process by which we are all included in His agony, His death and His Life to come? Is His message true for me too? If it was not true I could not rely on it. Trained as a scientist, my need for congruence was absolute. It had to make some sort of sense that I could relate to as I clung to His Light and His Goodness internally, to endure.
I received daily Communion, so concerned and committed was my Priest, to bring Christ absolutely to me. As I sought His Truth, Christ came and lived in me ever more vibrant and radiant. His messages were alive within me. As I contemplated the Cross that was so entwined within my own torment, so God gave me the strength to keep coping, blessed by the incredible, unwavering love of my husband.
It seemed to me that few dared enter this level of agony and there explore it with Christ Himself, remaining present to Him and His need in that bleak and barren place. So, too, with me. Many have walked away, when they have seen even for a moment what my suffering truly looks like. But here I was endlessly in pain. The Cross then became my ultimate strength.
As Christ says in the Gospel, if you see me you have seen the Father. (John 14:9) So it was that I drew closer in my awareness to the Love of the Father and came over time to a deeper understanding of the most precious prayer that God has given us; the Our Father and understood that this prayer was ultimately, not just a prayer for us, but also very much the Son’s prayer to His Father, asking for help and protection to lead Him safely through the Passion. For it was shown to me, also, that all Christ’s teachings in the Gospel always point to the Passion in some way, for those that “have eyes to see and ears to hear” ( Matthew 13:11-12) and they provide great wisdom concerning Christ’s mission and intent.
My life of intense never-ending physical pain and a multiplicity of worsening symptoms, gave me years and years to grow in understanding of His message and His meaning. Fresh insights are still revealed to me when I enter into such closeness with Him through prayer and contemplation.
As I came to know the Father and the Son more intimately, so I came to know and experience the Power of the Holy Spirit, for all Three are One and as we begin to draw closer to One, so all Three draw closer and are revealed. This inspiring spiritual journey filled me deep with inner light as well as wisdom and knowledge and the deepest Peace that could not possibly be of the world, for my whole body was on fire with burning, throbbing, crawling, screaming pain without end.
The gifts of the Spirit were greatly manifest in both our lives. Our Faith grew. Our Trust in God, when all else failed, grew. Our confidence in praying Intercessory and Healing Prayers grew, our requests for miracles were emboldened. Our love of the Trinity shone in our hearts and the idea of the Heart of Love was revealed to me in Prayer: the Heart of Love is the totality of Love in space and time and beyond space and time. It is the combined Love of all Three; Father, Son, Holy Spirit, in whom we are all held.
Later I was shown that ultimately the Prayer of the Heart of Love is actually the Our Father, for it is all that we will ever need. It is Love, Forgiveness, Mercy, Eucharist, Protection, Provision, Sacred, Path and Deliverance. Each word ever spoken lingers in the air, builds upon itself, goes out in Power to save the world. There can be no greater prayer than the one uttered by the most Holy, living, beloved, Son of God in a moment of intimate sharing with His Father, who is in Heaven, yet ultimately so close.
The Heart of Love is eternal. Christ in the world, though His Passion, brings about a quantum shift in energy and new knowledge of all Three, bringing a sea-change of our awareness and the possibility of our being One in a new way with the Trinity. Without the Passion, we cannot have Eternal Life. Without Christ’s death and Resurrection we cannot come to know and be empowered in the same way by the Holy Spirit, for now we all have intimate access to all Three Persons of the Trinity, only through His great Sacrifice for us. Without Christ’s Prayer we cannot come to so easily know and talk to the Father, who cares for us all. We cannot be as safe, as wise, as rich in understanding without all Three. The Cross is the means by which the world’s and Heaven’s relationship shifted and became Hope for all.
But in order to understand how this came about, it is essential to contemplate the Cross and for those who are pinioned upon it with no help of escape, through sickness, pain, assault, betrayal, abandonment, injustice, cruelty, neglect, torture and have no way out of it, it is a hidden blessing.
Let us first remember that Christ is on the Cross because he chooses to be on the Cross, it is a conscious act of intent to fulfill God’s Will for the world. But let us also remember that Jesus is not just some ordinary person. He was and is and ever will be the Son of God and the Son of Man. It is important not to forget this when we think of the pain that He endured, because this helps us recognise that He was also the most acutely sensitive person on the planet for all time, because of His true nature. This is illustrated plainly and clearly in the Gospel Reading where He senses somebody touching the hem of His cloak and His power going out from him to heal the woman who has sought him to heal her ( Luke 8: 46-47). He was in a crushing throng of people pressing in on Him from all sides, yet He still had a remarkable sensitivity to feel what had occurred because of the woman’s faith in Him. What was actually done to Him during the Passion then, within that context of immense sensitivity, goes way beyond the meaning of the word “ torture ”, I would suggest.
The Crown of Thorns was brutally and harshly forced into His scalp, the sensitivity of which is immense for anyone, tearing at His beloved face, the pain must have been vastly multiplied. The head is the most personal and aware part of your consciousness. From my experience the nearer the pain is to my head, or the more intense it is in my head, the harder the pain is to bear. The head sees, the head hears, the head speaks, the head contains knowledge, thought, memory and is the point of spiritual connection, carries the consciousness of compassion and insight, sees all, feels all, as did every cell of His body sense all and feel all, for every cell of His being was a powerhouse of healing and He himself was utterly, totally open, in terms of awareness to others, in order to cure them.
If you have no boundary of protection around yourself because you are that open to receive the pain and brokenness of others and give love, healing, mercy out in return, then when your body is harmed and abused by someone, it is going to be magnified beyond the normal, the imaginable or describable.
We have to keep remembering that there was a purpose to His suffering. He, actually, consciously chose to receive all that pain; the flogging, the shredding of his flesh, cutting him deeply, the lashing of His beautiful, tenderly sensitive body, the excruciating weight of carrying the Cross through the dirty, crowd-filled streets, way beyond his strength and ability, the nails pounded into His healing hands and His bare feet, tearing His muscles, sinews, bones, whilst He hung on a Cross, held up solely by the vicious solid nails. We must remember that that level of constant utter torment was also the carrying of the pain of the world, was also the experiencing of the pain of the world, was also the holding of the pain of the world in Love and Compassion, in Understanding and Mercy.
He chose not to block it out, but rather take it upon himself, so that we all had access to the Oneness, the Life and Light that flows from The Heart of Love: His Heart reaching out to hold us all, embracing our pain with His own Heart and lifting us to the Father’s Heart and the Love of the Holy Spirit, that we might find a path of healing and safe passage ultimately to live in Eternity with them too.
He allowed Himself to keep His heart open so that He maintained access to us, so that He could lift us up, with Him, to heal our hurts, whilst withstanding the unimaginable pain that He was experiencing, into the Heart of God the Father and through their Oneness, set the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, free into the whole of time and space in a new way to aid us, so that we could all be saved. He chose to bear His pain and open Himself to all pain, so that Mercy and Love could flow out from Him for all time and so that Love and Life could be given back to Himself and everyone else, carrying us all with Him through His death, daring to reach down to Hell even and back up again into the Light of Life and the Power of the Resurrection, into Oneness forevermore: so that we might all have a new relation with the Holy Trinity, the Heart of all Love, one in being, forever Loved and Saved.
Every aspect of the Passion has a meaning and a reason. Even when Jesus cried out to his Father, asking why He had forsaken Him, it could not have actually been so, for the Father is pure Love and He Cares unconditionally. Jesus must have felt abandoned by the sheer weight and extremity of suffering and torture that He was enduring, blocking out His sense of the Father in the excruciation of pain that He was bearing. The power of the physical experience is huge, vast and all encompassing. There is no other moment than this one and it seems to spread out to all eternity in an eternal moment of excruciating torture that blocks out everything almost, except coping within it. It is barbaric in its cruelty. It is exquisitely diminishing. It is almost completely incomprehensible in its agony, it is so vast, so punishing, so pure, so bleak, so empty of life and full of sensations that is beyond endurance. Such is the nature of that place that all awareness can be blocked except for the pain itself that pierces every cell and every space between cells, every existing fibre of being is caught up in the torturing pain.
Yet God, who loves us still and holds us all, is helpless to help us know that He is there sometimes, in that place, in the sense that He cannot reach us because we cannot feel Him, even though He reaches out to us. He weeps for us. He weeps with us, yet the physicality of the pain is immense and unquenchable. There is no other feeling here. The only possibility is being in it and being aware of it.
I believe that even this experience of feeling abandoned was to ensure that all those who feel abandoned, betrayed, destroyed, lost, feeling alone without light, will never be truly abandoned for God knows what this feels like and He lies-silently, weeping by us, for He has held this too and all who feel this and gone beyond it and forgiven it and lived with us in it, even when we knew it not. What a gift of sacrifice and agony, empathy and compassion. For only the One who has truly suffered, can begin to comprehend that same suffering in another and not walk away for the pain of exposure to it, but pour Love into that space of desperate need.
It is no wonder Jesus may have felt like God had abandoned Him, for He not only felt His own pain but He must have felt all that of all mankind for all time. To imagine the weight of His burden of pain is impossible. Our own pain is too much to bear. No wonder He was rewarded with the precious Gift of Life, for He loved us all in that place of non-existence till the whole Universe was filled with His Life, His Spirit, His Light and its power returned to him in a miraculous healing power of Love:
Love given out to the very last drop, returned in splendour and power and awe and might. The Light of Life here with us all. The gateway opened for all time for the healing of every soul.