Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Intoxicated with Opprobrium


Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

Your Beloved was without sin and nothing tainted His holiness.  Yet, as you know He did not count equality with God as something to hold on to but allowed himself to be annihilated with reverence before His Father - allowing himself to be humiliated in every way.  When the Hour came for His Passion, Bousuet tells us he was "intoxicated with opprobrium" - saturated with the world's sin and hatred.

If such were leveled at you, could you manage to remain silent as He and have the nobility of soul to bear all with patience?  This is what your Beloved desires to share with you; that through your humiliations you may set aside all self-love.  He gives you this not that you may experience bitterness.  On the contrary, He desires that His joy may be yours; to know that joy of being united with Him in His Passion.  You will not be entirely His until you have embraced it.  

Christ Jesus wants us to learn of Him especially that He is “meek and humble of Heart.” In Him there was no moral shortcoming or imperfection which could serve as a reason for His abasement. Quite the contrary! His humanity is the humanity of a God: Non rapinam arbitratus est esse se aequalem Deo—“He did not think it robbery to be equal to God.” In that humanity are amassed “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” because “the Divinity dwells corporeally” therein. Its perfection is admirable: not only could no one convict our Lord of sin, but He always accomplished what was pleasing to the Father. What perfection will ever come near that? No moral weakness whatever taints this holy and immaculate High Priest elevated in holiness above the heavens.

But that humanity was created, and, as a creature, it annihilated itself before God with infinite reverence. In order to acknowledge the sovereign rights of His Father, Jesus offered Himself to Him in perfect submission which went even unto death: Exinanivit semetipsum factus obediens usque ad mortem—“He emptied Himself, becoming obedient even unto death, unto the death of the Cross.” For us He suffered every humiliation: the Jews said He was possessed by the devil; they accused Him of working His miracles by obeying the inspiration of Beelzebub, the prince of darkness; they tried to stone Him. Then came the hour of the Passion. He Who is the Eternal One, the Son of God, the Almighty, Infinite Wisdom, He was “filled”—or, to use Bossuet’s expressive term, “intoxicated”—with opprobrium; saturabitur opprobriis. Handcuffed like a malefactor, He was besieged with false witnesses, struck by a servant during a court session, and covered with spittle. Led before Herod, He was covered with a robe that called down insult upon Him; surrounded by a crude and brutal soldiery, He stood before a man who felt for Him nothing but “scorn,” sprevit illum. Who would ever have thought of such humiliations? The God Who, by His wisdom and power, governs heaven and earth treated like a fool, like a play king being made fun of. . . . Suppose the least of these humiliations had been levelled at us, what would we say? Would we have the nobility of soul necessary to “embrace patience and keep silence”? In writing those words, Saint Benedict surely had in mind the example of Christ laden with insults during His Passion: Jesus autem tacebat. Exteriorly Christ kept silence; but in His Heart He repeated the prophetic verses which the Psalmist had sung of Him: “But I am a worm and no man: the reproach of men and the outcast of the people”—Ego autem sum vermis et non homo, opprobrium hominum et abjectio plebis.

Why suffer all these humiliations? Why descend to such depths? To expiate our pride and our self-love. To show us what our humility should be. “Christ did not say: ‘Learn humility from the Apostles or from the Angels.’ No; he said: ‘Learn it from Me. My majesty is exalted enough for My humility to be abysmal.’

I have been praying from the bottom of my heart that God and His Holy Spirit might give you light and strength to find in the trial which He has sent you, not bitterness, but a holy joy in union with that of Jesus in His Passion. It is certain that our Heavenly Father loves us so much that not a hair falls from our head without His permission. I am convinced that He knew and willed everything that has happened to you, even in its minutest details. . . . I earnestly desire that you should unite yourself to Jesus in His acceptance of the humiliations which He endured for us—“He was filled with opprobrium”: saturabitur opprobriis. You will not be entirely His and you will not be able to taste His peace and His joy until you have embraced not only His Cross but also His humiliations. He reached the very bottom of the abyss and He felt the humiliation more than any mortal ever could feel it (He was so noble, so true!), but He welcomed suffering and loved it, because such was His Father’s will. That is what I desire of you—what He desires of you. May God bless and love you.

Blessed Columba Marmion.