If you’ve ever watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, you’ll realize you are watching the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, beginning with the Agony in the Garden.
I am often asked by non-Catholics why we spend so much time pondering the Passion of the Christ, and not the Resurrection. Well, we do both – just as we, all year long and not just at Christmas, keep the mysteries of his Incarnation before us in various ways, through devotions and feast days, we ponder the mysteries of the Passion and the Glorious mysteries, the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, as well.
St. Augustine wrote, “we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song,” but we understand that the only way to the Resurrection was through the Crucifixion. And while the encouraging message of the Resurrection is applicable to our lives in many ways and under many circumstances, I think the day-to-day meannesses and challenges of life call us to reflect on the suffering and death of Christ because – as I have written many times – in His trial and crucifixion we see the God Who Knows what it is to face the most painful part of being human, who has experienced with us what it feels like to be betrayed, lied about, mocked, humiliated, abused, afraid, abandoned. He knows what it’s like to say, “spare me, have mercy, please, don’t let this happen to me,” and struggled to the surrender of “thy will be done…”
I don’t know about anyone else, but in my life, I’ve often needed to turn to that God Who Knows all those things, for the consolation, strength, wisdom and steadfastness He brings in his guise as the Suffering Servant.
To use a bad baseball analogy: The Resurrection is like a Grand Slam Homer, where everyone gets to run around the bases and go home, and and feel great; and everyone hopes for the day they know it will happen to them, and they are inspired by it. The Passion, though, is like the mid-season battling-slump. You go out there every day, over and over, and give it all you have, and the crowd boos, and the teammates start to sit farther away or diss you to the press, and the opposing pitcher pitches around other batters to get to you, because he knows you’ll be the easy out. Remembering the Resurrection keeps you looking for the day the slump breaks- and you know that day will come – but the Passion is what keeps you swinging and in the game when your heart is breaking, your confidence is short, and you’re feeling ashamed, embarrassed, humiliated and cast aside.
We need both – Crucifixion and Resurrection. But, at least in my life, the Passion and Death of Christ – his obedience to all that pain and the knowledge that it is not pointless – is what has often made the difference between staying in the game or throwing in the towel.
So, here is a podcast of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, which we pray twice a week in ordinary time and daily in Lent. I apologize for my voice, today; my throat is a bit scratchy.
Illustrations and lessons where I can find them:
A Lenten-Themed Catholic Carnival is here