Ah! What a Chalice!

From “The Last Week, The First Part: The Fifteenth Day,” Meditations on the Gospels (1694).

To understand how sad and distressing this condition really was, we must remember that which horrified Jesus Christ was not only the pain and the death which he was to suffer, although this horror of death and pain was natural to his human nature, but also sin, which he regarded as the thing most opposed to him, and which caused his aversion. He looked upon death as the effect, as the pain of sin.

His pain was caused by thousands of enormous sins. Ah! What a chalice! How great, how overwhelming is the bitterness of it!

A father of ancient times tells of the dispositions of three hermits concerning the injuries which were inflicted on them. One of them reflected and examined his conscience anxiously to determine whether he had flown into a passion, or whether he had shown any impatience. The other one looked upon the one who had outraged him as a man who brought great evils upon himself through God’s just judgement, and he was sorrowful about it to the point of tears. But the tears of the third one were far more abundant and much more bitter, because he considered the outrages he received as so many offences against God, of which he himself had been the cause, although he was innocent.

Let us set aside the first disposition, which cannot be designated as that of the Savior. The other dispositions, however, were in him, but much more ardently, because he showed more tenderness for humanity, and a much stronger impression of the judgement of God, and a horror of sin beyond anything that one can imagine.

When it pleased him, when it was expedient — and it was so especially during the time of his passion —to give himself up entirely to this feeling of compassion for sinners and to the horror of sin itself, that which he suffered was inexpressible, and one must not be astonished to have heard Him say: “My soul is troubled” (John 12:27) or to hear him admit a little later: “My soul is sorrowful, even unto death” (Matt. 26:38).

Jacques Bossuet (1627-1704) was a French bishop and theologian, the most highly acclaimed preacher of his day. He was tutor to the dauphin and a valued counselor of King Louis XIV, and became Bishop of Meaux in 1681. He pioneered a simpler, and more practical approach to preaching, which was widely imitated. His Meditations on the Gospel was among his last works, a synthesis of many of his earlier sermons.


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