Via Dolorosa: Meditations on the Via Crucis
by Monsignor Florian Kolfhaus
I would really like to introduce my readers to Monsignor Florian Kolfhaus who serves at the Secretariat of State’s Section for the Relation with States at the Holy See (Vatican). He has a Ph.D in Dogmatic Theology (my kind of teacher) and a Licentiate in Canon Law . His resume goes on and on, and he fulfils so many diplomatic functions at the Holy See ; it’s truly remarkable. He speaks on the radio regularly in Europe, puts on retreats, and has been seen at Steubenville and on EWTN. However, under all of these very impressive titles, degrees, and important positions, I have found a truly humble servant who loves Our Lord, and has a very special relationship with Our Lady. He has chosen to share some of his beautiful meditations and writings with us right here at Canadian Catechist, and we are very honoured and blessed to be in this position ; thank you so much Monsignor! His very profound way of sharing his beautiful spirituality cannot be hidden under a basket. I knew when he sent me his writings and meditations that they would be really great, but I wasn’t expecting for my soul to be touched in the way it was. I am vey pleased to share this with you !
This Lent I have chosen to read Monsignor’s book and it can be found here: Via Dolorosa: Meditations on the Via Crucis
However, Monsignor’s latest book, which I have read, is also masterpiece on Our Lady and the Holy Rosary and it is called : The School of Mary: Meditations on the Mysteries of the Rosary, it was just released last week and can be found here: http://www.amazon.ca/The-School-Mary-Meditations-Mysteries/dp/1621381625
I suggest you pray before reading the meditation below. You can pray a Hail Mary prayer, the Our Father, Glory be, or the Come Holy Ghost prayer! I just suggest that you pray before reading Holy Scripture or spiritual reading in order to open your heart and mind to the voice of God.
From Monsignor Florian Kolfhaus’s book : Via Dolorosa: Meditations on the Via Crucis published by Gracewing
Certainly, there are many ways that lead to God. The greatness and goodness of God can be seen in His creation. His mercy shines in the person of Jesus of whom the Gospels speaks. The Lord Himself speaks to us through His word, through His Church, and through our conscience. But man can indeed ignore all of that. On the subject of error and sin, C.S. Lewis writes, “Its victims seem to see it the least, the more they have fallen into it. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Suffering that renders us speechless by its injustice burns everything away that is not God. He who suffers then, when no man can help any longer, can only reach out for God. He who suffers experiences in suffering that he is a creature who has not created himself and cannot redeem himself. Indeed, even rebellion, how a good God can allow such pain, is no longer a philosophical question in the hour of need, but a call for a saving hand, which can pull us from the abyss. They say, “Necessity teaches prayer.” And indeed, God is so humble that He does not reproach us when we go to Him, when no one else can help us anymore, when we see no way out, when He is, so to speak, the last choice and there is no other remaining. Oftentimes, we must pass along the painful road to find God, to discover that all the other ways in life were dead-ends.
Demons suffer without loving. Angels love without suffering. We men live in this world to suffer and to love. That is our mission. Of course, suffering can lead us to bitterness; suffering without love is hell – in the truest sense of the word. But to suffer and to love are nevertheless a power which can bring heaven down to earth. Suffering and loving means overcoming evil from within, because an evil – suffering – is turned into good. Suffering and choosing to love is to defeat evil with good, to defeat the devastating power of sin and its consequence of death and pain in the world, and to transform it into grace and blessing. The lover who is stricken by the weight of suffering takes on evil and transforms it. He takes it upon His shoulder and goes forward, always in the grace of Christ. He goes up to Golgotha, transforming the cross from a punishment into a sign of life. The bare wooden beams on which the sentenced person is tortured to death become an altar on which the Lamb is slaughtered and sheds His blood for the salvation of the world. Christ did not die the death of a convicted criminal on Calvary, as it may have seemed, but suffered with a human and divine love to the point of sacrificing His life. He is the Lord who handed Himself over to the enemy in order to make His life a sacrifice and to make the corrupter of mankind – in accordance with the Divine plan – the servant of salvation. Victor quia victima. He is the victor because He became the victim, for “the Lamb is stronger than the dragon” (Pope Benedict XVI, December 22, 2005). The devil’s anger nailed the body of Christ to the Cross and pulled His human soul down to the edge of the abyss, where the Lord, who was close to despair, was not even sure about the closeness of the Father: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” But precisely in this way Jesus has won, and the one who thought to govern Him through pain and fear has lost his battle. In a certain sense, Jesus defeated the devil with his own weapons – or better put – by His love He reversed the blow of the sword and forced the blade into the demon himself. In the deepest moment of His anguish, Jesus loved not only God, but also us sinners – we who do not deserve that kind of love – and He pulled us from the abyss and redeemed us. The fire of His love turned the giving of Himself on the Cross into a sacrifice that reconciled God and men. In this fire, Christ offered His own body and blood to the Father in order to bring about everlasting salvation. In this sacrificial flame that still burns on our altars, His love, which He brought to fulfillment on the Cross, shines forth. We are capable of suffering and loving Christ on earth, and that indeed is the great dignity of the baptized, of which – as some mystics have said – even the spirits in heaven are jealous. We can participate in His sacrifice, as unbelievable as this seems, and add what His suffering lacks in order to complete the power of His grace (cf. Col 1:24). Indeed, He wants us to suffer, to love, and to stand with Him on Golgotha: not as people convicted by an unpleasant fate, but as priests and kings, whose toils and sufferings God accepts as worthy offerings, because they come from people in love. All of this naturally remains a mystery; the more pain and fear darken the eye, the more impenetrable and obscure the mystery seems. To love in these moments – even without feeling it or being aware of one’s own love – disarms evil, which has already become weakened from striking a loving soul. This battle, in which our defeats are turned into victories by grace, can only be fought by the One who has taken all of our life’s burdens upon His shoulders. Only the One who has become a believer in love can be a suffering lover. Everyone who, at the end of the painful road, is asked how he could have climbed this steep path and why he did not remain on the ground after so many falls, since everything seems useless, will answer with St. John: “Credidimus Caritati – we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us” (1 Jn 4:16).
- Station: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry His cross.
V.: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You
A.: Because by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world
Everything goes black. I stumble and trip. One of the soldiers clutches me and holds me up cursing in order to keep me from falling. It is not pity, no. Even my executioners, who made a game of striking and humiliating me at the Praetorium, want to finish it. I cannot go any further. Only the sheer strength of the Roman, who will not release his grip of my arm, supports me. He holds me like an animal. He spits at me, disgusted by my wounds. If it were his decision, he would exterminate this piece of filth here and now. Why this big scene for a simple Jewish criminal? He yells to his comrades to fetch a man from the crowd to help Me. They bring a stranger to my side under the wooden beam, one who has given up on protesting against it. He does not bow voluntarily under My cross; he curses this day, the Romans, and Me. We are like two oxen yoked under the same plough. I sense his bitterness, his pain, and his anger. It is unjust to make him carry the cross. But is it not the same for Me? He is innocent. Am I not innocent as well? The soldiers push us further. The weight on my neck has become lighter, while it rests heavily on his. Eventually, he will throw down the cross and go his own way; I will be nailed to it. He will live; I will die. I alone hold the whole universe on My shoulders but could not carry this cross alone. I need him. I need you! Who told you that you must do it by yourself? When my strength fades, how could I expect you not to be crushed under the cross’ weight? He accompanies Me for a short while, and with these steps he shares not only My burden, but also My lot. Does he know how much he is helping Me? Does he know how much it means to Me, that he goes along this Way of the Cross? Where are My friends, the ones who should understand what I am doing here and help Me? A stranger comforts Me more than they do, because he is present and shares My pain. He is moved neither by faith nor by piety, for neither love nor pity he is by My side, and yet he helps Me. He helps Me despite being forced. Would you carry My cross if you had not been forced to carry it? Would you be so close if sheer violence had not cast you under the same yoke? Trust Me, I do not want to see you suffer, but still, you ease my burden. You scream, you curse and rebel, that all of this be loaded upon your shoulders, and at the end you are silent, full of defiance and bitterness. But still you have helped Me more than any of My friends. Do you think that you have no other choice? I turn My head and seek a gaze, I seek your gaze. There is only a hand’s length between our faces, shoulder-to-shoulder we carry the same weight. Now you are closer to Me than anyone else. There was only one moment, but he sees and understands. His muscles flex and his step follows My struggling steps. Would we have become friends if it were not for this cross? Suddenly, everything changes: it is no longer the blows of the soldiers that urge him on, but his pity; not violence, but love. You are clinging to my cross. You cannot throw it down, as much as you convulse against it. I plead with you, let it be done to you. I need your help, and I yearn for your love. Despairingly, you ask, “Why me?”, and wish that everything had happened differently. You would not remain a spectator by the wayside like so many, but go with Me. I would not have been able to endure it if you had turned and gone your own way. If I were to tell you that it was election and not damnation, would you believe me in this instant? Believe me, I did not want your pain, but it has to be so, in order for you to be with me. Why do you not turn your head and look at Me? Do you not realize that you are closer to Me than ever before? I know how hard it is. If you could only fathom that you were not a victim of blind fate, but chosen and loved. Trust me: when you are at the end and look back, you will understand it all.
ps It is important that we pray for and support the faithful, solid, and orthodox priests that stand up for our Faith and Church through these crazy times. This is one of the reasons why I am suggesting Monsignor Florian’s books. They are faithful and orthodox. We need to support these priests in any way we can, and one way is to share and purchase their books.