Lent is an excellent time to prepare for a good confession, particularly due to the precepts of the Catholic Church, which require her faithful to confess their sins at least once a year and receive a good holy Communion during Eastertime. The fasting, penance and silence of Lent naturally pave the way for the proper reception of both sacramental confession and Communion. Since Lent focuses on the passion and death of Christ in preparation for his resurrection, meditating on the passion of Christ is a very appropriate way to evoke sorrow for our sins and firm purpose of amendment, fulfilling two of the elements necessary for reconciliation with God in the sacrament of penance.
Included here is a list of eight varied meditations on Christ’s passion, including those written by saints, as well as some revealed by Christ through private revelation, which provide good preparation for the reception of the sacrament of penance.
- The most important meditations on the Passion can be found in the inspired word of God, especially the Gospels. The Evangelists have several differing renditions of Christ’s agony, so it is beneficial to read all of the accounts, especially during Holy Week. Several prophets also foretold the suffering of Christ; some of the most well-known prophecies of the “Suffering Servant” include those found in Isaiah 53.
- Blessed John Henry Newman wrote a discourse on the mental sufferings of Christ. He describes in a deep analysis the interior anguish of Christ’s agony, due to the fact that Christ was both God and man.
- Digital depictions of the life and death of Christ provide excellent ways to visualize what Christ willed to undergo in expiation for our sins. Some excellent films include Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, (which was based on Scripture and the visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich) as well as the movies Jesus of Nazareth and Ben Hur.
- No other meditation is as timely as the revelations provided by Our Lord to St. Faustina, particularly his descriptions of Divine Mercy that he longs to show all sinners, if they will only ask. These meditations are also fittingly read during Lent in preparation for the great feast of Divine Mercy, the Sunday after Easter, which was established by St. John Paul II. The Divine Mercy novena also begins on Good Friday, so it is extremely appropriate to take advantage of these graces during the Lenten season. We should turn to Divine Mercy, especially when preparing for confession, as Our Lord told St. Faustina, “When you go to confession, to this fountain of my mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from my Heart always flows down upon your soul,” and “Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself entirely in my mercy with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of my grace upon your soul. When you approach the confessional, know this, that I myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy” (1602).
- The 15 prayers that St. Bridget of Sweden promulgated provide great reflections on the Passion. There are promises attached to these prayers when recited faithfully for a year, as revealed by Our Lord to St. Bridget, but even the praying of them on occasion is a great way to mentally prepare oneself during Lent for making a good confession.
- A great set of books to read during Lent is the Jesus of Nazareth series by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. This history of Christ put forth by the Pope is a fascinating study in history and theology, which leads readers to discern the meaning of Christ’s life, from his birth through his passion and resurrection. (Read analysis here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.)
- Contemplating Christ’s passion is not complete without an understanding of the Blessed Mother’s sorrow. The devotion of the Seven Sorrows of Mary lead one through the sorrows of Mary throughout Jesus’ life, beginning with the prophecy of Simeon up until the laying of Christ in the tomb. They help us to understand Mary’s place in salvation history and that her suffering was also Christ’s suffering. Mary, as the Mediatrix of All Grace, is someone we should pleadingly turn to when beseeching mercy from Christ for our sins.
- A final great meditation on Christ’s passion is from a homily by Opus Dei’s founder, St. Josemaría Escrivá, entitled, “Christ’s Death Is the Christian’s Life.” Here, he deals specifically with sin and the sorrow that should accompany the repentant man when he meditates on Christ’s sufferings.
Christ was victorious over sin and death. This feat came at no small price. He willingly underwent the agony of his passion and death out of love for all sinners — for all of humanity; however, he would have chosen to undergo the entirety of his sufferings even for just one person to be freed from his sins. This should be an impetus for all of us to reconcile ourselves with God and to live a Christian life devoid of evil and in constant union with Christ, who demonstrated through his ultimate sacrifice that “No greater love hath a man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Liz Beller writes from Front Royal, Virginia.