The Personalist Project

The hallmark of personalism is its focus on interiority.  This may explain why I have never yet been able to bring myself to watch Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.  I've tried more than once, since so many of my friends recommend it.  But I've found the depiction of the brutality of Jesus' physical sufferings not just disturbing, but somehow distracting. They yank me away from sorrowful reflection on the inward drama taking place.

Nothing helps me enter the mystery of the Passion like Newman's sermon on "The Mental Sufferings of our Lord in His Passion." He reminds me that the interior agony in the garden was the "first act" of His oblation, "the seat of the suffering" Jesus endured.  And meditation on that should shape our experience of the outward spectacle unfolding.

As the solemn days proceed, we shall be especially called on, my brethren, to consider His sufferings in the body, His seizure, His forced journeyings to and fro, His blows and wounds, His scourging, the crown of thorns, the nails, the Cross. They are all summed up in the Crucifix itself, as it meets our eyes; they are represented all at once on His sacred flesh, as it hangs up before us—and meditation is made easy by the spectacle. It is otherwise with the sufferings of His soul; they cannot be painted for us, nor can they even be duly investigated: they are beyond both sense and thought; and yet they anticipated His bodily sufferings. The agony, a pain of the soul, not of the body, was the first act of His tremendous sacrifice; "My soul is sorrowful even unto death," He said; nay; if He suffered in the body, it really was in the soul, for the body did but convey the infliction on to that which was the true recipient and seat of the suffering.

This it is very much to the purpose to insist upon; I say, it was not the body that suffered, but the soul in the body; it was the soul and not the body which was the seat of the suffering of the Eternal Word.

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