Solidarity With the Suffering Christ

Continuing his reflection on the problem of suffering, Father Benson remarks: “When we turn to Christ crucified, knowing who and what He is, we see the problem set before us in its most acute form. It is not a man who hangs there, however innocent; it is Man without his guilt. And it is not merely unfallen Man who hangs there, it is Incarnate God.”

“Certainly this does not answer the problem as to how it can be just that one can suffer for the sins of another; but it does unmistakably shew to us that one can so suffer, conscious of the fact, and can acquiesce in it; and, further, that this Law of Atonement is of so vast and fundamental a sweep and effect that the Lawgiver Himself can submit to it. It gives us then, as Christians, exactly the reassurance that we need; since it is demonstrated to us that pain is not an unhappy accident of life, not a piece of heartless carelessness, not a labouring struggle upwards on the part of an embryo God; but a part of life so august and so far-reaching that, since the Creator Himself can submit to it, it must fall under that Divine standard of Justice into which our own ideas of justice must some day be expanded.”

As for innocent sufferers, such as “the crippled child, the agonized mother, the darkened melancholiac soul,” he says: “If we isolate these sufferers from the rest of the human race, if we take them out of their context and regard them one by one, again we are baffled. But if, on the other hand, we do that which we have been doing throughout these considerations—meditate, that is, upon how it may be possible to see Christ in them—light begins to glimmer at once.”

“We reflected not long ago on the claim of the Church . . . to be the body in which Christ dwells. . . . These sufferers, then, are extensions of Himself crucified, as His priests are His agents. That which He did on Calvary—that mysterious atonement in which Humanity united to God was the victim—He represents, as we have seen, in the Sacrifice of the Mass; now we see again how He offers once more that same sacrifice, though in another mode altogether, under the terms of the blood and tears of those who are united with Him.”

Quotations from Robert Hugh Benson, The Friendship of Christ (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912).

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