Christ in the Sufferer

Father Benson concludes his consideration of the problem of suffering by quoting the Apostle: “‘I fill up,’ says St. Paul, ‘those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ’ (Col 1:24). ‘I work out, that is,’ the sufferer may say, ‘under terms of my own humanity, that atonement which He offered in His own.'”

“It does not greatly affect the situation whether or no the sufferer may be fully or indeed at all conscious of his work, for it is in virtue of the humanity common to himself and Christ that his pain avails; the priest at the altar may be an infidel, or violently distracted, yet he consecrates the Body of the Lord; the fever-patient may be rebellious and break out into furious complaint, yet it is nevertheless the patient Christ who suffers in him.”

“How august and tremendous, therefore, becomes the dignity of the suffering soul, who, seeing Christ within her, desires to unite her pain with His, or, rather, to offer her pain as the instrument of His atonement, since Christ alone can bear the sins of the world! These living crucifixes stand clear altogether of that wrangling world of controversy in which we ourselves dispute. And we, too, looking upon them and seeing in them not merely separate human souls that twist in agony, but souls in whom Christ is set forth evidently crucified, learn one more lesson of the Friendship of Christ—the last, perhaps, to be learned of all—that He who in His glorious and mystical Body demands our obedience, in His Sacramental Body our adoration, in His Priest our reverence, in His Saints our admiration, and for His dear sinners our forgiveness, asks too, in those who are conformed to Him outwardly as well as inwardly—who bear their pain solely because He bears it for them—for that which is the most sweet of all the emotions that go to make up friendship,—our tenderness and our compassion.”

“Then let us make haste to minister wine at last, instead of vinegar, to our Friend who cries for it.”

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

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