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The Living Memory of the Passion
Passionists take a vow to promote ‘the living memory’ of the Passion. This is the key to Passionist spirituality. It means that a person tries to live their daily life with the same openness to God that Jesus displayed in his Passion and death. This requires a complete openness to God and God’s will. To live with this spirit one strives to be empty of self and alive to God. St Paul the apostle wrote, “I live, no, not I, but God lives in me.”
St Paul of the Cross chose a theme from Paul’s letter to the Philippians as a major text for writing his Passionist rule of life. “Jesus did not cling to equality with God, but emptied himself (kenosis) and became like one of us”. When a person patterns their life on this Jesus’ total openness to God by emptying himself or herself (kenosis) , they constantly die to the ‘me’ in me and live instead for ‘God’ in me.
Jesus, in abandoning himself to God’s will, trusted in God’s overwhelming love for him. This conviction allows a person to know that because God loves me, he will take care of me and ‘all will be well’ If I fear, that by being open to God’s will, God will ‘take advantage’ of me, what does this say about my image of God ? The starting point to any openness and abandonment to God’s will must be the belief that God loves me. I can ‘see’ this in the Passion, and I can experience it through my own openness to God.
Abandoning ourselves to God is the quickest and best way to spiritual perfection. It puts us in, and maintains us in, peace. ‘Let go’. To find this peace we need to practise ‘letting go’. In this abandonment, we do not seek to know God’s will (Jesuit spiritual direction focuses on this), rather we simply seek to be open to do God’s will. We remain tranquil no matter what happens around us. “All will be well”. God is ‘in charge’, and St Paul says “all things work together for God for those who love him”. Even when we fail, we must not lose peace with God. This becomes possible when we know and experience God’s love. Paul’s prayer...is one of letting go...’let it happen’, because whatever happens comes from the loving hand of God.
Passionists are called to be ‘living memorials’. This is something operating at our deepest core, but is observable in how we deal with the unexpected, the painful, etc. There is a plaque inside St Paul ’s Cathedral in London pointing to the ‘living monument’ of the Cathedral’s designer. Of course this monument is one of stones and mortar. The living monument to Jesus’ Passion, is a life patterned on his death - self surrender in love.
||Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane begins, “Father if it is possible take this away from me”. Jesus asks for this to be avoided. But his prayer continues, “but your will be done.” This is the ultimate example of Christian prayer. One of Paul of the Cross’ most telling prayers highlights his wanting to pray with this same trust in, and openness to, God.
“I will strip myself of everything by a complete abandonment of myself to God. I will leave the care of myself entirely to him. He knows what I need and I don’t know. Therefore I shall accept with equal resignation light and darkness, consolation and calamities and crosses, suffering and joy. I will praise him in everything. Above all, I will bless the hand which scourges me, as I put my total trust in him”