April 7. Good Friday. Bruce introduced the reflection and noted how Christ was the true fulfillment of this passage (read it in full) which also finds an echo in the experience of St Francis.
From the Fourth Song of the Servant of the Lord. “Behold my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up and shall be very high. As many were astonished at him – his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrow, yet we esteemed him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions he was bruised for our iniquities, upon him was the chastisement that made us whole and with his stripes we are healed.” Is 52:13 – 53:12.
From The Little Flowers of St Francis of Assisi. The day before the Feast of the most Holy Cross, as St Francis was praying secretly in his cell, an angel of God appeared to him, and spake to him thus from God: “I am come to admonish and encourage thee, that thou prepare thyself to receive in all patience and humility that which God will give and do to thee.” St Francis replied: “I am ready to bear patiently whatsoever my Lord shall be pleased to do to me”; and so the angel departed. On the following day – being the Feast of the Holy Cross – St Francis was praying before daybreak at the entrance of his cell, and turning his face towards the east, he prayed in these words: “O Lord Jesus Christ, two graces do I ask of thee before I die; the first, that in my lifetime I may feel, as far as possible, both in my soul and body, that pain which thou, sweet Lord, didst endure in the hour of thy most bitter Passion; the second, that I may feel in my heart as much as possible of that excess of love by which thou, O Son of God, was inflamed to suffer so cruel a Passion for us sinners.” And continuing a long time in that prayer, he understood that God had heard him, and that, so far as is possible for a mere creature, he should be permitted to feel these things.
St Francis began to contemplate most devoutly the Passion of Jesus Christ and his infinite charity; and so greatly did the fervour of devotion increase within him, that he was all transformed into Jesus by love and compassion. On that same morning he beheld a seraph descending from heaven with six fiery and resplendent wings; and this seraph drew nigh unto St Francis, so that he could plainly perceive that he bore the image of one crucified; And when St Francis beheld it, he was much afraid, and filled at once with joy and grief and wonder. He felt great joy at the gracious presence of Christ, who appeared to him thus familiarly, and looked upon him thus lovingly, but, beholding him thus crucified, he felt exceeding grief and compassion.
It was revealed to him that he might understand that, not by martyrdom of the body, but by a consuming fire of the soul, he was to be transformed into the express image of Christ crucified. Then did all the Mount Alvernia appear wrapped in intense fire, which illumined all the mountains and valleys around and shepherds who were watching their flocks in that country were filled with fear. Christ spoke to him certain high and secret things, “Knowest thou,” said Christ, ”what I have done to thee? I have given thee the stigmata which are the insignia of my Passion, that thou mayest be my standard-bearer; and as on the day of my death I descended into limbo, and delivered all the souls whom I found there, so do I grant to thee that every year on the anniversary of thy death thou mayst go to Purgatory, and take with thee to the glory of Paradise the souls of others whom thou shalt find there, who have been especially devout to thee.”
Then that marvellous vision disappeared, leaving in the heart of St Francis an excessive fire and ardour of divine love, and on his flesh a wonderful trace and image of the Passion of Christ. For upon his hands and feet began immediately to appear the figures of the nails, as he had seen them on the Body of Christ crucified, who had appeared to him in the likeness of a seraph. And thus the hands and feet appeared pierced through the midst by the nails. In like manner, on the right side appeared the image of an unhealed wound, as if made by a lance, and still red and bleeding, from which drops of blood often flowed from the holy breast of St Francis, staining his tunic. Reflect, share, pray. How does this reflection speak to you?