By Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo
How much did Christ suffer in his Passion? Christ as God would not experience suffering but Christ as man does. Death by crucifixion is the most painful death mankind could possibly invent. St. Thomas Aquinas gives three reasons for that unique painfulness of crucifixion. First, because the crucified are pierced in the nerves and in highly sensitive parts. Second, the weight of the suspended body intensifies the agony, and third, the pain is multiplied due to the duration of the suffering since the crucified do not die at once unlike those slain by the sword.
The pain was intensified because Christ’s body was uniquely sensitive to pain. He had the most perfect bodily constitution and therefore the most sensitive both in body and soul. St. John Chrysostom said, that what God creates is always perfect and Christ’s body is perfect because it is made by God, through the Virgin Birth. God the Holy Spirit, not St. Joseph, was the Father of His body as well as His soul. Christ body was made directly by God and not through the intervention of man, in the same way that the most perfect and tastiest wine ever tasted on earth was no wine ever made by man, but the wine Christ made at the wedding feast at Cana. In other words, God always makes the best and perfect things and He did the same thing with Christ’s body and soul. Christ’s body was perfect in all aspects, including His senses. Perfection in the senses means sensitivity and sensitivity means sensitivity to pleasure and pain, and thus the pain felt by Christ was more intense.
Christ also suffered internal pain or moral pain. Not just the insults, mockeries and betrayal but more so because of the sins of humanity. It’s the reason why in His agony in the Garden He sweated blood. (Luke 22:44) He felt the weight of all the sins ever committed especially those who would turn down his offering of love and end up in Hell. Love suffers far more for the pains of the beloved than its own pains. The more a parent loves a child, the more pained he or she is by the child’s sins, for sins are always self-harms, little soul-suicides. No love feels no pain, a little love feels a little pain, great love feels great pain, infinite love feels infinite pain.
Dr. Peter Kreeft would say, that pain is like a crying infant, it constantly begs for attention as if telling us, “Look at me or focus on me.” If we focus too much on ourselves while in pain, it could generate self-pity and make us more miserable. But if we instead focus on God, it becomes bearable, meaningful and meritorious. We all have to experience pain, in fact we came into the world in pain, crying as we were born. God would want us to undergo pain in payment for our sins as Christ did for us. Pain is a teacher of wisdom. The best lessons we’ve learned in life are those from our failures and sufferings more than from our successes.