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During this past week of Holy Week, the movie The Passion of The Christ came up, and today I woke up thinking about the word passion because I’ve been leading a group therapy based on Dr. Kristin Neff’s Mindful Self-Compassion, which is not the point of this post! 

The dictionary defines the word passion as any strong or compelling emotion. But if you know me well, you know I have this affinity for finding the origins of a word, mainly because I believe that English is a “weak” language because it is not as expressive as other languages. So the word passion comes from the Latin word ‘pati,’ which interestingly enough means ‘to suffer.’ So the movie The Passion of The Christ is rightly titled because it is a movie about the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ! Often we ask or talk about the things we are passionate about or ask others, ‘what is your passion?’ I’m not sure about you, but I think it’s safe to say we’ve always assumed that a person would enjoy what they are passionate about, but that’s not the case.

To be passionate about something is to be willing to suffer for it. It is a willingness to go through the painful moments that seem “worth it” because you treasure the result above the pain. 

Our Lord Jesus Christ showed us His passion in that He was willing to suffer for our salvation, to restore us from the Fall so that He may save us. Being passionate about something is usually associated between a person and an object; we are often passionate about ideas, careers, goals, or causes, but Christ’s passion, His suffering, was directed for us, His children. The Church in Her wisdom ends each hour of Pascha with “Christ, our savior, has come and has born suffering, that through His passion, He may save us, let us glorify Him and exalt His name!”

If passion means to suffer, then compassion means to suffer with. So not only did Christ suffer for us, He suffers with us.

We see this clearly in the plot of the Eve of Good Friday, even into the Resurrection! When Christ is in Gethsemane, He goes into the garden to pray and finds the three disciples asleep. He pleads with them to stay awake, watch, and pray. However, slumber had overtaken them! But two of the gospels record that Christ finally comes and sees them asleep again and says, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41, NKJV). They all forsook Christ except for St. John the Beloved, yet even in the Resurrection, Christ has compassion for the disciples. When He appeared to them, He wasn’t resentful, vindictive, or jaded because they betrayed and forsook Him, yet He tells them to rejoice because He knows the weakness of their humanity! I don’t know about you, but at times, I’ll remember how someone may have hurt me in the past, and instead of having compassion for them, I allow my pride to take hold of me and be upset. However, to have compassion for someone is to suffer with them in their current state, to walk along with them in their suffering. It is to realize the common frail humanity that we all share, and this is ultimately what the Incarnation was about, restoring man to his first authority. Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection are the beacons of His passion and compassion.