"The Best and Godliest Meditation that can be"

What is the best way to meditate? Queen Katherine (a.k.a. Katherine Parr, 6th and final wife of King Henry VIII) was convinced of the answer to that question. "Inwardly to behold Christ crucified upon the cross is the best and godliest meditation that can be." 

Katherine (or Catherine, or, as she herself signed her name, Kateryn — you'll find her name spelt all sorts of ways) was Queen of England and Ireland, surrounded by the splendour of one of the most luxurious royal courts in Europe, and yet, for her, true wonder, beauty, and glory were to be found not in the majesty that surrounded her, but in looking away from all that to Christ and Him Crucified. "When God, of his mere goodness," she wrote,  "had thus opened mine eyes and made me see and behold Christ — the wisdom of God, the light of the world —with a supernatural sight of faith; all pleasures, vanities, honour, riches wealth and aids of the world began to wax bitter unto me." True beauty, Katherine discovered, is only to be found in her "only Saviour and Redeemer" and "no thought can conceive anything of more value" than His death on the cross. 

And so, seeing the beauty and matchless worth of the crucified Saviour, Katherine realised that, "inwardly to behold Christ crucified upon the cross is the best and godliest mediation that can be." But by that she doesn't mean a mere dwelling on Christ's physical sufferings. For Katherine, to inwardly behold Christ crucified means seeing further than the physical agony to meditate on the revelation of the Cross. 

So, what do we see when we meditate on Christ crucified? Well, first, Katherine tells us, we see the 'high and abundant' love of God in sending His Son to die for us, His enemies — "such flames of love that greater could not be showed." The cross reveals the depths of God's love, and so we cannot gaze at Christ crucified without gazing on the wondrous love of our Triune God.

Second, in the cross we see "the great wisdom, goodness and truth, with all the other godly perfections which be in Christ." God's attributes are displayed in the cross of Christ, for God reveals Himself above all in Christ and Him crucified. 

Third, "we may also see, in Christ crucified, the beauty of the soul, better than in all the books of the world." Maybe that sounds odd; why would the death of Jesus reveal the beauty of the human soul? Well, Katherine tells us, that if Jesus died for "the purifying of the soul," then that shows us that "the soul is appointed for the very tabernacle and mansion of the inestimable and incomprehensible majesty and honour of God." The cross shows us that we have indeed been created in the image of God and that God's purpose is to take up His dwelling place in us. 

Fourth, the cross shows us "how vain and foolish the world is." Beholding the cross encourages not to close our eyes to the beauty of Christ and slip blindly back to the vain, foolish, unkind, hard, and obstinate ways of this world.

Fifth, "we may also in Christ crucified, weigh our sins." The cross shows us how sinful our sin really is and draws us continually back to the mercy of God in Christ. 

Sixth, "we may also see, in Christ upon the cross, how great the pains of hell, and how blessed the joys of heaven be." Meditating on the cross keeps before us this eternal perspective.

Seventh, gazing at the cross, we see "Christ's great victory," for by His cross, Christ has "vanquished not only the prince of the world, but all the enemies of God, triumphing over persecution, injuries, villainies, slanders; yea, death, the world, sin and the devil; and brought to confusion all carnal prudence." Jesus has triumphed, and He's triumphed for us. His victory is our victory. And we see and rejoice in that as we meditate upon the cross. 

So, Katherine has plenty of good reasons to conclude that "truly, it may be most justly verified that to behold Christ crucified, in spirit, is the best meditation that can be." She has only attempted to list some of the benefits; as we meditate on the cross we will continually find many more. 

So, take some encouragement from Queen Katherine. Don't waste your time wondering how to meditate (and then never getting round to actually doing it). Instead, "inwardly behold Christ upon the cross", for that is "the best and godliest meditation that can be."

P.S. If you'd like to read the whole of Queen Katherine's Lamentation of a Sinner, you can find it at New Whitchurch Press, where you can either buy a physical copy or read it for free online.