Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Considerations on the passion of Jesus Christ - Chapter 7

Mourning of all Nature – Darkness.
It is reported (as Cornelius à Lapide relates) that St. Dionysius the Areopagite, being at the time at Heliopolis in Egypt, at the time of the death of Jesus Christ exclaimed, “Either the God of nature is suffering, or the fabric, of the world is being dissolved.”1 Others, such as Syncellus and Suidas, relate the story differently, and state that he said, “God, unknown, is suffering in the flesh, and therefore the universe is hidden in this darkness.”2
Eusebius3 writes that Plutarch, being in the isle of Praxos, heard a voice say, “The great Pan is dead,”4 and immediately afterwards heard a cry of many persons wailing. Eusebius considers that Pan means the devil, who being, as it were, killed by the death of Jesus, was stripped of the power he had possessed over men; but Barrada5 thinks that it means Jesus Christ himself, because in Greek the word Pan means All, which Jesus Christ, being the Son of God, and truly God, really was; that is, all that is good.
What we have in the Gospels is, that on the day of the death of the Saviour, the whole earth was covered with darkness, from the sixth to the ninth hour. And when Jesus breathed his last, the veil of the temple was rent, and a great earthquake shook the mountains.6
Speaking of the darkness, St. Jerome says that this darkness was foretold by the prophet Amos in these words: It shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord, that the sun shall go down at mid-day; and I will make the earth dark in the day of light.7 On which St. Jerome remarks that the sun seemed to have withdrawn its light, in order that the enemies of Jesus Christ might not rejoice in it;8 and that the sun hid itself, because it dared not look upon the Lord hanging on the cross.9 But St. Leo more justly says that then all creatures groaned, when the Creator hung upon the cross.10 With this Tertullian agrees, saying that from the sixth hour the world was darkened, and celebrated the obsequies of the Lord.11
St. Athanasius, St. Chrysostom, and St. Thomas remark that this darkness was altogether miraculous, because it could not have happened as an eclipse of the sun, by the interposition of the moon between the earth and the sun, as this eclipse always takes place at the new moon, and not the full moon, as astronomers say. And, further, as the sun is much larger than the moon, the moon could not hide the whole of its light; while the Gospel relates that darkness was spread over the whole earth. Further still, even if the moon could have darkened the whole light of the sun, we know that the course of the sun is so swift that such darkness could only have lasted a few minutes, while the Gospel relates that it lasted from the sixth to the ninth hour.
This miraculous darkness Tertullian especially pointed out, in his Apology to the heathen, reminding them that in their own archives this prodigy of the darkness of the sun was recorded.12 Eusebius, confirming this statement, relates in his chronicle the words of Phlegon, the freedman of Augustus, an author of that period, who thus writes: “In the fourth year of the second Olympiad, the sun was completely darkened, more than at any other recorded time; and night came on at the sixth hour, so that the stars were visible.”13
The Rending of the Veil of the Temple.
In the Gospel of St. Matthew it is said, The veil of the temple was rent in two parts, from the top to the bottom.14 The Apostle writes15 that in the temple, as in the tabernacle, there was the Holy of Holies, where was the ark of the covenant, which contained the manna, the rod of Aaron, the tables of the law; and this ark was the Propitiatory. Into the first tabernacle, which was outside the Holy of Holies, and was covered with the first veil, the priests went to offer sacrifices; and the priest who sacrificed, dipping his finger into the blood of the victim that was offered, sprinkled the veil seven times.16 But into the second tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, which was always shut, and covered with the second veil, the high-priest went solemnly once a year, carrying the blood of the victim which was sacrificed by himself.17
The whole was a mystery: the sanctuary ever closed, represented the separation of men from the divine grace, which they would never have received but for the sacrifice of himself which Jesus Christ was one day to offer, and which was typified in all the old sacrifices; and therefore he is called by St. Paul, a High-Priest of good things to come, who by a more perfect tabernacle, that is, by his own sacred body, would enter into the Holy of Holies of the presence of God, as the mediator between God and men: offering the blood, not of goats and calves, but his own blood, with which he completed the work of human redemption, and thus opened to us the way of heaven.18
The Apostle says, he was a Priest of good things to come, unlike the high-priest Aaron, who obtained present and earthly blessings; while Jesus Christ came to obtain for us future blessings, which are heavenly and eternal. He says, also, that he came by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, which was the sacred humanity of the Lord, which was the tabernacle of his divinity; it was not made with hands, because the body of Jesus was not formed by the work of man, but by the Holy Ghost. Nor did he come with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood; for the blood of goats and calves effected merely a carnal purification, while the blood of Jesus effected the purification of the soul by the remission of sins. It is said, also, that he entered once into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption; which implies that this redemption could never have been obtained by ourselves, nor expected except from the divine promises: it was the work of the divine goodness; and it is called eternal, because, while the high-priest of the Hebrews went into the Holy of Holies once every year, Jesus Christ, once only accomplishing the sacrifice of his death, merited for us an eternal redemption, which would be sufficient to atone for all our sins; as the same Apostle writes, By one offering He perfected forever those who are sanctified.19
The Apostle adds, And therefore he is the Mediator of the New Testament.20 Moses was the mediator of the Old Testament, that is, the old covenant, which had no power to obtain for men reconciliation with God and salvation; for, as St. Paul explains in another place, the old law made nothing perfect.21 But by the new covenant, Jesus Christ, fully satisfying the divine justice for the sins of men, by his merits obtained for men pardon and the divine grace. The Jews were offended at perceiving that the Messiah had wrought the redemption of man by so shameful a death; saying that they had read in the law that the Messiah would not die, but live forever.22 But they were completely in error; for death was the means by which Jesus Christ made himself the Mediator and Saviour of men, since by the death of Jesus Christ the promise of the eternal inheritance was made to those who are called.23 Therefore St. Paul exhorts us to place all our hopes in the merits of the death of Jesus Christ: Having a confidence in the entering into the Holies by the blood of Christ, a new and living way which He hath dedicated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh.24 We, he says, have a strong foundation for our hope of eternal life in the blood of Jesus Christ, who has opened to us the new way to paradise. He calls it a new way, because it was trodden by no one before; while Jesus, by treading it, has opened it to us through his flesh, which was sacrificed on the cross, of which the veil was a figure; because (as St. John Chrysostom writes), as when the veil was rent, the Holy of Holies continued open, so the body of Christ, when torn in his Passion, opened to us the heaven which was closed. The Apostle therefore exhorts us to go with confidence to the throne of grace to obtain the divine mercy.25 This throne of grace is Jesus Christ, to whom, when we miserable sinners go in the midst of the dangers of destruction in which we stand, we find that mercy which we do not deserve.
Let us return to the text quoted from St, Matthew, Jesus, crying with a loud voice, yielded up His spirit; and behold the veil of the temple was rent in two parts, from the top to the bottom. This rending took place at the moment of the death of Jesus Christ, which, as was remarked by all the priests and the people, could not have taken place except as a supernatural. prodigy; for by the mere shaking of the earthquake the veil would not thus have been torn from the top to the bottom. It took place in order to show that God no longer desired to keep this sanctuary closed, as it had been commanded by the law, but that he himself desired to be henceforth the sanctuary opened by means of Jesus Christ.
St. Leo writes26 that the Lord, by this rending, showed us plainly that the old priesthood was ended, and the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ was begun; and that the old sacrifices were abolished, and a new law set up, according to what the Apostle says: A change being made in the priesthood, it is necessary that there should be also a change in the law.27 And by this we are assured that Jesus Christ is the founder both of the first law and of the second; and that the old law, the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the old sacrifices had regard to the sacrifice of the cross, which was to accomplish the redemption of man. And thus everything which had been obscure or mysterious in the old law, in the sacrifices, festivals, and promises, became clear through the death of the Saviour. Lastly, Euthymius says that the rent veil showed that the wall which divided heaven and earth was taken away, so that the way for man to reach heaven lay open without any obstacle.28
The Earthquake.
It is further said in the Gospel, The earth was shaken, and the rocks cleft asunder.29 It is reported that at the death of Jesus Christ there happened a trembling so great and universal that it shook the whole globe of the earth, as Paul Orosius writes.30 Didymus31 also says that the earth was then shaken to its centre. Further, Phlegon, as quoted by Origen and by Eusebius,32 says that in the year 33 after the birth of Christ, many buildings were thrown down by this earthquake at Nice in Bithynia. Pliny also, who lived in the time of Tiberius, under whom Christ was put to death, and Suetonius, attest that at this time twelve cities in Asia were prostrated by this earthquake; and thus the learned believe that the prophecy of Aggeus was fulfilled, Yet a little while, and I will move the heaven and the earth.33 Upon this St. Paulinus writes that Jesus Christ, though fixed upon the cross, to show who he was, even from his cross struck terror into the world.34
Agricomius35 relates that even to his day the signs of this earthquake were visible on the left side of Mount Calvary, where there was a fissure large enough to contain a man’s body, and so deep that the bottom could not be reached. Baronius,36 writing upon A.D. 34, says that in many other places the mountains were laid open by the earthquake; especially at the present time there is to be seen at Gaeta a hill of rock which, it is said, was split open from the top to the bottom at the time of our Lord’s death; and it is clear that the aperture was prodigiously large, for the sea flows through it, and another portion of the hill is enlarged in an equal proportion. The same tradition is attached to Mount Colombo, near Rieti; to Monserrat in Spain; and to several mountains in Sardinia near Cagliari; while still more remarkable is that which happened to Mount Alvernia in Tuscany, where St. Francis received the gift of the sacred stigmata, and where large masses of rock heaped one upon another are to be seen, of which it is said that it was revealed to St. Francis by an angel that these rocks were thus thrown together at the death of Jesus Christ, as Wading37 relates.
St. Ambrose on this exclaims, “O Jewish hearts, harder than rocks! the mountains are cleft, but the hearts of these men are hardened.”38
Resurrection of the Dead, and Conversions.
St. Matthew goes on to describe the prodigies which happened at the death of Christ, and says, The graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints that had slept arose; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, came into the holy city, and appeared to many.39 Upon this, St. Ambrose says “What else is meant by this opening of the graves, but the resurrection of the dead?”40 Thus the opening of the graves signified the discomfiture of death, and the restoration of life to man by the resurrection. St. Jerome, Venerable Bede, and St. Thomas say that though the graves were opened at the death of Christ, yet the dead did not rise till after the resurrection of the Lord.41 And this is conformable to what the Apostle says when he calls Christ the first begotten of the dead, and the first of them that rise.42 For it was not fitting that any man should rise before Him who had triumphed over death.
It is said in St. Matthew that many saints then arose, and, leaving the graves, appeared to many. These were the just, who had believed and hoped in Jesus Christ; and God desired thus to honor them, as a reward for their faith and confidence in the future Messiah, according to the prediction of Zacharias, Thou also, by the blood of Thy testament, hast sent forth Thy prisoners out of the pit, wherein is no water;43 that is, from what is called Limbo by the Fathers, in which there was none of the water of joy.
St. Matthew goes on to say that the centurion, and the other soldiers who were under him, who had put the Saviour to death, though the Jews continued obstinately to rejoice in his death, were themselves moved with the miracles of the darkness and earthquake, and recognized him as the Son of God.44 These soldiers were the first-fruits of the Gentiles, who embraced the faith of Jesus Christ after they had put him to death, though, through his merits, they had grace to understand their sin and to hope for pardon.
St. Luke adds that all the others who had either taken part in or applauded the death of Jesus Christ, when they saw the prodigies, smote their breasts in sign of repentance, and returned home.45 And then, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, many other Jews, being touched by the preaching of St. Peter, asked of him what they should do to be saved; and St. Peter bade them repent and be baptized; and they who received his words and were baptized were about three thousand.46
The Heart of Jesus is pierced.
The soldiers then came, and broke the legs of the two thieves; but when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, and abstained from doing the same to him. One of them, however, with a spear pierced his side, from which immediately came forth blood and water.47
St. Cyprian says that the spear pierced straight into the heart of Jesus Christ; and the same thing was revealed to St. Bridget.48 From which we understand that, as both blood and water flowed forth, the spear, in order to strike the heart, must first have pierced the pericardium.
St. Augustine says that St. John used the words opened the side, because in the heart of the Lord the way of life was opened, whence came forth the sacraments, by means of which we enter upon eternal life.49 Further, it is said that the blood and water which came from the side of Jesus were figures of the sacraments; the water, of baptism, which is the first of the sacraments; and the blood, of the Eucharist, which is the greatest.
St. Bernard further says that, by receiving this visible stroke, Jesus Christ wished to signify the invisible stroke of love, by which his heart was pierced for us.50
St. Augustine also, speaking of the Eucharist, says that the holy sacrifice of the Mass at this day is not less efficacious before God than the blood and water which flowed on that day from the side of Jesus Christ.51
Burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We will conclude this chapter with some reflections on the burial of Jesus Christ.
Jesus came into the world, not only to redeem us, but by his own example to teach us all virtues, and especially humility and holy poverty, which is inseparably united with humility. On this account he chose to be born in a cave; to live, a poor man, in a workshop for thirty years; and finally to die, poor and naked, upon a cross, seeing his garments divided among the soldiers before he breathed his last; while after his death he was compelled to receive his winding-sheet for burial as an alms from others. Let the poor be consoled, thus seeing Jesus Christ, the King of heaven and earth, thus living and dying in poverty in order to enrich us with his merits and gifts; as the Apostle says, For your sake He became poor, when He was rich, that by His poverty you might be rich.52 For this cause the saints, to become like Jesus in his poverty, have despised all earthly riches and honors, that they might go one day to enjoy with Jesus Christ the riches and honors prepared by God in heaven for them that love him; of which blessings the Apostle says that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man to conceive what God has prepared for them that love him.53
Jesus Christ, then, rose with the glory of possessing all power in heaven and earth, not as God alone, but as a man; wherefore all angels and men are subject to him. Let us rejoice in thus seeing in glory our Saviour, our Father, and the best friend that we possess. And let us rejoice for ourselves, because the resurrection of Jesus Christ is for us a sure pledge of our own resurrection, and of the glory that we hope one day to have in heaven, both in soul and in body. This hope gave courage to the holy martyrs to suffer with gladness all the evils of this life, and the most cruel torments of tyrants. We must rest assured, however, that none will rejoice with Jesus Christ but they who are willing to suffer in this world with him; nor will he obtain the crown who does not fight as he ought to fight. He that striveth in a wrestling is not crowned unless he has striven lawfully.54 At the same time let us be sure of what the same Apostle says, that all the sufferings of this life are short and light in comparison with the boundless and eternal joys which we hope to enjoy in Paradise.55 Let us labor the more to continue in the grace of God, and continually to pray for perseverance in his favor; for without prayer, and that persevering, we shall not obtain this perseverance; and without perseverance we shall not obtain salvation.
O sweet Jesus, worthy of all love, how hast Thou so loved men that, in order to show Thy love, Thou hast not refused to die wounded and dishonored upon an infamous tree! O my God, how is it that there are so few among men who love Thee with their heart? O my dear Redeemer, of these few I would be one! Miserable that I am, for my past life I have forgotten Thy love, and given up Thy grace for miserable pleasures. I know the evil I have done; I grieve for it with all my heart; I would die for grief. Now, O my beloved Redeemer, I love Thee more than myself; and I am ready to die a thousand times rather than lose Thy friendship. I thank Thee for the light Thou hast given me. O my Jesus, my hope, leave me not in my own hands; help me until my death.
O Mary, Mother of God, pray to Jesus for me.

1“Aut Deus, nature Auctor, patitur, aut mundi machina dissolvitur.”
2“Deus ignotus in carne patitur; ideoque universum hisce tenebris obscuratur.” – Enc. B. Dion.
3Præp. ev. l. 5, c. 17.
4“Magnus Pan mortuus est.”
5T. iv. l. 7, c. 21.
6“A sexta autem hora, tenebræ factæ sunt super universam terram usque ad horam nonam. Et ecce velum Templi scissum est in duas partes a summo usque deorsum; et terra mota est, et petræ scissæ sunt.” – Matt. xxvii. 45, 51.
7“Et erit in die illa, dicit Dominus Deus: occidet aol in meridie, et tenebrescere faciam terram in die luminis.” – Amos, viii. 9.
8“Videtur luminare majus retraxisse radios suos, ne impii sua luce fruerentur.” – In Matt. xxvii.
9“Retraxit radios suos, pendentem in cruce Dominum spectare non ausus.” – In Am. viii.
10“Pendente in patibulo Creatore, universa creatura congemuit.” – De Pass. s. 6.
11“A Beata hors contenebratus orbis defuncto Domino lugubre fecit officium.” – De Jejunio.
12“Eodem momento diei, medium orbem signante sole, lux subducta est. Eum mundi casum relatum in archivis vestris habetis.” – Aplog. c. 21.
13“Quarto anno Olympiadis 202, factum est deliquium solis omnibus cognitis majus, et nox facia est hors diei sexta, ita ut stellæ in cœlo conspicerentur.” – Chron. l. 2.
14“Et velum Templi scissum est in duas partes a summo usque deorsum.” – Matt. xxvii. 51.
15Heb. ix. 1.
16Lev. iv. 6-17
17Lev. xvi. 13, 14; Heb. ix. 7.
18“Christus autem assistens Pontifex futurorum bonorum, per amplius et perfectius tabernaculum non manufactum, id est, non hujus creationis: neque per sanguinem hircornm ant vitulorum, sed per proprium sanguinem, introivit semel in Sancta, æeterna Redemptione inventa.” – Heb. ix. 11.
19“Una enim obiatione consummavit in sempiternum sanctificatos.” – Heb. x. 14.
20“Et ideo Novi Testamenti Mediator est.” – Ibid. ix. 15.
21“Nihil enim ad perfectum adduxit Lex.” – Ibid. vii. 19.
22“Nos audivimus ex Lege, quia Christus manet in æternum.” – John, xii. 34.
23“Et ideo Novi Testamenti Mediator est, ut morte intercedente in redemptionem earum prævaricationum quæ erant sub priori Testamento, repromissionem accipiant, qui vocati sunt, æterna hereditatis.” – Heb. ix. 15.
24“Habentes itaque, fratres, fiduciam in introitu Sanctorum in sanguine Christi, quam initiavit nobis viam novam et viventem per velamen, id est, carnem suam.” – Heb. x. 19.
25“Adeamus ergo cum fiducia ad thronum gratiæ, ut misericordiam consequamur, et gratiam inveniamus in auxilio opportuno.” – Ibid. iv. 16.
26De Pass. s. 10.
27“Translato enim sacerdotio, necesse est ut et legis translatio fiat.” – Heb. vii. 12.
28“Scissum velum significavit divisum jam esse parietem inter cœlum et terram. qui inter Deum erat et homines, et factum esse hominibus cœlum pervium.” – In Matt. c. 67.
29“Et terra mota est, et petræ scissor sunt.” – Matt. xxvii. 51.
30Hist. l. 7, c. 4.
31Fragm. in Job, 9.
32Chron. l. 2.
33“Adhuc unum modicum est, et ego commovebo cœlum et terram.” – Agg. ii. 7.
34“In cruce fixus homo est, Deus e cruce terruit orbem.” – De Ob. Celsi.
35Jerus. Descr. n. 252.
36Ann. 34.
37Ann. 1215, n. 15.
38“O duriora saxis pectora Judæorum! finduntur petræ, sed horum corda durantur.” – In Luc. xxiii.
39“Et monumenta aperta sunt, et multa corpora Sanctorum, qui dormierant, surrexerunt; et exeuntes de monumentis, post resurrectionem ejus, venerunt in Sanctam Civitatem et apparuerunt multis.” – Matt. xxvii. 52.
40“Monumentorum reseratio quid aliud nisi, claustris mortis effractis, resurrectionem significat mortuorum?” – In Luc. xxiii.
41“Tamen, cum monumenta aperta sunt, non antea resurrexerunt quam Dominus resurgeret, ut esset primogenitus resurrectionis ex mortuis.”
42“Principium, primogenitus ex mortuis, ut sit in omnibus ipse primatum tenens.” – Col. i. 18.
43“Tu quoque, in sanguine Testamenti tui, emisisti vinctos tuos de lacu in quo non est aqua.” – Zach. ix. 11.
44“Centurio autem et qui cum eo cram custodientes Jesum, viso terræ motu et his quæ fiebant, timuerunt valde, dicentes: Vere Filius Dei erat iste.” – Matt. xxvii. 54.
45“Et omnis turba eorum qui simul aderant ad spectaculum istud, et videbant quæ fiebant, percutientes pectora sua revertebantur.” – Luke, xxiii. 48.
46“Qui ergo receperunt sermonem ejus, baptizati sunt; et appositæ sunt in die illa animæ circiter tria milia.” – Acts, ii. 41.
47“Sed unus militum lancea latus ejus aperuit, et continuo exivit sanguis et aqua.” – John. xix. 34.
48“Lancea attigit costam, et ambæ partes cordis fuerunt in lancea.” – Rev. l. 2, c. 21.
49“Ut illic quodam modo vita ostium panderetur, unde sacramenta Ecclesiæ manaverunt, sine quibus ad vitam non intratur.” – In Jo. tr. 120.
50“Propterea vulneratum est, ut, per vulnus visibile, vulnus amoris invisibile videamus; carnale ergo vulnus vulnus spirituale ostendit.” – Lib. de Pass. c. 3.
51“Non minus hodie in conspectu Patris oblatio illa est efficax, quam die qua de saucio latere sanguis et aqua exivit.”
52“Propter vos egenus factus est, cum esset dives, ut illius inopia vos divites essetis.” – 2 Cor. viii. 9.
53“Oculus non vidit, nec auris audivit, nec in cor hominis ascendit, quæ præparavit Deus iis qui diligunt illum.” – 1 Cor. ii. 9.
54“Nam et qui certat in agone, non coronatur, nisi legitime certaverit.” – 2 Tim. ii. 5.
55“Id enim quod in præsenti est momentaneum et leve tribulationis nostræ, supra modum in sublimitate æternum gloriæ pondus operatur in nobis.” – 2 Cor. iv. 17.


Saturday, 26 September 2009

Considerations on the passion of Jesus Christ - Chapter 6

Jesus dies, and triumphs over Death.
St. John writes that our Redeemer, before he breathed his last, bowed his head.1 He bowed his head as a sign that he accepted death with full submission from the hands of his Father, and thus accomplished his humble obedience: He humbled himself, and was made obedient to death, even the death of the cross.2
Jesus upon the cross, with his hands and feet nailed upon it, could move no part of his body except his head. St. Athanasius says that death did not dare to approach to take away life from the author of life; wherefore it was needed that he himself, by bowing his head (which alone he then could move), should call death to approach and slay him.3 On St. Matthew’s words, Jesus again crying with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost,4 St. Ambrose remarks that the Evangelist used the expression yielded up to show that Jesus did not die of necessity, or through the violence of the executioners, but because he voluntarily chose to die.5 He chose willingly to die, to save man from the eternal death to which he was condemned.
This was already foretold by the prophet Osee in the words, I will deliver them from the hand of death, from death I will redeem them. O death, I will be thy death; O hell, I will be thy bite.6 This is testified by the holy Fathers St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Gregory; and St. Paul, as we have seen, applies the prophecy literally to Jesus Christ, who, with his death delivered us from death, that is, from hell. In Hebrew also (as the interpreters explain) the word sheol, which is rendered death, properly signifies hell.
How, then, was Jesus Christ the death of death? O death, I will be thy death! Because by his death our Saviour conquered death, and destroyed the death which had resulted from sin. Therefore the Apostle writes, Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is thy victory? Where, O death, is thy sting? The sting of death is sin.7 Jesus, the divine Lamb, by his death destroyed sin, which was the cause of our death; and this was the victory of Jesus, since by dying he banished sin from the world, and consequently delivered it from eternal death, to which all the human race was subjected.
To this corresponds that other text of the Apostle, That through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.8 Jesus destroyed the devil, that is, the power of the devil, who, through sin, had the power of death; that is, who had power to inflict temporal and eternal death on all the sons of Adam who were corrupted with sin. This was the victory of the cross, on which Jesus, the author of life, dying, by his death acquired life for us. Whence the Church sings of the cross that by it “Life endured death, and by death brought forth life.”9
And all this was the work of the divine love, which brought this Priest to sacrifice to the Eternal Father the life of his only-begotten Son for the salvation of men; for which reason the Church also sings, “The Priest, who is love, sacrifices the limbs of his tender body.”10
And therefore St. Francis de Sales cries out, “Let us look upon this divine Saviour stretched upon the cross, as upon the altar of his love, where he dies for love of us. Ah, why do we not cast ourselves in spirit upon the same, that we may die upon the cross with him who has been willing to die for love of us?”11
Yes, O my sweet Redeemer, I embrace Thy cross; and holding it in my embrace, I would live and die ever lovingly kissing Thy feet, wounded and pierced for me.
Jesus Dead on the Cross.
But before going farther, let us stay to contemplate our Redeemer now dead upon the cross. Let us first say to his divine Father:
“Eternal Father, look, upon the face of Thy Christ,”’12 look upon this Thy only-begotten Son, who, in order to satisfy Thy will that lost man should be saved, came down upon earth, took human nature, and with that flesh took upon him all our miseries, save sin. In a word, he made himself man, and lived all his life among men, as the poorest, the most despised, the most troubled of all; in the end he was condemned to death, as Thou seest him, after these very men had torn his flesh with scourgings, wounded his head with thorns, and pierced his hands and feet with nails upon the cross. Thus he died on this tree of unmixed anguish, despised as the vilest of men, derided as a false prophet, blasphemed as a sacrilegious impostor for having said that he was Thy Son, and condemned to die as one of the most guilty of malefactors. Thou Thyself didst give him up to endure this terrible and desolate death, depriving him of all relief. Tell us, what fault did Thy beloved Son commit that he should deserve so horrible a punishment? Thou knowest his innocence and his sanctity; why hast Thou thus treated him? I hear Thee reply, “For the wickedness of my people have I stricken him.”13 No, he did not deserve, he could not deserve, any punishment, being innocence and holiness itself; the punishment was due to you for your sins by which you deserved eternal death; and that I might not see you, the beloved creatures of my hand lost eternally, to deliver you from so dreadful a destruction, I gave up this my Son to so mournful a life, and to so bitter a death. Think, O men, to what an excess I have loved you. God so loved the world, says St. John, that He gave His only-begotten Son.14
Let me now return to Thee, O Jesus, my Redeemer. I behold Thee upon this cross, pale and desolate; Thou speakest no more, nor breathest, for Thou art no longer alive; Thou hast no more blood, for Thou hast poured it all forth, as Thou didst Thyself foretell: This is My blood of the new covenant which is shed for many.15 Thou hast no longer life, for Thou hast given it in order to give life to my soul, which was dead through its sins. But why didst Thou destroy Thy life and pour forth Thy blood for us miserable sinners? Behold, St. Paul tells us: He loved us and gave Himself for us.16
The Fruits of the Death of our Saviour.
Thus this divine Priest, who was both priest and victim, sacrificing his life for the salvation of the men he loved, completed the great sacrifice of the cross, and accomplished the work of human redemption.
Jesus Christ, by his death, stripped our death of its terrors; until this it was but the punishment of rebels; but by grace and the merits of our Saviour it became a sacrifice so dear to God that when we unite it to the death of Jesus, it makes us worthy to enjoy the same glory that God enjoys, and to hear him one day say to us, as we hope, Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.17
Thus death, which was an object of pain and dread, was changed by the death of Jesus into a passage from a state of peril, of eternal misery, into one of security, of eternal blessedness, and from the miseries of this life to the boundless delights of paradise.
Therefore the saints have ever regarded death with joy and desire, and no longer with fear. St. Augustine says that they who love the crucified one “live with patience and die with joy.”18 And common experience shows that they who in life have been most troubled with persecutions, temptations, scruples, or other painful events, in death are most comforted by the crucified one, conquering with great peace of mind all the terrors and pains of death. And if it has sometimes happened that some saints, as we read in their lives, have died in great fear of death, the Lord has permitted this in order to increase their merits; because the sacrifice that they made, the more painful it was to themselves, the more acceptable was it to God, and the more profitable to them for eternity.
Oh, how much harder was the death of the faithful of old before the death of Jesus Christ! Then, when the Saviour was not yet come, they sighed for his coming, they waited for his promise, but they knew not when it would be fulfilled; the devil had great power upon earth; heaven was closed to men. But after the death of the Redeemer, hell was conquered, divine grace was given to souls, God was reconciled to men, and the country of Paradise was opened to all those who die innocent, or who have expiated their sins by repentance. And if some who die in grace do not immediately enter heaven, this only results from the faults of which they are not yet cleansed; and death merely bursts their bonds, in order that they may go free to unite themselves perfectly to God, from whom they are far away in this land of banishment.
Let us, then, take heed, O Christian souls, while we are in this exile, not to look at death as a misfortune, but as the end of our pilgrimage, which is full of difficulties and dangers, and as the beginning of our eternal happiness, which we hope one day to attain through the merits of Jesus Christ. And with this thought of heaven, let us detach ourselves as much as possible from earthly things, which may cause us to lose heaven, and give us over to eternal pains. Let us offer ourselves to God, declaring that we wish to die when it pleases him, and to accept death in the manner and at the time which he has appointed; ever praying him that, through the merits of Jesus Christ, he will cause us to depart from this life in his grace.
O my Jesus and my Saviour, who, to obtain for me a happy death, hast chosen for Thyself a death so painful and desolate, I abandon myself into the arms of Thy mercy. For many years passed I have deserved to be in hell, for the sins that I have committed against Thee, and to be separated from Thee forever. But Thou, instead of punishing me as I deserved, hast called me to repentance, and I hope that now Thou hast pardoned me; but if Thou hast not already pardoned me through my fault, pardon me now that in sorrow I ask for mercy at Thy feet. O my Jesus! I could die of grief when I think of the injuries that I have offered to Thee! “O blood of the innocent one, wash away the penitent’s sins!” Pardon me, and give me help to love Thee with all my strength till death; and when I shall reach the end of my life, make me to die burning with love for Thee, that I may go on to love Thee forever. Jesus, henceforth I unite my death to Thy holy death, through which I hoped to be saved. In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped; I shall not be confounded forever.19
O thou great mother of God! next to Jesus thou art my hope. “In thee, O Lady, I have hoped; I shall not be confounded forever.”

1“Et inclinato capite, tradidit spiritum.” – John, xix. 30.
2“Humiliavit semetipsum, factus obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis.” – Phil. ii. 8.
3“Mors ad ipsum non audebat accedere; ideo Christus, inclinato capite, eam vocavit.” – Interpr. par. q. 41.
4“Jesus autem, iterum clamans voce magna, emisit spiritum.” – Matt. xxvii. 50.
5“ ‘Emisit,’ quia non invitus amisit: quod enim emittitur, voluntarium est; quod amittitur, necessarium.” – In Luc. xxiii.
6“De manu mortis liberabo eos, de morte redimam eos: ero mors tua, o mors! morsus tuus ero, interne.” – Osee, xiii. 14.
7“Absorpta est mors in victoria. Ubi est, mors, victoria tua? ubi est, mors, stimulus tuus? Stimulus autem mortis peccatum est.” – 1 Cor. xv. 54.
8“Ut per mortem destrueret eum, qui habebat mortis imperium, id est, diabolum.” – Heb. ii. 14.
9“Fulget Crucis mysterium, / Qua Vita mortem pertulit, / Et morte vitam protulit.” – Off. de Pass.
10“Almique membra corporis / Amor sacerdos immolat.” – Off. de Temp. Pasch.
11Love of God, bk. 7, ch. 8.
12“Respice in faciem Christi tui.” – Ps. lxxxiii. 10.
13“Propter scelus populi mei percussi eum.” – Isa. liii. 8.
14“Sic enim Deus dilexit mundum, et Filium suum unigenitum daret.” – John, iii, 16.
15“Hic est sanguis meus Novi Testamenti, qui pro multis effundetur.” – Mark, xiv. 24.
16“Dilexit nos, et tradidit semetipsum pro nobis.” – Eph. v. 2.
17“Intra in gaudium Domini tui.” – Matt. xxv. 21.
18“Patienter vivunt, delectabiliter moriuntur.” – In 1 Jo. tr. 9.
19“In te, Domine, speravi; non confundar in aternum.” – Ps. xxx. 2.


Thursday, 24 September 2009

Considerations on the passion of Jesus Christ - Chapter 5

Pater! dimitte illis; non enim sciunt quid faciunt.1
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
O loving tenderness of Jesus towards men! St. Augustine says that when the Saviour was injured by his enemies, he besought pardon for them; for he thought not so much of the injuries he received from them, and the death they inflicted upon him, as upon the love which brought him to die for them.2
But some may say, Why did Jesus pray to the Father to pardon them, when he himself could have forgiven their injuries? St. Bernard replies that he prayed to the Father, not because he could not himself forgive them, but that he might teach us to pray for them that persecute us.3 The holy abbot says also in another place: “O wonderful thing! He cries, Forgive; they cry, Crucify.”4 Arnold of Chartres remarks that while Jesus was laboring to save the Jews, they were laboring to destroy themselves; but the love of the Son had more power with God than the blindness of this ungrateful people.5 St. Cyprian writes, “Even he who sheds the blood of Christ is made to live by the blood of Christ.”6 Jesus Christ, in dying, had so great a desire to save all men, that he made even those enemies who shed his blood with torments partakers of that blood.7 Look, says St. Augustine, at thy God upon his cross; see how he prays for them that crucify him; and then deny pardon to thy brother who has offended thee!
St. Leo writes8 that it was through this prayer of Christ that so many thousands of Jews were converted at the preaching of St. Paul, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles; whilst (says St. Jerome) God did not will that the prayer of Jesus Christ should continue without effect, and therefore at the very time he caused many of the Jews to embrace the faith. But why were they not all converted? I reply that the prayer of Jesus Christ was conditional, and that they who were converted were not of the number of those of whom it was said, Ye have resisted the Holy Ghost.9
In this prayer Jesus Christ further included all sinners; so that we all may say to God:
O Eternal Father, hear the prayer of Thy beloved Son, who prayed to Thee to pardon us. We deserve not this pardon, but Jesus Christ has merited it, who by his death has more than abundantly satisfied for our sins. No, my God, I would not be obstinate like the Jews; I repent, O my Father, with all my heart, for having offended Thee, and through the merits of Jesus Christ I ask for pardon. And Thou, O my Jesus, Thou dost know that I am poor and sick, and lost through my sins; but Thou hast come from heaven on purpose to heal the sick, and to save the lost, when they repent of having offended Thee. Of Thee Isaias said, He came to save that which had perished.10 And of Thee St. Matthew writes, The Son of Man is come to save that which was lost.11
Amen dico tibi: Hodie mecum eris in paradiso.12
“Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with Me in paradise.”
St. Luke writes that of the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus Christ, one continued obstinate, the other was converted; and seeing his miserable companion blaspheming Jesus Christ, and saying, If Thou art the Christ, save Thyself and us, he turned and reproved him, saying that they were deservedly punished, but that Jesus was innocent. Then he turned to Jesus himself and said, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom; by which words he recognized Jesus Christ as his true Lord and the king of heaven. Jesus then promised him paradise on, that very day; Amen I say to thee, this day thou shall be with me in paradise.13 A learned author writes that, in conformity with this promise, the Lord, on that very day, immediately after his death, showed himself openly, and rendered the repentant thief blessed, though he did not confer on him all the delight of heaven before he entered there.
Arnold of Chartres, in his treatise on the seven words, remarks upon all the virtues which the good thief exercised at the time of his death: “He believed, he repented, he confessed, he preached, he loved, he trusted, he prayed.”14
He exercised faith when he said, When Thou comest into Thy kingdom; believing that Jesus Christ, after his death, would enter into his glorious kingdom. He believed, says St. Gregory, that he whom he saw dying was about to reign.15
He exercised penitence together with the confession of his sins, saying, We indeed justly; for we received the due reward of our deeds. St. Augustine observes that before his confession he had not boldness to hope for pardon; he did not dare to say Remember me, until, by the confession of his guilt, he had thrown off the burden of his sins.16 On this St. Athanasius exclaims, O blessed thief, thou hast stolen a kingdom by that confession!17
This holy penitent also exercised other noble virtues; he preached, declaring the innocence of Jesus Christ, This man hath done no evil. He exercised love to God, receiving death with resignation, as the punishment due to his sins, saying, We receive the due reward of our deeds. Hence St. Cyprian, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine do not scruple to call him a martyr; and Silveira says18 that this happy thief was a true martyr, as the executioners broke his legs with increased fury, because he had declared the innocence of Jesus; and that the saint willingly accepted this torment for the love of his Lord.
Let us also in this circumstance remark the goodness of God, who always gives us more than we ask for, as St. Ambrose says, “The Lord always grants more than we ask; the thief prayed that Jesus would remember him, and Jesus said, To-day thou shalt be with Me in paradise.”19 St. John Chrysostom further remarks that no one merited the possession of paradise before this thief.20 Thus is confirmed what God said by Ezechiel, that, when the sinner heartily repents of his sins, God pardons him in the same way as if he had forgotten all the sins he had committed.21 And Isaias gives us to understand that God is so urgent for our good, that when we pray he instantly hears us.22 St. Augustine says that God is ever prepared to embrace penitent sinners.23
And thus it was that the cross of the wicked thief, being endured with impatience, became to him a precipice leading to hell; while the cross endured with patience by the good thief became to him a ladder to paradise. Happy wert thou, O holy thief, who hadst the fortune to unite thy death to the death of thy Saviour.
O my Jesus! henceforth I sacrifice to Thee my life, and I seek for grace to enable me, at the hour of my death, to unite the sacrifice of my life to that which Thou didst offer to God upon the cross, and through which I hope to die in Thy grace, and, loving Thee with pure love stripped of every earthly affection, to attain to love Thee with all my powers through all eternity.
Mulier, ecce filius tuus. . . . Ecce Mater tua.24
“Woman, behold thy son. . . . Behold thy mother.”
We read in St. Mark that on Calvary there were present many women, who watched Jesus on the cross, but from afar off, among whom was Mary Magdalen.25 We believe, also, that among these holy women was the divine mother also; while St. John says that the Blessed Virgin stood, not afar off, but close to the cross, together with Mary of Cleophas and Mary Magdalen.26 Euthymius attempts to reconcile this discrepancy, and says that the Holy Virgin, seeing her son drawing nearer to death, came from among the rest of the women close up to the cross, overcoming her fear of the soldiers who surrounded it, and enduring with patience all the insults and repulses which she had to suffer from these soldiers who watched the condemned, in order that she might draw near her beloved Son.27 Thus also a learned author, who wrote the life of Jesus Christ, says, “There were his friends, who watched him from afar; but the Holy Virgin, the Magdalen, and another Mary stood close to the cross, with John; wherefore Jesus, seeing his mother and John, spoke to them the words above mentioned. Truly it was the mother who not even in the terror of death deserted her Son.28 Some other mothers fly when they see their children dying; their love does not suffer them to be present at their death without the power of relieving them; but the holy mother, the nearer her Son approached to death, the nearer she drew to his cross.”
The afflicted mother thus was standing close to the cross; and as the Son sacrificed his life, so she offered her pangs for the salvation of men, sharing with perfect resignation all the pains and insults which her Son suffered in his death. A writer says that they who would describe her fainting at the foot of the cross dishonor the constancy of Mary. She was the strong woman, who neither fainted nor wept, as St. Ambrose writes: “I read of her standing, but not of her weeping.”29
The pain which the Holy Virgin endured in the Passion of her Son exceeded all the pains which a human heart can endure; but the grief of Mary was not a barren grief, like that of other mothers who behold the sufferings of their children; it was a fruitful grief, since through the merits of her so great grief, and through her love (according to the opinion of St. Augustine), as she was the natural mother of our head Jesus Christ,30 so she then became the spiritual mother of us who are his faithful members, in co-operating with him by her love in causing us to be born, and to be the children of the Church.
St. Bernard writes that upon Mount Calvary both of these two great martyrs, Jesus and Mary, were silent, because the great pain that they endured took from them the power of speaking.31 The mother looked upon her Son in agony upon the cross, and the Son looked upon the mother in agony at the foot of the cross, and torn with compassion for the pains he suffered.
Mary and John then stood nearer to the cross than the other women, so that they could more easily hear the words and mark the looks of Jesus Christ in so great a tumult. St. John writes: When Jesus then saw His mother and the disciple standing, whom He loved, he saith to His mother: Woman, behold thy son.32 But if Mary and John were accompanied by other women, why is it said that Jesus beheld his mother and the disciple, as if the other women had not been perceived by him? St. John Chrysostom writes that love always makes us look more closely at the object of our love.33 And St. Ambrose in a similar way writes, It is natural that we should see those we love before any others.34 The Blessed Virgin revealed to St. Bridget that in order that Jesus might look upon Mary, who stood by the side of the cross, he was obliged first to compress his eyebrows in order to remove the blood from his eyes, which prevented him from seeing.35
Jesus said to her, Woman, behold thy son! with his eyes pointing out St. John, who stood by his side. But why did he call her woman, and not mother? He called her “woman,” we may say, because, drawing now near to death, he spoke as if departing from her, as if he had said, Woman, in a little while I shall be dead, and thou wilt have no Son upon earth; I leave thee, therefore, John, who will serve and love thee as a son. And from this we may understand that St. Joseph was already dead, since if he had been still alive he would not have been separated from his wife.
All antiquity asserts that St. John was ever a virgin, and specially on this account he was given as a son to Mary, and honored in being made to occupy the place of Jesus Christ; on which account the holy Church sings, “To him a virgin He commended his Virgin Mother.”36 And from the moment of the Lord’s death, as it is written, St. John received Mary into his own house, and assisted and obeyed her throughout her life, as if she had been his own mother.37 Jesus Christ willed that this beloved disciple should be an eye-witness of his death, in order that he might more confidently bear witness to it in his Gospel, and might say, He that saw it has borne witness;38 and in his Epistle, What we have seen with our eyes, that we both testify and make known to you.39 And on this account the Lord, at the time when the other disciples abandoned him, gave to St. John strength to be present until his death in the midst of so many enemies.
But let us return to the holy Virgin, and examine more deeply the reason why Jesus called Mary woman, and not mother. By this expression he desired to show that she was the great woman foretold in the Book of Genesis, who would crush the serpent’s head: I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.40 It is doubted by none that this woman was the Blessed Virgin Mary, who; by means of her Son, would crush the head of Satan,—if it be not more correct to say that her Son, by means of her who would bear him, would do this. Naturally was Mary the enemy of the serpent, because Lucifer was haughty, ungrateful, and disobedient, while she was humble, grateful, and obedient. It is said, She shall crush thy head, because Mary, by means of her Son, beat down the pride of Lucifer, who lay in wait for the heel of Jesus Christ, which means his holy humanity, which was the part of him which was nearest to the earth; while the Saviour by his death had the glory of conquering him, and of depriving him of that empire which, through sin, he had obtained over the human race.
God said to the serpent, I will put enmities between thy seed and the woman. This shows that after the fall of man, through sin, notwithstanding all that would be done by the redemption of Jesus Christ, there would be two families and two posterities in the world, the seed of Satan signifying the family of sinners, his children corrupted by him, and the seed of Mary signifying the holy family, which includes all the just, with their head Jesus Christ, Hence Mary was destined to be the mother both of the head and of the members, namely, the faithful. The Apostle writes: Ye are all one in Christ Jesus; and if ye are Christ’s, then ye are the seed of Abraham.41 Thus, Jesus Christ and the faithful are one single body, because the head cannot be divided from the members, and these members are all spiritual children of Mary, as they have the same spirit of her Son according to nature, who was Jesus Christ. Therefore, St. John was not called John, but the disciple beloved by the Lord, that we might understand that Mary is the mother of every good Christian who is beloved by Jesus Christ, and in whom Jesus Christ lives by his Spirit. This was expressed by Origen, when he said, “Jesus said to Mary, Behold thy son, as if he had said, This is Jesus, whom thou hast borne, for he who is perfected lives no more himself, but Christ lives in him.”42
Denis the Carthusian writes that in the Passion of Jesus Christ the breast of Mary was filled with the blood which flowed from his wounds, in order that with it she might nourish her children. And he adds that this divine mother by her prayers and merits, which she especially acquired by sharing in the death of Jesus Christ, obtained for us a participation in the merits of the Passion of the Redeemer.43
O suffering Mother! Thou knowest that I have deserved hell; I have no hope of being saved, except by sharing the merits of the death of Jesus Christ; Thou must pray for me, that I may obtain this grace; and I pray thee to obtain it for me by the love of that Son whom thou sawest bow his head and expire on Calvary before thy eyes. O queen of martyrs, O advocate of sinners, help me always, and especially in the hour of my death! Even now I seem to see the devils, who, in my last agony, will strive to make me despair at the sight of my sins; oh! abandon me not then, when thou seest me thus assaulted; help me with thy prayers, and obtain for me confidence and holy perseverance. And because then, when my speech is gone, and perhaps my senses, I cannot invoke thy name, and that of thy Son, I now call upon thee; Jesus and Mary, I recommend my soul unto you.
Deus meus! Deus meus! ut quid dereliquisti me?44
Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani? that is, My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
St. Matthew writes that Jesus uttered these words with a loud voice. Why did he thus utter them? Euthymius says that he thus cried out in order to show us his divine power, inasmuch as, though he was on the point of expiring, he was able thus to cry aloud, a thing which is impossible to dying men, through their extreme exhaustion. Also, he thus cried out in order to show us the anguish in which he died. It might, perhaps, have been said that as Jesus was both God and man, by the power of his divinity he had diminished the pains of his torments; and in order to prevent this idea, he thought fit in these words to declare that his death was more bitter than that which any man had endured, and that while the martyrs in their torments were comforted with divine sweetness, he, the king of martyrs, chose to die deprived of every consolation, satisfying the utmost rigor of the divine justice for all the sins of men. And therefore Silveira remarks that Jesus called his Father God, and not Father, because he was then regarding him as a Judge, and not as a son regards his father.45
St. Leo writes that this cry of the Lord was not a lamentation, but a doctrine,46 because he thus desired to teach us how great is the wickedness of sin, which, as it were, compelled God to abandon his beloved Son without a comfort, because he had taken upon him to make satisfaction for our sins. At the same time, Jesus was not abandoned by the divinity, nor deprived of the glory which had been communicated to his blessed soul from the first moment of his creation; but he was deprived of all that sensible relief by which God is wont to comfort his faithful servants in their sufferings; and he was left in darkness, fear, and bitterness, pangs which were deserved by us. This deprivation of the sensible consciousness of the divine presence was also endured by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemani; but that which he suffered on the cross was greater and more bitter.
O Eternal Father, what offence had this Thy innocent and most obedient Son ever given Thee, that Thou shouldst punish him with a death so bitter? Look at him as be hangs upon this cross, with his head tortured with thorns, as he hangs upon the three iron nails, and is supported by his own wounds! All have abandoned him, even his own disciples, all deride him upon the cross, and blaspheme him; and why hast Thou abandoned him, who hast so greatly loved him? We must understand that Jesus had taken upon himself the sins of the world, although he was himself the most holy of all men, and even sanctity itself; since he had taken upon himself to satisfy for all our sins, he seemed the greatest of all sinners; and having thus made himself guilty for all, he offered himself to pay the price for all. Because we had deserved to be abandoned forever in hell to eternal despair, therefore he chose to be given up to a death deprived of every relief, that thus he might deliver us from eternal death.
Calvin, in his commentary on St. John, blasphemously asserts that Jesus Christ, in order to appease his Father, experienced all the wrath which God feels towards sinners, and felt all the pains of the damned, and particularly that of despair. O blasphemy and shocking thought! How could he satisfy for our sins by committing a sin so great as that of despair? And how could this despair, which Calvin imagines, be reconciled with the other words which Jesus uttered, Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit?47 The truth is, as St. Jerome and others explain it, that our Saviour uttered this lamentation to show not his own despair, but the bitterness which he endured in a death without consolation. And, further, despair could only have been produced in Jesus Christ by a knowledge that he was hated by God; but how could God hate that Son who, to obey his will, had offered himself to, satisfy for the sins of men? It was this very obedience in return for which the Father looked upon him, and granted him the salvation of the human race, as the Apostle writes, Who in the days of His flesh, offering with loud crying and tears, payers and supplications to Him who could save Him from death, was heard because of His reverence.48
Further, this abandonment of Jesus Christ was the most dreadful suffering in all his Passion; for we know that after suffering so many bitter pangs without complaining, he lamented over this; he cried with a loud voice, and with many tears and prayers, as St. Paul tells us. Yet all these prayers and tears were poured forth in order to teach us how much he suffered to obtain the divine mercy for us; and to enable us at the same time to comprehend how dreadful a punishment it would be to a guilty soul to be driven from God, and to be deprived forever of his love, according to the divine threat, I will cast them forth from My house, I will not further love them.49
St. Augustine also says that Jesus Christ was agitated at the sight of his death, but that he was so for the comfort of his servants; in order that if ever they should find themselves disturbed at their own death, they should not suppose themselves reprobates, or abandon themselves to despair, because even he was disturbed at the sight of death.50
Therefore, let us give thanks to the goodness of our Saviour for having been willing to take upon himself the pains which were due to us, and thus to deliver us from eternal death; and let us labor henceforth to be grateful to this our deliverer, banishing from our hearts every affection which is not for him. And when we find ourselves desolate in spirit, and deprived of the sense of the divine presence, let us unite our desolation to that which Jesus Christ suffered in his death. Sometimes he hides himself from the souls that he most loves, but he does not really leave their hearts; he aids them with his inward grace. He is not offended, if in such an abandonment we say, as he himself said in the garden to his divine Father, O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.51 But at the same time we must add, Yet, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.52 And if the desolation continues, we must continue the same acts of conformity to the divine will, as he himself repeated them for the three hours during which he prayed in the garden.53 St. Francis de Sales says that Jesus is as worthy of love when he hides himself as when he makes himself seen. Further, he who has deserved hell, and finds himself out of it, should say only, I will bless the Lord at all times.54 O Lord, I do not deserve consolations; grant that through Thy grace I may love Thee, and I am content to live in desolation as long as it pleases Thee. If the damned could thus in their pains unite themselves to the divine will, hell would be no longer hell to them.
But Thou, O Lord, remove not Thy help to a distance from Me; look towards my defence.55 O my Jesus, through the merits of Thy desolate death, deprive me not of Thy help in that great struggle which, in the hour of my death, I must maintain with hell. At that hour all things of earth will have deserted me and cannot help me; do not Thou abandon me, who hast died for me, and canst alone help me in that extremity. Do this through the merits of those pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy abandonment, by which Thou hast merited for us that we should not be abandoned by the divine grace, as we have deserved through our sins.
“I thirst.”
St. John writes, Jesus then, knowing that all things were accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst.57 Scripture here refers to the words of David, They gave Me gall to eat, and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.58
Severe was this bodily thirst, which Jesus Christ endured on the cross through his loss of blood, first in the garden, and afterwards in the hall of judgment, at his scourging and crowning with thorns; and, lastly, upon the cross, where four streams of blood gushed forth from the wounds of his pierced hands and feet as from four fountains. But far more terrible was his spiritual thirst, that is, his ardent desire to save all mankind, and to suffer still more for us, as Blosius says, in order to show us his love.59 On this St. Laurence Justinian writes: “This thirst came from the fount of love.”60
O my Jesus! Thou hast thus desired to suffer for me; and I, when my sufferings at all increase, become so impatient that I am insupportable both to others and to myself. O my Jesus! through the merits of Thy patience, make me patient and resigned in the sicknesses and crosses which befall me; make me like Thyself before I die.
Consummatum est.61
“It is consummated.”
St. John writes, Jesus, therefore, when He had taken the vinegar said, It is consummated.62 At this moment Jesus, before breathing out his soul, placed before his eyes all the sacrifices of the old law (which were all figures of the sacrifice upon the cross), all the prayers of the patriarchs, and all the prophecies which had been uttered respecting his life and his death, all the injuries and insults which it was predicted that he would suffer; and, seeing that all was accomplished, he said, It is consummated.
St. Paul encourages us to run generously and encounter with patience the struggle which awaits us in this life with our enemies, in order to obtain salvation: Let us run with patience to the contest which is set before us, looking to Jesus the author and the consummation of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.63 The Apostle thus exhorts us to resist temptations with patience unto the end, after the example of Jesus Christ, who would not come down from the cross while life remained. On this St. Augustine says, “What did he teach thee, who, when he hung upon the cross, would not come down, but that thou shouldst be strong in thy God?”64 Jesus thought fit to complete his sacrifice even to death, in order to convince us that the reward of glory is not given by God except to those who persevere to the end, as he teaches us in St. Matthew: He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved.65
Therefore, when, through inward passions, or the temptations of the devil, or the persecutions of men, we feel ourselves disturbed and excited to lose our patience, and to abandon ourselves to displeasing God, let us cast our eyes on Jesus crucified, who poured forth all his blood for our salvation, and let us reflect that we have not yet poured forth one drop of blood for love of him: Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.66 When, therefore, we are called to yield up any point of human esteem, to abstain from any resentful feeling, to deprive ourselves of any satisfaction, or of anything we are curious to see, or to do anything which is unpleasant to our tastes, let us be ashamed to deny this gift to Jesus Christ. He has treated us without holding anything back; he has given his own life, and all his blood; let us, then, be ashamed to treat him with any reserve.
Let us oppose to our enemies all the resistance that we are bound to make, and hope for victory from the merits of Jesus Christ alone, by means of which alone, the saints, and especially the holy martyrs, have overcome torments and death: In all things we overcome, through Him who loved us.67 Therefore, when the devil paints to our thoughts any obstacles which, through our weakness, seem extremely difficult to overcome, let us turn. our eyes to Jesus crucified, and, wholly trusting in his help and merits, let us say, with the Apostle, I can do all things through Him that strengthens me.68 By myself I can do nothing, but by the help of Jesus I can do everything.
Thus let us animate ourselves to endure the tribulations of the present life, by the sight of the pains of Jesus on the cross. Behold, says the Lord from this cross—behold the multitude of the pains and the wrongs which I suffer for thee upon this tree. My body hangs by three nails, and rests alone upon my very wounds. The people who surround me blaspheme me and afflict me, and my spirit within me is more afflicted than my body. I suffer all for love of thee; behold the affection I bear thee, and love me; and be not wearied at suffering anything for me, who, for thee, have lived a life so afflicted, and now am dying so bitter a death.
O my Jesus! Thou hast placed me in the world that I might serve Thee and love Thee; Thou hast given me so many lights and graces that I might be faithful to Thee; but, in my ingratitude, how often, in order that I might not deprive myself of my own satisfaction—how often have I been willing to lose Thy grace and turn my back upon Thee! Oh, through Thy desolate death, which Thou didst accept for my sake, give me strength to be grateful to Thee for what remains to me of life, while from this day forth I intend to drive from my heart every affection which is not for Thee, my God, my love, and my all.
Mary, my mother, help me to be faithful to thy Son, who has so much loved me.
Pater! in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.69
“Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.”
Eutychius writes that Jesus uttered these words with a loud voice, to make all men understand that he was the true Son of God, calling God his Father.70 But St. John Chrysostom writes that he cried with a loud voice to teach us that he did not die of necessity, but of his own free will,71 uttering so strong a voice at the very moment when he was about to end his life. This was in conformity with what Jesus had said during his life, that he voluntarily sacrificed his life for his sheep, and not through the will and malice of his enemies: I lay down my life for my sheep. . . . No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.72
St. Athanasius adds that Jesus Christ, in thus recommending himself to the Father, recommended at the same time all the faithful, who through him would obtain salvation, since the head with the members form one single body.73 On which the saint remarks that Jesus then intended to repeat the prayer that he had before offered: O holy Father, keep them in Thy name, that they may be one, as We are one. And then he added, Father, I will that those whom Thou hast given me should be where I am, and that they should be with me.74
This made St. Paul say, I know in whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him until that day.75 Thus the Apostle wrote, while he was in prison, suffering for Jesus Christ, into whose hands he committed the deposit of his sufferings and of all his hopes, knowing how grateful and faithful he is to those who suffer for his love.
David placed all his hope in the future Redeemer when he said, Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit, for Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.76 And how much more ought not we to trust in Jesus Christ, who has now completed our redemption? Let us say with great courage, Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord; into Thy hands I commend my spirit. Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit. Great comfort do these words bring to the dying at the moment of death, against the temptations of hell, and their fears on account of their sins.
But, O Jesus, my Redeemer! I would not wait for death to recommend my soul to Thee; I commend it to Thee now; suffer me not to turn my back upon Thee again. I see that my past life has only served to dishonor Thee; suffer me not to continue to displease Thee for my days that yet remain. O Lamb of God, sacrificed upon the cross, and dead for me as a victim of love, and consumed by all griefs, grant by the merits of Thy death that I may love Thee with all my heart, and be wholly Thine while life remains. And when I shall reach the end of my days, grant me to die glowing with love for Thee. Thou hast died through love of me: I would die for love of Thee. Thou hast given Thyself wholly to me; I give myself wholly to Thee: Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit; Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. Thou hast poured forth all Thy blood; Thou hast given Thy life to save me; suffer not that through my fault all should be lost unto me. O my Jesus, I love Thee, and I hope through Thy merits that I shall love Thee forever. In Thee, O Lord, I have hoped; I shall not be confounded forever.77
O Mary, mother of God, I trust in thy prayers; pray that I may live and die faithful to thy Son. To thee I would say, with St. Bonaventure, “In thee, O Lady, I have hoped; I shall not be confounded forever.”

1Luke, xxiii. 34.
2“Illis petebat veniam a quibus adhuc accipiebat injuriam; non enim attendebat, quod ab ipsis moriebatur, sed quia pro ipsis moriebatur.” – In Jo. tr. 31.
3“Non quia non posset ipse relaxare, sed ut nos pro persequentibus orare doceret.”
4“Mira res! ille clamabat: Ignosce!—Judæi: Crucifige!” – S. de Pass. D.
5“Cum ipse ad hoc nitatur ut salventur, Judæi ad hoc ut damnentur. Plus debet apud Deum posse Filii charitas, quam populi cæcitas.” – De 7 Verbis.
6“Cum ipse ad hoc nitatur ut salventur, Judæi ad hoc ut damnentur. Plus debet apud Deum posse Filii charitas, quam populi cæcitas.” – De 7 Verbis.
7Serm. 49, E. B.
8“Impetravit quod petierat Christus, multaque statim de Judæis millia crediderunt.” – Ad Hedib. q. 8.
9“Vos semper Spiritui Sancto resistitis.” – Acts, vii. 51.
10“Misit me, ut mederer contritis corde.” – Isa. lxi. 1.
11“Venit enim Filius hominis salvare quod perierat.” – Matt. xviii. 11.
12Luke, xxiii. 43.
13“Si tu es Christus, salvum fac temetipsum et nos. Et nos quidem juste, nam digna factis recipimus; hic vero nihil mali gessit. Domine, memento mei, cum veneris in regnum tuum. Amen dico tibi: Hodie mecum eris in paradiso.” – Luke, xxiii. 39-43.
14“Ibi credit, timet, compungicur et pœnitet, confitetur et prædicat, amat, confidit, orat.” – De 7 Verbis.
15“Regnaturum credidit, quem morientem vidit.” – Mor. l. 18, c. 25.
16“Non est asus ante dicere, ‘Memento mei;’ quam, post confesionem iniquitatis, sarcinam peccatorum deponeret.” – Serm. 155. E. B. app.
17“O beatum latronem! rapuisti regnum ista confessione.” – S. contra omn. hær.
18Lib. 8, c. 16, q. 12.
19“Semper plus Dominus tribuit, quam rogatur. Ille rogabat ut memor sui esset: Dominus autem ait, Hodie mecum eris in paradiso.’ ” – In Luc. xxiii.
20“Nullum ante Latronem invenies repromissionem paradisi meruisse.”
21“Si autem impius egerit pœnitentiam . . ., omnium iniquitatum ejus . . . non recordabor.” – Esech. xviii. 21, 22.
22“Ad vocem clamoris tui, statim ut audierit, respondebit tibi.” – Isa. xxx. 19.
23“Paratus in amplexus peccatorum.” – Man. c. 23.
24John, xix. 26, 27.
25“Erant autem et mulieres de longe aspicientes, inter quas erat Maria Magdalene.” – Mark, xv. 40.
26“Stabant autem juxta crucem Jesu Mater ejus, et soror Matris ejus, Maria Cleophæ, et Maria Magdalene.” – John, xix. 25.
27“Tunc Dei Mater propinquius cruci astitit, quam cetera mulieres, Judæorum vincens timorem.” – In Matt c. 67.
28“Plane Mater, quæ nec in terrore mortis Filium deserebat.” – In Ass. B. M. s. 4.
29“Stantem lego, flentem non lego.” – Or. de ob. Val.
30“Plane mater membrorum ejus, quod nos sumus; quia cooperate est charitate ut fideles in Ecclesia nascerentur, qui illius Capitis membra sunt.” – De S. Virg. c. 6.
31“Tacebant ambo illi Martyres, et, præ nimio dolore, loqui non poterant.” – De Lam. V. M.
32“Cum vidisset ergo Jesus Matrem et Discipulum quem diligebat . . .” – John, xix. 26.
33“Semper amoris oculus acutius intuetur.” – Serm. 78.
34“Morale est ut, quos diligimus, videamus præ creteris.” – De Jos. patr. c. 10.
35“Nec ipse me adstantem cruci videre potuit, nisi sanguine expresso per ciliorum compressionem.” – Rev. l. 4, c. 70.
36“Cui Matrem Virginem virgini commendavit.” – Off. de S. Jo.
37“Et ex illa Nora accepit eam Discipulus in sua.” – John, xix. 27.
38“Qui vidit, testimonium perbibuit.” – John, xix. 35.
39“Quod vidimus oculis nostris . . . , testamur et annuntiamus.” – John, i. 1.
40“Inimicitias ponam inter te et Mulierem, et semen tuum et semen illius: ipsa conteret caput tuum, et tu insidiaberis calcaneo ejus.” – Gen. iii. 55.
41“Omnes enim vos unum estis in Christo Jesu; si autem vos Christi, ergo semen Abrahæ estis.” – Gal. iii. 28.
42“Dixitque Jesus Matri: ‘Ecce filius tuus; perinde ac si dixisset: Ecce hic Jesus quem genuisti.—Etenim, qui perfectus est, non amplius vivit ipse, sed in ipso vivit Christus.”
43“Promeruit ut, per preces ejus ac merita, meritum passionis Christi communicetur hominibus.” – De Laud. V. M. l. 2, a. 23.
44Matt. xxvii. 46.
45“Jesus. pendens in cruce, erat satisfaciens de toto rigore justitiæ suo Parenti, tamquam Judici, pro peccatis generis humani.” – Lib. 8, c. 18, q. 3.
46“Vox ista doctrina est, non querela.” – De Pass. s. 16.
47“Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.” – Luke, xxiii. 46.
48“Qui in diebus carnis sum, preces supplicationesque ad eum, qui possit illum salvum facere a morte, cum clamore valido et lacrymis offerens, exauditus est pro sua reverentia.” – Heb. v. 7.
49“De domo mea ejiciam eos; non addam ut diligam eos.” – Osee, ix. 15.
50“Si imminence morte turbaris, non te existimes reprobum, nec desperationi te abjicias; ideo enim Christus turbatus est in conspectu mortis suæ.”
51“Pater mi! si possibile est, transeat a me calix iste.” – Matt. xxvi. 39.
52“Vertumtamen, non sicut ego volo, sed sicut tu.” – Ibid.
53“Et oravit tertio, eundem sermonem dicens.” – Ibid. 44.
54“Benedicam Dominum in omni tempore.” – Ps. xxxiii. 2.
55“Tu autem, Domine, ne elongaveris auxilium tuum a me; ad defensionem meam conspice.” – Ps. xxi. 20.
56John, xix. 28.
57“Postea, sciens Jesus quia omnia consummata sunt, ut consummaretur Scriptura, dixit: Sitio.” – John, xix. 28.
58“Et dederunt in escam meam fel, et in siti mea potaverunt me aceto.” – Pt. lxviii. 22.
59“Habuit in aliam sitim, puta, amplius patiendi atque evidentius suum nobis demonstrandi amorem.” – Marg. sp. p. 3, c. 18.
60“Sitis bac de ardore nascitur charitatis.” – De Tr. Chr. Ag. c. 10.
61John, xix. 30.
62“Cum ergo accepisset Jesus acetum dixit: consummatum est.” – Ibid.
63“Per patientiam curramus ad propositum nobis certamen, aspicientes in Auctorem fidei et Consummatorem Jesum, qui, proposito sibi gaudio, sustinuit crucem.” – Heb. xii. 1.
64“Quid to docuit pendens, qui descendere noluit, nisi ut sis fortis Deo tuo?” – In Ps. lxx. s. 1.
65“Qui autem perseveraverit usque in finem, hic salvus erit.” – Matt. x. 22.
66“Recogitate enim eum. . . . Nondum enim usque ad sanguinem restitistis, adversus peccatum repugnantes.” – Heb. xii. 3, 4.
67“In his omnibus superamus propter eum, qui dilexit nos.” – Rom. viii. 37.
68“Omnia possum in eo qui me confortat.” – Phil. iv. 13.
69Luke, xxiii. 46.
70“Clamavit voce magna, ut omnes scirent quod Patrem Deum appellaret.” – In Matt. c. 67.
71“Ut ostenderet hæc sua potestate fieri.” – In Matt. hom. 89.
72“Et animam meam pono pro ovibus meis. . . . Nemo tollit eam a me, sed ego pono eam a meipso.” – John, x. 15.
73“In eo homines apud Patrem commendat per ipsum vivificandos; membra enim sumus, et membra unum corpus sunt. . . . Omnes ergo in se Deo commendat.”
74“Pater sancte! serva eos in nomine tuo quos dedisti mihi, ut sint unum sicut et nos. Volo ut, ubi sum ego, et illi sint mecum.” – John, xvii. 11, 24.
75“Scio enim cut credidi, et certus sum quia potens est depositum meum servare in ilium diem.” – 2 Tim. i. 12.
76“In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum; redemisti me, Domine Deus veritatis.” – Ps. xxx. 6.
77“In te, Domine, speravi; non confundar in æternum.” – Ps. xxx. 3


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