The Death of Our Lord
He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.
For which cause God also hath exalted Him.–PHILIP, ii. 8,9.
And Jesus again crying with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.– MATT. xxvii. 50.
INTRODUCTION. This is the beginning of Holy Week. It was on this day that our Lord entered Jerusalem in triumph, saluted by the cheers and hosannas of the people who six days later were clamoring for His death. The week terminates with the sorrowful scenes of Good Friday and Holy Saturday, as described in today’s Gospel. After our Lord’s death His body was deposited in the tomb and His soul descended into Limbo. It is on these articles of the Creed that we shall speak today.
I. He died. 1. The death of our Lord is mentioned in the Creed that we may know He really died. 2. His soul was separated from his body, but the Divinity remained united to both His soul and body. 3. Christ’s death was voluntary.
II. He was buried, 1. The burial of our Lord is made a distinct part of the Creed in order that His death may be the more certain, and His resurrection the more authentic and glorious. 2. As the prophets had foretold, and as the Evangelists narrate, the Saviour’s burial was in keeping with the honor and respect due Him; His body suffered no corruption. 3. Although it was a Divine Person that suffered, died, and was buried for us, our Lord’s divine nature remained at all times impassible and immortal; it was His human nature that suffered.
III. He descended into hell. I. If was the soul of Christ, and not His body, that descended into hell; His descent was real, and not merely virtual. 2. Christ descended not into the hell of the damned, but into Limbo, the peaceful repose of the just, to liberate the souls that were detained captive there, and to proclaim His power and authority.
CONCLUSION. We must learn to die to sin as Christ died to this world, so that at our death we may escape the eternal prison and be conducted by Christ to everlasting rest.
Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part I
ARTICLE IV OF THE CREED
CHRIST REALLY DIED
Dead and buried. When explaining these words, the pastor will propose to the belief of the faithful that Jesus Christ, after His crucifixion, was really dead and buried. It is not without just reason that this is proposed as a separate and distinct object of belief; there were some who denied His death upon the cross. The apostles, therefore, were justly of opinion that to such an error should be opposed the doctrine of faith contained in this Article of the Creed, the truth of which is placed beyond the possibility of doubt by the concurring testimony of all the Evangelists, who record that Jesus ” yielded up the ghost.”(1) Moreover, as Christ was true and perfect man, He of course was capable of dying, and death takes place by a separation of the soul from the body. When, therefore, we say that Jesus died, we mean that His soul was disunited from His body, not that His divinity was so separated.
HIS DIVINITY UNITED TO HIS SOUL AND BODY, WHILE SEPARATED BY DEATH
On the contrary, we firmly believe and profess that when His soul was dissociated from His body, His divinity continued always united, both to His body in the sepulcher and to His soul in Limbo. It became the Son of God to die, “that through death, he might destroy him who had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil: and might deliver them, who through the fear of death were all their lifetime subject to servitude.”(2)
HIS DEATH WAS VOLUNTARY
It was the peculiar privilege of the Redeemer to have died when He Himself decreed to die, and to have died not so much by external violence as by internal assent. Not only His death, but also its time and place, were ordained by Him. Thus Isaias wrote: ” He was offered because it was his own will.”(3) The Redeemer, before His passion, declared the same of Himself. “I lay down my life,” said He, ” that I may take it again. No man taketh it away from me: but I lay it down of myself, and I have power to lay it down: and I have power to take it again.”(4) As to the time and place of His death, He said, when Herod insidiously sought His life: “Go, and tell that fox. Behold, I cast out devils, and do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I am consummated. Nevertheless I must walk today and tomorrow, and the day following, because it cannot be that a prophet perish, out of Jerusalem.”(5) He therefore offered Himself not involuntarily or by external co-action, but of His own free will. Going to meet His enemies He said, ” I am He “;(6) and all the punishments which injustice and cruelty inflicted on Him He endured voluntarily.
A STRONG CLAIM TO OUR GRATITUDE AND LOVE
When we meditate on the sufferings and torments of the Redeemer, nothing is better calculated to excite in our souls sentiments of lively gratitude and love than to reflect that He endured them voluntarily. Were any one to endure by compulsion every species of suffering for our sake, we should deem his claims to our gratitude very doubtful; but were he to endure death freely, and for our sake only, having had it in his power to avoid it, this indeed is a favor so overwhelming as to deprive even the most grateful heart, not only of the power of returning due thanks, but even of adequately feeling the extent of the obligation. We may hence form an idea of the transcendent and intense love of Jesus Christ towards us, and of His divine and boundless claims to our gratitude.
WHY THE WORD “BURIED” IS MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE
If, when we confess that He was buried, we make this, as it were, a distinct part of the Article, it is not because it presents any difficulty which is not implied in what we have said of His death; for believing, as we do, that Christ died, we can also easily believe that He was buried. The word “buried ” was added in the creed, first, that His death may be rendered more certain, for the strongest proof of a person’s death is the interment of his body; and, secondly, to render the miracle of His resurrection more authentic and illustrious. It is not, however, our belief that the body of Christ was alone interred. These words propose, as the principal object of our belief, that God was buried; as, according to the rule of Catholic faith, we also say with the strictest truth, that God was born of a virgin, that God died; for, as the divinity was never separated from His body which was laid in the sepulcher, we truly confess that God was buried.
THE BODY OF CHRIST INCORRUPT IN THE SEPULCHER
As to the place and manner of his burial, what the Evangelists record on these subjects will be found sufficient for all the purposes of the pastor’s instructions.(7) There are, however, two things which demand particular attention; the one, that the body of Christ was, in no degree, corrupted in the sepulcher, according to the prediction of the Prophet: ” Thou wilt not . . . give thy holy one to see corruption;(8) the other, and it regards the several parts of this Article, that burial, passion, and also death, apply to Jesus Christ not as God but as man. To suffer and die are incidental to human nature only, although they are also attributed to God, because predicated with propriety of that person who is at once perfect God and perfect man.
ARTICLE V OF THE CREED
He descended into hell. the third day he arose again from the dead.
A KNOWLEDGE OF THIS ARTICLE IS MOST IMPORTANT
He descended into hell. To know the glory of the sepulture of our Lord Jesus Christ, of which we have last treated, is highly important; but of still higher importance is it to the faithful to know the splendid triumphs which He obtained by having subdued the devil and despoiled the powers of hell. Of these triumphs, and also of His resurrection, we are now about to speak; and although the latter presents to us a subject which might with propriety be treated under a separate and distinct head, yet, following the example of the holy Fathers, we have deemed it judicious to embody it with His descent into hell.
WHAT ITS FIRST PART PROPOSES TO OUR BELIEF
In the first part of this Article, then, we profess that immediately after the death of Christ His soul descended into hell, and dwelt there while His body remained in the grave; and also that the same Person of Christ was at the same time in hell and in the sepulcher. Nor should this excite our surprise; for we have already frequently said, that although His soul was separated from His body, His divinity was never separated from His soul or body.
MEANING OF THE WORD “HELL” IN THIS ARTICLE
But as the pastor, by explaining the meaning of the word ” hell” in this place may throw considerable light on the exposition of this Article, it is to be observed that by the word ” hell” is not here meant the sepulcher, as some have not less impiously than ignorantly imagined; for in the preceding Article we learned that Christ was buried, and there was no reason why the Apostles, in delivering an article of faith, should repeat the same thing in other and more obscure terms. Hell, then, here signifies those secret abodes in which are detained the souls that have not been admitted to the regions of bliss, a sense In which the word is frequently used in Scripture. Thus the Apostle says, that, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth”;(9) and in the Acts of the Apostles Peter says, that Christ the Lord is again risen, ” having loosed the sorrows of hell.”(10)
ITS DIFFERENT MEANINGS
These abodes are not all of the same nature, for among them is that most loathsome and dark prison in which the souls of the damned are buried with the unclean spirits in eternal and inextinguishable fire. This dread abode is called Gehenna, the bottomless pit, and is hell strictly so called.
Among’ them is also the fire of Purgatory, in which the souls of just men are cleansed by a temporary punishment, in order to be admitted into their eternal country, into which nothing defiled entereth.(11) The truth of this doctrine, founded, as holy councils declare,(12) on Scripture, and confirmed by apostolical tradition, demands exposition, all the more diligent and frequent, because we live in times when men endure not sound doctrine.
Lastly, the third kind of abode is that into which the souls of the just, who died before Christ, were received, and where, without experiencing any sort of pain and supported by the blessed hope of redemption, they enjoyed peaceful repose. To liberate these souls, who, in the bosom of Abraham were expecting the Saviour, Christ the Lord descended into hell.
THE SOUL OF CHRIST REALLY DESCENDED INTO HELL
But we are not to imagine that His power and virtue only, but we are firmly to believe that His soul also, really and substantially, descended into hell, according to this conclusive testimony of David: “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell.”(13) But although Christ descended into hell, His supreme power was still the same; nor was the splendor of His sanctity in any degree obscured. His descent served rather to prove that whatever has been already said of His sanctity was true; and that, as He had previously demonstrated by so many miracles, He was truly the Son of God.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HIS DESCENT AND THAT OF OTHERS
This we shall easily understand by comparing the descent of Christ, in its causes and circumstances, with that of the just. They descended as captives;(14) He as free and victorious among the dead, to subdue those demons by whom, in consequence of primeval guilt, they were held in captivity. They descended, some to endure the most acute torments, others, though exempt from actual pain, yet deprived of the vision of God, and of the glory for which they sighed, and consigned to the torture of suspense; Christ the ‘Lord descended, not to suffer, but to liberate from suffering the holy and the just who were held in painful captivity, and to impart to them the fruit of His passion. His supreme dignity and power, therefore, suffered no diminution by his descent into hell.
WHY HE DESCENDED INTO HELL
Having explained these things, the pastor will next proceed to teach that the Son of God descended into hell, that, clothed with the spoils of the arch-enemy, He might conduct into heaven those holy fathers, and the other just souls, whose liberation from prison He had already purchased. This He accomplished in an admirable and glorious manner, for His august presence at once shed a celestial luster upon the captives, filled them with inconceivable joy, and imparted to them that supreme happiness which consists in the vision of God, thus verifying His promise to the thief on the cross: ” Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise.”(15) This deliverance of the just was long before predicted by Osee in these words: ” O death, I will be thy death; O hell, I will be thy bite”;(16) and also by the prophet Zachary: “Thou also by the blood of thy testament hast sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit, wherein is no water “;(17) and lastly, the same is expressed by the Apostle in these words: “Despoiling the principalities and powers, he hath exposed them confidently in open show, triumphing over them in himself.” (18) However, to comprehend still more clearly the efficacy of this mystery we should frequently call to mind that not only those who were born after the coming of the Saviour, but also those who preceded that event from the days of Adam, or shall succeed it to the consummation of time, are included in the redemption purchased by the death of Christ. Before His death and resurrection, heaven was closed against every child of Adam; the souls of the just, on their departure from this life, were borne to the bosom of Abraham; or, as is still the case with those who require to be freed from the stains of sin, or die indebted to the divine justice, were purified in the fire of purgatory.
Another reason also why Christ descended into hell is, that there, as well as in heaven and on earth. He might proclaim His power and authority; and that ” every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.”(19) And here, who is not filled with admiration and astonishment when he contemplates the infinite love of God for man! Not satisfied with having undergone for our sake a most cruel death. He penetrates the inmost recesses of the earth to transport into bliss the souls whom He so dearly loved, and whose liberation from prison He had achieved at the price of His blood!
BY THE REV. M. S. SMITH
“They crucified him.” “Behold,” says Father Galwey, in that admirable work The Watches of the Passion, “the few and simple words with which the Inspired Chronicler records this, the most awful yet most sublime and loving tragedy the world has ever witnessed.” Only a few words, continues this zealous writer, but, like that other short sentence, ” Pilate took Jesus and scourged him,” what depths of meaning contained therein, and what an excess of cruelty and torture expressed!
A tragedy it is indeed, not only of earth but of Heaven, not only affecting time but eternity: for, as its fruits are to be gained in time, its consequences shall be recognized through all eternity. It was, as we have seen in our former meditations, conceived in envy, begotten of hatred, and carried out in the most barbarous way. Withal, it was a tragedy most loving and merciful, for it manifested the loving mercy of God for man, the Creator for the creature, –aye, for the creature who has not only disobeyed the commands of his Creator, but has trampled upon His precepts, laughed to scorn His counsels, and defied His most solemn threats. It is also most sublime, for here we see not only God suffering death at the hands of man, but dying for the sake of those whose hearts are inflamed with hatred towards Him and whose hands are reddened in His blood.
Scarcely will you find a man willing to give up his life for a just man, says the Holy Ghost, but here we see the God-man laying down His life, laying it down willingly,–“with desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you, before I suffer,”–not only for the just, but, mercy of mercy, for sinners.
We might ask. How could Jesus of Nazareth endure the tortures that thus far have been inflicted upon Him? Simply because His Divinity aided His humanity. In saying this we do not intimate that the Divine Nature made the suffering less hard to bear, rather that it made the human nature able the more to suffer. By right He should long since have died. ” My soul,” He said, “is sorrowful even unto death.” Yet the Divinity, without in any way mitigating the suffering, sustains the humanity. Hence, though suffering only in His human nature, we truly say: God suffered, God died for man.
The place to which they led Him is of historic interest. It was here, according to tradition, that the skull of Adam, given by Noe to one of his sons, was interred, hence the name Golgotha, which, being interpreted, means Skull. Where then rests all that on earth remains of the first Adam, who by his sin brought misery into the world, there shall the second Adam, by His atonement, blot out that sin, and by the abundant graces here merited change that misery into blessings and again reconcile man with his God.
It was not, however, on account of this tradition that the place was chosen, but rather to add odium to His death, for here common criminals were executed, and, wishing to brand Him as such, the cry is ” On to Golgotha.” How the malicious designs of man are frustrated! Golgotha, or Calvary, from being a term of reproach, has become synonymous with all that is grand and glorious, is of infinite mercy and boundless love. In itself so insignificant as scarcely to merit the name of hill on the map of the world, it is now known as Mount Calvary, and its very name gives hope to the soul laden with sin, while to the just it brings increase of joy and consolation; for the graces there merited give to man a right to Heaven, a right none may gainsay, much less deny. The first journey to Calvary was made with difficulty and in torture, in deep humiliation and in sorrow; now, that the way has been marked, traced by the blood of the Victim, we can make the way in peace, springing from the blessings of hope. Three times He fell on the way, and it would seem at times that worn-out nature would protest and the hill of Calvary never would be reached.
Now, however, that the Journey has ended, will they bring about His death quickly and, as far as may be, painlessly? Even into the valley of the shadow will hatred follow Him. “They crucified him,” says the narrative, and it is left to man to dwell on this mere statement and from it draw some idea of the pain and, above all, the humiliation of the death.
They offer Him wine mixed with gall. To the condemned wine was given to fortify them, and thus enable them the better to endure the pain about to be inflicted. Behold how even this act of mercy was charged with malice. According to custom, the wine is tendered but mixed with gall; and the Scripture says: “He would not drink,” not, say the Commentators, on account of the bitterness, but because He would not alleviate His sufferings even by the merest drop of wine. Stripping Him of His garments they place Him on the hard bed of the cross and fasten Him to it with nails driven through His Hands and Feet. The soldier places the nail in the palm of the right Hand and with heavy hammer drives it through the flesh into the wood of the cross. No bone is broken, for it was said: “of him a bone you shall not break”; but the sinews are torn as through the Hand the nail finds its way. That Hand which with the Father united in the creation of the world; that Hand which during His sojourn on earth was raised so often to call down blessings on man; behold it now extended, and for what? That it may be grasped in thankfulness and in gratitude for the many times it was raised to call down favors on man? No; but to receive the cruel nail.
The right Hand fastened, they come to the left and then to the Feet, and now His enemies feel a certain amount of satisfaction, for they see Him on His bed of death and from it He cannot rise as He is fastened with nails.
How many nails were used in fastening Jesus to the Cross? This question has never been definitely settled. Some contend that four were used, one to each Hand and two to the Feet, while others maintain that He was fastened to the cross with but three nails. Tradition, as manifested in the crucifix in the general usage sanctioned by the Church, favors the latter opinion. The question, however, is of little moment; all we need know is: that, nailed to the cross, our Jesus in love expiated our sins and reconciled us with the offended Father.
They drag the cross to the place prepared for it, and with much jeering and with shouts of exultation it is lifted up and, with a rude shock, falls into the hole made for it. The shock almost tears His Hands and Feet from the fastening nails, and would have done so had they not taken the precaution of securing Him with cords and ropes, which, though preventing the Body from falling from the cross, in no way mitigated the pain caused by the nails. The shock draws a moan of anguish from the Sufferer that finds a responsive sigh in the heart of the sorrowful mother. Now the cross stands erect and around it circle the priests and rulers. At first sight of the Victim thus tortured they stand aghast; the suffering seems too terrible even for their ‘hatred towards Him. Then one, more callous than the rest, cries out: ” Behold Him now; look upon the man who dared denounce your priests: He spoke of us as whitened sepulchers, as blind leaders of the blind, for us He had no words but words of censure. Gaze upon Him now and ask: who is the false teacher, who the seducer of the people?” “Oh, yes,” they say, “He is a king; behold His crown,” for they had placed the crown of thorns on His head. ” Gaze upon His throne; it stands on high that all may see it, all view the king. No danger of Him losing His throne; for, behold, we have fastened Him to it with nails.”
Even the most degraded and depraved are softened at the approach of death, and it is only the most savage that will not do all in his power to assuage the agony of the dying. How act the persecutors of Jesus? The people stood beholding and the Rulers with them deride Him, saying: “He saved others; let him save himself.” And mocking they say: “If he be king of Israel, let him come down from the cross, and we will believe him.” Boldly they pass and repass in front of Him, challenging Him, and calling on Him now to prove that He is the Son of God. “Come down from the cross,” they say, ” and we will believe you.” Proof after proof have they had of His wonderful power. “He hath done all things well,” had been the verdict of those who had witnessed His works. Again and again the people said: “His words, like His works, are evidently from God, for no man ever spoke as He speaks.” Hearing the people thus speak of Him, the Priests were filled with envy. Will they then believe in Him if He should give the proof they now ask if He come down from the cross? Well does He know the perversity of their hearts, and fully does He understand that even if He should give this last proof they would still repudiate Him. What an insult in being compelled to hear them thus boasting. “Do you hear, O Jesus of Nazareth–do you mark our words, O Galilean; come down from the cross and we will believe in you; nay, we will lead all the people to you, and in you shall all Judea believe. Where is now your boasted power; you, who said ‘destroy this temple and in three days I will build it’? You a miracle worker? Yes, a miracle worker among the ignorant. Now satisfy us, the Rulers; satisfy us by a miracle, by one that shall redound to your own benefit; come down from the cross and we, priests and leaders of Israel, will become your disciples, and your followers shall be limited only by the confines of Israel, for we will compel all to acknowledge You.” “Vah,” they say, “He said He was greater than Abraham, more powerful than Moses, and proclaimed Himself more than a prophet. Let Him give evidence of that power, give proof of that greatness, and we will believe Him.”
Truly was there blasphemy in the very shadow of the cross. “They that passed by blasphemed him, wagging their heads.” “He spoke of His trust in God; let God now deliver Him and we will believe,” they cry out. To the taunts of the priests are added the insults of the soldiers, who, in derision, say: “If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.” No taunt more stinging than that which glories in failure, either real or fancied; and how they rejoice in the apparent failure of this Man, how sarcastically they remind Him of the power of which He seemed to boast, and of His present helplessness!
Behold, in the midst of their exultation the priests receive a humiliation. Pilate has ordered that the cause of His death be proclaimed; has ordered that an inscription be placed above Him on the cross. In Latin, Greek, and Hebrew it is written, the three principal languages of the time. And what do they read? “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” “No, no,” say the Rulers, ” not this; write that he said he was King’ of the Jews.” “What I have written, I have written.” In other words, “It shall remain as inscribed,” curtly answers the Governor, and thus they are compelled to acknowledge that they have crucified their King. “We will have no King but Caesar,” they cried out in the Praetorium, and now, on Calvary, they must perforce acknowledge Him as a lineal descendant of the Royal House of David. While protesting against this and while circulating about the cross, belching forth insults and blasphemies, the priests are amazed on hearing His voice on the cross.
Have you ever reflected on the silence of Jesus during the time of His suffering? From the Hall of Judgment until He reaches Calvary He speaks only to the weeping women He met on the way. In all His tortures He asks neither for surcease of suffering nor appeals for sympathy, and His words to the weeping women are more in the nature of an encouragement to them than a begging of consolation for self. At last He breaks the silence, and what is the purport of His words? Will He now sue for clemency? ” Hearken,” say the bystanders, “He speaks”; and they hear the voice of the Son of Man appealing to the Eternal Father and asking what?–that He would visit upon His persecutors the vengeance their crime merits? No. Can it be possible? “Father! forgive them, they know not what they do,” the sweet voice of the dying Jesus on the cross floats down the hill of Calvary, and those within hearing are filled with astonishment. Will not this supreme act of clemency, this unheard-of voice of charity, have some effect on His prosecutors? Even one dying with Him is not moved, but in blasphemous derision says: “If thou be the Son of God, if thou be the Christ, save thyself and us.” The other reviles not, but rebukes his companion by saying: “We die justly, this man unjustly.” He turns to Jesus and adds: “Lord, remember me when thou shalt enter into thy kingdom.” And oh, the reward for this act of sympathy! “This day thou shalt be with me in paradise.” Seven words, that is, seven times according to spiritual writers. He spoke from the cross. Without trying to follow these words in sequence, we shall briefly consider them as found in the Gospels.
Looking down from the cross, He sees His sorrowing Mother and the beloved disciple. To the Mother He says: “Woman, behold thy son,” and to the disciple: ” Son, behold thy mother.” At that moment, as we saw in our last meditation. He infused into her heart a mother’s love for each and every child of earth, a love more tender than earthly mother could have for earthly child. Think you she will ever forget this which may be termed the last Will and Testament of her dying Son? A dark cloud now envelops Calvary, and filled with fear the priests and many of the people, singly and in groups, leave the hallowed spot.
From out the darkness the voice of the dying Lord is heard: “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabacthani,” which being interpreted is: “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? ” Many interpretations are given of these words, which, the Scripture says, were uttered in a loud voice. Knowing as we do that by the Incarnation the two natures, divine and human, of our Lord are hypo-statically united, and that not even by death can the humanity be separated from the divinity, we can only listen to these words and admire them. According to some commentators He speaks merely as man, and as man suffered this abandonment: even as we heard Him last night in the garden cry out: “Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass by; yet not my will but Thine be done.” In what did the abandonment consist? In the fact that He not only, at that moment, though innocence itself, felt the weight of the sins of the world, and as one bearing these sins experienced the torments of the damned; but in a manner no tongue may explain the divinity allowed the humanity to undergo the pain of loss that comes to the soul when it hears those awful words: ” Depart from me, ye accursed,” etc. Whatever the import of the words, we know they were wrenched from a soul plunged into the deepest abyss of suffering. Thinking He called Elias, one standing by said: “Let us see if Elias will come to His aid,” while others, some friendly, many unfriendly, awaited with bated breath the next scene in this awful drama.
Once more the voice of the Sufferer is heard, as consumed with agony He cries out, “I thirst.” We wonder not that His pain-racked and fevered body was tortured with thirst. Neither food nor drink had been given Him from the time He left the Cenacle the night before, and during that time He had lost much blood and poor human nature had been worn out by the trials to which He had been subjected. This, however, was not the thirst of which He complained; rather, the thirst for souls, especially the souls of those who encompassed His death as well as of those who by that death would not profit. It was also to atone for the sins we commit in indulging our sensual appetites. One of the soldiers dips a sponge in vinegar and, placing it upon a reed, lifts it to the swollen lips of the Victim on the cross.
When Jesus had tasted the vinegar, He said, “It is consummated.”
“It is consummated.” The work for which I came to earth is finished, the work of the Eternal Father. The redemption of man is now effected; nothing remains to be done; hence, saying in a loud voice: ” Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” He bows His head and gives up the ghost. ” He bows his head,” says a holy writer, ” thus giving death permission to approach, and dies.” “It is consummated.” Some time before He had said to His disciples: “I have a baptism wherein I am to be baptized, and how I am constrained until it be accomplished.” This is the baptism of which He spoke, and mark how it has been accomplished; baptized in His own blood, shed freely, shed willingly for the redemption of the world. Now the absolute reign of sin is at an end and the desolation brought on earth by man’s rebellion in the Garden of Eden is changed into the reign of grace by the consummation of the sacrifice which began in the Garden of Gethsemani. Not merely has justice been satisfied; not only has the debt incurred by sin been paid; not only has the reconciliation of man with God been effected, but enough has been done to draw the hearts of men to their God, and to infuse into those hearts a hope and a security, a certainty of salvation that the powers of evil can never dim, much less take away from man. Crying out with a loud voice, a voice heard not only on Calvary, but heard throughout the world, heard throughout Heaven, heard even in the uttermost depths of hell, He bows His head and gives up the Spirit. A cry, says another holy writer, of pain and a cry of joy. Of pain, because of death; for though on account of the hypo-static union the Divine nature will never be separated from the human nature (death is the separation of the soul from the body), yet death did separate the Divine nature from His manhood, that is from His composite human nature–from His Body and Soul united. Hence St. Thomas says: “During the time of death He was not a man; during His days in the grave He was not God-Man.” To understand this mystery, which is one of the five principal mysteries of our Holy Religion, we must remember that death is not a separation of the two natures of Christ, but is the separation of the soul from the body. On account of this hypo-static union of the two natures we, as we have seen, truly say: God died for man.
A cry of joy because victory has been gained and in that victory both Heaven and earth rejoice. “It is consummated,” and the first fruit of that consummation is found in the act of faith made by the Centurion at the foot of the Cross: “Indeed this was the Son of God.”
Now, behold, all nature protests against the outrage perpetrated by man on nature’s God. The sun is darkened, the earth trembles, the veil of the Temple is rent in twain, and graves are opened, from which many of the saints who were at rest came out and after the Resurrection appeared to many in Jerusalem. His enemies, solicitous for the letter of the law, go to Pilate and “that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the Sabbath Day ” ask permission to cause the deaths of the three crucified. They break the legs of the two; but when they come to Jesus, the Centurion (Longinus) says: “You shall not in your hatred pursue Him farther. Can you not see that He is dead? You have had your wishes to the full.” To satisfy them, rather than to save the Body, He opens the side with his spear and thence comes blood and water. First blood, then water, to show that the last drop of His Blood had been shed for the redemption of man.
With Pilate’s permission the body is taken down from the cross and placed in a grave, made for the burial of Joseph of Arimathea, so that, even for His last resting place on earth, the dead Jesus depends on the charity of another.
With Jesus we have now been during the time of His Passion, and having witnessed in spirit all that has been done for us for our redemption, we might ask, What shall we do to show our appreciation of this manifestation of love? What does He ask? Simply that we return love for the love that He has shown. This we do, not only by sympathizing with Him in His sufferings, but by hating, detesting, and avoiding sin; for, as we have seen, though love was the cause, sin gave the occasion for the Passion, –not merely the sins of mankind, but our sins. With feelings, then, of reciprocal love we will go to Calvary, and gazing on that bloody portrait of charity we will bewail our sins, and from hearts burning with love will say, “Mercy, my Jesus, mercy!”
1. Matt xxvii. 50; Mark xv. 37; Luke xxiii. 46; John xix. 30.
2. Heb. ii. 10, 14, 15.
3. Luke xiii. 32, 33.
4. Isaias liii. 7.
5. John xviii. 5.
6. John x. 17, 18.
7. Matt. xxvii. 60; Mark xv. 46; Luke xxiii. 53; John xix. 38.
8. Ps. xv. 10; Acts ii. 31.
9. Philip, ii. 10.
10. Acts ii. 24.
12. Apoc. xxi. 27.
11. C. of Trent, sess. 25.
13. Ps. xv. 10.
14. Ps. Ixxxvii. 5, 6. 15. Luke xxiii. 43. 16. Osee xiii. 14.
17. Zach. ix. II. 18. Col. ii. 15.
19. Phil. ii. 10.