April 14, 2017: GOOD FRIDAY (Part III)
April 14, 2017: GOOD FRIDAY
Rank: Double of the I Class
(Part III - The Evening)
O! all ye that pass by the way, attend and see if there be sorrow like unto my sorrow.
(Lamentations, i. 12)
All they that passed by the way have clapped their hands at thee. They have hissed and wagged their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem.
(Lamentations, ii. 15)
An hour has scarcely elapsed since Jesus died, when a troop of soldiers, led on by a Centurion, come up the hill, breaking the silence with their tramp and voices. They are sent by Pilate. The Chief Priests lost no time in returning to the Governor’s house; and he, at their request, has sent these men to break the legs of the three Crucified, detach them from their crosses, and bury them before night. The Jews count the days of their week from sunset; so that the great Sabbath-day of the Parasceve is close upon them. The soldiers come to the Crosses; they begin with the two thieves, and put an end to their suffering and life by breaking their legs. Dimas dies in saintly dispositions, for the promise made to him by Jesus is his consolation: his companion dies blaspheming. The soldiers now advance towards Jesus, – Mary’s heart sinks within her: – what fresh outrage are these men about to offer to the lifeless and bleeding body of her Son? On inspection, they find that he is dead; but, that no doubt may be left, and no blame for neglect of orders fall upon them, one of the company raises up his spear and thrusts it into the right Side of the divine Victim, even to the Heart; and when he draws his spear out, there gushes forth a stream of Water and Blood. This is the fifth Blood-shedding, and the fifth Wound inflicted on our Jesus upon the Cross. The Church honours this mystery on the Feast of the Sacred Heart.
The soul of the Holy Mother is pierced by this cruel Spear; and they that are with her redouble their sobs and tears. How is this terrible day to end? Who shall take the Body of her Jesus from his Cross? Who will enable her to give it a last embrace? The soldiers return to the City, and with them Longinus, – he that pierced Jesus’ Side, but is already feeling within himself the workings of that faith, for which he is one day to lay down his life as a Martyr. But lo! Two other men are seen coming towards the Cross: they are not enemies, they are faithful Disciples of Jesus: one is the wealthy counsellor Joseph of Arimathea; the other is Nicodemus, a ruler among the Jews. Mary gratefully welcomes their arrival: they are come to take the body of Jesus from the Cross, and give it an honourable burial. They have the requisite authorization, for Pilate has given permission to Joseph to take the Body of Jesus (St. John, xix. 38).
They lose no time in doing so, for the sun is near to setting, and then begins the Sabbath. Within a few yards from where stands the Cross, at the foot of the hillock which forms the summit of Calvary, there is a garden, and in this garden a sepulchre cut into the rock. No one has yet been buried in this tomb. It is to be Jesus’ Sepulchre. Hither Joseph and Nicodemus carry the scared Body: they lay it upon a slab of stone, near to the Sepulchre. It is here that Mary receives into her arms the Body of her Jesus: she kisses each wound, and bathes it with her tears. John, Magdalene, and all that are present, compassionate the holy Mother. She resigns it into the hands of the two Disciples, for they have but a few moments left. Upon this slab, which, even to this day, is called the Stone of the Anointing, and designates the Thirteenth Station of the Way of the Cross, Joseph unfolds a piece of fine linen (St. Mark, xv. 46), and Nicodemus, whose servants have brought a hundred pound weight of myrrh and aloes (St. John, xix. 39), makes every arrangement for the embalming. They reverently wash the Body, for it was covered with Blood; they remove the Crown of Thorns from the Head; and, after embalming it with their perfumes, they wrap it in Winding-Sheet. Mary gives a last embrace to the remains of her Jesus, who is now hidden under these swathing-bands of the Tomb.
Joseph and Nicodemus take the Body into their arms, and enter the Seplulchre. It is the Fourteenth Station of the Way of the Cross. It consists of two open cells; it is into the one on the right hand that they enter, and there, in a cavity cut into the side of the rock, they lay the Body of Jesus. They then retire; and, with the assistance of their servants, they close up the entrance of the Sepulchre with a large square stone, which Pilate, at the request of the Jews, orders to be fastened with his own seal, and guarded by a patrol of soldiers.
The sun is just setting; the great Sabbath, with its severe legal prescriptions, is just about to begin. Magdalene and the other women carefully notice the place where Jesus’ Body has been laid, and return with all speed to Jerusalem, that they may have time to purchase and prepare a quantity of materials for a more careful embalming of the Body early in the Sunday morning, that is, immediately after the Sabbath is over. The Holy Mother takes a farewell look at the Tomb wherein lies her Jesus, and then follows the rest into the City. John, her adopted son, keeps close to her. He is the guardian of Her, who without ceasing to be the Mother of God, has been made, also, Mother of Men. But Oh! how much this second Maternity cost her! She was standing at the Foot of the Cross, seeing her Jesus die, when she received us as her children. Let us imitate St. John, and keep our Blessed Mother company during these trying hours which she has to pass before her Son is risen from the Grave.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Passiontide and Holy Week, Dublin, Edition 1870
To what shall I compare thee? Or to what shall I liken thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? To what
shall I equal thee, that I may comfort thee? for great as the sea is thy destruction.
(Lamentations, ii. 13)