Sunday
March 9, 2008
vol 19, no. 69

The Passion of Lent
by
Abbe Dom Prosper Gueranger

    Just as the holy Abbot provided the History, Mystery and Practice of Septuagesima and of Lent, so today we provide his reflections on Passiontide as he explains the History, Mystery and Practice of Passiontide. Our Lenten fasting and penance are but two weeks from completion. The incline now becomes much steeper and only those truly committed and contrite will persevere to Calvary. Now is the time to take up the shield of Faith to fend off the devil who will do all he can to distract us from our appointed goal. It means we must intensify our sufferings, self-mortifications and prayers. The more we can compassionate our Lord and His Most Sorrowful and Immaculate Mother, the more we can share in the joy and fruits of the Resurrection and totally disappoint and demoralize the devil.

      Editor's Note: Because of the spiritual importance of the Liturgical Season of Lent, we have decided to bring you excerpts for this season focusing today on the Passion of Lent as featured on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Passion Sunday and building towards the Lord's ultimate Passion throughout the week (the excerpts below are taken from Volume 6, pages 1-189). We have thus turned to the most traditional and practical Catholic source available, none other than the inspired and motivating words of the esteemed Abbot of Solesmes Dom Prosper Louis Pascal Gueranger, renowned for his masterful work The Liturgical Year, which is often considered the Summa for the Church's Liturgy in History, Mystery and Practice. It is in those areas that we feel it is important to address in order to help readers live as better Catholics in knowing, living, and applying their Faith to the fullest and giving to Christ and His Blessed Mother all that they can. Few capture the essence as this humble but brilliant abbot who is known simply as "the Gardener of the Canticles of Eternity."

    "The Synagogue is nigh to a curse. Obstinate in her error, she refuses to see or to hear; she has deliberately perverted her judgment: she has extinguished within herself the light of the holy Spirit; she will go deeper and deeper into evil and at length fall into the abyss. This same lamentable conduct is but too often witnessed nowadays in those sinners, who, by habitual resistance to the light, end by finding their happiness in sin. Neither should it surprise us, that we find in people of our own generation a resemblance to the murderers of our Jesus: the history of His Passion will reveal to us many sad secrets of the human heart and its perverse inclinations; for what happened in Jerusalem, happens also in every sinner's heart. His heart, according to the saying of St. Paul, is a Calvary, where Jesus is crucified. There is the same ingratitude, the same blindness, the same wild madness, with this difference: that the sinner who is enlightened by faith, knows Him whom he crucifies; whereas the Jews, as the same apostle tells us, knew whereas the Jews, as the same apostle tells us, knew not the Lord of glory...let us turn the indignation we feel against the Jews against ourselves and our own sins; let us weep over the sufferings of our Victim, for our sins caused Him to suffer and die."

The History of Passiontide

    After having proposed the forty-days' fast of Jesus in the desert to the meditation of the faithful during the first four weeks of Lent, the holy Church gives the two weeks which still remain before Easter to the commemoration of the Passion. She would not have her children come to that great day of the immolation of the Lamb, without having prepared for it by compassionating with Him in the sufferings He endured in their stead.

    The most ancient sacramentaries and antiphonaries of the several Churches attest, by the prayers, the lessons, and the whole liturgy of these two weeks, that the Passion of Our Lord is now the one sole thought of the Christian world. During Passion week, a saint's feast, if it occur, will be kept, but Passion Sunday admits no feast, however solemn it may be; and even on those which are kept during the days intervening between Passion and Palm Sunday, there is always made a commemoration of the Passion, and the holy images are not allowed to be uncovered.

    We cannot give any historical details upon the first of these two weeks; its ceremonies and rites have always been the same as those of the four preceding ones. (1)- {It would be out of place to enter here on a discussion with regard to the name Mediana, under which title we find Passion Sunday mentioned both in ancient liturgies and in Canon Law.} We, therefore, refer the reader to the following chapter, in which we treat of the mysteries peculiar to Passiontide. The second week, on the contrary, furnishes us with abundant historical details; for there is no portion of the liturgical year which has interested the Christian world so much as this, or which has given rise to such fervent manifestations of piety.

    This week was held in great veneration even as early as the third century, as we learn from St. Denis, bishop of Alexandria, who lived at that time.(2)-{Epist. Ad Basilidem, Canon i.} In the following century, we find St. John Chrysostom, calling it the great week (3)-{Hom. Xxx in Genes.} 'Not,' says the holy doctor, 'that it has more days in it than other weeks, or that its days are made up of more hours than other days; but we call it great, because of the great mysteries which are then celebrated.' We find it called also by other names: the painful week (hebdomada paenosa), on account of the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ, And of the fatigue required from us in celebrating them; the week of indulgence, because sinners are then received to penance; and, lastly, Holy Week, in allusion to the holiness of the mysteries which are commemorated during these seven days. This last name is the one under which it themselves are, in many countries, called by the same name. Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Good Friday. Holy Saturday.

    The severity of the lenten fast is increased during these its last days; the whole energy of the spirit of penance is now brought out. Even with us, the dispensation which allows the use of eggs ceases towards the middle of this week. The eastern Churches, faithful to their ancient traditions, have kept up a most rigorous abstinence ever since the Monday of Quinquagesima week. During the whole of this long period, which they call Xerophagia, they have been allowed nothing but dry food. In the early ages, fasting during Holy Week was carried to the utmost limits that human nature could endure. We learn from St. Epiphanius, (1)-{Expositio fidei, ix Haeres. Xxii} that there were some of the Christians who observed a strict fast from Monday morning to cock-crow of Easter Sunday. Of course it must have been very few of the faithful who could go so far as this. Many passed two, three, and even four consecutive days, without tasting any food; but the general practice was to fast from Maundy Thursday evening to Easter morning. Many Christians in the east, and in Russia, observe this fast even in these times. Would that such severe penance were always accompanied by a firm faith and union with the Church, out of which the merit of such penitential works is of no avail for salvation!

    Another of the ancient practices of Holy Week were the long hours spent, during the night, in the churches. On Maundy Thursday, after having celebrated the divine mysteries in remembrance of the Last Supper, the faithful continued a long time in prayer.(2)-{St. John Chrysostom, Hom. Xxx in Genes.} The night between Friday and Saturday was spent in almost uninterrupted vigil, in honor of our Lord's burial. (3)- {St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech. xviii.} But the longest of all these vigils was that of Saturday, which was kept up till Easter Sunday morning. The whole congregation joined in it; they assisted at the final preparation of the catechumens, as also at the administration of Baptism; nor did they leave the church until after the celebration of the holy Sacrifice, which was not over till sunrise. (1)- {Const. Apost. Lib. i. cap. xviii.}

    Cessation from servile work was, for a long time, an obligation during Holy Week. The civil law united with that of the church in order to bring about this solemn rest from toil and business, which so eloquently expresses the state of mourning of the Christian world. The thought of the sufferings and death of Jesus was the one pervading thought: the Divine Offices and prayer were the sole occupation of the people: and, indeed, all the strength of the body was needed for the support of the austerities of fasting and abstinence. We can readily understand what an impression was made upon men's minds, during the whole of the rest of the year, by this universal suspension of the ordinary routine of life. Moreover, when we call to mind how, for five full weeks, the severity of Lent had waged war on the sensual appetites, we can imagine the simple and honest joy wherewith was welcomed the feast of Easter, which brought both the regeneration of the soul, and respite to the body.

    In the preceding volume, we mentioned the laws of the Theodosian Code, which forbade all law business during the forty days preceding Easter. This law of Gratian and Theodosius, which was published in 380, was extended by Theodosius in 389; this new decree forbade all pleadings during the seven days before, and the seven days after, Easter. We meet with several allusions to this then recent law, in the homilies of St. John Chrysostom, and in the sermons of St. Augustine. In virtue of this decree, each of these fifteen days was considered, as far as the courts of law were concerned, as a Sunday.

    But Christian princes were not satisfied with the mere suspension of human justice during these days, which are so emphatically days of mercy; they would, moreover, pay homage, by an external act, to the fatherly goodness of God, who has deigned to pardon a guilty world, through the merits of the death of His Son. The Church was on the point of giving reconciliation to repentant sinners, who had broken the chains of sin whereby they were held captives; Christian princes were ambitious to imitate this their mother, and they ordered that prisoners should be loosened from their chains, that the prisons should be thrown open, and that freedom should be restored to those who had fallen under the sentence of human tribunals. The only exception made was that of criminals whose freedom would have exposed their families or society to great danger. The name of Theodosius stands prominent in these acts of mercy. We are told by St. John Chrysostom (1)-{Homil. In magn. Hebdom. Homil. Xxx. In Genes. Homil. Vi ad popul. Antioch.} that this emperor sent letters of pardon to the several cities, ordering the release of prisoners, and granting life to those that had been condemned to death, and all this in order to sanctify the days preceding the Easter fest. The last emperors made a law of this custom, as we find in one of St. Leo's sermons, where he thus speaks of their clemency: 'The Roman emperors have long observed this holy practice. In honor of our Lord's Passion and Resurrection, they humbly withhold the exercise of their sovereign justice, and, laying aside the severity of their laws, they grant pardon to a great number of criminals. Their intention in this is to imitate the divine goodness by their own exercise of clemency during these days, when the world owes its salvation to the divine mercy. Let, then, the Christian people imitate their princes, and let the example of Kings induce subjects to forgive each other their private wrongs; for, surely, it is absurd that private laws should be less unrelenting than those which are public. Let trespasses be forgiven, let bonds be taken off, let offences be forgotten, let revenge be stifled; that thus the sacred feast may, by both divine and human favors, find us all happy and innocent.'(1)- {Sermon xl. De Quadragesima, ii.}

    This Christian amnesty was not confined to the Theodosian Code; we find traces of it in the laws of several of our western countries. We may mention France as an example. Under the first race of its kings, St. Eligius bishop of Noyon, in a sermon for Maundy Thursday, thus expresses himself: 'On this day, when the Church grants indulgences to penitents and absolution to sinners magistrates, also, relent in their severity and grant pardon to the guilty. Throughout the whole world prisons are thrown open; princes show clemency to criminals; masters forgive their slaves.'(2)- {Sermon x.} Under the second race, we learn from the Capitularia of Charlemagne, that bishops had a right to exact from the judges, for the love of Jesus Christ (as it is expressed), that prisoners should be set free on the days preceding Easter;(3) (We learn from the same capitularia, that this privilege was also extended to Christmas and Pentecost) and should the magistrates refuse to obey, the bishops could refuse them admission into the church. (4)- {Capitular. Lib. vi.} And lastly, under the third race, we find Charles VI, after quelling the rebellion at Rouen, giving orders, later on, that the prisoners should be set at liberty, because it was Painful Week, and very near to the Easter feast.(1)-{Jean Juvenal des Ursins, year 1382}

    A last vestige of this merciful legislation was a custom observed by the parliament of Paris. The ancient Christian practice of suspending its sessions during the whole of Lent, had long been abolished: it was not till the Wednesday of Holy Week that the house was closed, which it continued to be from that day until after Low Sunday. On the Tuesday of Holy Week, which was the last day granted for audiences, the parliament repaired to the palace prisons, and there one of the grand presidents, generally the last installed, held a session of the house. The prisoners were questioned; but, without any formal judgment, all those whose case seemed favorable, or who were not guilty of some capital offence, were set at liberty.

    The revolutions of the last eighty years have produced in every country in Europe the secularization of society, that is to say, the effacing from our national customs and legislation of everything which had been introduced by the supernatural element of Christianity. The favorite theory of the last half century or more, has been that all men are equal. The people of the ages of faith had something far more convincing than theory, of the sacredness of their rights. At the approach of those solemn anniversaries which so forcibly remind us of the justice and mercy of God, they beheld princes abdicating, as it were their scepter, leaving in God's hands the punishment of the guilty, and assisting at the holy Table of Paschal Communion side by side with those very men, whom, a few days before, they had been keeping chained in prison for the good of society. There was one thought, which, during these days, was strongly brought before all nations: it was the thought of God, in Whose eyes all men are sinners; of God, from Whom alone proceed justice and pardon. It was in consequence of this deep Christian feeling, that we find so many diplomas and charts of the ages of faith speaking of the days of Holy Week as being the Reign of Christ: such an event, they say, happened on such a day, 'under the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ:' regnate Domino nostro Jesu Christo.

    When these days of holy and Christian equality were over, did subjects refuse submission to their sovereigns? Did they abuse the humility of their princes, and take occasion for drawing up what modern times call the rights of man? No: that same thought which had inspired human justice to humble itself before the cross of Jesus, taught the people their duty of obeying the powers established by God. The exercise of power, and submission to that power, both had God for their motive. They who wielded the scepter might be of various dynasties: the respect for authority was ever the same. Now-a-days, the liturgy has none of her ancient influence on society; religion has been driven from the world at large, and her only life and power is now with the consciences of individuals; and as to political institutions, they are but the expression of human pride, seeking to command, or refusing to obey.

    And yet the fourth century, which, in virtue of the Christian spirit, produced the laws we have been alluding to, was still rife with the pagan element. How comes it that we, who live in the full light of Christianity, can give the name of progress to a system which tends to separate society from everything that is supernatural? Men may talk as they please, there is but one way to secure order, peace, morality, and security to the world; and that is God's way, the way of faith, of living in accordance with the teachings and the spirit of faith. All other systems can, at best, but flatter those human passions, which are so strongly at variance with the mysteries of our Lord Jesus Christ, which we are now celebrating.

    We must mention another law made by the Christian emperors in reference to Holy Week. If the spirit of charity, and a desire to imitate divine mercy, led them to decree the liberation of prisoners; it was but acting consistently with these principles, that, during these days when our Savior shed His Blood for the emancipation of the human race, they should interest themselves in what regards slaves. Slavery, a consequence of sin, and the fundamental institution of the pagan world, had received its death-blow by the preaching of the Gospel; but its gradual abolition was left to individuals, and to their practical exercise of the principle of Christian fraternity. As our Lord and His apostles had not exacted the immediate abolition of slavery, so, in like manner, the Christian emperors limited themselves to passing such laws as would give encouragement to its gradual abolition. We have an example of this in the Justinian Code, where this prince, after having forbidden all law-proceedings during Holy Week and the week following, lays down the following exception: 'It shall, nevertheless, be permitted to give slaves their liberty; in such manner, that the legal acts necessary for their emancipation shall not be counted as contravening this present enactment.'(1)-{Cod. Lib. iii. Tit. xii. De feriis. Leg. 8} This charitable law of Justinian was but applying to the fifteen days of Easter the decree passed by Constantine, which forbade all legal proceedings on the Sundays throughout the year, excepting only such acts as had for their object the emancipation of slaves.

    But long before the peace given her by Constantine, the Church had made provision for slaves, during these days when the mysteries of the world's redemption were accomplished. Christian masters were obliged to grant them total rest from labor during this holy fortnight. Such is the law laid down in the apostolic constitutions, which were compiled previously to the fourth century. 'During the great week preceding the day of Easter, and during the week that follows, slaves rest from labor, inasmuch as the first is the week of our Lord's Passion and the second is that of His Resurrection; and the slaves require to be instructed upon these mysteries.'(1)-{Constit. Apost. Lib. viii. Cap. xxxiii.}

    Another characteristic of the two weeks, upon which we are now entering, is that of giving more abundant alms, And of greater fervor in the exercise of works of mercy. St. John Chrysostom assures us that such was the practice of his times; he passes an encomium on the faithful, many of whom redoubled, at this period, their charities to the poor, which they did out of this motive: that they might, in some slight measure, imitate the divine generosity, which is now so unreservedly pouring out its graces on sinners. (page 1-10, The Liturgical Year, Chapter 6)

The Mystery of Passiontide

    The holy liturgy is rich in mystery during these days of the Church's celebrating the anniversaries of so many wonderful events; but as the principal part of these mysteries is embodied in the rites and ceremonies of the respective days, we shall give our explanations according as the occasion presents itself. Our object in the present chapter, is to say a few words respecting the general character of the mysteries of these two weeks...

    The army of Christ's faithful children is still fighting against the invisible enemies of man's salvation; they are still vested in their spiritual armor, and, aided by the angels of light, they are struggling hand to hand with the spirits of darkness, by compunction of heart and by mortification of the flesh...(page 11)

    They [people] cannot contain their feelings: Jesus enters Jerusalem, and they welcome Him as their King. The high priests and princes of the people are alarmed at this demonstration of feeling; they have no time to lose; they are resolved to destroy Jesus. We are going to assist at their impious conspiracy: the Blood of the just Man is to be sold, and the price put on it is thirty silver pieces. The divine Victim, betrayed by one of His disciples, is to be judged, condemned, and crucified...(page 12)

    Hitherto she [the Church] has been weeping over the sins of her children; now she bewails the death of her divine Spouse. The joyous Alleluia has long since been hushed in her canticles; she is now going to suppress another expression, which seems too glad for a time like the present...(page 13)

    The presentiment of that awful hour leads the afflicted mother to veil the image of her Jesus: the cross is hidden from the eyes of the faithful. The statues of the saints, too, are covered; for it is but just that, if the glory of the Master be eclipsed, the servant should not appear. The interpreters of the liturgy tell us that this ceremony of veiling the crucifix during Passiontide, expresses the humiliation to which our Savior subjected Himself, of hiding Himself when the Jews threatened to stone Him, as is related in the Gospel of Passion Sunday...(page 14)

The Practice of Passiontide

    The past four weeks seems to have been but a preparation for the intense grief of the Church during these two. She knows that men are in search of her Jesus, and that they are bent on His death. Before twelve days are over, she will see them lay their sacrilegious hands upon Him. She will have to follow Him up the hill of Calvary; she will have to receive His last breath; she must witness the stone placed against the sepulcher where His lifeless Body is laid. We cannot, therefore, be surprised at her inviting all her children to contemplate, during these weeks, Him Who is the object of all her love and all her sadness...

    He, Himself, when going up to Calvary, said to the holy women who had the courage to show their compassion even before His very executioners: 'Weep not over Me; but weep for yourselves and for your children' (1)-{St. Luke xxiii. 28} It was not that He refused the tribute of their tears, for He was pleased with this proof of their affection; but it was His love for them that made His speak thus. He desired above all to see them appreciate the importance of what they were witnessing, and learn from it how inexorable is God's justice against sin...(page 15)

    The pervading character of the prayers and rites of these two weeks, is a profound grief at seeing the just One persecuted by His enemies even to death, and an energetic indignation against the deicides. The formulas, expressive of these two feelings are, for the most part, taken from David and the Prophets. Here, it is our Savior Himself, disclosing to us the anguish of His soul; there, it is the Church pronouncing the most terrible anathemas upon the executioners of Jesus. The chastisement that is to befall the Jewish nation is prophesied in all its frightful details; and on the last three days we shall hear the prophet Jeremias uttering his lamentations over the faithless city. The Church does not aim at exciting idle sentiment; what she principally seeks, is to impress the hearts of her children with a salutary fear. If Jerusalem's crime strike them with horror, and if they feel that they have partaken in her sin, their tears will flow in abundance.

    Let us, therefore, do our utmost to receive these strong impressions, too little known, alas! by the superficial piety of these times. Let us reflect upon the love and affection of the Son of God, who has treated His creatures with such unlimited confidence, lived their own life, spent His three and thirty years amidst them, not only humbly and peaceably, but in going about doing good.(1)-{Acts x 38} And now this life of kindness, condescension, and humility, is to be cut short by the disgraceful death, which none but slaves endured: the death of the cross. Let us consider, on the one side, this sinful people, who, having no crimes to lay to Jesus' charge, accuse Him of His benefits, and carry their detestable ingratitude to such a pitch as to shed the Blood of this innocent and divine Lamb; and then, let us turn to this Jesus, the Just by excellence, and see Him become a prey to every bitterest suffering: His Soul sorrowful even unto death;(2)-{St. Matt. xxvi. 38} weighed down by the malediction of our sins; drinking even to the very dregs the chalice He so humbly asks His Father to take from Him; and lastly, let us listen to His dying words: 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?'(3)-{Ibid. xxvii. 46} This it is that fills the Church with her immense grief; that it is that she proposes for our consideration; for she knows that, if we once rightly understood the sufferings of her Jesus, our attachments to sin must needs be broken, for, by sin, we make ourselves guilty of the crime we detest in these Jews...(page 17)

    In listening to what the Church now speaks to us we cannot but tremble as we recall to mind those other words of the same apostle: How much more, think ye, doth he deserve worse punishment, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath esteemed the Blood of the testament unclean, (as though it were some vile thing), by which he was sanctified, and hath offered an affront to the Spirit of grace? For we now Him that hath said: 'Vengeance belongeth to Me, and I will repay.' And again: 'The Lord shall judge His people.' It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.(2)-{Heb. vi. 29-31}... Considerations such as these - the justice of God towards the most innocent and august of victims, and the punishments that befell the impenitent Jews - must surely destroy within us every affection to sin, for they will create within us that salutary fear which is the solid foundation of firm hope and tender love.(page 18)

    Why did He [the Father] deliver up unto death this His tenderly beloved Son? Was it not that He might regain us, the children whom He had lost? We had become, by our sins, the possession of satan; hell had undoubted claims upon us; and, lo! We have been suddenly snatched from both, and all our primitive rights have been restored to us. Yet God used no violence in order to deliver from our enemy; how comes it then, that we are now free? ...This divine Blood was placed in the scales of God's Justice, and so far did it outweigh our iniquities as to make the bias in our favor. The power of this Blood has broken the very gates of hell, severed our chains, and made peace both as to the things on earth, and the things that are in heaven. (1)-{Coloss. i. 20} Let us receive upon us, therefore, this precious Blood, wash our wounds in it, and sign our foreheads with it as with an indelible mark, which may protect us on the day of wrath, from the sword of vengeance... (page 19-20)

    An adoring gratitude towards the Blood that has redeemed us, and a loving veneration of the holy cross - these are the two sentiments which are to be uppermost in our hearts during these two weeks...(page 20)

    Yes, we will be His faithful companions during these last days of His mortal life, when He submits to the humiliation of having to hide Himself from His enemies. We will envy the lot of those devoted few, who shelter Him in their houses, and expose themselves, by this courageous hospitality, to the rage of His enemies. We will compassionate His Mother, who suffered an anguish that no other heart could feel, because no other creature could love Him as she did. We will go, in spirit, into that mot hated Sanhedrin, where they are laying the impious plot against the life of the just One. Suddenly we shall see a bright speck gleaming on the dark horizon; the streets and squares of Jerusalem will re-echo with the cry of homage paid to our Jesus, those palm branches, those shrill voices of admiring Hebrew children, will give a momentary truce to our sad forebodings. Our love shall make us take part in the loyal tribute thus paid to the King of Israel, who comes so meekly to visit the daughter of Sion, as the prophet had foretold He would: but alas! This joy will be short-lived, and we must speedily relapse into our deep sorrow of soul!

    The traitorous disciple will soon strike his bargain with the high priests; the last Pasch will be kept, and we shall see the figurative lamb give place to the true one, whose Flesh will become our food, and His Blood our drink. It will be our Lord's Supper. Clad in the nuptial robe, we will take our place there, together with the disciples; for that day is the day of reconciliation, which brings together, to the same holy Table, both the penitent sinner, and the just that has been faithful. Then, we shall have to turn our steps towards the fatal garden, where we shall learn what sin is, for we shall behold our Jesus agonizing beneath its weight, and asking some respite from His eternal Father. Then, in the dark hour of midnight, the servants of the high priests and the soldiers, led on by the vile Iscariot, will lay their impious hands on the Son of God; and yet the legions of angels, who adore Him, will be withheld from punishing the awful sacrilege! After this, we shall have to repair to the various tribunals; whither Jesus is led, and witness the triumph of injustice. The time that elapses between His being seized in the garden and His having to carry His cross up the hill of Calvary, will be filled up with the incidents of His mock trial-lies, calumnies, the wretched cowardice of the Roma governor, the insults of the by-standers, and the cries of the ungrateful populace thirsting for innocent Blood! We shall be present at all these things; our love will not permit us to separate ourselves from that dear Redeemer, who is to suffer them for our sake, for our salvation.

    Finally, after seeing Him struck and spit upon, and after the cruel scourging and the frightful insult of the crown of thorns, we will follow our Jesus up Mount Calvary; we shall know when His sacred feet have trod by the Blood that marks the road. We shall have to make our way through the crowd, and, as we pass, we shall bear terrible imprecations uttered against our divine Master. Having reached the place of execution, we shall behold this august Victim stripped of His garment, bailed to the cross, hoisted into the air, as if the better to expose Him to insult! We will draw near to the tree of life, that we may lose neither one drop of that Blood which flows for the cleansing of the world, nor one single word spoken, for its instruction, by our dying Jesus. We will compassionate His Mother, whose heart is pierced through with a sword of sorrow; we will stand close to her, when her Son, a few moments before His death, shall consign us to her fond care. After His three hours' agony, we will reverently watch His sacred Head bow down, and receive, with adoring love, His last breath.

    A bruised and mangled corpse, stiffened by the cold of death - this is all that remains to us of that Son of Man, whose first coming into the world caused us such joy! The Son of the eternal Father was not satisfied with emptying Himself and taking the form of a servant;( 1)-{Phil. Ii. 7} this His being born in the flesh was but the beginning of His sacrifice; His love was to lead Him even unto death, even to the death of the cross. He foresaw that He would not win our love save at the price of such a generous immolation, and His heart hesitated not to make it. 'Let us, therefore, love God,' says St. John, 'because God first loved us.'(2)- {St, John iv. 19} This is the end the Church proposes to herself by the celebration of these solemn anniversaries. After humbling our pride and our resistance to grace by showing us how divine justice treats sin, she leads our hearts to love Jesus, who delivered Himself up, in our stead, to the rigors of that justice. Woe to us, if this great week fail to produce in our souls a just return towards Him who loved us more than Himself, though we were, and had made ourselves, His enemies. Let us say with the apostle: 'The charity of Christ presseth us; that they who live, may not now live to themselves, but unto Him who died for them.'(3)-{2 Cor. V 14, 15} We owe this return to Him who made Himself a Victim for our sake, and who, up to the very last moment, instead of pronouncing against us the curse we so justly deserved, prayed and obtained for us mercy and grace. He is, one day, to reappear on the clouds of Heaven, and as the prophet says, men shall look upon Him whom they have pierced. (1)- {Zach. Xii. 10} God grant that we may be of the number of those who, having made amends by their love for the crimes they have committed against the divine Lamb, will then find confidence at the sight of those wounds!(page 21-24)

    ...The death of Jesus puts the whole of nature in commotion; the midday sun in darkened, the earth is shaken to its very foundations, the rocks are split: may it be that our hearts, too, be moved, and pass from indifference to fear, from fear to hope, and, at length, from hope to love; so that, having gone down with our Crucified to the very depths of sorrow, we may deserve to rise again with Him unto light and joy, beaming with the brightness of His Resurrection, and having within ourselves the pledge of a new life, which shall then die no more! (page 24)

The Message of Passiontide

    "If today you shall hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts." [Matins]
    The sweet voice of your suffering Jesus now speaks to you, poor sinners! Be no your own enemies by indifference and hardness of heart. The Son of God is about to give you the last and greatest proof of the love that brought Him down from Heaven; His death is nigh at hand: men are preparing the wood for the immolation of the new Isaac: enter into ourselves, and let not your hearts, after being touched with grace, return to their former obduracy; for nothing could be more dangerous. The great anniversaries we are to celebrate have a renovating power for those souls that faithfully correspond with the grace which is offered them; but they increase insensibility in those who let them pass without working their conversion. Today, therefore, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your heart!

    ...His [Jesus] very presence irritates them [His enemies]. And it is evident that any little circumstance will suffice to bring the deep and long-nurtured hatred to a head. The kind and gentle manners of Jesus are drawing to Him all hearts that are simple and upright; at the same time, the humble life He leads, and the stern purity of His doctrines, are perpetual sources of vexation and anger, both to the proud Jew that looks forward to the Messias being a mighty conqueror, and to the pharisees, who corrupts the Law of God, that he may make it the instrument of his own base passions. Still, Jesus goes on working miracles; His discourses are more than ever energetic; His prophecies foretell the falloff Jerusalem, and such a destruction of its famous temple, that not a stone is to be left on a stone. The doctors of the Law should, at least, reflect upon what they hear; they should examine these wonderful works, which render such strong testimony in favor of the Son of David; and they should consult those divine prophecies which, up to the present time, have been so literally fulfilled in His person. Alas! They themselves are about to carry them out to the very last iota. There is not a single outrage or suffering foretold by David and Isaias, as having to be put upon the Messias, which these blind men are not scheming to verify.(pages 104-105)

    ...The Synagogue is nigh to a curse. Obstinate in her error, she refuses to see or to hear; she has deliberately perverted her judgment: she has extinguished within herself the light of the holy Spirit; she will go deeper and deeper into evil and at length fall into the abyss. This same lamentable conduct is but too often witnessed nowadays in those sinners, who, by habitual resistance to the light, end by finding their happiness in sin. Neither should it surprise us, that we find in people of our own generation a resemblance to the murderers of our Jesus: the history of His Passion will reveal to us many sad secrets of the human heart and its perverse inclinations; for what happened in Jerusalem, happens also in every sinner's heart. His heart, according to the saying of St. Paul, is a Calvary, where Jesus is crucified. There is the same ingratitude, the same blindness, the same wild madness, with this difference: that the sinner who is enlightened by faith, knows Him whom he crucifies; whereas the Jews, as the same apostle tells us, knew whereas the Jews, as the same apostle tells us, knew not the Lord of glory.(2)-{1 Cor. Ii. 8}... let us turn the indignation we feel against the Jews against ourselves and our own sins; let us weep over the sufferings of our Victim, for our sins caused Him to suffer and die. (pages 105-106)

    ...We read in today's Gospel, that the Jews threaten to stone the Son of God as a blasphemer" but His hour is not yet come. He is obliged to flee and hide Himself. It is to express this deep humiliation, that the Church veils the cross. A God hiding Himself, that He may evade the anger of men - what a mystery! Is it weakness? Is it, that He fears death? No; we shall soon see Him going out to meet His enemies: but at present He hides Himself from them, because all that had been prophesied regarding Him has not been fulfilled. Besides, His death is not to be by stoning: He is to die upon a cross, the tree of malediction which, from that time forward, is to be the tree of life. Let us humble ourselves, as we see the Creator of Heaven and Earth thus obliged to hide Himself from men, who are bent on His destruction! Let us go back, in thought, to the sad day of the first sin, when Adam and Eve hid themselves because a guilty conscience told them they were naked. Jesus has come to assure us of our being pardoned, and lo! He hides Himself, not because He is naked - He that is to the saints the barb of holiness and immortality - but because He made Himself weak, that He might make us strong. Our first parents sought to hide themselves from the sight of God; Jesus hides Himself from the eye of men. But it will not be thus for ever. The day will come when sinners, from whose anger He now flees, will pray to the mountains to fall on them and shield them from His gaze; but their prayer will not be granted, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven, with much power and majesty. (1) St. Matt. xxiv. 30}

    This Sunday is called Passion Sunday, because the Church begins, on this day, to make the sufferings of our Redeemer her chief thought. It is called also, Judica, from the first word of the Introit of the Mass; and again Neomania, that is, the Sunday of the new (or the Easter) moon, becaue it always falls after the new moon which regulates the feast of Easter.

Reflections on the Readings for Passion Sunday

    It is by blood alone that man is to be redeemed. He has offended God. This God cannot be appeased by anything short of the extermination of His rebellious creature, who, by shedding his blood, will give an earnest of his repentance and his entire submission to the Creator against whom he dared to rebel. Otherwise, the justice of God must be satisfied by the sinner's suffering eternal punishment. This truth was understood by all the people of the ancient world, and all confessed it by shedding the blood of victims, as in the sacrifices of Abel at the very commencement of the world, in the hectombs of Greece, in the countless immolations whereby Solomon dedicated the temple. And yet God thus speaks to His people: 'Hear, O My people, and I will speak: O Israel, and I will testify to thee: I am God thy God. I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices, and thy burnt-offerings are always in my sight. I will not take calves out of thy house, nor he-goats out of thy flocks. I need them not: for all the beasts of the woods are Mine. If I should be hungry I would not tell thee; for the world is Mine, and the fullness thereof. Shall I eat the flesh of bullocks? Or shall I drink the blood of goats?'(1)- {Ps, xilix. 7-13}| …For this there was needed the Blood of a God; such was the Blood of Jesus, and He has come that He may shed it for our redemption.

    In Him is fulfilled the most sacred of the figures of the old Law. The Son of God, the true High Priest, is now about to enter heaven, and we are to follow Him thither; but unto this, He must have an offering of blood, and that Blood can be none other than His own. We are going to assist at this His compliance with the divine ordinance. Let us open our hearts, that this precious Blood may, as the apostle says in today's Epistle, cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (pages 110-111)

    [For the Gospel]...In obedience to the decrees of His heavenly Father, and out of love for men, He will deliver Himself into the hands of His enemies, and they will put Him to death; but He will rise victorious from the tomb, He will ascend into Heaven, He will be throned on the right hand of His Father. His enemies, on the contrary, after having vented all their rage will live on without remorse until the terrible day come for their chastisement. That day is not far off, for observe the severity wherewith our Lord speaks to them: 'You hear not the words of God, because you are not of God.' Yet there was a time when they were of God, for the Lord gives His grace to all men; but they have rendered this grace useless; they are now in darkness, and the light they have rejected will not return.

    "You say that My Father is your God, and you have not known Him; but I know Him." Their obstinacy in refusing to acknowledge Jesus as the Messias, has led these men to ignore that very God, whom they boast of honoring; for if they knew the Father, they would not reject His Son. Moses, and the Psalms, and the Prophets, are all a dead letter to them; these sacred Books are soon to pass into the hands of the Gentiles, who will both read and understand them. If, continues Jesus, I should say that I know Him not, I should be like to you, a liar." This strong language is that of the angry Judge who is to come down, at the last day, to destroy sinners. Jerusalem has not known the time of her visitation: the Son of God has visited her, He is with her, and she dares to say to Him: Thou has a devil! She says to the eternal Word, who proves Himself to be God by the most astonishing miracles, that Abraham and the prophets are greater than He! Strange blindness, that comes from pride and hardness of heart! The feast of the Pasch is at hand; these men are going to eat, and with much parade of religion, the flesh of the figurative lamb; they know full well that this lamb is a symbol or a figure, which is to have its fulfillment. The true Lamb is to be sacrificed by their hands, and they will not know Him. He will shed His Blood for them, and it will not save them. How this reminds us of those sinners, for whom this Easter promises to be as fruitless as those of the past years! Let us redouble our prayers for them, and beseech Our Lord to soften their hearts, lest trampling the Blood of Jesus under their feet, they should have it to cry vengeance against them before the throne of the heavenly Father. (page 114-115)

Reflections on the Readings for Wednesday in Passion Week

    This passage from Leviticus, wherein our duties to our neighbor are so clearly and so fully defined, is read to us today, in order that we may see how we fulfill these important duties, and correct whatever short-comings we may discover in ourselves. It is God who here speaks; it is God who commands. Observe that phrase: I am the Lord: he repeats it several times, to show us that if we injure our neighbor, He, God Himself, will become the avenger. How strange must this doctrine have seemed to the catechumens, who had been brought up in the selfish and heartless principles of paganism! Here they are told that all men are brethren, and that God is the common Father of all, commanding all to love one another with sincere charity, and without distinction of nation or class. Let us Christians resolve to fulfill this precept to the letter: these are days for good resolutions. Let us remember that the commandments we have been reading were given to the Israelite people, many ages before the preaching of the law of love. If, then, God exacted from the Jew a cordial love of his fellow-men, when the divine law was written on mere tablets of stone; what will He not require from the Christian, who can now read that law in the Heart of the Man-God, who has come down from Heaven and made Himself our Brother, in order that we might find it easier and sweeter to fulfill the precept of charity? Human nature united in His Person to the divine, is henceforth sacred; it has become an object of the heavenly Father's love. It is out of fraternal love for this our nature that Jesus suffered death, teaching us, by His own example, to have such love for our brethren, that, if necessary, we ought to lay down our lives for them (1)-{St. John iii. 16} It is the beloved disciple that teaches us this, and he had it from his divine Master. (page 143-144)

    [For the Gospel] After the feast of tabernacles came that of the Dedication, and Jesus remained in Jerusalem. The hatred of His enemies bore Him is greater than ever. They come round about Him, that they may make Him say He is the Christ, and then accuse Him of claiming a mission which does not belong to Him. Jesus designs not to reply to their question, but tells them that they have seen His works, and that these give ample testimony of His being Christ, the Son of God. It is by faith, and by faith alone that man can know his God. God manifests Himself by His divine works: man sees them, and is bound to believe the truth to which they bear testimony. By thus believing, he has both the certitude of what he believes, and the merit of believing. The proud Jew rebels against this: he would fain dictate to God how He should act, and sees not that such a pretension is impious and absurd.

    But, if Jesus openly declare the truth, He will scandalize these evil-minded men! Be it so; the truth must be preached. Our Lord has others to consult besides them; there are the well-intentioned, who will believe what He teaches. He, therefore, utters these sublime words, whereby He declares, not only that He is Christ, but that He is God: "I and the Father are one." He knew that this would enrage His enemies; but He had to make Himself known to the world, and to arm the Church against the false doctrines of heretics, who would rise up in future ages. One of these to be Arius, who will teach that Jesus is not God, but only the most perfect of creatures: the Church will answer, that Jesus is one with the Father, consubstantial with the Father: and then, after causing much trouble and sin, Arianism will die out and be forgotten. The Jews mentioned in today's Gospel are the forerunners of Arius; they understand what our Lord says He is God, and they seek to stone Him. Jesus gives them a fresh grace; He shows them why they should receive what He here teaches; He reminds them, by the Scriptures they know off by heart, that the name god has sometimes been applied, in a limited sense, to men who had certain high offices put upon them by Heaven; and then, He bids them think of all the miracles they have seen Him work, which so plainly testify to His being assisted by His Father, and once more declares Himself to be God, saying: The Father is in Me, and I in the Father." But men hardened in obstinacy, as these are, cannot be convinced: and the sin they have committed against the Holy Ghost is working its effects. How different is it with the sheep of this divine Shepherd! They hear His voice; they follow Him; He gives them eternal life, no man shall pluck them out of His hand. Happy sheep indeed! They believe, because they love; and as it is through the heart that truth gains ascendancy over them, so is it by pride of intellect that darkness gains admission into the soul of the unbeliever, and lasts as long as pride lasts. Alas! Poor unbeliever! He loves his darkness; he calls it light; he blasphemes when he thinks he reasons, just as these Jews crucified the Son of God, that, as they said, they might give glory to God. (pages 145-147)

Reflections on the Readings for Thursday in Passion Week

    Thus did Juda, when captive in Babylon, pour forth her prayers to God by the mouth of Azarias. Sion was desolate beyond measure; her people were in exile; her solemnities were hushed. Her children were to continue in a strange land for seventy years; after which God would be mindful of them, And lead them, by the hand of Cyrus, back to Jerusalem, when the building of the second temple would be begun, that temple which was to receive the Messias within its Walls. What crime had Juda committed, that she should be thus severely punished? The daughter of Sion had fallen into idolatry; she had broken the sacred engagements which made her the bride of her God. Her crime, however, was expiated by these seventy years of captivity; and when she returned to the land of her fathers, she never relapsed into the worship of false gods.

    When the Son of God came to dwell in her [Juda (Israel)], He found her innocent of idolatry. But scarcely had forty years elapsed after the Ascension of this divine Redeemer, than Juda was again an exile, not, indeed, led captive into Babylon, but dispersed in every nation under the sun, after having first seen the massacre of thousands of her children. This time it is not merely for seventy years, but for eighteen centuries, that she is without prince, or leader, or prophet, or holocaust, or sacrifice, or temple. Her new crime must be greater than idolatry; for, after all these long ages of suffering and humiliation, the justice of the Father is not appeased! It is, because the Blood that was shed by the Jewish people on Calvary was not the blood of man-it was the Blood of a God. The very sight of the chastisement inflicted on the murderers proclaims to the world that they were deicides. Their crime was an unparalleled one; its punishment is to be so too; it is to last till the end of time, when God, for the sake of Abraham His beloved, and Isaac His servant, and Jacob His holy one, will visit Juda with an extraordinary grace, and her conversion will console the Church, whose affliction is then to be great by reason of the apostasy of many of her children. This spectacle of a whole people, bearing on itself, the curse of God for having crucified the Son of God, should make a Christian tremble for himself. It teaches him that divine justice is terrible, and that the Father demands an account of the Blood of His Son, even to the last drop, from those that shed it. Let us lose no time, but go at once, and, in this precious Blood, cleanse ourselves from the share we have had in the sin of the Jews; and, throwing off the chains of iniquity, let us imitate those among them whom we see, from time to time, separating themselves from their people and returning to the Messias: let us, also, be converts, and turn to that Jesus, whose hands are stretched out on the cross, ever ready to receive the humble penitent. (pages 151-153)

    [For the Gospel] Magdalene had led a wicked life: as the Gospel tells us elsewhere,(1)-{St. Mark xvi. 9} seven devils had taken up their abode within her. But, no sooner has she seen and heard Jesus, than immediately she is filled with a horror for sin; divine love is enkindled within her heart; she has but one desire: to make amends for her past life. Her sins have been public; her conversion must be so too. She has lived in vanity and luxury; she is resolved to give all up. Her perfumes are all to be for her God, her Jesus; that hair of hers, of which she has been so proud, shall serve to wipe His sacred feet; her eyes shall henceforth spend themselves in shedding tears of contrite love. The grace of the Holy Ghost urges her to go to Jesus. He is in the house of a pharisee, who is giving an entertainment. To go to Him now would be exposing herself to observation. She cares not. Taking with her an ointment of great worth, she makes her way in to the feast, throws herself at Jesus' feet, washes them with her tears, wipes them with the hair of her head, kisses them, anoints them with the ointment. Jesus Himself tells us with what interior sentiments she accompanies these outwards acts of respect: but even had He not spoken, her tears, her generosity, her position at His feet, tell us enough; she is heart-broken, she is grateful, she is humble: who but a pharisee could have mistaken her?

    The pharisee, then is shocked! His heart has within it much of that Jewish pride which is soon to crucify the Messias. He looks disdainfully at Magdalene:; he is disappointed with his Guest, and murmurs out his conclusion: This man, if He were a Prophet would surely know who and what manner of woman this is! Poor pharisee! If he had the spirit of God within him, he would recognize Jesus to be the promised Savior, by this wonderful condescension shown to a penitent. With all his reputation as a pharisee, how contemptible he is compared with this woman! Jesus would give him a useful lesson, and draws the parallel between the two - Magdalene and the pharisee. He passes His Own divine judgment on them, and the preference is given to Magdalene. What is it that has thus transformed her, and made her deserve, not only the pardon, but the praise, of Jesus? Her love: She hath loved her Redeemer, she hath loved Him much; and, therefore, she was forgiven much. A few hours ago this Magdalene loved but the world and its pleasures; now, she cares for northing, sees nothing, loves nothing, but Jesus; she is a convert. Henceforward, she keeps close to her divine Master; she is ambitious to supply His wants; but, above all, she longs to see and hear Him. When the hour of trial shall come, and His very apostles dare not be with Him, she will follow Him to Calvary, stand at the foot of the cross, and see Him die Who has made her live. What an argument for hope is here, even for the worst of sinners! He to whom most is forgiven, is often the most fervent in love. You, then, whose souls are burdened with sins, think of your sins and confess them; but, most of all, think how you may most love. Let your love be in proportion to your pardon, and doubt it not: Your sins shall be forgiven. (pages 155-157)

Reflections on the Readings for Friday in Passion Week: The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary

    Jeremias is one of the most striking figures of the Messias persecuted by the Jews. It is on this account, that the Church selects from this prophet so many of her lessons during these two weeks that are sacred to the Passion. In the passage chosen for today's Epistle, we have the complaint addressed to God by this just man against those that persecute him; and it is in the name of Christ that he speaks. He says: They have forsaken the Lord, the vein of living waters. How forcibly do these words describe the malice, both of the Jews that crucified, and of sinners that still crucify, Jesus our Lord! As to the Jews they had forgotten the rock, whence came to them the living water which quenched their thirst in the desert; or, if they have not forgotten the history of this mysterious rock, they refuse to take it as a type of the Messias.

    And yet, they hear this Jesus crying out to them in the streets of Jerusalem, and saying: 'If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink.' (1) (St. John vii. 37). His virtues, His teachings, His miracles, the prophecies that are fulfilled in His person, all claim their confidence in Him; they should believe every word He says. But they are deaf to His invitation; and how many Christians imitate them in their obduracy!

    How many there are, who once drank at the vein of living waters, and afterwards turned away to seek to quench their thirst in the muddy waters of the world, which can only make them thirst the more! Let them tremble at the punishment that came upon the Jews; for, unless they return to the Lord their God, they must fall into those devouring and eternal flames, where even a drop of water is refused. Jesus, the by mouth of His prophet, tells the Jews that the day of affliction shall overtake them; and when, later on, He comes to them Himself, He forewarns them, that the tribulation which is to fall on Jerusalem, in punishment for her deicide, shall be so great that such hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be.(2)-{St. Matt. xxiv. 21} But if God so rigorously avenged the Blood of His Son against a city that was so long a place of the habitation of His glory, and against a people that He had preferred to all others, will He spare the sinner who, in spite of the Church's entreaties, continues obstinate in his evil ways? Jerusalem had filled up the measure of her iniquities; we, also have a measure of sin, beyond which the justice of God will not permit us to go. Let us sin no more: let us fill up that other measure, the measure of good works. Let us pray for those sinners who are to pass these days of grace without being converted; let us pray that this divine Blood, which is to be so generously given to them, but which they are about again to trample upon, may again spare them. (pages 161-163)

    ...The council of the nation assembles to devise a plan for His destruction. But they have not assembled to examine if He be or be not the Messias; it is to discuss the best plan for putting Him to death. They argue thus: 'If Jesus be longer allowed to appear in public and work miracles, Judea will rise up in rebellion against the Romans, who now govern us, and will proclaim Jesus to be King; Rome will never allow us, the weakest of her tributaries, to insult her with impunity, and, in order to avenge the outrage offered to the Capitol, her armies will come and exterminate us.'...(page 164)

    The high-priest, who governed the Synagogue during the last days of the Mosaic Law, is a worthless man, by name of Caiphas; he presides over the council. He puts on the sacred ephod, and he prophesies; his prophecy is from God, and is true. Let us not be astonished: the veil of the temple is not yet rent asunder; the covenant between God and Juda is not yet broken, Caiphas is a blood-thirsty man, a coward, a sacrilegious wretch; still, he is high-priest, and God speaks by his mouth. Let us hearken to this second Balaam: Jesus shall die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but to gather in one the children of God, that were dispersed. Thus, the Synagogue is near her end, and is compelled to prophesy the birth of the Church, and that this birth is to be by the shedding of Jesus' Blood. Here and there throughout the world, there are children of God who serve Him among the Gentiles, as did the centurion Cornelius; but there is no visible bond of union among them. The time is at hand, when the great and only city of God is to appear on the mountain, and all nations shall flow unto it.(2)-{Isaias ii. 2} As soon as the Blood of the new Testament shall have been shed, and the Conqueror of death shall have risen from the grave, the day of Pentecost will convoke, not the Jews to the temple of Jerusalem, but all nations to the Church of Jesus Christ. By that time, Caiphas will have forgotten the prophecy he uttered; he will have ordered his servants to piece together the veil of the Holy of holies, which was torn into at the moment of Jesus' death; but this veil will serve no purpose for the Holy of holies will be no longer there: a clean oblation will be offered up in every place, the Sacrifice of the new Law;(1)-{Malach. I 11} and scarcely shall the avengers of Jesus' death have appeared on Mount Olivet, than a voice will be heard in the sanctuary of the repudiated temple, saying: 'Let us go out from this place!'(pages 165-166)

    This Friday of Passion-week is consecrated in a special manner, to the sufferings which the holy Mother of God endured at the foot of the cross. The whole of next week is fully taken up with the celebration of the mysteries of Jesus' Passion; and although the remembrance of Mary's share in those sufferings is often brought before the faithful during Holy Week, yet, the thought of what her Son, our divine Redeemer goes through for our salvation, so absorbs our attention and love, that it is not then possible to honor, as it deserves, the sublime mystery of the Mother's com-passion.

    ...In the work of our redemption there are three interventions of Mary; that is, she was thrice called upon to take part in what God Himself did. The first of these was in the Incarnation of the Word, who would not take flesh in her virginal womb until she had given her consent to become His Mother; and this she gave by that solemn FIAT which blessed the world with a Savior. The second was in the sacrifice which Jesus consummated on Calvary, where she was present that she might take part in the expiatory offering. The third was on the day of Pentecost, when she received the Holy Ghost, as did the apostles, in order that she might effectively labor in the establishment of the Church. Today we must show what part she took in the mystery of her Son's Passion; we must tell the sufferings, the Dolors, she endured at the foot of the cross, and the claims she thereby won to our filial gratitude...Let us pass by all her other sufferings, and come to the morning of the great Friday. (pages 168-169)...

    Mary knows that, on the previous night, her Son has been betrayed by one of His disciples, that is, by one that Jesus had numbered among His intimate friends; she herself had often given him proofs of her maternal affection. After a cruel Agony, her Son has been manacled as a malefactor, and led by armed men to Caiphas, His worst enemy. Thence, they have dragged Him before the Roman governor, whose sanction the chief priests and scribes must have before they can put Jesus to death. Mary is in Jerusalem; Magdalene and the other holy women, the friends of Jesus, are with her; but they cannot prevent her from hearing the loud shouts of the people, and if they could, how is such a heart as hers to be slow in its forebodings? The report spreads rapidly through the city that the Roman governor is being urged to sentence Jesus to be crucified. Whilst the entire populace is on the move towards Calvary, shouting out their blasphemous insults at her Jesus, will His Mother keep away, she that bore Him n her womb, and fed Him at her breast? Shall His enemies be eager to glut their eyes with cruel sight, and His own Mother be afraid to be near Him?

    The air resounded with the yells of the mob. Joseph of Arimathea, the noble counseller, was not there, neither was the learned Nicodemus: they kept at home, grieving over what was done. The crowd that went before and after the divine Victim was made up of wretches without hearts, saving only a few who were seen to weep as they went along; they were women; Jesus saw them, and spoke to them. And if these women from mere sentiments of veneration, or, at the most, of gratitude, thus testified their compassion, would Mary doles? Could she bear to be elsewhere than close to her Jesus? Our motive for insisting so much upon this point is that we may show our detestation of that school of modern rationalism, which, regardless of the instincts of a mother's heart and of all tradition, has dared to call in question the meeting of Jesus and Mary on the way to Calvary. These systematic contradictors are too prudent to deny that Mary was present when Jesus was crucified; the Gospel is too explicit: Mary stood near the cross (1)-{St. John xix. 25} but they would persuade us that, whilst the daughters of Jerusalem courageously walked after Jesus, Mary went up to Calvary by some secret path! What a heartless insult to the love of the incomparable Mother.

    No; Mary, who is, by excellence, the valiant woman, (2)-{Prov. xxxi. 10} was with Jesus as He carried His cross. And who could describe her anguish and her love as her eye met that of her Son tottering under His heavy load? Who would tell the affection and the resignation of the look He gave her in return? Who could depict the eager and respectful tenderness wherewith Magdalene and the other holy women grouped around this Mother, as she followed her Jesus up to Calvary, there to see Him crucified and die? The distance between the fourth and tenth Station of the Dolorous Way is long; it is marked with Jesus' Blood, and with His Mother's tears.

    Jesus and Mary have reached the summit of the hill that is to be the altar of the holiest and most cruel Sacrifice: but the divine decree permits not the Mother as yet to approach her Son. When the Victim is ready, then she that is to offer Him shall come forward. Meanwhile, they nail her Jesus to the cross; and each blow of the hammer is a wound to Mary's heart. When, At last, she is permitted to approach, accompanied by the beloved disciple (who has made amends for his cowardly flight), and the disconsolate Magdalene and the other holy women, what unutterable anguish must have filled the soul of this Mother, when raising up her eyes, she sees the mangled Body of her Son stretched upon the cross, with His face all covered with blood, and His head wreathed with a crown of thorns!

    Here, then, is this King of Israel, of Whom the angel had told her such glorious things in his prophecy! Here is that Son of hers, whom she has loved both as her God and as the fruit of her own womb! And who are they that have reduced Him to this pitiable state? Men -for whose sake rather than for her own, she conceived Him, gave Him birth, and nourished Him! Oh! If by one of those miracles, which His heavenly Father could so easily work, He might be again restored to her! If that divine justice, which He has taken upon Himself to appease, would be satisfied with what He has already suffered! But no: He must die; He must breathe forth His blessed Soul after a long and cruel agony.

    Mary then is at the foot of the cross, there to witness the death of her Son. He is soon to be separated from her. In three hours' time, all that will be left her of this beloved Jesus will be a lifeless Body, wounded from head to foot. Our words are too cold for such a scene as this: let us listen to those of St. Bernard, which the Church has inserted in her Matins of this feast. 'O Blessed Mother! A sword of sorrow pierced thy soul, and we may well call thee more than martyr, for the intensity of thy compassion surpassed all that a bodily passion could produce. Could any sword have made thee smart so much as that word which pierced thy heart, reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit: "Woman! Behold thy Son!" What an exchange! John for Jesus! The servant, for the Lord! The disciple for the Master! The son of Zebedee for the Son of God! A mere man, for the very God! How must thy most loving heart have been pierced with the sound of those words, when even ours, that are hard as stone and steel, break down as we think of them! Ah! My brethren, be not surprised when you are told that Mary was a martyr in her soul. Let him alone be surprised, who has forgotten that St. Paul counts it as one of the greatest sins of the Gentiles, that they were without affection. Who could say that of Mary? God forbid it be said of us, the servants of Mary! (1)- {Sermon on the twelve stars.}

    ...that the only son she is henceforth to have on earth is one of adoption. Her maternal joys of Bethlehem and Nazareth are all gone; they make her present sorrow the bitterer; she was the Mother of a God, and men have taken Him from her! Her last and fondest look at her Jesus, her own dearest Jesus, tells her that He is suffering a burning thirst, and she cannot give Him to drink! His eyes grow dim; His head droops; all is consummated!

    Mary cannot leave the cross; love brought her thither; love keeps her there, whatever may happen! A soldier advances near that hallowed spot; she sees him lift up his spear, and thrust it through the breast of the sacred Corpse. "Ah," cries out St. Bernard, 'that thrust is through thy soul, O blessed Mother! It could but open His side, but it pierced thy very soul. His Soul was not there, thine was, and could not but be so.'(1)- {Sermon on the twelve stars.} The undaunted Mother keeps close to the Body of her Son. She watches them as they take it down from the cross; and when, at last, the friends of Jesus, with all the respect due to both Mother and Son, enable her to embrace it, she raises it upon her lap, and He that once lay upon her knees receiving the homage of the eastern kings, now lies there cold, mangled, bleeding, dead! And as she looks upon the wounds of the divine Victim, she gives them the highest honor in the power of creatures: she kisses them, she bathes them with her tears, she adores them, but oh! With what intensity of grief!

    The hour is far advanced; and before sunset, He, Jesus, the author of life, must be buried. The Mother puts the whole vehemence of her love into a last kiss, and oppressed with a bitterness great as is the sea,(2)-{Lam. i. v, ii. 13} she makes over this adorable Body to them that have to embalm and then lay it on the sepulchral slab. The sepulcher is closed; and Mary, accompanied by John, her adopted son, and Magdalene, and the holy women, and the two disciples that have presided over the burial, returns sorrowing to the deicide city.

    Now, in all this, there is another mystery besides that of Mary's sufferings. Her Dolours at the foot of the cross include and imply a truth, which we must not pass by, or we shall not understand the full beauty of today's feast. Why would God have her assist in person at such a scene as this of Calvary? Why was not she, as well as Joseph, taken out of this world before this terrible day of Jesus' death? Because God had assigned her a great office for that day, and it was to be under the tree of the cross that she, the second Eve, was to discharge her office. As the heavenly Father had waited for her consent before He sent His Son into the world: so, likewise, He called for her obedience and devotedness, when the hour came for that Son to be offered up in sacrifice for the world's redemption. Was not Jesus hers? Her Child? Her own and dearest treasure? And yet, God have Him not to her, until she had consented to become His Mother; in like manner, He would not take Him from her, unless she gave Him back.

    But see what this involved, see what a struggle it entailed upon this most loving heart! It is the injustice, the cruelty, of men that rob her of her Son; how can she, His Mother, ratify, by her consent, the death of Him, whom she loved with a twofold love, as her Son, and as her God? But, on the other hand, if Jesus be not put to death, the human race is left a prey to satan, sin is not atoned for, and all the honors and joys of her being Mother of God are of no use or blessing to us. This Virgin of Nazareth, this noblest heart, this purest creature, whose affections were never blunted with the selfishness which so easily makes its way into souls that have been wounded by original sin, what will she do? Her devotedness to mankind, her conformity with the will of her Son who so vehemently desires the world's salvation, lead her, a second time, to pronounce the solemn FIAT: she consents to the immolation of her Son. It is not God's justice that takes Him from her; it is she herself that gives Him up. But, in return, she is raised to a degree of greatness, which her humility could never have suspected was to be hers: an ineffable union is made to exist between the two offerings, that of the Incarnate Word, and that of Mary; the Blood of the divine Victim, and the tears of the Mother, flow together for the redemption of mankind. (pages 166-175)

    ...St. Ambrose thus speaks of her position at the foot of the cross: 'She stood opposite the cross, gazing with maternal love on the wounds of her Son; and thus she stood, not waiting for her Jesus to die, but for the world to be saved.'(1)- {In lucam cap. xxiii.}... The sword, by piercing her immaculate heart, has given us admission there. For time and eternity, Mary will extend to us the love she has borne for her Son, for she has just heard Him saying to her that we are her children. He is our Lord, for He has redeemed us; she is our Lady, for she generously cooperated in our redemption. (pages 175-176)

    ...Deign, sweet Mother, to watch over us, during these days of grace. Give us to feel and relish the Passion of thy Son. It was consummated in thy presence; thine own share in it was magnificent! Oh, make us enter into all its mysteries, that so our souls, redeemed by the Blood of thy Son, and helped by thy tears, may be thoroughly converted to the Lord, and persevere, henceforward, faithful in His service. (page 177)

Reflections on the Readings for Saturday in Passion Week

    Today we begin, as does the Gospel, to number the days which precede the death, the sacrifice, of the Lamb of God. St. John, in the twelfth chapter of his Gospel, tells us that this is the sixth day before the Pasch.

    Jesus is in Bethania, where a feast is being given in His honor. Lazarus, whom Jesus has restored to life, is present at this repast, which is given in the house of Simon the leper. Martha is busy looking after the various arrangements; her sister, Mary Magdalene, has a heavenly presentiment that the death and burial of her beloved Master are soon to be, and she has poured upon Him a precious perfume. The holy Gospel, which ever preserves such a mysterious reserve with regard to the Mother of Jesus, does not tell us that Mary was at Bethania on this occasion, but there can be no doubt of her being present. The apostles were also there, and partook of the repast. Whilst the friends of our Savior are thus grouped around Him, in this village, which is about two thousand paces from Jerusalem, the aspect of the faithless city becomes more and more threatening; and yet, though His disciples are not aware of it, Jesus is to enter the city tomorrow, and in a most public manner. The heart of Mary is a prey to sadness; Magdalene is absorbed in grief; everything announces that the fatal day is near.(pages 180-181)

    It makes us tremble to read these awful anathemas, which Jeremias, the figure of Christ, speaks against his enemies the Jews. This prophecy, which was literally fulfilled at the first destruction of Jerusalem at the second visitation of God's anger upon this city of malediction. This time, it was not because they had rejected and crucified the very Son of God. It was to their long-expected Messias that they had rendered evil for good. It was not a saint, like Jeremias, that had spoken good for them to the Lord, and besought Him to turn away His indignation from them; the Man-God Himself had, without ceasing, made intercession for them, and treated them with ungrateful people seemed to hate their divine Benefactor in proportion to His love for them; and at length, in the transport of their fury, they cried out: 'His Blood be upon us and upon our children!'(1)- {St. Matt. xxvii. 25} What a frightful chastisement they entailed on themselves by this imprecation! God heard and remembered. Alas! The sinner, who knows Jesus and the worth of His Blood, yet who again sheds this precious Blood, does not he expose himself to the severity of that same justice which fell so heavily on the Jews? Let us tremble and pray: let us implore on the divine mercy in favor of those many obstinately blind and hardened sinners, who hare hastening to destruction. Oh! that by the fervor of our supplications addressed to the merciful Heart of our common Redeemer, we could obtain a reversion of their sentence, and secure them pardon! (pages 184-185)

    [For the Gospel] The enemies of Jesus have come to that pitch of hatred, which robs a man of his senses. Lazarus, who has been restored from death to life, is here standing before them; and instead of his resuscitation convincing them of Jesus' being the Messias, it sets them thinking how best to make away with this irresistible witness. O senseless men! That Jesus who raised him to life when dead, can again bring him to life if you murder him. Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem, which we are solemnly to commemorate tomorrow, adds to their jealousy and hatred. Behold, say they, we prevail nothing: the whole world goes after Him. Alas! This ovation is to be soon followed by one of those reverses to which a populace is so subject. Meanwhile, however, we have certain Gentiles who desire to see Jesus. It is the beginning of the fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy: 'The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation yielding the fruits thereof.' (1)- (St. Matt. xxi. 43} Then shall the Son of man be glorified; then shall all nations, by their humble homage to the Crucified, protest against the sinful blindness of the Jews. But, before this comes to pass, it is requisite that the divine Wheat be cast into the ground, and die. Then, the glorious harvest; and the beautiful seed shall yield a hundredfold.

    And Yet, Jesus feels, in His human nature, a momentary fear at the thought of this death He is to undergo. It is not the agony in the garden; it is a trouble of soul. Let us listen to His words: Father! Save Me from this hour. It is our God Who foresees all that He is about so suffer for our sake, and it fills Him with fear: He asks to be freed from it, though His will has decreed and accepted it. He immediately adds: But for this cause I came unto this hour: Father I glorify Thy name. His soul is now calm; He once more accepts the hard conditions of our salvation. After this, His words bespeak a triumph; by virtue of the sacrifice about to be offered, satan shall be dethroned; the prince of this world shall be cast out. But the defeat of satan is not the only fruit of our Savior's immolation: man, earthly and depraved creature as he is, is to be raised from this earth to Heaven. The Son of God is to be the heavenly loadstone, attracting man to Himself; And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself. He forgets His sufferings, and the terrible death which just now troubled Him; He thinks but of the defeat of our implacable enemy, and of our being saved and glorified by His cross. These few words reveal the whole Heart of our Redeemer; if we attentively weigh them, they will suffice to inflame us with devotion as we celebrate the ineffable mysteries of Holy Week.



    March 9, 2008
    vol 19, no. 69
    LIVING IN TRADITION