by Abbot Dom Gueranger, O.S.B. 1870
Let us return to Calvary, and there close this mournful day. We left Mary there, with Magdalene and other holy women, and the Beloved Disciple John. 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 sufferings 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 Bloodshedding, and the fifth Wound inflicted on our Jesus upon the Cross. The Church honours this mystery on the Feast of the Sacred Heart; let us reserve our reflections till then. 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 authorisation, 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 sacred 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 the 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 Sepulchre. 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 on 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 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.
How, O most merciful Redeemer! shall we leave thy Holy Sepulchre, without offering Thee the tribute of our adoration and repentance? Death, which is the consequence of sin, has extended its dominion over Thee, for thou didst submit thyself to the sentence pronounced against Thee, and wouldst become like to us even to the humiliation of the tomb. It was Thy love for us, that led to all this! What return can we make Thee? The holy Angels stand around Thy Body, thus lying in its rocky grave. They are lost in amazement at Thy having loved, to such an excess as this, Thy poor ungrateful creature, man. Thou hadst made them, as well as us, out of nothing, and they loved Thee with all the intensity of their mighty spirits; but the sight of Thy Tomb reveals to them a fresh abyss of Thine infinite goodness: Thou hast suffered death, not for their fallen fellow-angels, but for us men, who are so inferior to the Angels! Oh! what a bond of love between us and Thee must result from this Sacrifice of Thy Life for us! Thou hast died, O Jesus, for us! we must, henceforth, live for Thee. We promise it upon this Tomb, which, alas! is the handiwork of our sins. We, too, wish to die to sin, and live to grace. For the time to come, we will follow Thy precepts and Thine examples; we will avoid sin, which has made us accomplices in Thy Passion and Death. We will courageously bear, in union with Thine own, the crosses of this life: they are indeed light compared with Thine, but our weakness makes them heavy. And our death, too, when the moment comes for us to undergo that sentence which even Thou didst submit to, we will accept it with resignation. Terrible as that last hour is to nature, our faith tells us, that Thy Death has merited for it graces rich enough to make it sweet. Thy Death, dearest Jesus! has made our death become but a passing into life: and as, now, we leave Thy holy Sepulchre with the certain hope of speedily seeing Thee glorious in Thy Resurrection; so, when our body descends into the tomb, our soul shall confidently mount up to Thee, and there blissfully await the day of the Resurrection of the flesh made pure by the humiliation of the grave.
Hymn: (In Parasceve)
Today, is poised upon a Cross, He that poised the earth upon the waters. He that is the King of Angels, is wreathed with, a Crown of Thorns. He that covereth the heaven with clouds, is covered with a mock scarlet robe. He that, in the Jordan, set Adam free, is buffeted. The Spouse of the Church is pierced with Nails. The Son of the Virgin is wounded with a Spear. O Jesus! we adore Thy Sufferings. Show unto us, also, Thy glorious Resurrection.
Mary, the Mother, saw her Lamb dragged to the slaughter, and, in company with other women, followed Him, saying: "Whither goest Thou, my Son? Wherefore this hurried step? Is it to a second marriage feast at Cana that Thou thus hastenest, there to turn water into wine? Must I come with Thee, my Son? or must I wait Thy return? O Word of the Father! speak one word to me. Pass me not by in silence, O thou, my Child and my God! Who didst make me thy Virgin Mother!"
For our sakes, O Jesus! Thou didst permit Thy whole sacred Body to be ignominiously tortured: Thy head, with thorns; Thy face, with spittle; Thy cheeks, with blows; Thy mouth, with vinegar and gall; Thine ears, with impious blasphemies: Thy back, with scourges; Thy hand, with a reed; Thy whole body, with the cross; Thy hands and feet, with nails; Thy side, with a spear. O Almighty Saviour! Who didst suffer for us, and, by Thy sufferings, didst make us free! O thou, that out of love for man, didst humble Thyself with us, that thus Thou mightest exalt us! have mercy on us!
Today, the sinless Virgin saw Thee, O Word! hanging on the Cross: she wept over Thee with a mother's love: her heart was cruelly wounded: and thus, with doleful sobs and tears, she spake from her inmost soul: "Alas! my Divine Son! Alas! Thou Light of the World! why hast Thou departed from my sight, O Lamb of God?" The Angel host was seized with trembling, and said: "Glory be to Thee, O incomprehensible Lord!"
Fear and trembling fell upon Thy creatures, O Lord, when thou didst ascend Thy Cross. Yet wouldst Thou not permit the earth to swallow up them that crucified Thee; nay, Thou gavest leave to death to set its captives free. Thou camest into the world, O Judge of the living and the dead! that Thou mightest bring, not death, but life. Glory be to Thee, O Lover of mankind!
Prayer: (Oratio ad Nonam)
O saving hour of the Passion! O hour of None, favoured with richest graces! O hour of hours! O beloved Spouse of souls, kiss us at this hour from Thy Cross, for the Cross is the trophy of Thy victory. Yea, we beseech, grant us Thy kiss, grant us Thy salvation, O admirable Conqueror! O heavenly Charioteer! O good God! O most glorious Champion! Do Thou, O all-seeing Jesus, speak to our hearts, and say: "Hail, all hail! Be vigorous, act manfully, be courageous!" Thou, O Lord, that didst these things of old, canst Thou not the same now! Thou canst, yea, Thou canst, for Thou art allpowerful. Thou canst, most loving Jesus! Thou canst do beyond what we can think. And whereas nothing is impossible to Thee, O Almighty God, our Jesus! kiss us, we beseech Thee, Beloved Lord, Who didst triumphantly return to the Father, with Whom Thou wast and art, for ever, one; for Thy kiss is sweet, Thy breasts are better than wine, and are fragrant with the best ointments. Thy name is as oil poured out, therefore have our souls loved Thee. The righteous, whom thou drawest to Thee, love Thee. Thy couch is strewed with flowers, the Cross is Thy trophy. Coming in scarlet, at this Hour, from, Edom, Thy Cross, coming with dyed garments from Bosra, treading alone that great wine-press, Thou didst ascend to heaven.
The Angels and Archangels go out to meet Thee, and they say: "Who is this that cometh up, with dyed garments, from Bosra?" They ask thee: "Why, then, is Thy apparel red?" Thou answerest: "I have trodden the wine-press alone: and of the Gentiles, there is not a man with Me." Truly, O Saviour! truly is Thy body red for our sakes: it is red with the blood of the Grape, for Thou hast washed Thy robe in Wine, and Thy garment in the blood of the Grape. Thou alone art God, crucified for us, Whom the ancient sin had delivered over to death; and by Thy Wounds, the countless sins of all men have been healed. O loving crucified Jesus! put us among the number of Thy redeemed. Save us, O loving goodness! our God! Who with the Father and Holy Ghost, reignest one God for ever, yea for ever and ever.