HOLY SATURDAY MEDITATION: THE BURIAL OF OUR LORD
Reflection: Be present in spirit at the descent from the cross and the burial of Jesus.
Ask for grace to pass this the last day of Lent holily.
"And after these things, [an hour after the death of our Lord,] Joseph of Arimathea (because he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews) besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave leave. He came therefore, and took away the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus also came, he who at first came to Jesus by night, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight. They took therefore the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths, with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now there was, in the place where He was crucified, a garden, and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein no man yet had been laid. There, therefore, because of the parasceve of the Jews, they laid Jesus, because the sepulchre was nigh at hand." (St. John 19: 38-42.)
Consideration: Behold the mournful scene at the foot of the cross: the crowd and the soldiers are already gone, the three Marys and the Apostle St. John are left alone. How were they to remove the body of Jesus from the cross? Where find Him a sepulchre? And there was yet another and a greater difficulty; for it was forbidden by the Jewish law to inter the bodies of criminals until the flesh had been consumed, and for this purpose it was customary to cast them into an open trench. At length God sends two men to their help, two who before their conversion were weak and fearful, but whom grace has made bold and resolute: they mount the ladders, they remove the nails that pierce that sacred body. Their hands unfasten Jesus and place Him in the arms of His Blessed Mother; it is they, too, who aid this most sorrowful Mother to bind His sacred body in linen cloths, enriched with spices, and who place it at last in the glorious sepulchre of which Isaias had spoken in prophecy, "And His sepulchre shall be glorious." (Isaias 11: 10.)
Consider here, how God acted toward His well-beloved Son; He who was formerly humbled and abandoned is now honored and cared for after death. So will God act toward us if we humbly and lovingly resign ourselves to His will in adversity. Have we done so hitherto? I will offer myself to suffer, and even to die for Jesus, who died for me. I will endeavor, notwithstanding the additional cares inseparable from the eve of a Festival, to spend this day in holy recollection.
"And the next day, which followed the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees came together to Pilate, saying, Sir, we have remembered that that seducer said, while He was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command, therefore, the sepulchre to be guarded until the third day, lest perhaps His disciples come and steal Him away, and say to the people, He is risen from the dead. And the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said to them, You have a guard; go, guard it as you know. And they, departing, made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting guards." (St. Matt. 27: 62-66.)
Consideration: Admire the providence of God in all these circumstances: in the new sepulchre, near where our Lord was crucified, hewn out of a rock, as well as the sealing of the stone and placing a guard; the precautions taken by His enemies making it impossible even to approach Him in His grave. Our Lord permitted it, to place the truth of His resurrection beyond dispute--a truth which is the basis of His Gospel.
We believe in an ever-working Providence: far be it from us to look on events here below as chances or accidents; far from us that despondency which occasionally overpowers the most devoted servants of our Lord at beholding the temporary triumphs of impiety. It was when the disciples of Jesus thought all was lost, that their Master overcame the grave and confounded His enemies forever. Far from us also that melancholy which the sight of death or a funeral sometimes produces: let us conquer it by the consoling thought of the resurrection, from which we shall pass, as did our Lord, from death unto life eternal.
Colloquy with Jesus, whose body apart from the soul, but still united to His Divinity, reposes in the sepulchre. In spirit join the angels who praise and adore Him with inexpressible sentiments of love, reverence, and devotion.
Deus, qui pro Redemptione
O God, who to redeem the world didst vouchsafe to be born amongst men, to be circumcised, rejected by the Jews, betrayed by the traitor Judas with a kiss, to be bound with cords, and as an innocent lamb to be led to the slaughter; who didst suffer thyself to be shamelessly exposed to the gaze of Annas, Caiphas, Pilate and Herod; to be accused by false witnesses, tormented by scourges and insults, crowned with thorns, smitten with blows, defiled with spittings, to have thy divine countenance covered, to be struck with a reed, to be stripped of thy clothes, nailed to and raised high upon a Cross between two thieves, to be given gall and vinegar to drink, and then pierced with a lance; do Thou, O Lord, by these most sacred sufferings, which I, unworthy as I am, yet dare to contemplate, by thy holy Cross and by thy bitter Death, free me from the pains of hell, and vouchsafe to bring me to Paradise, whither Thou didst lead the thief who was crucified with Thee, my Jesus, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest God for ever and ever. Amen.
Pater, Ave and Gloria five times.
(An Indulgence of 300 Days, 1820)
Prayer for True Repentance
Behold me at Thy feet, O Jesus of Nazareth, behold the most wretched of creatures, who comes into Thy presence humbled and penitent! Have mercy on me, O Lord, according to Thy great mercy! I have sinned and my sins are always before Thee. Yet my soul belongs to Thee, for Thou hast created it, and redeemed it with Thy Precious Blood. Ah, grant that Thy redeeming work be not in vain! Have pity on me; give me tears of true repentance; pardon me for I am Thy child; pardon me as Thou didst pardon the penitent thief; look upon me from Thy throne in heaven and give me Thy blessing.
I believe in God, etc.
(An Indulgence of 3 years, 1894)