In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.
ACT OF CONTRITION
My Lord Jesus Christ, Thou hast made this journey to die for me with love unutterable, and I have so many times unworthily abandoned Thee; but now I love Thee with my whole heart, and because I love Thee I repent sincerely for having ever offended Thee. Pardon me, my God, and permit me to accompany Thee on this journey. Thou goest to die for love of me; I wish also, my beloved Redeemer, to die for love of Thee. My Jesus, I will live and die always united to Thee.
Jesus` body is removed from the cross
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.
Consider that, our Lord having expired, two of His disciples, Joseph and Nicodemus, took Him down from the cross, and placed Him in the arms of His afflicted Mother, who received Him with unutterable tenderness, and pressed Him to her bosom.
O Mother of Sorrow, for the love of this Son, accept me for thy servant and pray to Him for me. And Thou, my Redeemer, since Thou hast died for me, permit me to love Thee; for I wish but Thee, my Jesus, and I repent of ever having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt
Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven. And give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
THE DEPOSITION FROM THE CROSS
Crucifixion does not of itself cause death speedily, but the sufferers perish slowly by the gradual loss of strength. For this reason the Romans were accustomed either to burn crucified criminals on the cross, to kill them with a lance, cast them to wild beasts, or sometimes leave them to die of hunger. According to Jewish law, the executed criminal whose body had been hung on the gibbet to increase his disgrace had to be taken down and buried before evening. The Jews now took their stand upon this law, and asked Pilate to send soldiers to go and break the legs of the crucified with clubs, kill them, and take them down from the gibbets. They urged as a reason for this that the following day was the Sabbath, and the great Sabbath, too: the Parasceve, or day of preparation, was already nearing its close, and it was high time to act. Other reasons were probably their evil consciences, the terror with which the dreadful natural phenomena and other occurrences had inspired them, and the fear of the people. They wanted to end the matter and consign it to oblivion. So Pilate sent soldiers to do as the Jews wished.
Hear St. John as he tells us: “The soldiers came, and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with Him.” See the soldiers rapidly mounting the hill of Calvary—-bringing clubs to break the legs, ladders to bring down the bodies, spades and shovels to open the common graves for criminals. Magdalen and John and the Holy Women, who have had peace till now on Calvary, are thrown into great consternation. St. Bonaventure represents them placing themselves at the side of Holy Mary to protect the Sacred Body from outrage. Mary Magdalen, Mary of Cleophas, and Salome, the mother of James and John, had ministered to our Lord all through His public life; they had openly declared themselves His disciples; they had kept their faith in Him in trial and persecution—-even the horror of Calvary they had braved to be near Him to the end. The executioners approach the crosses to consummate the punishment of the three whom they had crucified—-armed with clubs they speedily fracture the limbs of the thieves. It was a fearful sound for the Immaculate Mother to hear—-the dull crashing of the flesh and bone, the agonizing cries of the miserable sufferers. But words will not tell the anguish with which Mary saw them approach the body of Jesus—-earth held nothing half so sacred. Dead as it was, it was joined to the Divinity, and therefore entitled to the fullest honours of Divine worship; unspeakable was Mary’s love for the body of her Son—-her Son Who was God as well. She spoke not—-her voice broke not the silence—-but the silence of her prayer was loud in Heaven. The rude men saw that Jesus was dead and desisted from their purpose—-“You shall not break a bone of Him,” it was written. These things were done that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.
VIEW ST. LONGINUS
Two things have from the beginning been decreed: (1) That no bone shall be broken, but (2) that our Lord’s side shall be opened, and that water and Blood shall come out from the wound. Out of this water and this Blood His helpmate—-His Holy Church, His Bride—-is built up . . . Seizing his lance, and riding quickly up to the mound on which the Cross was planted, Longinus, the soldier, stopped just between the cross of the good thief and that of our Lord, and taking his lance in both hands thrust it so completely into the right side of Jesus that the point went through the heart and appeared on the left side. 0 wonderful efficacy and power of the Blood of Jesus! When he drew his lance out of the wound a quantity of blood and water rushed with it. This produced effects somewhat similar to the vivifying waters of Baptism—- grace and salvation at once entered his soul; he leaps from his horse, throws himself upon his knees, striking his breast and confessing loudly before all his belief in the Divinity of Jesus.
St. Bernard addresses the pierced Heart of Jesus as “the home of love, the throne of the Blessed Trinity, the ark of wide-reaching charity.” St. Laurence Justinian says: “Through an excess of love, Jesus opened His side in order to give us His Heart.”
As evening came on, it grew quieter and quieter around the Cross of Jesus. See the soldiers occupied in dragging the bodies of the dead thieves down the hill to the common burial-place. See the Immaculate Mother—-her eyes fixed on Jesus. Oh, with what unutterable pain Mary contemplates this Holy Body hanging on the Cross—-now robbed of all form and beauty, even of Its soul—-torn and shattered, borne down by Its own dead weight on the Cross. She could not take Him down, and had no grave for Him. Any request from her might result in grosser execration. The Holy Mother feared every moment that the soldiers would come back and drag away her dear Son’s Body also to the burial-place of criminals. It was considered a disgrace among the Jews not to be buried in their own family sepulchre. The Mother of Jesus had always been poor—-poor in Bethlehem, poor in Egypt, poor in Nazareth—-but never had she felt her poverty so bitterly as here in the sight of her Jesus’ dead Body.
Note the party of men passing through the judgment-gate bringing ladders and many other things. They are hastening rapidly towards Calvary. Our Blessed Mother, sick at heart, asks John anxiously: “Who are coming?” At last, when they are near enough, John whispers to the Blessed Mother that she has nothing to fear. They are friends. Joseph of Arimathea was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews—-Nicodemus likewise. But lo! Jesus in His Death has made all things new. Joseph and Nicodemus are not afraid now. The Passion of Christ has strengthened them. Scarcely had Jesus breathed His last sigh than the efficacy of His Blood inspires them with a courage they had not known before. They are determined to honour the Body of Jesus whom they recognize as the Messias. At once Joseph goes to the Praetorium and boldly asks Pilate for the Body of Jesus. A glorious testimony to the innocence, sanctity, kingship, Divinity of Jesus, all of which have been well proved by the miracles of His life and death.
See with what ardour and reverence they approach the Sacred Body of Jesus. They salute the Mother of Sorrows, but neither can speak, their hearts are full of emotion and deepest sympathy for the Mother and Son. The beloved disciple joins them—-all prostrate and adore Jesus on the Cross. Then the ladders are placed against the Cross and they begin the most sacred of duties.
Note how lovingly and reverently they touch the Sacred Body. First, the crown of thorns is removed—-kissing it reverently they give it to the Immaculate Mother, who stretches out her hands to receive it, and she, too, kisses it and presses it to her heart. With the tenderest care the nails are drawn out, and passed one after another to the heroic Mother. See how gently and with what reverent love Joseph and Nicodemus wind linen bands around the limbs and then lower the Sacred Body to the ground. John holds the Adorable Head, Joseph and Nicodemus support the Body, and Mary Magdalen—-always at her chosen place—-takes the Sacred Feet of the Divine Master. No priest can treat the Blessed Sacrament with more care and reverence than these holy men of high degree treated the Body of Jesus. How dear they must be to us for their love of our Lord, and His Holy Mother, and for the generosity with which they give not only their property, Nicodemus his wealth and Joseph his sepulchre, but also themselves, the personal service of their hands; and lastly, for their courage.
It is not without significance that we are told that Joseph went “boldly” to Pilate. It really needed courage to do this, seeing the fanatical hatred borne by the Chief Priests and Rulers to Jesus, and the victory they had gained over Him. Joseph’s and Nicodemus’ sympathy for the fate of the Crucified—-their intervention for Him—-and the public burial they gave Him—-might well be regarded as a demonstration of opposition, and might have the worst consequences for themselves. But they care nothing for all this. They came to know Jesus, they love Him, and everything must be done to serve and honour Him—-Love is proved by deeds! These noble-minded men and their act is the first victory of the Death of Jesus, and a fruit of our Lord’s gentleness and patience. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth”—-by being crucified—-shall draw all to Myself.” He did not take it amiss that they kept the fact of their discipleship secret for a time. Jesus waited patiently, and now His patience has borne fruit. And this is all the more wonderful—-seeing that they were the only ones of all the disciples and Apostles, except St. John, who openly declared themselves for Jesus and espoused His cause.
As soon as the Sacred Body is lowered, going a few steps they place the “World’s Treasure” in the winding-sheet that our Lady has spread on her knees. Then all prostrate and adore. I also will kneel and adore, fixing my eyes alternately on the Sacred Body of Jesus and on Mary. Contemplate lovingly, and mark how all who surround the Sacred Body of Jesus preserve a religious silence! How the Blessed Mother’s heart speaks to her Beloved Son as she gazes on His bleeding face, His glazed eyes, His mangled body, His pierced hands and feet, His opened side. She speaks to the Eternal Father, the Holy Angels, the faithful friends of her adorable Son, she looks over the whole human race for whose redemption Jesus has suffered and died. She prays for all—-for me!
What were the Holy Mother’s thoughts as she gazed into the five Wounds and sees the Sacred Body covered with gaping wounds and bruises, battered out of all shape by the cruelty of man! O Mother of Sorrows, great as an ocean is thy sorrow! What must be thy hatred of sin, when thou seest what it has wrought in the Divine beauty of thy spotless Son! What a mixture of agonizing compassion and mournful sorrow, of hope and consolation, gratitude and triumphant joy, fills her holy soul while she looks on the dead Body of her Son. The day on which Jesus died is indeed well called Good Friday. It is the day when Jesus consummated His victory over death.