CHRIST ARRIVES AT CALVARY
HE rejects the stupefying potion offered to Him to deaden the pain. Stretched on the Cross the nails are driven through His tender Hands and Feet. As the Cross is raised and placed in its earthen socket, the jolt sends an agony into every part of His Body. He is filled with excruciating pains. But amidst the curses and blasphemies of the malefactors, and the scorn and taunts of the priests, a word proceeds from His lips which is for the salvation of mankind. "Father, forgive them." It is the prevailing utterance of His Priestly Office. The pardon man's nature needs is received in Christ. A reparation for sin is made to God. The barrier which had hindered the full action of God's Love to His Creatures is now rolled away. Humanity in man's person had done penance for man's sins and obtained God's forgiveness. Here, to the Cross, let the weak, the sinful, the back-sliding, the broken-hearted come. Here is full forgiveness and reconciliation to God.
Again: Christ is the King reigning on the tree. Beside Him are two malefactors. The solemn and awful prayer of Jesus goes to the heart of one; the panorama of his life sweeps before him. He sees the shameful deeds and ghastly sins. Conviction of sin becomes his. He openly confesses his guilt.
He accepts his terrible punishment as rightly his due. The strange title over Jesus tells that He is a King. An incipient faith arises in his soul. Whatever scorn it may bring to himself, he openly confesses Christ," Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom." In deep humility, he only asks for a remembrance. He beholds Christ dying, and dead, yet his faith wavers not. He clings to His Lord's promise to find it true. O wondrous conversion; so rare, so deep, so marvellous in its penitence and its faith.
Again: Behold Christ as the Prophet. At the foot of the Cross stand St. John and the Blessed Mother and the Holy Women.
Christ not only saves sinners, but unites them in one body by union with Himself. He says to St. John, "Behold thy Mother," and to His Blessed Mother, "Behold thy Son." They were to be united in love, in the love that came from Him. It was to be a tie formed by Divine Grace. Behold the Blessed Mother, not fainting, but calmly standing at the Cross. She is one in heart with her Divine Son. The sword of sorrow pierces her heart. Nevertheless she is sustained in Him. Apostles may flee, the darkness may deepen, but she, a type of the Church's faithful ones, meeting her sufferings, with Him abides.
"O Wondrous, Divine mystery of Love! Love must respond to love. As Christ gave Himself to thee, thou must give back thyself to Him."
O Lord, our Prophet, Priest, and King, lifted up for our redemption, Thou hast been made the Sin-Victim for us. Thou art the Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world. Pardon our sins, and cleanse us from their guilt. Unite us to Thee, and to one another in Thee, in Thy Holy Church. Remember us, O Lord, when Thou comest into thy Kingdom, for Thy mercies' sake. AMEN.
The tragic drama of Calvary is divided into two parts. In the first we have Christ as our Priest, King, and Prophet. Then there is a pause. A great darkness gathers about the Sufferer, the sun veils His face. Christ is now presented as the God-Man or Mediator.
CHRIST APPEALING TO THE ETERNAL FATHER
We hear our Lord saying, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me? " Thus He begins the recitation of the 22nd Psalm. Christ, in His Agony, thus looks on to the fruit of His work, when the ends of the world shall come together, and His seed shall serve Him. However terrible His suffering, there is to be an eventual triumph. God is a covenant-keeping God. There is a rainbow round about the Throne. God entered a Covenant with Christ. It was kept on Christ's part. All His works were good and done in grace. They were therefore meritorious by virtue of the Covenant. His Divine Person gave them an infinite value. They satisfied, therefore, for the sins of all mankind. We can now approach God in Jesus Christ as accepted for His merits. Here again on the Cross we have the manhood of the Mediator brought before us. It is declared in His next word,--"I thirst." Calvary is the manifestation of the Love of God, and of His Sacred Humanity. His heart thrills with all tenderness. He, Who rejected the stupefying gall, accepted then from some disciple the vinegar placed in the reed. He allowed Himself thus to be ministered to in His sufferings. Blessed was he who thus slaked the Agony of his dying Lord. That cry of His, "I thirst," comes down to us through the ages. It is a perpetual and living cry of Christ to His followers. O souls that love Him, learn more and more to serve Him. Satisfy His thirst. Work for His interests, for the extension of His Kingdom, for the saving of souls.
O Holy Lord Jesus Christ, we prostrate ourselves before Thee. With awe and trembling we contemplate the mystery of Thy dereliction. May Thy vicarious sufferings be our deliverance, Thy victorious Faith be our own. Give us a ghostly realization of this awful mystery, and a trust in Thy merits. May we ever cling to Thee, our Covenant-keeping God, the full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice and oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.
In conclusion, hear our Lord's last words, "It is finished." There is the joy of completion in any work. There is a special joy if the work has been a painful one. There is a still greater joy of an accomplished victory when the work has involved a deadly struggle. Our Lord's lifework had involved continuous trial and temptations. " He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin." He passed through the trial which afflicted His Body. His moral nature felt the indignities offered to His Person. He underwent the desolation of spirit on the Cross. He drank the bitter cup to its dregs. How great a joy now fills the heart of Jesus. God and man are reconciled. The foundation of the new Heaven and earth are laid. He commends His soul to the Eternal Father. "Into Thy hands I commend my spirit." What a contrast between a Christian and a sinner's death! The sinner does not like to look forward to it in life, nor to look back on his life in the hour of death. He dies perhaps without fear, but dies like an animal. The Christian offers his pain to Jesus. The past does not trouble him, for he has been absolved from his sin. He looks forward with humility, but trust. Death has been transformed from a punishment into a gate of life. He knows dear ones who have gone before are waiting for him. The good angels come at God's command to bear his soul to Christ. He can leave those who remain trustingly to God's protection. He has learned the Divine Lesson, how to rest in God and commend His soul to Him.
We come now to the New Covenant. When the soldiers came to Jesus, they found that He was dead already. But one of the soldiers with his spear pierced the Side, and forthwith there came out Blood and Water. This indignity offered to Christ adds nothing to His atoning work. It was finished. But we are now in the presence of another and great mystery. Why did the Blood and the Water flow out? It is the Blood of the New Covenant.
Man needed for His salvation four things. He needed truth. Before Christ came, the future was all uncertain. God might have sent angels to teach us. But their teaching could not have been effective because they could not have embodied it in example. Man was to be taught by man. But if a human example were needed, God might have taken human nature on Himself, as the first man's nature was taken. God might have taken on a true humanity from the dust of the earth. But man needed something more than example. He was stained and ruined by sin. He had offended God and needed to be reconciled to Him. It was not an Example only, but pardon, which He must obtain. It was necessary therefore that God should not only take upon Himself a nature like our own, but by entering into the race become one of us. He must become one of us in order for man to fight over again his lost battle and obtain, by his perfect obedience, our forgiveness. And so it is that He offers Himself on the Cross for mankind. But if thus He had completed His work, then the Divinity would have laid His humanity aside. The glorious fact is however, that He wears it now, and will do so throughout all Eternity. Why is this? Because man needed not only redemption but restoration. He needed to be remade, reconstructed. He needed to obtain a supernatural union with God in Glory, to be made one with the God-Man Jesus Christ. As the soul of Jesus Christ had enjoyed the Beatific Vision, man, in union with Him, could obtain that end. Thereby it was that the side is pierced and the Blood and Water flow out. For just as He was taken from the side of the first Adam, so the Church, the Bride of Christ, is to be taken out of the second Adam. He extends the life of Christ to us through Christian Baptism, and through the Holy Eucharist. O what joy and gratitude, what love should be ours, who are now being transformed through the indwelling of Christ. It is the beginning here, through Grace, of the supernatural union with Christ in Glory. A great crowd of witnesses surround us. They look down from the Heavenly Mansions. They watch with eagerness our running for the prize. Their prayers and intercessions are on our behalf. Once they were struggling like ourselves. They had their own infirmities and failures and sins. O Saints of God, reigning in Glory, we ask how was it that ye won your crowns? O blessed answer that comes floating down from the Eternal Gates: Grace, grace, grace, did it all!
O Lord, Who, as the second Adam, didst form Thy Church out of Thy Side, grant that we may be made one by Thy gift of Grace and a living Faith, and may be united to Thee in charity, and to one another in the bond of Thy Holy Church.