The Illusion of the Irreparable
BY FRANK L. VERNON, D.D., LITT.D.,
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012
NOTE: These addresses have been printed from the stenographer's report. I have neither added to the matter nor altered the form, excepting for an occasional word. If there be found in the little book, notes useful for meditation, I shall be content.
To M. R.
INTRODUCTION, page 1.
THE FIRST WORD, page 7: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
THE SECOND WORD, page 15: "Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise."
THE THIRD WORD, page 23: "Woman, behold thy Son; Son, behold thy mother."
THE FOURTH WORD, page 29: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
THE FIFTH WORD, page 37: "I thirst."
THE SIXTH WORD, page 45: "It is finished."
THE SEVENTH WORD, page 51: "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit."
THROUGHOUT the world today the Church is exhibiting evidences of an irreparable disaster. She who is decked all gloriously within, as becoming the King's daughter, is to-day clothed in garments of desolate mourning. Her altars are bare. She is stripped of all adornment. Her sacred symbols are shrouded in black. She bows her head in her bereavement, for Jesus, her Lord, is crucified. And this she proclaims to the whole world, nor does she conceal her affliction.
Secular histories record their martyrs, who, having laid down their lives for their cause, have passed off the scene, while others have carried on the mission for which they died. But it cannot be so with Jesus Christ. [1/2] He cannot be regarded as separable from His cause. Either He lived and His cause prevailed, or He died and His cause is lost. He has proclaimed Himself to be the Son of God, and the Son of God cannot suffer defeat. He has proclaimed Himself to be the Way of Life, and He who is the Way of Life cannot be swallowed up in death.
His accusers, His judges, His executioners were well assured that the disaster which they had brought upon Him was an irreparable disaster. "If Thou art the King of Israel, come down from the Cross and we will believe." "He saved others, Himself He cannot save." If ever man beheld an irreparable disaster, it was the crucifixion on this day of Jesus Christ.
And yet what was it that happened? From His Cross, in the supreme hour of His defeat, He exercised a power over the world which has never been diminished. He ruled from His Cross as no [2/3] king has ever ruled from his throne. Kingdoms have risen and fallen; thrones have crumbled away; kings have come and gone; and yet from two boards nailed cross-wise, Jesus Christ, wounded, dying, and dead, seized the sovereignty of the world. That sovereignty He has never lost. That sovereignty He holds to-day. And the Cross shines forth in mystic glow through all the darkness which enshrouds the world, and sooner or later every man bows before that Cross and the Lord who reigns upon it.
His enemies supposed that in His death they had brought about the irreparable destruction of His seditious sect. But it was not so. They were wrong; and when the darkness came, and the rocks were rent, and the earth was opened, and the veil of the temple parted in twain, God changed irreparable defeat into eternal victory.
That is the lesson which I want you to [3/4] learn from the Cross this Good Friday, as you have never learned it before. I want you to carry five words in your mind. I want you to carry them as long as you live in this world, and I implore you never to forget them: The Illusion of the Irreparable—The Illusion of the Irreparable. And the lesson is, No situation is ever irreparable when God appears upon the scene.
HYMN NO. 153:
O come and mourn with me awhile;
And tarry here the cross beside;
O come, together let us mourn;
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.
THE FIRST WORD
Our Lord speaks the First Word:
"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
IS SIN an irreparable disaster? So far as you and I are concerned, it is. Who has not known the despairing intuition that sin has destroyed that which never can be mended; that sin has marred a yesterday that never can be recalled; that sin has imposed a stain that all our tears can never wash away? Who has not known the crushing, deadening knowledge that sin is irreparable? The word cannot be recalled, the deed cannot be undone, and yesterday is gone forever.
So it is with us until we know some secret which can repair the irreparable. Sin is a final disaster. Who has not [7/8] watched a soul whom one has loved better than one's own? Who has not feared a temptation yet unknown and yet bound to come? Who has not agonized over a sense of helplessness? You could warn; you could plead; you could guard up to a certain point, but you could not impose your will upon another. Sooner or later the time was bound to come when the unfettered expression of the life of the soul you loved could not be thwarted. You saw the temptation. You understood from your own bitter recollection the subtle method of attack, and you were helpless. You saw the sin smite. You saw the bloom go. You saw the stain. And it broke your heart.
Yes, whether you look within your own soul, and remember your own sins, or whether you have regard for those lives you would keep unspotted from the world, you cannot escape the crushing intuition that sin is the irreparable disaster. [8/9] It is the only cause for unhappiness in the world. There is grief, there is anxiety in the corridors of hospitals. But not like that. There is no grief which breaks our hearts excepting sin. There is no power which blights our lives excepting sin.
You shall see recovery with every other ill. But that, that disaster causes men to hide their heads in shame, and flee from families and from friends, and walk softly all the days of their lives, with the brand of the fugitive burned deeply on their souls. Sin, so far as you and I are concerned, is an irreparable disaster.
But is it really irreparable? Is the word that has been spoken, is the situation created, an irreparable one? Is the act that has been committed, is the breach that has been made, irreparable? Is the life that has been spoiled irreparably spoiled? Is the treasure of virtue that has been lost irretrievably gone?
The Cross forever destroys the illusion [9/10] of the irreparable, for Jesus Christ, as He hung upon the Cross, looked down upon the crowning sin of all sins. He saw, He saw a world which had turned its back upon the God who made it. He saw, a world which had defied, scorned, rejected, denied, betrayed, seized, bound, spat upon, scourged, and crucified God, whom angels adored. The devils down there in hell, in their silly pride, had organized revolt against Him. They had waged war with the angelic hosts. With evil they matched forces. They had carried on open warfare. They had fought their fight and lost. They had been banished from heaven and driven down to the depth of the hell of their own creation, but they had never laid finger upon God's person. Whatever their sin was, whatever the weight of the guilt of hell may be, both sin and guilt are insignificant compared with the guilt of man; because we, we waged war against one lonely [10/11] Person who had deliberately disarmed Himself, who had deliberately deprived Himself of the angelic protection which one word would have summoned. He had laid aside every earthly weapon of defense. He left Himself armed with nothing but humility and loving kindness, and He spake as never man spake, and even His enemies admitted that. He was gentle and tender with every one, and no one ever came to Him and was cast out. He raised the dead. He was the friend of the outcast.
And what did we do? We turned upon a Person like that, and after He had spent what was, after all, a very short life, that was what we brought Him to. Now the guilt of that sin hangs over the world. Of all the sins the worst, because we wounded love that for love of us had disarmed itself. Oh, treachery beyond imagination! Can you and I picture, in our wildest moments, a sin so great as that?
 Take your own sins. I do not know some of you. This last year, since I saw you on last Good Friday, by some series of misadventures, you may have fallen in sin that has seemed to you to be irreparable. It may be that you have come creeping to the Cross to-day, with hearts that are dead, because you think you have spoiled your life beyond repair. Is your sin greater than the sin which Jesus Christ looked down upon from the Cross? It may be you are agonizing over the sin of some one you love, whom you have tried to save and failed. It may be that you are desolate because you are convinced that he whom you love, she whom you love, has been taken from you by something worse than death. Compare their sin with the sin that was judged by Jesus Christ from the Cross. Is his sin really irreparable? Is her sin really irreparable? Is it possible that you may be mistaken?
 And the Cross shines forth in mystic glow, the Cross sends its soft, mellow ray into your darkness, to tell you no sin is irreparable, because that day the finger of God skillfully searched out and delicately touched the nerve of the soul that never dies. The love of God diagnosed the disease and laid its linger upon the cause. Ignorant, you knew not what you did. You knew the moment after. They knew not what they did. They know now more than you dream. And God, who knows the unrevealed secrets of the human heart, cries out His high priestly prayer: "Father, forgive them; they knew not what they did." And over all the sins of all the world, with all its seemingly irreparable disaster, down through all the ages that prayer flows like a river of blood, and, however it may seem to you, by the power of the Cross, even sin is no longer an irreparable disaster. Do not forget that.
HYMN NO. 157:
Sweet the moments, rich in blessing,
Which before the cross I spend,
Life and health and peace possessing
From the sinner's dying Friend.
THE SECOND WORD
Our Lord speaks the Second Word:
"Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise."
IS ANY life irreparably destroyed? However lovely and consoling the Gospel of Redemption may be as we read it in the large, does it really work out in real life with real people? Does the Christian religion really teach that no life can ever in this world go beyond repair? It is a very difficult thing to believe. It would seemingly run counter to all our knowledge of human life. Have not we seen lives wrecked and homes broken and fortunes lost and everything gone, not once but time and again? Have not we seen men and women of brilliant gifts, [15/16] of rare possessions and exalted rank, fall fathomlessly beyond any human possibility of return? Yes, we have.
One thing of course to remember is, there is always something spectacular about a fall. It arrests attention. It holds the imagination. The returns are not so spectacular, and in a worldly wise society, returns, in newspaper language, have no news value. And yet the thing we see by the side of the Cross to-day cannot be set aside.
Look at that man hanging on the cross beside our Lord. Was ever a more tragic failure? He at least has gone beyond recall. He at least has fallen under irreparable disaster. What has he left? His name is gone; his honor is gone; his friends have gone; everything has gone; his freedom has gone. He is nailed to the cross. He will be dead in less than three hours. Do you know of any situation more hopeless than that? Are lives irreparably [16/17] destroyed? Are there really and actually any lives irretrievably lost?
Now listen. It is quite true there is nothing for this thief. How would you like to be remembered for twenty centuries as a thief, and have the world reminded once a year that you were? How would you like to have your sin carried down through twenty centuries? How would you like to be pointed to by all the world once a year, who will cry, He did that, She did that? I think he has something more than lost everything, do you not? Twenty centuries, and still no one has forgotten that he was a thief.
There he hung. He heard the first word: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do," and he was silent. His memory as he hung there in the intervals when his torture left him free to think, his memory carried him back over the years of his life. There was a time in his childhood when all the world [17/18] was free and all the world was happy, and then came the tempests of his youth, and then came the riots of his mature life, when he had lived desperately a man of fortune, playing for the stakes he always lost. And now he looked back over all that, and he knows in his soul he was mad all the while. He never knew what he did.
And here, here, here is some one, here is some one who understands that. "How did you know?" "How do you know this?" And the burning love that goes down to the bottom of the heart of that wreck of a man and forgives him what the world declined to forgive, that love which will not keep him at a distance, the mere pardoned criminal, that love speaks to him as he has never been spoken to since his last innocent day with his mother, if he ever had a mother who knew him and loved him and guarded his innocence; that love speaks, not "I forgive you," not "I am so sorry for you." [18/19] Oh, no! more than that. "To-day, to-day you are going to be with Me, and you and I are going into Paradise together. You do not know where Paradise is. You do not know what Paradise means. Ah! wait till you see it! You will forget the horrors of your life down here, for you shall stand in the presence of angels who will rejoice that you are My friend."
A strangely ill-assorted pair they would have seemed to be, but such was the case. And when the disaster was beyond repair, Divine love burns within the soul of the new-born penitent, Divine love consumes in its white flame the disordered and distorting passion which has made him what he was. Silence and solitude and the new-born love for the newfound Friend upon the Cross completes in a short time that which is the work of a long time, and that night he is with Jesus Christ in Paradise.
No, no life is irreparably destroyed, [19/20] no life is irretrievably gone. The Cross sends out the mystic glow which makes us understand and forever, that the seeming irreparable disaster in your life or in mine or in the lives of those we love is an illusion. No penitent soul can perish, and no soul that loves God can be lost, and no soul this side of the farther side of death is beyond the piercing love of the sacred Heart of Jesus. You have watched, you say, your impenitent die. Do not be too sure. At the very moment when the soul is standing with but one foot in this world, the voice which the lips could not utter may have sighed, "Remember me," and the Voice may have come, "To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise."
No, no disaster is irreparable. The Cross has told us so. Pray, pray for those whom you love. Pray for your sins. Pray for all penitents. Take their lives and yours in your hands and offer them up to Jesus on the Cross. It is so simple.
HYMN NO. 149:
O Lamb of God, still keep me
Near to thy wounded side!
'Tis only there in safety
And peace I can abide.
What foes and snares surround me!
What lusts and fears within!
The grace that sought and found me
Alone can keep me clean.
THE THIRD WORD
Our Lord speaks the Third Word:
"Woman, behold thy Son; Son, behold thy mother."
SHE had held Him in her arms. She carried Him safely in the flight. She lived with Him in Nazareth, and none of us will ever know the things which she had pondered in her heart. Their life together had been a perfect thing. With all the deep, deep understanding that goes beyond words, that makes silence a golden thing, there had been that swift flash of a look; their eyes had met, and He was hers and she was His, and He speaks: "Lady, behold thy Son! Son, behold thy mother."
The sin of the world had broken the heart of the Redeemer. That terrible [23/24] parting must have broken the heart of the Man. She had gone, and that night St. John would guard her while His body would lie still in its tomb. Well, is death an irreparable disaster? What do you think? If there ever could have been an irreparable disaster, it would seem to have been the separation of Jesus and Mary. The non-Christian world seems to persist in the idea that it was an irreparable disaster that Jesus and Mary were irretrievably lost to each other. But that is another illusion which the Cross dispels.
Whatever happened on that day, something happened which has caused the Angelus bell to announce three times a day the world over, twenty centuries later, that the Mother and the Son were never separated. Their life together was never lost. And the life of Jesus and Mary is a rosary of sorrowful, joyful, and glorious mysteries. No; no, after that, [24/25] death can be no longer regarded as an irreparable disaster, can it?
Oh, there was the going away. There was the parting. There was the last look, with blinding tears; and there was the desolating time that followed. And yet, and yet what became of that black mist? Some light penetrated it. Something made it translucent and transparent, and the illusion was dispelled. Whatever happened to Jesus and Mary, their life from the moment He saw her go with St. John became the greatest wonder in heaven and earth.
No, death is not an irreparable disaster. The thing that really happens is this: While you are living with those whom you love, there are two parts of your life. There is the exterior part and the interior part. The exterior part is subject to change and chance, to accidents and vicissitudes. The interior part is stable and beyond all change and chance. [25/26] Your interior life is that which holds you to the souls you love, and that interior life is the life given to you, which you may see in Jesus and Mary. That life death cannot break. That life the finger of man cannot mar. That life is yours forever. Stripped of its exterior accident, the substance of the thing shines out like a glittering jewel. It is yours, and it is yours forever.
To take the life of Jesus as you feed upon Him in your heart by faith with thanksgiving; to take your human relationships and offer them to God in union with the life of Jesus and Mary; to sanctify yourselves for the sake of that life, is your work while you are in this world. Years of separation cannot weaken its power or dim its beauty. One word whispered to God, and the soul for whom you pray will answer through Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, souls one with Jesus Christ are one with each other. [26/27] And that life, that life is really the only life that will give you peace, the only life that will really make you happy. It is the only life that you never can lose.
And once again the mystic glow of the Cross sends its ray down upon the seemingly irreparable, and another illusion is dispelled.
HYMN NO. 161:
At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful mother weeping,
Where he hung, the dying Lord;
For her soul of joy bereaved,
Bowed with anguish, deeply grieved,
Felt the sharp and piercing sword.
THE FOURTH WORD
Our Lord speaks the Fourth Word:
"My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
SO FAR we have seen the sorrowful mysteries of human suffering. But now, now it is
something worse, because it has to do with God. "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" This is spiritual dereliction. This is devastating desolation. One could bear the desert because one felt the presence of God. And Gethsemane, He could pray to His Father there. All along the way of sorrows and up the hill He felt with sensible fervor the presence of His Father, until, until this last sorrow.
And why? I know it broke His human heart, now God has gone. [29/30] The light is out, and He is alone. Forsaken, forsaken by God! And He had come down, proceeding from the Father. He had come down because the Father so loved the world. And He had lived His life. He had given Himself. He had laid down everything. For God's sake He hung desolate. And His Mother had gone, and at that moment, of all times in His life, God forsook Him. He plunges Himself into the black abyss of that dereliction, leaving Himself no light. He cries out, "Why!"
And now, if the enemies who have taunted Him cried out, "Art Thou the Son of God?" now, if they had waited for their hour of triumph, it has surely come. "Son of God!" "Did you hear what He said? We have brought Him now to acknowledge His mistake. God? Why, God has forsaken Him. It is finished." No, it is not, not yet.
Do you mean, then, that this dereliction [30/31] also is not an irreparable spiritual disaster? Is it an irreparable thing to be God-forgot and God-forsaken? Is it an irreparable thing to have the bonds which have held the soul close to God broken? Is it not an irreparable thing to be separated from God? If that is not irreparable, what is? So it would seem.
Now you and I must come nearer to the Cross. It is very difficult to see through the shadows, but something, something is happening up there. It is dark. It is very dark, but it is the sort of darkness one can feel. There is something electric about it. It is a darkness which lends mystery. Something which one can feel but cannot see or hear is happening. What is it? They did not know then, but it was not long after that men did discover the secret of that dereliction. It was not so very long after, that saints began to covet above all spiritual adventures, the adventure into the dark night of the soul. [31/32] Only the most proficient, only the most illumined, only those who had been once purged could undertake, dared undertake this second purgation of the soul, known in the mystic way as the dark night; for in the dark night, stripped of all that the imagination may give or the senses contribute, the soul stands alone, selfless, and with pure white, unrequited, unregarded love, gives to God the perfection of human devotion, and accomplishes the union of the will with God, only to be accomplished in the still darkness of the night of dereliction, when to the senses the soul is forsaken of God.
Oh, what a mystery! Oh, how difficult to understand! Oh, how far beyond and above the religious experience which we have known! Precisely. At the very moment of the final irreparable disaster, in the midst of appalling darkness, Jesus Christ revealed the supreme secret of the mystical life with God. Now this is beyond my comprehension, [32/33] but remember the dereliction of Jesus Christ, which seemed to be an irreparable disaster, was really the unlocking of a treasure chest filled with the shining gold of the love of God. But it is not beyond you. You and I, in our degree, shall be led to the discovery of the treasure of the dark night of the soul. You and I will be led, gradually so that we shall not be terrified, into this dark night which is to be our second purgation.
You have had your little taste of it. You have had your moments; perhaps you have had your days and years when you have been God-forsaken. I have. Have you not? God-forsaken! Your faith so dim, your prayers so languid, your heart so sad, and your soul, ah! God, how lonely. The sacraments seem to fall short, and you look for one ray and you find none. The illusion is that your faith is irreparably injured, that your life in grace has been irretrievably lost. [33/34] Have you not heard people say, "I gave up my prayers years ago, when my tragedy came. I gave up the sacraments years ago. All my faith went then. I have never been near a church since. My disaster was and is irreparable"? That is being Godforsaken.
Now, it is just barely possible that while all of us know something of this dereliction to a degree, it is just barely possible that one person has come here today, persuaded by a friend or drawn by an old association, with that dereliction deeply darkening their whole life, some one who does not intend to perform an Easter duty, some one who does not intend to say a prayer to-night. If there is one person like that, then, as though he or she were the only person in the church, will you, if you forget everything else I have said, take this: Your dereliction, your loss of God and religion and faith, [34/35] due as you rightly say to the affliction which has smitten you, is not an irreparable disaster? This dereliction is the threshold of the door which will lead you to a degree of spiritual attainment which never could have come to you in any other way. It will cleanse your soul; it will brace your will; it will illumine your mind, and you shall have something that comes to no man, to no woman, who has not braved and endured the dark night of the soul.
Take your dereliction, offer it up in your prayers, offer it up in your Communions, hold fast, and you shall see that your present condition is by no means irreparable. The Cross has dispelled that illusion.
HYMN NO. 147:
In the hour of trial,
Jesus, plead for me;
Lest by base denial
I depart from thee.
When thou seest me waver,
With a look recall,
Nor for fear or favor
Suffer me to fall.
THE FIFTH WORD
Our Lord speaks the Fifth Word:
THE pains which He had endured in body and mind and soul had been unrelieved. His anguish was exquisitely intense. And yet I have never felt that He wanted us to dwell upon His physical pain when we speak to you. I feel sure He would not have us tell you much about that. Why? Because perfect love conceals its pain, and what it bears, it bears hiddenly. And does He not know the pain which you and I have watched in those we love? Does He not know the weeks and months of nursing and watching and shrinking that we have known, as those we loved have suffered? Does He not remember the pains of some of you? I do.
 I have seen some of you, fortified with grace, bearing your pains with fortitude and patience.
No, there is something about parading the pains of our Lord which makes one wince. It is not the thing to do. But He was the Lord of life. He had laid His hands upon the sick and healed them, every one. Virtue had gone out from Him time and time again, and banished pain and brought back to life. And now, now, He Himself is smitten, and cries out, "I thirst." And we had expected that. He who saved others must save Himself. He who did not save Himself must have had some reason for not saving the person for whom you prayed. Remember, He would not save Himself. There may be a reason why your prayer was not answered.
Is pain an irreparable disaster? All pagan philosophies, old and new, say it is. They all say that if all were right [38/39] with the world, there would be no pain. They say that if man has a right religion, he will be delivered from the mental errors of the pains which he fancies he feels. Pain is regarded as an irreparable disaster. Is it?
Jesus Christ suffered pain, and there is something so consoling about it, that the pains He suffered were, after all, the pains to which we are heirs. They were just such pains as our friends have borne and as we shall bear. And religion seems to be more real, and our Lord seems to be more near, if and when we remember that the pains which He took upon Himself to bear were the pains which we all may share.
I see nothing to be gained by painting the Passion in lurid tones and with harrowing descriptions. But what happened? Some ray of light came that day from the Cross, which illumined pain forever and revealed the purgative property of suffering. [39/40] It is true that suffering does purify, that suffering does illuminate, that suffering does refine, that suffering does develop and call out qualities of character which lend to the sufferer a dignity which is amazing. I have seen what you have seen, the development of character and the possibilities of development in men and women and children. I have seen something about them which has made me understand that the room in which they were was holy ground. Whatever pain had been, it had not been an irreparable disaster. It had released something which not only transformed the sufferer but which had cast its spell over the whole house. The whole family had lived differently because of the memory of a holy suffering.
It is a mystery; it is a sorrowful mystery; but like all mysteries, it is profoundly and irrevocably true. He or she who would attempt to deny or detract [40/41] from that mysterious property of pain, when it is voluntarily accepted to cleanse and to transform a human character, betrays a lack of knowledge of life which is pathetic. Where have they lived, whom have they known, what have they seen, how can any one live where real men and real women are, and not have discovered that the strong person and the great persons are the persons who have attained the art of silent suffering? And remember, whatever it is, it is not an irreparable disaster.
Therefore take whatever the pains are, which most probably will come to all of us unless there should be a sudden death; take all the pains and offer them up by intention in your Communions and your prayers, in union with the pains of Jesus. Offer up your intercessions for those whom you know are suffering pains, that by their pains they may be purified in soul and body, and may attain to the place [41/42] and virtue which is the gift of the holy Cross.
No, however it may seem in sick rooms and hospitals, be well assured from the Cross, pain is not an irreparable disaster, and let the Cross dispel one more of our illusions.
HYMN NO. 151:
Go to dark Gethsemane,
Ye that feel the tempter's power;
Your Redeemer's conflict see,
Watch with him one bitter hour;
Turn not from his griefs away,
Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.
THE SIXTH WORD
Our Lord speaks the Sixth Word:
"It is finished."
THE last moments at the Cross fly quickly, and He announces "It is finished." What?
Well, His enemies supposed that He meant His mission. Truly that was finished. He had come to be a king. Ah, well, that is all finished now. He had come to establish a new sect. Well, that is all finished now. He had come and had built up hopes. All that was finished now. His whole life on earth was finished. And looking at it and looking at what there was left of it, it had been a life of irreparable failure.
Why, whom had it attracted? Did the men of intellect listen to Him? [45/46] Did the men of affairs listen to Him? Did any one of any importance whatever listen to Him? To whom had He appealed? To no one excepting a few fishermen and a few women. The world's standard is to-day what it was then. He was a failure.
"It is finished." So they thought. Ah! ah! the illusion of the irreparable again! One thing they left out of their calculation; one thing they did not know: He is God. Nothing is irreparable. His words have been rejected. His Body has been crucified. His followers have been scattered. The world has rejected Him, and the mission of redemption has been accomplished.
Forever, and forever the redeeming love of God has been released by the sufferings of the Holy One upon the Cross; grace has flowed down in a river of blood, and never again is it possible for any one to be beyond redemption. Every soul can be saved. Every sin can be forgiven. [46/47] Every wound can be healed. Every vice can be banished. Every virtue can be won. Every sinner can become a saint, because the work of redemption is finished. There is nothing left to be done.
Remember there was only one person whom we know who allowed himself to become the son of perdition on this terrible day, and he was the man who believed in the illusion of the irreparable. "Take your money. I have betrayed innocent blood; and there is nothing left for me to do but to go and hang myself." There was another thing that was left for him to do. If Judas had not been deceived by the illusion of the irreparable, and had gone to the Cross and laid his traitorous cheek against the wood, and placed his soft hand on the nails that pierced the feet, we might have seen the crowning act of Divine love which only human faithlessness can thwart.
If you or I are lost, it will be our own fault, [47/48] and the fault will be that we—and God forbid we should—allow ourselves to be deceived by the illusion of the irreparable. The work of redemption is finished. The means of grace are here. The love of God offers. And there is no reason, outside ourselves, why you and I should not on Easter day, having made our Easter duty, perceive within ourselves the fruits of His redemption, and live all the rest of our days in joyful peace, because the work of our redemption is finished. If we are not in heaven, whose fault will it really be?
HYMN NO. 146:
See the destined day arise!
See a willing sacrifice!
Jesus, to redeem our loss,
Hangs upon the shameful cross.
THE SEVENTH WORD
Our Lord speaks the Seventh Word:
"Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit."
YES, it really was finished. The mists are beginning now to melt, and beyond the Cross the preparations are being made for His home-coming. The angels who had gone down to Bethlehem surely must have been the first waiting behind their veil. Just a few moments more, just a little more pain, a little more weakness; it is almost over. The breathing now is more fitful, and at each sinking He rallies with greater difficulty.
The world sees Him die, and so do the angels. They see Him too. The world sees in that death the final touch of the irreparable disaster. [51/52] Oh, foolish, stupid, blind, brutish world! Cannot you see? The veil parts, and bending over, with His arms outstretched, the smiling face of His Father bids Him welcome home. Son of God, returned from war. "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit."
Irreparable? Death an irreparable disaster? After that, after that? No, no. How can it be? And God at the moment of death sweeps the last illusion of the irreparable away forever, and the soul sees that God's hand has been guiding and guarding and keeping, that God's hand has been saving and restoring and cleansing and healing and blessing. The soul sees that God has made strength out of weakness, and success out of failure, and glory out of shame. And in that clear, clear light, freed from all illusion, the soul, as it is, looks into the face of God, and knows itself to be the child and knows God to be the Father. It is as though He had just for a moment opened [52/53] the door behind the Cross to say, "Look, look before I close it. You see it is My Father. I am going to Him. I am going now."
Now, depend upon it, those whom you have loved and do love, who have gone through the mystery of dying, will tell you, when you see them, the strange and thrilling story of their fresh and new discovery of God the Father. In His hands you may leave them, for those hands are more tender than yours, and in those hands they are safer and happier than ever they were in yours.
It only remains for you and for me to use the grace that God has given, to persevere in the practice of the religion in which we have been educated. It only remains for us to be patient and brave and humble and simple, under all conditions, under every circumstance. To remember that since He says, "It is finished," nothing is irreparable; every situation can be [53/54] faced, and the worst have a way out and a way home. Hope, hope, hope, and you will save those you love, you will save the world, you will save yourself; and you can hope and you can endure in hope if you look up and out of your own heart into the face of God, and believe that nothing is irreparable.
HYMN NO. 158:
O sacred head surrounded
By crown of piercing thorn!
O bleeding head, so wounded,
Reviled and put to scorn!
Death's pallid hue comes o'er thee,
The glow of life decays,
Yet angel hosts adore thee,
And tremble as they gaze.