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Tag Archives: Cross

TO RENOUNCE ONESELF IS TO FOLLOW JESUS CHRIST

“For man, to follow Jesus Christ comprehends everything. All virtue, all sanctity are comprised in these two simple words which He addresses to every soul: ‘Follow me!’

‘FOLLOW ME’

But He says them to no one without prefacing them with these others, in which He lays down the conditions outside of which no response is possible to this sweet appeal: If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, taking up his cross daily. [Mark 8:34]

YOUR TRUE PROGRESS IS JESUS CHRIST’S PROGRESS IN YOU

Is it then by loading ourselves, and with such heavy burdens, that we can follow You truly and constantly? Yes, for My kingdom is within, and the road which leads to it is an interior one; yes, because to suffer is better than to act; yes, again, because your true progress is My progress in you, and because the cross, overcoming all obstacles, overcoming you yourself, in as far as you are an obstacle to Me, opens for Me a wide and easy road, and permits Me to achieve My designs in your regard.”
– Mgr. Gay

 
 

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SUFFERING IS BENEFICIAL FOR THE SOUL

“Who now rejoice in my sufferings…” (Col 1:24a) • “If any man will follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mk 8:34b).

* * * * * * * *

“Why can we not love the cross, recline in the shade of this blessed tree, fix our gaze upon it, and clasp it in our arms? Why can we not taste its fruit, bitter in the mouth, but salutary for the soul, so fruitful for eternal life?

What is beyond it?

The earth is torn up to receive the seeds of the future harvest, and what is this life for us but the divine sowing-time? Let us then be broken up, torn in all our senses, so that our souls may be fertile for eternity; let us permit the Divine Labourer to dig deeply, seeking in our inmost nature the last roots of any noxious herb, so that the brambles may no longer stifle the good grain, nor the tares mix with the true corn. Let us even allow Him to slay us, in order to bestow on us new life.”
– Le Chemin du Ciel

 
 

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GOOD FRIDAY – “IT IS CONSUMMATED”

THE SACRIFICE

“CONSUMMATUM EST” – “IT IS CONSUMMATED”

I. “Such are the last words with which the Saviour, dying on the cross, accomplishes this day His sacrifice: such are the last sighs which the holy women and the beloved disciple gather from His dying lips; such the last instructions which they receive from their kind Master.

Thus it is that He leaves this earth, and that He leaves His dear disciples agitated equally by grief at losing Him, and by the profound mystery of this last utterance: ‘Consummatum est’? All is accomplished, as regards his Father’s justice, the malice of men, and His love.

Jesus Christ having nothing more to do for us on earth, the great sacrifice being offered, and all the ancient figures fulfilled; Jerusalem having filled up the measure of its fathers; all the oracles of the Prophets being explained, the true worship established, His Father’s glory vindicated, the course of His ministry ended; not being able to leave men any greater proofs of His love, He declares that all is accomplished: ‘Consummatum est.’ He bows His Head; He utters a loud cry to heaven; He dies, and gives back to his Father the life and soul which He had received from Him.

Look at this divine Saviour expiring on the cross, and looking to you alone as the reward of His sufferings; He dies your liberator, He dies in your stead; He dies in Time, in order that you may not die in Eternity; He dies because He loves you, He dies, because you do not love Him. Can your tenderness, your grief, your gratitude know any limits here? And are you not anathema if you love not Jesus Christ crucified?

II. Those who are looking upon Him dying say to Him: ‘Come down from the cross, and we will believe in You,’ but we ought to use quite different language towards Him.

‘It is because You are raised upon the cross, O my Saviour, it is because You are dying today for me, choosing this throne of ignominy on which to be our Victim and our Pontiff; it is for these very reasons that all our consolation is to believe in You, and to adore You as our mediator, and to consecrate to You what remains of our life.

Do not descend from this sacred wood, where You are the only hope of Your people. Rather draw us thither with You, as You have promised us; the more we see You saturated with reproaches, the more our faith is increased, our hope strengthened, our love inflamed.

Can so much pain and suffering offered for us, be of no avail? – Would You have redeemed our souls at such a great price, if You had been willing to let them perish? – And would You have died such a death of ignominy, if we were not by sharing in Your suffering, to become participators one day in the glory of our immortality?”
– Laverty & Sons (eds), 1905

 

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SHORT PRAYER ON GOOD FRIDAY

FROM THE BREVIARY

Be mindful, O Lord, of this people of yours, for whose sake our Lord Jesus Christ did not shrink from the hands of his enemies and the agony of the cross: who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

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“LORD JESUS, WE ARE A PEOPLE OF THE CROSS”

• “Nothing reveals God’s love as perfectly and supremely as the cross of Jesus.

• Reading: John 18:1-19:42
‘They will look on the one they have pierced.’

• We tend to focus on Jesus’ physical suffering and torments. But Jesus’ real suffering was less physical, but spiritual. He who knew no sin became as sin for us. As St Paul, the theologian par excellence, reflected many years after the event, ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on the tree” (Gal 3:13). On the cross Jesus experienced what it meant to be forsaken, cut off from God, his Father. His cry from the cross, the prophetic fulfilment of the psalmist’s prayer, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Ps. 22:1), captures eloquently and powerfully Jesus’ terrible anguish and suffering of soul and spirit.

• Lord Jesus, we are a people of the cross. We are a people who rejoice and give thanks and praise for the wood of the cross on which you hung, the Saviour of the world.

• Our Father…, Ten Hail Marys…, Glory be…

• Today my prayer is for…”
– This short meditation was published in “A Lenten Journey of Prayer for 2013” by AlivePublishing. For information about their booklets please visit http://www.alivepublishing.co.uk (external link).

 

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GOOD FRIDAY: BEHOLD, BEHOLD THE WOOD OF THE CROSS (HYMN)

Behold the wood of the Cross (Ecce lignum Crucis)

Behold, behold the wood of the Cross
on which is hung our salvation.
O come let us adore.

Unless a grain of wheat fall upon the ground and die,
it shall remain but a single grain and not give life.

Behold…

And when my hour of glory comes as all was meant to be
you shall see me lifted up upon a tree.

Behold…

For there can be no greater love shown upon this land than
in the one who came to die that we might live.

Behold…

 

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THE CRUCIFIXION – “JESUS PRAYED FOR ALL OF THEM, THE WEAK, THE COWARDLY, THE BLIND, THE MALICIOUS”

JESUS IS LED OUT OF THE CITY

“With two criminals also condemned to be crucified, Jesus was led out from Jerusalem to Golgotha, the ‘Place of the Skull.’ He was so weak that the soldiers forced a man named Simon of Cyrene to assist Him in carrying His Cross.

On the was some women of Jerusalem wept over His fate. Jesus said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For behold days are coming in which men will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ For if in the case of green wood they do these things, what is to happen in the case of the dry?’ (Luke 23:28-31).

‘AND HE WAS RECKONED AMONG THE WICKED’

At Golgotha Jesus was nailed to His Cross and the two thieves were crucified, one on His right hand, and the other on His left. In this way there was fulfilled the prophecy of Isaias [Isaiah] which Jesus had applied to Himself: ‘For I say to you that this which is written must yet be fulfilled in me. ‘And He was reckoned among the wicked” (Luke 22:37, and Isaias 53:12).

‘JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS’

Jesus was nailed to the Cross at noon. His first words after He had been raised on the Cross were, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34). These words are a witness to the love of God for men, to the love Jesus’ human heart for men. They are also a witness to the foolishness and malice of men.

Jesus was shedding His Blood on the Cross for the salvation of mankind. His own race, His own people had brought this about. Misled by their leaders, they stood at the foot of the Cross of human redemption, mocking their Redeemer.

PILATE ‘GETS HIS OWN BACK’

Pilate, in one last gesture of disdain for the passions of the Jewish leaders, had inscribed on the Cross, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’ (John 19:19) [in Latin:’INRI’ – Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum]. The chief priests, refusing to have Jesus for their king, protested, but Pilate remained firm. He was not courageous enough to follow his own principles and save an innocent man. But he was brave enough to indulge in this one small vanity. He would flaunt his own power in the face of the priests and people. But Jesus, ever kind and merciful, prayed to His Father for all of them, the weak, the cowardly, the blind, the malicious.

‘FOR MY VESTURE THEY CAST LOTS’

While Jesus was thus praying for those who were mocking Him, regarding Him as a criminal, the soldiers, as was their custom at an execution, were dividing His garments among themselves. There were four soldiers, and they divided His garments four ways. But when they came to His tunic there was a difficulty. The tunic was seamless and could not be divided. They therefore cast lots to see who should win this prize. Both St John and St Matthew point out that in this way there was fulfilled in the life of Jesus what the Psalmist had said of himself (and, by anticipation, of Jesus): ‘They divide my garments among them; and for my vesture they cast lots’ (Psalm 21:19).

JESUS, OUR LORD AND BROTHER, NOW PROCEEDS TO GIVE TO ALL CHRISTIANS THEIR SPIRITUAL MOTHER

In the midst of this story of humiliation and suffering there was one note of gentleness and compassion. Some of the friends of Jesus were present at the foot of His Cross. His mother Mary was there, Mary of Cleophas, Mary of Magdala, and perhaps a cousin of Mary, the mother of James and Joseph. St John, the beloved disciple, was also there. Noticing them, Jesus addressed His mother and said, ‘Woman, behold thy son.’ Then addressing St John, He said, ‘Behold thy mother’ (John 19:26-27).

Thus Jesus, even in the hour of His agony, was mindful of His filial duty to provide for the care of His mother. And, as St John himself tells us, ‘from that hour the disciple took her into his home’ (John 19:27). Down through the centuries since then, Christians have also seen, and rightfully, in this incident a symbol of the fact that the followers of Jesus, like St John, are the spiritual children of Mary, the mother of the Redeemer.

MAKING FUN OF JESUS CHRIST

Meanwhile, the soldiers and the crowd were mocking Jesus. Some who were passing by remembered His words about the destruction of the temple and shouted up to Him, ‘Aha, thou who destroyest the temple, and in three days buildest it up again; come down from the cross, and save thyself!’ (Mark 15:29-30).

The priests and Scribes (perhaps knowingly) applied to Him the words of the twenty-first Psalm, saying, ‘He saved others, himself he cannot save! If he is the King of Israel, let him come down now from the Cross, and we will believe in him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he wants him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God” (Matthew 27:42-43).

DISMAS BECOMES A BELIEVER

The two thieves who had been crucified, one on each side of Him, entered into the raillery against Him. Finally one of them said, ‘I thou art the Christ, save thyself and us!’ (Luke 23:39). At this moment the other thief (usually known as Dismas) changed his mind and his heart about Jesus. From an unbeliever he became a believer. He turned to the other thief and said, ‘Dost not even thou fear God, seeing that thou art under the same sentence?’ (Luke 23:40). He recalled the fact that they were all to die shortly and face the judgment of God.

WHO ARE THE TWO ‘THIEVES’?

His language implies that they also were being executed for rebellion against the Roman authorities. It is possible that they belonged to some group active in its opposition to Rome. This is confirmed by his next words, ‘And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what our deeds deserved, but this man has done nothing wrong’ (Luke 23:41).

Then, believing in Jesus, he turned to Him and said, ‘Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.’ Jesus rewarded his faith by saying to him, ‘Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise’ (Luke 23:42-43). Jesus meant that on that very day the good thief would be with Jesus in the ‘paradise’ where the souls of the just were awaiting release so that they might enter heaven, the Kingdom of God.

THE PSALMIST’S WORDS ARE FULFILLED

About the ninth hour, that is, about three o’clock in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani,’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46). The words are mysterious. Jesus is the very Son of God, one with God the Father, equally God with the Father and the Holy Spirit. How then could God forsake Him, abandon Him?

DOES GOD THE FATHER REALLY ‘ABANDON’ JESUS AT THE POINT OF PHYSICAL DEATH?

It is true that Jesus, as St Paul teaches, bore on His shoulders on the Cross the sins of all humanity (Galatians 3:13). At this moment then He could be regarded in God’s eyes as representative of all human evil. But God sees truly and He knows that Jesus, while bearing the sins of men, is in Himself the innocent, the unstained victim for the sins of men. Hence He could not have abandoned Jesus absolutely; it would have been to abandon Himself.

The mystery of these words vanished somewhat when we recall that Jesus is reciting the opening words of the twenty-first Psalm. Twice already this Psalm has entered the story of the Passion of Jesus. The soldiers cast lots for His garments as the Psalm had said. The rulers of the people had quoted it against Him. Now Jesus Himself recites the Psalm as a prayer.

He applies the Psalm to Himself in His own human nature. In the Psalm the author presents Himself as a man apparently abandoned by God. He is a ‘worm and no man: the reproach of men and the outcast of the people’ (Psalm 21:8). He has been laughed to scorn; His hope in the Lord has been mocked; He has been ‘dug’ in his hands and feet (Psalm 21:8-9, 17). Now all these things are true of Jesus on the Cross. But the speaker in the Psalm, the ‘poor man’ of the Psalm, hoped in the Lord and the Lord did not forsake him. He will declare the name of the Lord to his brethren. And because of this ‘the ends of the earth shall remember, and shall be converted to the Lord: and all the kindreds of the Gentiles shall adore in his sight… and to him my soul shall live: and my seed shall serve him. There shall be declared to the Lord a generation to come: and the heavens shall show forth his justice to a people that shall be born, which the Lord hath made’ (Psalm 21:23, 28-32).

WORDS OF HOPE AND OF PROPHECY

The words of Jesus on the Cross are then chiefly words of hope and of prophecy. It is true that God, even that Jesus Himself as God, has abandoned the human nature of Jesus, His body and blood, even His soul, to the torment of the cross, to the mockery and hatred of His own people. The words of Jesus testify this fact. But this passion of Jesus will give birth to a new people who will worship truly the one true God, Who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

THE GREAT DRAMA OF HUMAN REDEMPTION

Some of the bystanders, not understanding correctly the words of Jesus, thought that He was calling on the prophet Elias. One of the soldiers, taking pity on Him, dipped a sponge in a mixture of water and vinegar, and tried to slake the thirst of Jesus, Who had just said, ‘I thirst’ (John 19:28). When the bystanders would have stopped the soldier, as if he were entering into their raillery, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elias is coming to take him down’ (Mark 15:36).

Jesus drank from the sponge. Then He said, ‘It is consummated’ (John 19:30). Then, in full control of Himself, He said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’ (Luke 23:46). With this He bowed His head and died. Thus there was accomplished on a Cross at Calvary the great drama of human redemption. Jesus, the son of God, Who had become also the Son of Man, gave up His human life, bled to death in suffering and ignominy for the salvation of men.

‘HE LAID DOWN HIS LIFE FOR US’

In the beginning, in some mysterious trial whose nature and details are not known to us, Satan and the angels who followed him had rebelled against God. Thus sin entered God’s creation for the first time. Then, in the beginning of human history, Adam, through pride and weakness, fell victim to the seduction of Satan and mankind fell under the curse of sin.

But God, in His love for men, determined to save men. Here at Calvary God’s plan for human salvation is accomplished. Jesus, the Son of God, God Himself, gives up His human life as a sacrifice of expiation, a sacrifice of propitiation to God for sin. ‘To this end the Son of God appeared, that he might destroy the works of the devil’ (1 John 3:8). ‘In this has the love of God been shown in our case, that God has sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we may live through him. In this is the love, not that we have loved God, but that he has first loved us, and sent his Son a propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 4:9-10). ‘In this we have come to know his love, that he laid down his life for us’ (1 John 3:16).

THE CONCLUSION OF HIS STORY IS STILL TO COME

Certainly, in the mind of Jesus, He was dying on the Cross for the salvation of mankind. He was offering His life for men. The miraculous works He had already accomplished, the spirituality of His teaching, these surely would recommend belief in His mission. But the conclusion of His story is still to come. The sequel to His passion and death are a divine sign of the validity of His mission to preach the Kingdom of God to men, of the efficacy of His suffering and death to save men.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959 (headings in capital letters added afterwards)

 

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