The Obedience of the Passion.
I am come to do Thy will, O My God. (Hebrews x. 7.)
1. St. Paul tells us that our Lord Jesus Christ became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. Sorrow and joy. pain and pleasure, honor and contempt, success and failure, the conversion of thousands and the drudgery of the workshop of Nazareth, the glory of the Transfiguration or the shame and agony of the Crucifixion, were all accepted by Him with equal readiness in obedience to His Eternal Father. Is this my spirit? Am I ready to do anything that God may ask of me?
2. The twin-sister of obedience is humility, and the Passion of Jesus is an example of humility almost incredible. That the King of Heaven and earth should humble Himself to take the form of a creature is in itself a wonderful miracle. How much more that He should humble Himself to be outraged and mocked and spit upon by His own creatures! What humiliation could be greater than this? What better proof of Christ’s inexpressible humility?
3. Meekness, the outward expression of humility, is one of the most marked characteristics of our Lord in His Sacred Passion. The external demean our of the Son of God was the reflection of the spirit within Him. “When He was reviled He did not revile, when He suffered He threatened not.” (1 St. Peter ii. 21.) Is this my demean our under unkindness or insult? Do I here tread in the footsteps of the Son of God?
The taking down from the Cross.
From The Foot of the Cross, pp. 380 — 382, by Father Faber.
Another small body of men is now approaching the summit of Calvary, and from their fixed looks it is plain that Jesus is the object of their coming. Is it some fresh outrage, some new sorrow for Man? It is a new sorrow for Mary, but no fresh outrage. It is Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, together with their servants. Both of them were disciples of our Blessed Lord, but secretly; for they were timid men. Joseph was “a counsellor, a good and just man,” who had not “consented to the counsel and doings” of the others, because he “himself looked for the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus was a man learned in the Scriptures, the same who had come to Jesus by night for fear of the Jews, and had learned from Him the doctrine of regeneration.
Joseph had gone in to Pilate, to whom he probably had access in his capacity as counsellor, and had begged the Body of Jesus, which had been granted to him. He had then, as St. Matthew tells us, got “a clean linen cloth” to wrap it in, and had called on Nicodemus to accompany him to Calvary. Nicodemus, as St. John tells us, brought with him “a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.” They also brought their servants with them to assist. They approached our Blessed Lady with the profoundest reverence and sympathy, told her what they had done, and asked her permission to take the Body down from the Cross. With hearts full of the tenderest devotion to the dolors of the Immaculate Mother, they drew nigh to the Cross, and made their preparations.
They fixed the ladder against the Cross. Joseph mounted first, and Nieodemus after him. Mary, with John and Magdalen, remained immediately beneath them. It seemed as if some supernatural grace issued forth from the Adorable Body, and encircled them round, softening and subduing all their thoughts, making their hearts burn with Divine love, and hushing them in the deepest and most thrilling adoration.
Old times came back upon the Mother’s heart, and the remembrance of the other Joseph, who had been so often privileged to handle the limbs, and touch the Sacred Flesh of the Incarnate Word. It would have been his office to have taken Jesus down from the Cross. But he was gone to his rest, and one that bore his name supplied, his place, and it was both sweet and grievous to Mary that it should be so. One Joseph had given Him his arms to lie in, the other should give Him his own new monument to rest in; and both should pass Him from their own arms to those of Mary. It is strange too how often the timid are unexpectedly bold. These two disciples, who had been afraid to confess their Master openly when He lived, are now braving publicity when even Apostles remain within the shelter of their hiding-place. Happy two! with what sweet familiarities and precious nearness to Himself, is not Jesus recompensing their pious service at this hour in Heaven!
With gentle hand, tremblingly bold, as if his natural timidity had developed into supernatural reverence, Joseph touches the crown of thorns, and delicately loosens it from the head on which it was fixed, disentangles it from the matted hair, and without daring to kiss it, passes it to Nieodemus, who reaches it to John, from whom Mary, sinking on her knees, receives it with such devotion as no heart but hers could hold. Every blood-stained spike seemed instinct with life, and went into her heart, tipped as it were with the Blood of her Son, inoculating her more and more deeply with the Spirit of His Passion.
Who can describe with what reverential touch, while the cold Body was a furnace of heavenly love burning against his heart, Joseph loosened the nails, so as not to crush or mutilate the blessed Hands and Feet which they had pierced. It was so hard a task that we are fain to believe angels helped him in it. Each nail was silently passed down to Mary. They were strange graces, these which were now flowing to her through the hands of her new son; yet after all not so unlike the gifts which Jesus had Himself been giving her these three-and-thirty years. Never yet had earth seen such a worship of sorrow as that with which the Mother bent over those mute relics, as they came down to her from the Cross, crusted too as they were, perhaps wet, with that Precious Blood, which she adored in its unbroken union with the Person of the Eternal Word. But with what agony was all this worship accompanied, what fresh wounds did not all these instruments of the Passion make in her heart, what old ones did they not reopen!
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