"By his own blood entered once info the holies, having obtained eternal redemption.--HEB. ix. 11."
"They took up stones therefore to cast at him. But Jesus hid himself, and went out of the Temple.--JOHN viii. 59."
The Circumstances of Our Saviour's Passion
I. Who it was that suffered: I. The Creator suffered for the creature, holiness for unholiness. 2. The whole of nature was convulsed at the sight of its Maker's agony.
II. What He suffered: I. Christ's sufferings were so great that the mere anticipation of them caused a sweat of blood 2. Our Lord suffered torture in every part of His body. 3. All ranks and conditions of men contributed to His sufferings. 4. His agony was increased by the nature of His sufferings and by the perfection of His body. 5. His mental sufferings were extreme.
III. Why He suffered: (1) Christ suffered to deliver us from sin, from the tyranny of Satan, and from the debt of punishment; (2) to reconcile us to God and to reopen for us the gates of heaven; (3) to make for us a satisfaction full and complete and most acceptable to God; (4) to leave us by His passion an illustrious example of the exercise of every virtue.
CONCLUSION, 1. From the bitter passion and death of the God-man we should learn the enormity of sin. 2. As Christ freely suffered for us, so we should patiently bear our crosses for Him: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt. xvi. 24).
Article IV of the Creed
The Passion of Christ. The dignity of Him Who suffers.
When the faithful have once attained the knowledge of these things, the pastor will next proceed to explain those particulars of the passion and death of Christ which may enable them if not to comprehend, at least to contemplate, the infinitude of so stupendous a mystery. And first we are to consider who it is that suffers. To declare, or even to conceive in thought, His dignity, is not given to man. Of Him St. John says, that He is "the Word " which " was with God";(l) and the apostle describes Him in sublime terms, saying that this is He whom God "hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world. Who being the brightness of his glory, and the figure of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, making purgation of sins, sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high."(2) In a word, Jesus Christ, the man-God, suffers! The Creator suffers for the creature, the Master for the servant. He suffers by whom the elements, the heavens, men and angels were created, of whom, by whom, and in whom, "are all things."'
It cannot therefore, be a matter of surprise that while He agonized under such an accumulation of torments the whole frame of the universe was convulsed, and, as the Scriptures inform us, " the earth quaked, and the rocks were rent," and " the sun was darkened," and "there was darkness over all the earth."(4) If, then, even mute and inanimate nature sympathized with the sufferings of her dying Lord, let the faithful conceive, if they can, with what torrents of tears they, the " living stones " of the edifice,(5) should manifest their sorrow.
Besides, to increase the dignity of this mystery, Christ not only suffered for sinners, but the very authors and ministers of all the torments He endured were sinners. Of this the apostles reminds us in these words addressed to the Hebrews: "Think diligently upon him that endured such opposition from sinners against himself; that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds."(6) In this guilt are involved all those who fall frequently into sin; for, as our sins consigned Christ our Lord to the death of the cross, most certainly those who wallow in sin and iniquity, as far as depends on them, crucify to themselves again the Son of God, and make a mockery of Him.(7) This our guilt takes a deeper die of enormity when contrasted with that of the Jews, who, according to the testimony of the Apostle, "if they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory";(8) while we, on the contrary, professing to know Him, yet denying Him by our actions, seem in some sort to lay violent hands on Him.(9)
But that Christ the Lord was also delivered over to death by the Father and by Himself, we learn from these words of Isaias: "For the wickedness of my people have I struck him."(10) And a little before, when, filled with the Spirit of God, he sees the Lord covered with stripes and wounds, the same prophet says: "All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all."(11) But of the Saviour it is written: "if he shall lay down his life for sin, he shall see a long-lived seed."(12) This the Apostle expresses in language still stronger when, on the other hand, he wishes to show us how confidently we should trust in the boundless mercy and goodness of God. "He that spared not even his own Son," says the Apostle, "but delivered him up for us all, how hath he not also, with him, given us all things?"(13)
The next subject of the pastor's instruction is the bitterness of the Redeemer's passion. If, however, we bear in mind that "his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground,(14) and this, at the sole anticipation of the torments and agony which He was about to endure, we must at once perceive that His sorrows admitted of no increase; for if--and this sweat of blood proclaims it--the very idea of the impending evils was so overwhelming, what are we to suppose their actual endurance to have been?
That our Lord suffered the most excruciating- torments of mind and body is but too well ascertained. In the first place, there was no part of His body that did not experience the most agonizing torture; His hands and feet were fastened with nails to the cross; His head was pierced with thorns and smitten with a reed; His face was befouled with spittle and buffeted with blows; His whole body was covered with stripes; men of all ranks and conditions were also gathered together " against the Lord, and against his Christ."(15) Jews and Gentiles were the advisers, the authors, the ministers of His passion; Judas betrayed Him;(16) Peter denied Him;(17) all the rest deserted Him;(18) and while He hangs from the instrument of His execution, are we not at a loss which to deplore, His agony or His ignominy, or both?
Surely no death more shameful, none more cruel, could have been devised than. that which was the ordinary punishment of guilty and atrocious malefactors only, a death the tediousness of which aggravated the protraction of its exquisite pain and excruciating torture? His agony was increased by the very constitution and frame of His body. Formed by the power of the Holy Ghost, it was more perfect and better organized than the bodies of other men can be, and was therefore endowed with a superior susceptibility of pain, and a keener sense of the torments which it endured. And as to His interior anguish of mind, that too was no doubt extreme; for those among the saints who had to endure torments and tortures were not without consolation from above, which enabled them not only to bear their violence patiently, but in many instances, to feel, in the very midst of them, filled with interior joy. " I . . . rejoice," says the Apostle, " in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church";(19) and in another place, " I am filled with comfort: I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation."(20) Christ our Lord tempered with an admixture of sweetness the bitter chalice of His passion, but permitted His human nature to feel as acutely every species of torment as if He were only man, and not also God.
The blessings and advantages which flow to the human race from the passion of Christ alone remain to be explained. In the first place, then, the passion of our Lord was our deliverance from sin; for, as St. John says, He " hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood."(21) You " he hath quickened together with him "; says the Apostle, " forgiving you all offences: blotting out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, which was contrary to us. And he hath taken the same out of the way, fastening it to the cross."(22)
He has rescued us from the tyranny of the devil, for our Lord Himself says: "Now is the judgment of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself."(23)
He discharged the punishment due to our sins; and as no sacrifice more grateful and acceptable could have been offered to God, He reconciled us to the Father,(24) appeased His wrath, and propitiated His justice.
Finally, by atoning for our sins He opened to us heaven, which was closed by the common sin of mankind, for we have, according to these words of the Apostle, " therefore, brethren, a confidence in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ."(25)
Nor are we without a type and figure of this mystery in the Old Law. Those who were prohibited to return into their native country before the death of the high priest,(26) typified that no one, however just may have been his life, could gain admission into the celestial country until the supreme and eternal High Priest, Christ Jesus, had died, and by dying opened heaven to those who, purified by the sacraments, and gifted with faith, hope, and charity, become partakers of His passion.
The pastor will teach that all these inestimable and divine blessings flow to us from the passion of Christ; first, because the satisfaction which Jesus Christ has in an admirable manner made to His Eternal Father for our sins is full and complete, and the price which He paid for our ransom not only equals but far exceeds the debts contracted by us. Again, the sacrifice was most acceptable to God, for when offered by his Son on the altar of the cross, it entirely appeased His wrath and indignation. This the Apostle teaches when he says: "Christ . . . hath loved us, and hath delivered himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odor of sweetness."(27) Of the redemption which He purchased the prince of the Apostles says: " You were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver, from your vain conversation of the tradition of your fathers: but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undented."(28)
Besides these inestimable blessings, we have also received another of the highest importance. In the passion alone we have the most illustrious example of the exercise of every virtue. Patience, and humility, and exalted charity, and meekness, and obedience, and unshaken firmness of soul, not only in sufferings for justice' sake, but also in meeting death, are so conspicuous in the suffering Saviour, that we may truly say that on the day of His passion alone He offered, in His own person, a living exemplification of all the moral precepts inculcated during the entire time of His public ministry. This exposition of the saving passion of Christ the Lord we have given briefly. Would to God that these mysteries were always present to our minds, and that we learned to suffer, to die, and to be buried with Christ; that, cleansed from the stains of sin, and rising with Him to newness of life, we may at length, through His grace and mercy, be found worthy to be made partakers of the glory of His celestial kingdom!
by the Rev. H. G. Hughes
Second--Why He had to suffer.
Third--What it was that moved Him thus freely and willingly to suffer.
And who is He that goes through all this? To the crowds who surround Him He is but a man; a wonderful man, indeed, but only a man. A man, too, whose life has turned out a failure, in spite of the wonderful deeds He has done, in spite of the devotion which He has aroused in the hearts of His followers. A failure--ending in a criminal's death. And if we had been there, we should have seen in Him the form and features of a man only. But who in very truth is He who suffers?
He is the eternal, mighty God, the Maker and Lord of heaven and earth; the Word and Son of the Father, proceeding from Him. from all eternity.
Faith pierces the veil of flesh beneath which God our Lord hid Himself; and in Him we see God made Man; a divine Person, the eternal Word, having two natures, a human nature which He took from the Blessed Virgin His mother, a divine nature which He had from all eternity. He is at once God and Man, truly God and truly Man; but only One Person--Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.
And what is the result of this mysterious joining together of the divine and human natures in One Person--what is the result especially in regard to His sufferings? The result is that all He did, all He said, and in His Passion all He suffered, and His very death itself, were the words and deeds, the suffering and death of our God, in a human nature assumed by Him as His instrument in all He did for us.
You know that I, who speak to you, have a human nature. Now, when I am speaking to you, you do not say that it is my nature speaking; you say that I, the person, speak to you. So, when our blessed Lord did anything in His human nature, it was not merely His human nature doing it--it was done by the Person to whom that nature belonged; and that person is God. And it is this fact, the fact that the human nature of Our Lord was the instrument of His divine personality, that gives to His Passion its infinite value in the sight of God.
So, then, when in our meditations on the Passion we ask ourselves "Who did this? " the answer is: "My Lord and God; my Maker, the Lord of all things."
Dear brethren, when we really give ourselves to reflection on this truth, how stupendous it seems! Think of the indignities which Our Lord suffered; think of the scourging; think of that sacred face all filthy with the vile spittle of the soldiers; and then say to yourself--this is my God who is thus stripped and scourged till He is covered with blood: that face, all denied as it is, is the face of my God. He who stands there and permits Himself to be mocked and insulted is God. He could call a legion of angels to destroy His enemies--nay, with one breath of His divine anger He could blast them to destruction. Indeed, had not He Himself proved by His works, and above all by the crowning miracle of His Resurrection, that He is God; were it not for faith, with all the abundant securities which God has given us, not only in the Holy Scriptures, but in the continued and continuous energizing of the divine power of Jesus in the history of His true Church, we could hardly have conceived the possibility that this was God who suffered thus.
But we will go on to the second thought that we should keep in mind as we meditate upon the Passion of Our Lord. Why had He to suffer?
Dear brethren, you know why. What says the Creed that we sing every Sunday in the Mass? "Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; was crucified also for us; suffered under Pontius Pilate, and was buried." For us men and for our salvation. Why do we need salvation ? Because we have sinned; because by sin we have lost God and heaven, and deserved hell. Look at the crucifix and say to yourself," Were it not for that I could never be saved." Look again and say, " Were it not for sin that need never have taken place." What must sin be, dear brethren? We often hear in sermons and read in pious books of the awful malice of sin--how it offends the goodness of God; how it deserves hell; how it cuts us off from God, our only good; but there is something that more vividly and more effectually than anything else will bring home to us the fearful evil of sin--and that is the crucifix.
What does it come to? It comes to this--that sin, willful, mortal sin, in such a hideous evil in God's sight that He would not forgive it till a terrible price had been paid. And what was that price? "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son"; and that Son so loved us that He did not refuse to come and pay the price. Yes, before God's eternal necessary justice could forgive, before that terrible evil of sin could be done away. God the Father sent His beloved Son, whom from all eternity He loved with all the infinite strength of love divine; sent Him in human form to earth, and laid on Him the iniquities of us all. And then He punished that Son, the all holy innocent one. He poured out upon the Son of His love the heavy, bitter punishments of that most just anger which WE deserved. Oh, what must sin be if it made God thus punish His well-loved Son? Oh, what must sin be that did to death the Lord of life? Oh, what must sin be that so cruelly treated the most Holy One, the most compassionate and loving Jesus, who all His life went about doing good?
And, dear brethren, there is something else that we must never forget. That bitter suffering and death was for ME and for YOU, for each one of us singly. Every one of us can look at Jesus in His sufferings and truthfully say, "He is doing this for ME; because of MY sins. My sins drew from Him that agonizing sweat of blood; my sins mocked and scourged Him: I, wretched sinner that I am--I nailed Him to the Cross and slew Him there." You know, dear brethren, that when Our Lord comes to us in Holy Communion, He is not divided among the many who receive Him. Each one of us receives Him whole and entire; many together do not receive more than one. Similarly in His Passion--it is all for each one. St. Paul teaches us this in the words of my text. "He loved me, and delivered Himself up for me." Thus, then, when we ask the question, "Why had He to suffer this? " the answer is not merely "Because of sin," but "Because of my sins."
For me; to atone for my sins; to obtain forgiveness from God for my most wretched sins. If ever in our lives we have sinned, we must look at the crucifix and say, That is my work; that is my doing; and even if we had never committed actual sin, we should still have to say--That was for me, to draw me out of the state of original sin in which I was born, to win for me that sanctifying grace of Baptism without which I could never have been saved.
Yes; it is all for me; to save me from hell; for me, to teach me what a shocking and dreadful thing is a mortal sin; for me, to teach me to do penance for my past sins and to strive earnestly to avoid sin in the future; for me, to give me great hope and courage, when I remember that He has so abundantly redeemed me, and that all His Passion is added to my poor, weak prayers and efforts; for me, to make me love Him and thank Him; for me, to teach me the worth of my soul which He has bought and redeemed from the devil at so great a price.(29)
And now, dear brethren, let me go on to the third thought that we must have in mind as we follow Our Lord along the way of suffering. What motive had He? What made Him willing to endure all this for our salvation? What was it that could move the God of heaven and earth to "empty himself"; to "take upon him the form of a servant"; to walk this earth in human flesh; to lead a poor, humble, despised life; freely to give Himself up into the hands of His enemies that they might work their wicked will upon Him? What made Him willing to die that shameful death; the death of an outcast criminal; a death no Roman citizen was allowed to suffer? Was it the goodness, the excellence of those whom He came to save? No, for they were a sinful race. Was it that they were his friends ? No, for when we were His enemies He came to redeem us. What then was it? The answer is in one word, LOVE,--DIVINE LOVE; PITTING LOVE ; love of us; love of you; love of me.
Dear brethren, a modern spiritual writer has most truly and most wisely said that the day a man truly grasps this great truth of faith -- that Jesus so loved me that He came to die for me, -- is a blessed day in that man's life. "He loved me, and delivered Himself up for me."
And, blessed truth. He loves me still; He loves me now; as much and as well as ever, even as He did when He knelt in an agony of prayer for me, or hung for me upon the Cross. Let us not forget this. He is " Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb. xiii. 8). He never changes. He is ever and always the same dear friend; the best and dearest friend of all. "I have loved you," He says, "with an everlasting love." And He shows this present love in many ways; in ways that are the blessed results of His Passion. All that He does for us in His holy Church shows it. One by one He takes each single soul, and by the holy Sacraments and other means of grace provides for individual salvation and applies to each and every one the fruit of His sacred Passion. And now, dear brethren, is it not a wonderful thing, a strange thing, that believing all this, believing that Jesus Christ, who suffered, is Our God; believing that He suffered for our sins, for your sins and for mine; believing that it was His pitying love for you and me that led Him to the Cross; and that He loves us still as much as ever He did --is it not, I say, a marvelous and strange thing that we are still so cold towards Him, yes, and still so sinful? And it is because we love Him so little that we give way to temptation and sin against Him. How is it, then, that we are so cold, so ungrateful, so unloving, and therefore so sinful?
Dear brethren, it is because we do not think enough about these things, about our dear Lord and His sacred Passion. Who are the great heroes of Jesus Christ; those saints filled with an energy of divine love that has made imperishable marks upon the world's history; men like Francis, women like Teresa? They are the ones. whose continual study was the Cross of Christ. Today, perhaps, after meditating upon the Passion, we too feel divine love burning in our heart; but tomorrow, unless we renew these thoughts we shall forget, the flame of love will die down again. In a few days, perhaps, when some strong, attractive temptation comes, we shall perhaps give way, with never a thought of Jesus and His sufferings, and the smoldering spark of love that still remains will be extinguished by mortal sin. Why? It is because we so SELDOM think of Jesus and of all He has done for us that these things take no lasting hold upon our hearts. If we thought of these things oftener, if we often read and prayed and pondered over the love and Passion and death of our dear Lord, our minds would become taken up with Him; we should be more like the saints; and when temptation came the thought of Jesus crucified for love of us would stay us from sinning.
Beg of Him that during this holy Passion-tide the grateful and compassionate remembrance of His love, His Passion, and His death may enter deeply into our souls, so that we may learn to give Him that for which, with outstretched arms. He pleads upon His Cross,--the true love of our inmost hearts.
1. John i. I, 2. 2. Heb. i. 2, 3. 3. Rom. xi. 36.
4. Matt xxvii. 51; Luke xxiii. 44, 45. 5. 1 peter ii. 5.
6. Heb. xii. 3.
7. Heb. vi. 6. 8. i Cor. ii. 8. 9. Tit. i. i6.
10. Isaias liii. 8. 11. Isaias liii. 6. 12. Isaias liii. 10.
13. Rom. viii. 32. 14. Luke xxii. 44.
15. Ps. ii. 2. 16. Matt. xxvi. 47. 17. Mark xiv. 68, 70, 71.
18. Matt. xxvi. 56. 19. Col. 1.24. 20. 2 Cor. vii, 4.
21. Rev. i. S. 22. Col. ii. 13, 14. 23. John xii. 31, 32.
24. Cor. v. 19. 25. Heb. x. 19. 26. Num. xxxv. 25.
27. Eph. v. 2. 28. I Pet i. 18,19.
29. This passage is taken from F. Galwey's Welches of the Passion, to which book I have also to acknowledge indebtedness in the preparation of this sermon in general.
Lord, have mercy,
Lord, have mercy,
Christ, have mercy,
Christ, have mercy,
Lord, have mercy,
Lord, have mercy,
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven,
Have mercy on us. *
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, *
God the Holy Spirit, *
Holy Trinity, one God, *
Jesus, the eternal Wisdom, *
Jesus, conversing with men, *
Jesus, hated by the world, *
Jesus, sold for thirty pieces of silver, *
Jesus, prostrate on the ground in prayer, *
Jesus, strengthened by an angel, *
Jesus, in Thine agony bathed in a bloody sweat, *
Jesus, betrayed by Judas with a kiss, *
Jesus, bound by the soldiers, *
Jesus, forsaken by Thy disciples, *
Jesus, brought before Annas and Caiaphas, *
Jesus, struck by a servant on the face, *
Jesus, accused by false witnesses, *
Jesus, declared worthy of death, *
Jesus, spit upon in the face, *
Jesus, blindfolded, *
Jesus, smitten on the cheek, *
Jesus, thrice denied by Peter, *
Jesus, delivered up to Pilate, *
Jesus, despised and mocked by Herod, *
Jesus, clothed in a white garment, *
Jesus, rejected for Barabbas, *
Jesus, torn with scourges, *
Jesus, bruised for our sins, *
Jesus, esteemed as a leper, *
Jesus, covered with a purple robe, *
Jesus, crowned with thorns, *
Jesus, struck with a reed upon the head, *
Jesus, demanded for crucifixion, *
Jesus, condemned to death by the Jews, *
Jesus, condemned to an ignominious death, *
Jesus, given up to the will of Thine enemies, *
Jesus, loaded with the heavy weight of the Cross, *
Jesus, led like a sheep to the slaughter, *
Jesus, stripped of Thy garmenets, *
Jesus, fastened with nails to the Cross, *
Jesus, wounded for our iniquities, *
Jesus, praying to Thy Father for Thy murderers, *
Jesus, reputed with the wicked, *
Jesus, blasphemed and scoffed at on the Cross, *
Jesus, reviled by the malefactor, *
Jesus, promising Paradise to the penitent theif, *
Jesus, commending Saint John to Thy Mother as her son, *
Jesus, declaring Thyself forsaken by Thy Father, *
Jesus, in Thy thirst given gall and vinegar to drink, *
Jesus, testifying that all things written concerning Thee were accomplished, *
Jesus, commending Thy spirit into the hands of Thy Father, *
Jesus, obedient even unto the death of the cross, *
Jesus, pierced with a lance, *
Jesus, made a propiation for us, *
Jesus, taken down from the Cross, *
Jesus, laid in the sepulcher, *
Jesus, rising gloriously from the dead, *
Jesus, ascending into heaven, *
Jesus, our Advocate with the Father, *
Jesus, sending down on Thy disciples the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete*
Jesus, exalting Thy Mother above the choirs of Angels, *
Jesus, Who shalt come to judge the living and the dead, *
Spare us, O Lord.
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
From all evil,
Lord Jesus, deliver us. **
From all sin, **
From anger, hatred, and every evil will, **
From war, famine, and pestilence, **
From all dangers of mind and body, **
From everlasting death, **
Through Thy most pure Conception, **
Through Thy miraculous Nativity, **
Through Thy humble Circumcision, **
Through Thy Baptism and holy fasting, **
Through Thy Labors and Watchings, **
Through Thy cruel Scourging and Crowning, **
Through Thy Thirst, and Tears, and Nakedness, **
Through Thy precious Death and Cross, **
Through Thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension, **
Through Thy sending forth the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, **
In the day of judgment, we sinners, beseech Thee, hear us.
We beseech Thee, hear us. ***
That Thou wouldst pardon us, ***
That Thou wouldst bring us to true penance, ***
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe mercifully to pour into our hearts the grace of the Holy Spirit, ***
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to defend and propagate Thy holy Church, ***
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to preserve and increase all societies assembled in Thy holy Name, ***
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to bestow upon us true peace, humility, and charity, ***
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to give us perseverance in grace and in Thy holy service, ***
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to deliver us from unclean thoughts, the temptations of the devil, and everlasting damnation, ***
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to unite us to the company of Thy Saints, ***
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe graciously to hear us, ***
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world;
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world;
Have mercy on us.
Christ hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.
Let us pray: