April 3, 2015

Good Friday

Strangers have risen up against Me, 
and the mighty have sought after My Soul.

Commentaries by Dom Guarenger

Commentary on the First Lesson
The passage from the prophet Osee tells us of the merciful designs of God in favor of His new people, the Gentiles, who were dead, and who, nevertheless, were to rise again in three days with Christ, whom they do not yet so much as know. Ephraim and Juda are to be treated otherwise; their material sacrifices have not been acceptable to God, Who loves mercy above every other gift, and rejects the offerings of those whose hearts are filled with bitterness.

Commentary on the First Tract
The Tract is taken from the canticle of the prophet Habacuc. It foretells the second coming of Christ, when He shall come in glory and majesty to judge them that have crucified Him.

Commentary on the Collect
The Church sums up, in the Collect, the prayers of her children. She reminds our Heavenly Father of His Justice towards Judas and His Mercy towards the good thief, and begs that every remnant of the old man may be removed from us, and we may rise again with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Commentary on the Second Lesson
The second lesson is taken from the Book of Exodus, and describes to us the ancient rite of the Pashal lamb, which was the figure of the reality that is given us today. It is to be a lamb without spot or blemish. Its blood has the power of preserving from death, those whose dwellings are sprinkled with it. It is not only to be immolated; it is to be the food of the wayfarer; and they who partake of it must stand while they eat, like unto men who have no time to lose during this passing life. Its immolation is the signal of the Pasch; the immolation of our Emmanuel, the Lamb of God, is the signal of our Pasch.

Commentary on the Second Tract
In this Tract, the Church represents our Redeemer (who has been betrayed into the hands of His enemies) praying to His Eternal Father.

Reading of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. John

The Great Intercessions
Having thus described to us the Passion and Death of her Divine Spouse, the Church would follow the example set her, by this, the Mediator of the world. St. Paul tells us that Jesus, when dying on the Cross, offered up to His Eternal Father, for all mankind, prayers and supplications, with a strong cry and tears. (Heb. 5: 7) Therefore it is that, from the earliest ages, the Church has presented to the Divine Majesty, upon this day, a solemn formula of prayers, in which she intercedes for the necessities of the whole world. How truly is she the mother of all men, and the affectionate bride of Jesus! All, even the Jews, are included in this her intercession, which she makes, under the shadow of the Cross, to the Father of all ages.

 Adoration of of the Cross
Filled with holy indignation at the humiliations heaped upon Jesus, Holy Mother Church invites the faithful to a solemn act of reparation: it is to consist in venerating the Cross which our Divine Lord has borne to the summit of Calvary, and to which He is to be fastened with nails. The Cross is a stumbling-block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles (1 Cor. 1: 23); but to us Christians it is the trophy of Jesus’ Victory, and the instrument of the world’s redemption. It is worthy of our deepest veneration, because of the honor conferred upon it by the Son of God.

The holy ceremony of venerating the Cross on Good Friday was first instituted in Jerusalem, in the fourth century. Owing to the pious zeal of the empress St. Helen, the True Cross had then recently been discovered, to the immense joy of the whole Church. The faithful were desirous of seeing the precious relic, and accordingly, it was exposed every Good Friday. It was about the seventh century, that the practice of publicly venerating the Cross on Good Friday was introduced into other churches.

By this gradual unveiling of the Cross, Holy Mother Church would express to us the contrast of the Jewish and the Christian view. The one finds nothing in Christ crucified, but shame and ignominy; the other discovers in Him the power and the wisdom of God. Honor, then, and veneration to His Cross, now that the veil is removed by Faith! Unveiled let it be upon our altar, for He that died upon it is soon to triumph by a glorious Resurrection!

The Church is not satisfied with showing her children the Cross that has saved them; she would have them approach, and kiss it. The priest leads the way. He has already taken off his chasuble; he now takes off his shoes also, and then advances towards the place where he has put the Crucifix. He makes three genuflections at intervals, and finally kisses the Cross.

During the veneration of the Cross, the choir sings the “Improperia”, that is, the reproaches made by our Savior to the Jews. Each of the first three stanzas of this plaintive hymn is followed by the Trisagion, or prayer to the thrice-holy God, who, as Man, suffers death for us. Oh! Let us fervently proclaim Him to be the Holy, the Immortal! The rest of this beautiful chant contains the comparison made by our Lord between the favors He has bestowed upon the Jewish people, and the injuries He has received from them in return.
 The holy fathers have noticed a circumstance of the Crucifixion, which expresses how this King of the Jews is, indeed, rejected by His chosen people, but will reign all the more gloriously over the nations of the earth, whom the Father has given to Him for His inheritance. The circumstance we allude to is this: the soldiers, when fixing the Cross in the rock, have so placed it that Jesus has His back to Jerusalem, and is stretching out His arms toward the countries of the west. The Sun of truth is setting on the deicide city, and rising upon the new Jerusalem, that proud Rome, which feels that she is destined to be the eternal city, yet knows not that she is to be so, by the Cross."

The Tree of our Salvation, as it falls into the hole prepared for it, strikes against a tomb: it is that of our first parent. The Blood of the Redeemer flows down the Cross and falls upon a skull: it is the skull of Adam, whose sin has called for this great expiation. In His mercy, the Son of God wills that the instrument wherewith He has gained pardon for the guilty world, should rest amidst the very bones of him that first caused its guilt. Thus is satan confounded: the creation is not, as he has hitherto thought, turned by his artifice to the shame of its Creator. The hill on which is raised the Standard of our Salvation, is called Calvary, which signifies a skull. Here, according to the tradition of the Jews, was buried our first parent, the first sinner. Among the holy fathers of the early ages, who have handed down this interesting tradition to us, we may cite St. Basil, St. Ambrose, St. John Chrysostom, St. Epiphanius, and St. Jerome.
 So vividly is the Church impressed with the remembrance of the great Sacrifice offered today on Calvary, that she refrains from renewing on her altars the immolation of the Divine Victim: she contents herself with partaking of the Sacred Mystery by Communion.
 The soul of the holy Mother is pierced by this cruel spear; and they that are with her redouble their sobs and tears. How is this terrible day to end? Who will take the Body of her Jesus from His Cross? Who will enable her to give it a last embrace? The soldiers return to the city, and with them Longinus, he that pierced Jesus’ side, but is already feeling within himself the workings of that faith for which he is one day to lay down his life as a martyr. But lo! Two other men are seen coming towards the Cross; they are not enemies, they are faithful disciples of Jesus: one is the wealthy counsellor, Joseph of Arimathea; the other is Nicodemus, a ruler among the Jews. Mary gratefully
welcomes their arrival: they have come to take the Body of Jesus from the Cross, and give It an honorable burial. They have the requisite authorization, for Pilate has given permission to Joseph to take the Body of Jesus.

They lose no time in doing so, for the sun is near to setting, and then begins the Sabbath. Within a few yards from where stands the Cross, at the foot of the hillock which forms the summit of Calvary, there is a garden, and in this garden a sepulchre cut into the rock. No one has yet been buried in this tomb. It is to be Jesus’ Sepulchre. Hither, Joseph and Nicodemus carry the Sacred Body: they lay It upon a slab of stone, near to the Sepulchre. It is here that Mary receives into her arms the Body of her Jesus: She kisses each wound, and bathes It with her tears. John, Magdalene, and all that are present, compassionate the holy Mother. She resigns It into the hands of the two disciples, for they have but a few moments left. Upon this slab which, even to this day, is called the Stone of the Anointing, and designates the thirteenth station of the Way of the Cross, Joseph unfolds a piece of fine linen (Mark 15: 45), and Nicodemus, whose servants have brought a hundered pound weight of myrrh and aloes (John 19: 39), makes every arrangement for the embalming. They reverently wash the Body, for It is
covered with Blood; they remove the crown of thorns from the Head; and after embalming It with their perfumes, they wrap It in the winding-sheet. Mary gives a last embrace to the remains of her Jesus, Who is now hidden under these swathing-bands of the tomb.

Joseph and Nicodemus take the Body into their arms, and enter the Sepulchre. It is the fourteenth station of the Way of the Cross. It consists of two open cells; it is into the one on the right hand that they enter, and there, in a cavity cut into the side of the rock, they lay the Body of Jesus. They then retire; and, with the assistance of their servants, they close up the entrance of the Sepulchre with a large square stone, which Pilate, at the request of the Jews, orders to be fastened with his own seal, and guarded by a patrol of soldiers.

How, O Most Merciful Redeemer, shall we leave Thy holy Sepulchre, without offering Thee the tribute of our adoration and repentance? Death, which is the consequence of sin, has extended its dominion over Thee, for Thou didst submit Thyself to the sentence pronounced against Thee, and wouldst become like to us even to the humiliation of the tomb. It was Thy love for us, that led to all this! What return can we make Thee? Oh! What a bond of love between us and Thee must result from this Sacrifice of Thy life for us! We promise it upon this tomb, which alas! is the handiwork of our sins. We, too, wish to die to sin, and live in grace. Terrible as that last hour is to nature, our faith tells
us that Thy death has merited for it graces rich enough to make it sweet. So, when our body descends into the tomb, our soul shall confidently mount up to Thee, and there blissfully await the day of the resurrection of the flesh, made pure by the humiliation of the grave.
Thou alone art God, crucified for us, 
Whom the ancient sin had delivered over to death: 
And by Thy Wounds, the countless sins
of all men have been healed. 
O loving, crucified Jesus! 
Put us among Thy redeemed. 
Save us, O loving Goodness! 
Our God! Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost 
reignest, one God for ever, yea for ever and ever.

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