April 4, 2015

Holy Saturday

 The Body of Christ lay in the tomb. The world was in darkness. 
Mary was the only light still burning on earth.

Commentaries by Don Gueranger from the Liturgical Year

A night has passed over the tomb, wherein lies buried the Body of the Man-God. Death is triumphant in that silent cave, and holds captive Him that gives life to every creature; but death’s Triumph will soon be at an end. The soldiers may watch, as best they will, over that grave: they cannot hold Jesus prisoner, as soon as the moment fixed for His Resurrection comes.  The Holy Angels are there, profoundly adoring the lifeless Body of Him, Whose Blood is to reconcile all things, both on earth, and in Heaven (Col. 1: 20). This Body, though for a brief interval separated from the Soul, is still united to the Person of the Son of God; so likewise the Soul, during its separation from the Body, has not for an instant lost its union with the Word. The Divinity remains also united with the Blood which lies sprinkled on Calvary, and which, at the moment of the Resurrection of the Man-God, is to enter once more into His Sacred Veins.

Let us also return to the Sepulchre, and adore the Body of our buried Jesus. Now, at last, we understand what sin has done: by sin, death entered into the world, and it passed upon all men (Rom. 5: 12). Though Jesus knew no sin (2 Cor. 5: 21), yet has He permitted death to have dominion over Him, in order that He might make it less bitter to us, and by His Resurrection restore unto us that Eternal Life, of which we had been deprived by sin. How gratefully we should appreciate this death of our Jesus! By becoming Incarnate, He became a servant (Phil. 2: 7); His death has a still deeper
humiliation. The sight of this tomb, wherein His Body lies lifeless and cold, teaches us something far more important than the power of death: it reveals to us the immense, the incomprehensible love of God for man. He knew that we were to gain by His humiliations; the greater His humiliations, the greater our exaltation; this was His principle, and it led Him to what seems like an excess! Let us, then, love this Sacred Sepulchre, which is to give us Life. We have thanked Him for having died for us upon the Cross; let us thank Him, but most feelingly, for having humbled Himself, for our sake,
even to the tomb!

And now let us visit the Holy Mother, who has passed the night in Jerusalem, going over, in saddest memory, the scenes She has witnessed. Her Jesus has been a victim to every possible insult and cruelty; He has been crucified; His Precious Blood has flowed in torrents from those five Wounds; He is dead, and now lies buried in yonder tomb, as though He were a mere man, yea the most abject of men. How many tears have fallen, during these long hours, from the eyes of the Daughter of David!  And yet, Her Son has not come back to Her! Near Her is Magdalene; heart-broken by yesterday’s events, she has no words to tell her grief, for Jesus is gone, and, as she thinks, for ever. The other women, less loved by Jesus than Magdalene, yet most dear to Him, stand around the
disconsolate Mother. They have braved every insult and danger in order to remain on Calvary till all was over and they intend returning thither with Magdalene, as soon as the Sabbath is over, to honor the tomb and the Body of Jesus.

John, the adopted son of Mary, and the beloved disciple of Jesus, is oppressed with sorrow. Others, also, of the Apostles and disciples, visit the house of mourning. Peter, penitent and humble, fears not to appear before the Mother of Mercy.  Among the disciples are Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. We may easily imagine the conversation: it is on the sufferings and death of Jesus, and on the ingratitude of the Jews. The Church, during Tenebrae, represents these men as saying, “Behold! How the Just One dieth, and there is none that taketh it to heart. Iniquity has had its way. He is silent as a lamb under his shearer, and He opened not His mouth. He was taken away from distress and judgment; but His memory shall be in Peace.”

Thus speak the men; the women are thinking of their morrow’s visit to the Sepulchre. The saintliness of Jesus, His Goodness, His Power, His Sufferings, His Death - everything is remembered, except His Resurrection, which they had often heard Him say should certainly and speedily take place. Mary alone lives in expectation of His Triumph. In Her was verified that expression of the Holy Ghost, where, speaking of the valiant woman, He says, “Her lamp shall not be put out in the night.” (Prov. 31: 18) Her courage fails not, because she knows that the Sepulchre must yield up its Dead, and Her Jesus will rise again to Life. St. Paul tells us that our religion is vain, unless we have Faith in the 
Mystery of our Lord’s Resurrection: where was this Faith on the day after our Lord’s death? In one heart only - and that was Mary’s. As it was Her chaste womb that had held within it, Him whom Heaven and earth cannot contain, so, on this day, by Her firm and unwavering Faith, She resumes within her single self, the whole Church. How sacred is this Saturday, which, notwithstanding all its sadness, is such a day of glory to the Mother of Jesus! It is on this account that the Church has consecrated to Mary the Saturday of every week.
Let us devote a few moments to meditating on the mystery of the three days, during which the Soul of our Redeemer was separated from His Body. Let us follow It to the place where It lives during these hours of separation: In the center of the earth, there are four immense regions, into which no one living can ever enter; it is only by Divine Revelation that we know of their existence. The farthest from us is the hell of the damned, the frightful abode where satan and his demons and the reprobate are suffering eternal torments. It is here that the prince of darkness is ever forming his plots against God and His creatures. Nearer to us, is the limbo wherein are detained the souls of children, who departed this world before being regenerated. The opinion which has met most favor from the Church, is that these souls suffer no torment; and that, although they can never enjoy the beatific vision, yet are they enjoying a natural happiness, and one that is proportionate to their desires. Above the abode of these children, is the place of expiation, where souls that have departed this life in the state of grace cleanse themselves from any stains of lesser sins, or satisfy for the debt of temporal punishment still due to Divine Justice. And lastly, still nearer to us, is the limbo where are kept from Heaven the saints, the Just, who died under the old Law: a countless number of His elect, the fruit of four thousand years of His grace. Here are our first parents, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets; the Just Gentiles, such as that great saint of Arabia, Job; and those holy personages who were closely connected with our Lord, such as Joachim and Anne, the parents of His Blessed Mother, Joseph Her Spouse and His own foster-father, and John His precursor, together with his holy parents Zachary and Elizabeth. Until such time as the Gate of Heaven shall have been opened by the Blood of the Redeemer, none of the Just can ascend thither. The limbo of the Just is not one of torment, beyond that of expectation and captivity. The souls that dwell there are confirmed in grace, and are sure of enjoying, at some future period, an infinite happiness; they resignedly bear this long
banishment, which is a consequence of Adam’s sin; and, as they see the time drawing nigh for their deliverance, their joy is beyond all we can imagine.

The Son of God is to open the Gates of Heaven: hence, His Soul, having been separated from His Body by death, was to descend into the depths of the earth and become a companion with the holy exiles there. What must have been the joy of these countless saints! No sooner did our Jesus breathe His last upon the Cross, than the limbo of the saints was illumined with Heavenly Splendor. The Soul of the Redeemer, united to the Divinity of the Word, descended thither, and changed it from a place of banishment into a very Paradise. Thus did He fulfill the promise He made to the good thief, “This day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.”

The Soul of our Jesus makes its presence felt also by the just who dwell in the abode of expiation. It mercifully alleviates their sufferings, and shortens their purgatory. Many of them are delivered altogether, and numbered with the saints in limbo, where they spend the forty days, between this and the Ascension, in the happy expectation of ascending to Heaven with their Deliverer.

His Soul does not descend into the hell of satan, but He makes His power felt there. The prince of this world is now forced to bend his knee and humble himself. In this Jesus, Whom he has instigated the Jews to crucify, he now recognizes the Son of God. The cross which he had so exultingly prepared for the Just One, has been his overthrow.

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