Life Of Christ:
Jesus Before Annas
Jesus Before Caiphas
Jesus Before Pilate
Jesus Before Herod
Jesus Is Condemned To Death
Way Of The Cross
Crucifixion Of Jesus
Seven Last Words Of Jesus
Miraculous Events At Our Lord's Death
Side Of Jesus Pierced With A Lance
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Miraculous Events At Our Lord's Death
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
ON DEVOTION TO OUR LORD'S PASSION.
AN event so extraordinary as the death of a God-Man was necessarily accompanied by portentous signs, whereby God intended to glorify His Son, to manifest His anger against those who had crucified Him, and to express, in a material way, the spiritual effects which were to follow His death. These events are described by the evangelists as follows:
" And behold the veil of the Temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were rent. And the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints, that had slept, arose, and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, came into the holy city, and appeared to many. Now the centurion and they that were with him watching Jesus, having seen the earthquake and the things that were done, were sore afraid, saying: Indeed, this was the Son of God." (Matt. xxvii. 51-54.)
In the Temple, between the sanctuary and the space reserved for the people, there hung a veil, to conceal the Holy of Holies; and only once a year, on the day of the great atonement, the high-priest, and he only, was permitted to enter behind this veil, when he went to immolate the sacrifice of expiation. According to Jewish accounts, this curtain was forty yards long and twenty wide, heavily embroidered with golden and purple threads, and so artistically wrought that it required a whole year's work at the hands of several thousand young girls to finish it. And now, at the very instant when the veritable High-Priest on Golgotha is entering, with His own sacrificial blood, into the Sanctuary, this veil of the Temple is rent in twain from top to bottom. This was a sign that admission to the Most High that is to say, reconciliation in and through Christ was now granted to all men; that the ancient figurative sacrificial worship of the Old Law had been abolished, and that the Jewish Temple had lost its use and meaning for evermore.
The next miraculous event was the terrible earthquake during the agony of Jesus. Reliable annalists assure us that mountains and valleys were agitated fearfully, not only in Palestine, but throughout Asia Minor, and as far to the west as Spain. On Calvary the very rocks were rent. Thus did inanimate, irrational nature manifest its horror at the death of its Creator. A thrill of terror and protest ran through its inmost recesses of existence when it witnessed the crime perpetrated against their God and Lord by rational human beings.
A miraculous event, too, was the resurrection from their graves of many dead persons, who glided about the dark streets, appeared in the holy place, and filled with terror the awe-stricken people. A pious and learned author, Vincent Bellovacensis, writes that amongst those who appeared were two sons of the pious high-priest Simeon the Just, an ancestor of Simeon who. prophesied at the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. They denounced the murder of the prophets, declared that the sacrifice was now at an end, and exhorted all to believe in Jesus Christ. At the altar Jeremias appeared, issuing threats and declaring that the sacrifice of the Old Law now gave way to that of the new dispensation. A voice in the Temple was heard, saying, "Let us go hence!" and the angels left the Temple. The altar of incense trembled, and a censer fell; the case containing the Scriptures was overturned, and the sacred books were tumbled out. The time of day was forgotten in the confusion, Here and there lay dead bodies; other dead walked about among the people and spoke threats.
Lastly, a miraculous occurrence was the spiritual resurrection, or conversion, of many of those persons who were present at the death of Christ. They witnessed the preternatural disturbances in the heavens and on the earth at the death of Jesus, and were touched to the heart. Their eyes were opened to the truth, and contritely they struck their breasts, saying: "Indeed, this was the Son of God!"
How inscrutable are the decrees of God, how mysterious and hidden the ways of divine justice and mercy! The Jewish priesthood, in blindness and perversity, rushed forward to dark destruction, while the pagan centurion discovered the light, followed it, and believed.
Strike your breast, like the centurion and the affrighted soldiers, and, grieving over the share you had in the sufferings and death of Jesus, resolve, once for all, to break with sin, and never again to incur that frightful guilt, to remove which Our Lord suffered so cruel a death.
The devotion to the sacred passion of Our Lord possesses a wonderful power to enkindle our love, strengthen our patience, and inflame our zeal for the attainment of virtue. Hence St. Bonaventure remarks : " If you desire to make progress in virtue, and to lead a perfect life, meditate every day on the sufferings of Christ; for there is nothing that so excites the soul to holy fervor as this." And St. Augustine says: "There is nothing so bitter that it may not be made sweet by the death of Christ. All my hope is built on the death of my Lord."
After the resurrection and ascension of Our Lord, the Christians who resided in Jerusalem had a great veneration for the places sanctified by the sufferings of Our Saviour. From that time, also, as we learn from St. Jerome, it was a frequent and most touching practice of Christians in other countries to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Palestine, and there visit the spots made sacred by the presence of Christ, and especially those known as the stations of His passion and death, and honor these holy places by prayer and penance. After-ward, when the Holy Land had fallen into the hands of the infidels, the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross was substituted, in the middle of the fourteenth century, by the Franciscans. This excellent devotion has met with repeated approvals of the Church, being, moreover, enriched with numerous indulgences. All, however, who wish to gain these indulgences must bear in mind that the stations must be erected by those who have the face ulty to do so; that it is required of them to meditate, according to their ability, on the sufferings of Jesus, and to go from one station to another, so far as the number of persons engaged in the devotion, and the space where the stations are erected, will admit. No special form of prayer is prescribed for this holy exercise, the text of the prayers being left to the devotion of each person; but it ought to refer to the scene represented by the station.
My beloved Saviour, who hast redeemed the world by Thy sufferings and Thy death upon the cross, grant me that, daily venerating Thy holy wounds, I may, by Thy precious blood, be delivered from a sudden and eternal death.
Almighty and eternal God, merciful Father I who hast given to the human race Thy beloved Son as an example of humility, obedience, and patience, to precede us on the way of life, bearing the cross: graciously grant that we, inflamed by His infinite love, take up the sweet yoke of His Gospel, together with the mortification of the cross, following Him as His true disciples, so that we shall one day gloriously rise with Him, and joyfully hear the final sentence : " Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," where Thou reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, and where we hope to reign with Thee throughout all eternity. Amen.