Life Of Christ:
Jesus Is Taken Down From The Cross
Resurrection Of Jesus
Jesus Appears Repeatedly To His Disciples
Ascension Of Jesus, And The Descent Of The Holy Ghost
Read More Articles About: Life Of Christ
Jesus Is Taken Down From The Cross
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
SINCE Jesus had now fully accomplished the end for which He came into the world, the hands of His enemies could never be laid on Him again. " Joseph of Arimathea, a noble counsellor, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, came and went in boldly to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. But Pi-late wondered that He should be already dead. And sending for the centurion, he asked him if He were already dead. And when he understood it by the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph." (Mark xv. 43-45.) " And Nicodemus also came, he who at the first came to Jesus by night, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. They took therefore the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury." (John xix. 39, 40.)
The solemn ceremony of taking down from the cross the sacred body of Jesus was carried out with a reverence indescribably touching, and amid a sad and sorrowful silence. Those engaged in the sacred duty moved slowly and gently and carefully, as though they dreaded to renew again the sufferings of the inanimate body, for their hearts were overpowered with love and reverence toward the precious remains of Our Lord. They drew forth the nails from the hands and feet, disengaged the thorny crown from the tangled hair, and tenderly laid the sacred body in the arms of His Mother.
Let us now draw nigh to that broken-hearted Mother, as she sits at the foot of the cross, on her knees the in-animate, lacerated body of Jesus. There He lies, life-less, motionless, His eyes closed, His limbs rigid, His flesh gashed, torn, and rent with cruel wounds. There is now no beauty or comeliness in Him. From the crown of His head to the sole of His feet there is no soundness. He is like a leper, and one stricken by God, and afflicted. Truly He hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows, and because it hath pleased Him to take our guilt upon Himself, the Almighty exacted from Him the great debt of justice which we were unable to pay.
What are the thoughts suggested to you by the contemplation of Jesus lying thus in the arms of His most holy Mother? Are they not bitter recollections of the share you had in making Him what He is? Have not your thoughts, at times, stricken down the thorny crown into the sacred head and temples of Our Lord? Have not your deeds filled His eyes with tears of blood? Your sinful acts have been unto His flesh as the thongs of the biting scourge, as the nails which pierced His hands and feet, or the keen point of the lance which drank the last drop of His heart's blood.
Looking upon the work of our hands, can we gaze unmoved on the lifeless form which appeals to us with such mute eloquence? Oh, let not our hearts be harder than the very rocks which were rent asunder at His death! Let us look upon the lifeless form of Our Saviour, and resolve to atone for the past, to blot it out by true contrition and repentance.
But thou, O sorrowful Mother Mary ! what were thy sentiments and feelings in that solemn hour? How lovingly didst thou press thy Son's disfigured form to thy breast! O valiant Mother of sorrows! allow one spark of that flaming love, which was enkindled in thy heart at the touch of the Saviour's precious remains, to pass into my cold heart, that it may be aroused from its lethargic indifference, and converted to a holy life. O Mary, Mother of sorrows, permit me to weep with thee, to love with thee, to adore with thee!
" Now there was in the place where He was crucified a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein no man had yet been laid. There, therefore, because of the Parasceve of the Jews, they laid Jesus, because the sepulchre was nigh at hand." (John xix. 42.) "And the women that were come with Him from Galilee, following after, saw the sepulchre, and how His body was laid." (Luke xxiii. 55.) "And he rolled a great stone to the door of the monument, and went his way." (Matt. xxvii. 60.)
Before consigning the body of Our Lord to the tomb, Joseph and Nicodemus, assisted by the holy women, performed for it all those offices of piety which their faith and love prompted. Having first cleansed it from the foul stains which the rage and brutality of the Jews and soldiers had left upon it, they next, with the most pro-found respect, anointed the gaping wounds. Sweet-smelling spices were poured into them, and the entire body was covered with myrrh. The lifeless form was then wrapped in fine linen, and nothing remained to be done except to bear the precious burden to the grave, which Joseph had caused to be hewn out of the rock as a resting-place for himself. No one had as yet been buried there, so that it was spotlessly pure.
Before the grave closes over the body of her Son, Mary kneels once more by the shrouded form. Her face is bent over the features of her Son, once so beautiful, now so cruelly disfigured by the savagery of the Jews. Again she presses to her bosom the sacred head; the tears break forth from her eyes; she imprints one fare-well kiss upon the brow, and feels in that supreme moment all the agony of a broken heart. By her side kneels the beloved disciple of her Son, St. John, whom Jesus had given to her as a son instead of Himself. His tears fall fast as he tries in vain to comfort her. Magdalen, deeming herself unworthy of aught else, stations herself at the feet of her Lord, and performs for them in death that office of love which she had not feared to perform in life, when He sat in the midst of jealous and ever-watchful foes. With unspeakable tenderness and gentleness, Joseph, Nicodemus, and John now place the body of Jesus in the tomb. They lay it upon the ledge of rock prepared for its resting-place, and having closed the entrance of the sepulchre with a great slab of rock, all withdrew.
Now that we have left the sacred body of Our Lord in the tomb, let us cast a parting glance at the lessons of His life and death. Christ was God, and became man for love of us; He lived upon this earth of ours, and felt all our miseries, becoming like to us in all, sin alone excepted. He toiled like a common laborer, and thereby invested labor with a dignity which has made it forever honorable. He came forth from His obscurity, and taught a heavenly doctrine, one pointing from earth to heaven. He bade us look upon this world as a place of exile, this life as a pilgrimage. To solace our misery and to strengthen our weakness, He gave us Himself to be our food during the days of our banishment. To blot out the handwriting which was against us, the eternal Father had decreed that He should die. He submitted to His Father's will. The time for the fulfilment of that divine decree arrived, and Christ entered upon His bitter passion. Over His whole being there crept a dread of death, so intense that it filled His soul with mortal agony, and caused Him to sweat blood. He was basely betrayed by one of His apostles, judged by a pagan, condemned to death, and handed over to the ungovernable fury of an angry mob. His people rejected Him, and chose in His stead a robber, a murderer. They scourged Him like a malefactor, nailed Him cruelly to the disgraceful cross, and there, between two thieves, amid the cruel jeers of the priests and people, He died a lingering death of the most acute pain.
Reflecting on all this, each one of us can say: "Christ died for me, and delivered Himself up for me." Surely, "greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John xv. 13.) There-fore let us not be behindhand in generosity to love Him. Let us give Him all we have our hearts, our souls, our faculties, our powers. Let us be determined to serve Him alone. But as we cannot do this without His assistance, let us ask Him for it, and He will give it to us. Let us ask Him to bestow His grace so abundantly on us that neither in life nor in death anything may ever be able to separate us from Him.
Alas, O my God, the servant's debt is paid by the Master, the penalty incurred by man is paid by God! To what excess, O Lord, has Thy love led Thee? It was I who acted perversely, and Thou hast suffered the punishment. I have sinned, and Thou dost suffer; I was proud, and Thou wast humbled; I was puffed up, and Thou wast calumniated; I was disobedient, and Thy obedience cancelled my disobedience; I was intemperate, and Thou didst suffer the pangs of hunger and thirst. I am the traitor who betrayed Thee ; I struck Thy sacred countenance; I am Thy false accuser; I am Peter denying, Herod mocking Thee; I have scourged Thee and crowned Thee. with thorns; I am Pilate, condemning Thee to death; I laid the heavy cross upon Thy shoulders; I despoiled Thee of Thy garments, nailed Thee to the cross, gave Thee gall and vinegar to drink, caused Thy sacred blood to flow in the garden and on the cross.. My envy betrayed, my avarice sold Thee. I have denied Thee, by transgressing Thy commandments, for fear of displeasing men. My anger has struck Thee, my hypocrisy mocked Thee, my immodesty scourged Thee, my pride crowned Thee with thorns. My sins condemned Thee to death; my sloth laid the heavy burden of the cross upon Thy shoulders; my lust despoiled Thee of Thy garments; my revengefulness nailed Thee to the cross; my intemperance made Thee drink gall and vinegar; my vanity caused Thy garments to be divided among the soldiers. It is I, O God, I who took Thy life. O Sovereign Good, I have sinned. I am sorry from all, my heart for having offended Thee, Who art of Thyself the Supreme Being, worthy of all love.
" Sweet Jesus, by Thy death on the cross, by the mystery of Thy repose in the tomb, I implore Thee to grant me a happy death, and a peaceful, blissful eternity." (St. Bonaventure.)