This post shares the title of Archbishop Fulton Sheen's fifty-fourth chapter in his seminal work, "Life of Christ." The chapter begins: "in the history of the world, only one tomb has ever had a rock rolled before it, and a soldier set to watch it to prevent a dead man within from rising…." An intriguing beginning to be sure, but Archbishop Sheen leaves the full weight of his title to tantelize us, leaving us to fill in, what exactly is meant by "the earth's most serious wound." It is indeed a great challenge from a great mind. I invite your comments. Over the next several posts, I add my thoughts regarding its meaning.
N.B., if you are looking for great post-Easter reading, I would suggest "Life of Christ" by Fulton J. Sheen.
EASTER DAY HOMILY. (FROM THE ANTHEM.)
"Christ Our Passover is sacrified for us: therefore let us keep the feast."– 1 Cor. v. 7.
OUR Lord Jesus Christ in a threefold manner showed Himself to us in eating. Firstly, sacramentally: S. Matt. xxvi. 26, 27, "Take, eat; this is My Body," &c. Secondly, spiritually: "For what hast thou designed teeth and stomach? Believe, and thou hast eaten" (S. Austin). Thirdly, eternally: "There Thou wilt satiate me of thee with a wonderful satiety" (S. Austin). According to this, He made to us a threefold Paschal Feast (1) bodily; (2) spiritual; (3) eternal. These three mystical Passovers were those which the children of Israel celebrated the first in the Exodus from Egypt (Ex. xii. 21 et seq.); the second in the desert (Numb. ix. 3-5); the third in the land of promise (Jos. v. 10). For the celebrating of the first Passover, in which we eat a Lamb without blemish, sacrified for all, the Apostle in this epistle shows five things to be necessary (1) That we should be cleansed from carnal concupiscence: "Purge out, therefore, the old leaven." The "old leaven" is carnal concupiscence, which from our first parent begun to corrupt the lump of human nature: 1 Cor. v. 6, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." (2) That we may be cleansed from pride: "Neither with the leaven of malice." Malice is another term to express pride, which is the beginning of all malice: Ecclus. x. 15, "Pride is the beginning of every sin." (3) That we may be cleansed from an evil covetousness, "And wickedness." Covetousness is called wickedness because it desires that which is not; for all love the riches of the world, which they can never obtain: Ecclus. x. 10, "Nothing is more wicked than to love money." (4) A cleansing of the heart is necessary, "But with the unleavened bread of sincerity." For he who wishes to celebrate this solemn Passover ought himself to be most cleansed: Numb, xviii. 11, "Everyone that is clean in thy house shall eat of it." (5) Truth of life is necessary: Ephes. iv. 15, "And of truth," "speaking the truth in love." He who wishes, therefore, to celebrate this ineffable Passover must be purged from the sin of carnal concupiscence, and of avarice, and of pride; and must be delighted in purity of mind, in truth of life, and will come to that Passover which does not follow the Lenten fast, but will be there a perpetual and eternal solemnity. To which may Jesus Our God bring us. Amen.
St. Thomas Aquinas
From the descent of Christ to hell we may learn, for our instruction, four things:
1. Firm hope in God. No matter what the trouble in which a man finds himself, he should always put trust in God's help and rely on it. There is no trouble greater than to find oneself in hell. If then Christ freed those who were in hell, any man who is a friend of God cannot but have great confidence that he too shall be freed from whatever anxiety holds him. Wisdom forsook not the just when he was sold, but delivered him from sinners; she went down with him into the pit and in bands she left him not (Wis. x. 13-14). And since to His servants God gives a special assistance, he who serves God should have still greater confidence. He that feareth the Lord shall tremble at nothing, and shall not be afraid: for he is his hope (Ecclus. xxxiv. 16).
2. We ought to conceive fear and to rid ourselves of presumption. For although Christ suffered for sinners, and went down into hell to set them free, he did not set all sinners free, but only those who were free of mortal sin. Those who had died in mortal sin He left there. Where fore for those who have gone down to hell in mortal sin there remains no hope of pardon. They shall be in hell as the holy Fathers are in heaven, that is forever.
3. We ought to be full of care. Christ went down into hell for our salvation, and we should be careful frequently to go down there too, turning over in our minds hell's pain and penalties, as did the holy king Ezechias as we read in the prophecy of Isaias, I said: In the midst of my days I shall go to the gates of hell (Isaias xxxviii. 10).
Those who in their meditation often go down to hell during life, will not easily go down there at death. Such meditations are a powerful arm against sin, and a useful aid to bring a man back from sin. Daily we see men kept from evildoing by the fear of the law's punishments. How much greater care should they not take on account of the punishment of hell, greater in its duration, in its bitterness and in its variety. Remember thy last end and thou shalt never sin (Ecclus. vii. 40).
4. The fact is for us an example of love. Christ went down into hell to set free those that were his own. We, too, therefore, should go down there to help our own. For those who are in purgatory are themselves unable to do anything, and therefore we ought to help them. Truly he would be a harsh man indeed who failed to come to the aid of a kinsman who lay in prison, here on earth. How much more harsh, then, the man who will not aid the friend who is in purgatory, for there is no comparison between the pains there and the pains of this world. Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least you my friends, because the hand of the Lord hath touched me (Job xix. 21).
We help the souls in purgatory chiefly by these three means, by masses, by prayers, and by almsgiving. Nor is it wonderful that we can do so, for even in this world a friend can make satisfaction for a friend.
Saint Thomas Aquinas
Meditations and Reading for Lent
Fr. Mezard, OP
Trans., Fr. Philip Hughes
That Christ should die was expedient.
1. To make our redemption complete. For, although any suffering of Christ had an infinite value, because of its union with His divinity, it was not by no matter which of His sufferings that the redemption of mankind was made complete, but only by His death. So the Holy Spirit declared speaking through the mouth of Caiaphas, It is expedient for you that one man shall die for the people (John xi. 50). Whence St. Augustine says, "Let us stand in wonder, rejoice, be glad, love, praise, and adore since it is by the death of our Redeemer, that we have been called from death to life, from exile to our own land, from mourning to joy."
2. To increase our faith, our hope and our charity. With regard to faith the Psalm says (Ps. cxl. 10), I am alone until I pass from this world, that is, to the Father. When I shall have passed to the Father, then shall I be multiplied. Unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone (John xii. 24).
As to the increase of hope St, Paul writes, He that spared not even his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how hath he not also, with him, given us all things? (Rom. viii. 32). God cannot deny us this, for to give us all things is less than to give His own Son to death for us. St. Bernard says, "Who is not carried away to hope and confidence in prayer, when he looks on the crucifix and sees how Our Lord hangs there, the head bent as though to kiss, the arms outstretched in an embrace, the hands pierced to give, the side opened to love, the feet nailed to remain with us."
Come, my dove, in the clefts of the rock (Cant. ii. 14). It is in the wounds of Christ the Church buildsits nest and waits, for it is in the Passion of Our Lord that she places her hope of salvation, and thereby trusts to be protected from the craft of the falcon, that is, of the devil.
With regard to the increase of charity, Holy Scripture says, At noon he burneth the earth (Ecclus. xliii. 3), that is to say, in the fervour of His Passion He burns up all mankind with His love. So St. Bernard says, "The chalice thou didst drink, O good Jesus, maketh thee lovable above all things." The work of our redemption easily, brushing aside all hindrances, calls out in return the whole of our love. This it is which more gently draws out our devotion, builds it up more straightly, guards it more closely, and fires it with greater ardour.
3. Because our salvation is wrought in the manner of a sacrament, we dying to this world in a likeness to His death, So that my soul chooseth hanging, and my bones death (Job vii. 15). St. Gregory says, "The soul is the mind's aspiration, the bones are the strength of the body's desires. Things hanged are raised thereby from the depths. The soul, then, is hanged to things eternal that the bones may die, for it is with the love of eternal life that the soul slays the strong attraction earthly things possess for it."
It is a sign that a soul is dead to the uorld when a soul is despised by the world. Again, to quote St. Gregory, "The sea keeps the bodies that are alive in it. Once they are dead it quickly casts them up."
(De Humanitate Christi, cap. 47.)
Saint Thomas Aquinas
Meditations and Reading for Lent
Fr. Mezard, OP
Trans., Fr. Philip Hughes
"Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy: and He saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; tarry ye here, and watch with me." 
Because they clung to Him inseparably, therefore He saith, "Tarry ye here, while I go away and pray." For it was usual with Him to pray apart from them. And this He did teaching us in our prayers, to prepare silence for ourselves and great retirement.
And He takes with Him the three, and saith unto them, "my soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." Wherefore doth He not take all with Him? That they might not be cast down; but these He taketh that had been spectators of His glory. However, even these He dismisses: "And He went on a little farther, and prayeth, saying, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt. And He cometh unto them, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." 
Not without reason doth He inveigh against Peter most, although the others also had slept; but to make him feel by this also, for the cause which I mentioned before. Then because the others also said the same thing (for when Peter had said (these are the words), "Though I must die with Thee, I will not deny Thee; likewise also," it is added, "said all the disciples");  He addresses Himself to all, convicting their weakness. For they who are desiring to die with Him, were not then able so much as to sorrow with Him wakefully, but sleep overcame them.
And He prays with earnestness, in order that the thing might not seem to be acting. And sweats flow over him for the same cause again, even that the heretics might not say this, that He acts the agony. Therefore there is a sweat like drops of blood, and an angel appeared strengthening Him, and a thousand sure signs of fear, lest any one should affirm the words to be feigned. For this cause also was this prayer. By saying then, "If it be possible, let it pass from me," He showed His humanity; but by saying, "Nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt," He showed His virtue and self-command, teaching us even when nature pulls us back, to follow God. For since it was not enough for the foolish to show His face only, He uses words also. Again, words sufficed not alone, but deeds likewise were needed; these also He joins with the words, that even they who are in a high degree contentious may believe, that He both became man and died. For if, even when these things are so, this be still disbelieved by some, much more, if these had not been. See by how many things He shows the reality of the incarnation: by what He speaks, by what He suffers. After that He cometh and saith to Peter, as it is said, "What, couldest thou not watch one hour with me?"  All were sleeping, and He re bukes Peter, hinting at him, in what He spake. And the words, "with me," are not employed without reason; it is as though He had said, Thou couldest not watch with me one hour, and wilt thou lay down thy life for me? and what follows also, intimates this self-same thing. For "Watch," saith He, "and pray not to enter into temptation." See how He is again instructing them not to be self-confident, but contrite in mind, and to be humble, and to refer all to God.
And at one time He addresses Himself to Peter, at another to all in common. And to him He saith, "Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee;" and to all in common, "Pray that ye enter not into temptation;" every way plucking up their self-will, and making them earnest-minded. Then, that He might not seem to make His language altogether condemnatory, He saith, "The spirit indeed is ready, but the flesh is weak." For even although thou dost desire to despise death, yet thou wilt not be able, until God stretch forth His hand, for the carnal mind draws down.
And again He prayed in the same way, saying, "Father, if this cannot pass from me except I drink it, Thy will be done,"  showing here, that He fully harmonizes with God's will, and that we must always follow this, and seek after it.
"And He came and found them asleep."  For besides that it was late at night, their eyes also were weighed down by their despondency. And the third time He went and spake the same thing, establishing the fact, that He was become man. For the second and third time is in the Scriptures especially indicative of truth; like as Joseph also said to Pharaoh, "Did the dream appear to thee the second time? For truth was this done, and that thou mightest be assured that this shall surely be."  Therefore He too once, and twice, and three times spake the same thing, for the sake of proving the incarnation. 
And wherefore came He the second time? In order to reprove them, for that they were so drowned in despondency, as not to have any sense even of His presence. He did not however reprove them, but stood apart from them a little, showing their unspeakable weakness, that not even when they had been rebuked, were they able to endure. But He doth not awake and rebuke them again, lest He should smite them that were already smitten, but He went away and prayed, and when He is come back again, He saith, "Sleep on now, and take your rest." And yet then there was need to be wakeful, but to show that they will not bear so much as the sight of the dangers, but will be put to flight and desert Him from their terror, and that He hath no need of their succor, and that He must by all means be delivered up, "Sleep on now," He saith, "and take your rest; behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners." 
He shows again that what is done belongs to a divine dispensation.
2. But He doth not this only, but also, by saying, "into the hands of sinners," He cheers up their minds, showing it was the effect of their wickedness, not of His being liable to any charge.
"Rise, let us be going; behold, he is at hand that doth betray me."  For by all means He taught them, that the matter was not of necessity, nor of weakness, but of some secret dispensation. For, as we see, He foreknew that Judas would come, and so far from flying, He even went to meet him. At any rate, "While He yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people."  Seemly surely are the instruments of the priests! "with swords and staves" do they come against Him! And Judas, it is said, with them, one of the twelve. Again he calleth him "of the twelve," and is not ashamed. Now he that betrayed Him gave them a sign, saying, "Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He, hold Him fast."  Oh! what depravity had the traitor's soul received. For with what kind of eyes did he then look at his Master? with what mouth did he kiss Him? Oh! accursed purpose; what did he devise? What did he dare? What sort of sign of betrayal did he give? Whomsoever I shall kiss, he saith. He was emboldened by his Master's gentleness, which more than all was sufficient to shame him, and to deprive him of all excuse for that he was betraying one so meek.
But wherefore doth He say this? Because often when seized by them He had gone out through the midst, without their knowing it. Nevertheless, then also this would have been done, if it had not been His own will that He should be taken. It was at least with a view to teach them this, that He then blinded their eyes, and Himself asked, "Whom seek ye?"  And they knew Him not, though being with lanterns and torches, and having Judas with them. Afterwards, as they had said, "Jesus;" He saith, "I am He" whom ye seek: and here again, "Friend, wherefore art thou come?" 
For after having shown His own strength, then at once He yielded Himself. But John saith, that even to the very moment He continued to reprove him, saying, "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?"  Art thou not ashamed even of the form of the betrayal? saith He. Nevertheless, forasmuch as not even this checked him, He submitted to be kissed, and gave Himself up willingly; and they laid their hands on Him, and seized Him that night on which they ate the passover, to such a degree did they boil with rage, and were mad. However, they would have had no strength, unless He had Himself suffered it. Yet this delivers not Judas from intolerable punishment, but even more exceedingly condemns him, for that though he had received such proof of His power, and lenity, and meekness, and gentleness, he became fiercer than any wild beast.
Knowing then these things, let us flee from covetousness. For that, that it was, which then drove him to madness; that exercises them who are taken thereby in the most extreme cruelty and inhumanity. For, when it makes them to despair of their own salvation, much more doth it cause them to overlook that of the rest of mankind. And so tyrannical is the passing, as sometimes to prevail over the keenest lust. Wherefore indeed I am exceedingly ashamed, that to spare their money, may indeed have bridled their unchastity, but for the fear of Christ they were not willing to live chastely and with gravity.
Wherefore I say, let us flee from it; for I will not cease for ever saying this. For why, O man, dost thou gather gold? Why dost thou make thy bondage more bitter? Why thy watching more grievous? Why thy anxiety more painful? Account for thine own the metals buried in the mines, those in the kings' courts. For indeed if thou hadst all that heap, thou wouldest keep it only, and wouldest not use it. For if now thou hast not used the things thou possessest, but abstainest from them as though they belonged to others, much more would this be the case with thee, if thou hadst more. For it is the way of the covetous, the more they heap up around them, the more to be sparing of it. "But I know," sayest thou, "that these things are mine." The possession then is in supposition only, not in enjoyment. But I should be an object of fear to men, sayest thou. Nay, but thou wouldest by this become a more easy prey both to rich and poor, to robbers, and false accusers, and servants, and in general to all that are minded to plot against thee. For if thou art desirous to be an object of fear, cut off the occasions by which they are able to lay hold of thee and pain thee, whoever have set their hearts thereon. Hearest thou not the parable that saith, that the poor and naked man, not even a hundred men gathered together are ever able to strip? For he hath his poverty as his greatest protection, which not even the king shall ever be able to subdue and take.
3. The covetous man indeed all join in vexing. And why do I say men, when moths and worms war against such a man? And why do I speak of moths? Length of time is enough alone, even when no one troubles him, to do the greatest injury to such a man.
What then is the pleasure of wealth? For I see its discomforts, but do thou tell me the pleasure of it. And what are its discomforts? sayest thou: anxieties, plots, enmities, hatred, fear; to be ever thirsting and in pain.
For if any one were to embrace a damsel he loves, but were not able to satisfy his desire, he undergoes the utmost torment. Even so also doth the rich man. For he hath plenty, and is with her, but cannot satisfy all his desire; but the same result takes place as some wise man mentions; "The lust of eunuch to deflower a virgin;" and, "Like an eunuch embracing a virgin and groaning;"  so are all the rich.
Why should one speak of the other things? how such a one is displeasing to all, to his servants, his laborers, his neighbors, to them that handle public affairs, to them that are injured, to them that are not injured, to his wife most of all, and to his children more than to any. For not as men does he bring them up, but more miserably than menials and purchased slaves.
And countless occasions for anger, and vexation, and insult, and ridicule against himself, doth he bring about, being set forth as a common laughing stock to all. So the discomforts are these, and perhaps more than these; before one could never go through them all in discourse, but experience will be able to set them before us.
But tell me the pleasure from hence. "I appear to be rich," he saith, "and am reputed to be rich." And what kind of pleas ure to be so reputed? It is a very great name for envy. I say a name, for wealth is a name only void of reality.
"Yet he that is rich," saith he, "indulges and delights himself with this notion." He delights himself in those things about which he ought to grieve. "To grieve? wherefore?" asks he. Because this renders him useless for all purposes, and cowardly and unmanly both with regard to banishment and to death, for he holds this double, longing more for money than for light. Such a one not even Heaven delights, because it beareth not gold; nor the sun, forasmuch as it puts not forth golden beams.
But there are some, saith he, who do enjoy what they possess, living in luxury, in gluttony, in drunkenness, spending sumptuously. You are telling me of persons worse than the first. For the last above all are the men, who have no enjoyment. For the first at least abstains from other evils, being bound to one love; but the others are worse than these, besides what we have said, bringing in upon themselves a crowd of cruel masters, and doing service every day to the belly, to lust, to drunkenness, to other kinds of intemperance, as to so many cruel tyrants, keeping harlots, preparing expensive feasts, purchasing parasites, flatterers, turning aside after unnatural lusts, involving their body and their soul in a thousand diseases springing therefrom.
For neither is it on what they want they spend their goods, but on ruining the body, and on ruining also the soul therewith; and they do the same, as if any one, when adorning his person, were to think he was spending his money on his own wants.
So that he alone enjoys pleasure and is master of his goods, who uses his wealth for a proper object; but these are slaves and captives, for they aggravate both the passions of the body and the diseases of the soul. What manner of enjoyment is this, where is siege and war, and a storm worse than all the raging of the sea? For if wealth find men fools, it renders them more foolish; if wanton, more wanton.
And what is the use of understanding, thou wilt say, to the poor man? As might be expected thou art ignorant; for neither doth the blind man know what is the advantage of light. Listen to Solomon, saying, "As far as light excelleth darkness, so doth wisdom excel folly." 
But how shall we instruct him that is in darkness? For the love of money is darkness, permitting nothing that is to appear as it is, but otherwise. For much as one in darkness, though he should see a golden vessel, though a precious stone, though purple garments, supposes them to be nothing, for he sees not their beauty; so also he that is in covetousness, knows not as he ought the beauty of those things that are worthy of our care. Disperse then I pray thee the mist that arises from this passion, and then wilt thou see the nature of things.
But nowhere do these things so plainly appear as in poverty, nowhere are those things so disproved which seem to be, and are not, as in self-denial.
4. But oh! foolish men; who do even curse the poor, and say that both houses and living are disgraced by poverty, confounding all things. For what is a disgrace to a house? I pray thee. It hath no couch of ivory, nor silver vessels, but all of earthenware and wood. Nay, this is the greatest glory and distinction to a house. For to be indifferent about worldly things, often occasions all a man's leisure to be spent in the care of his soul.
When therefore thou seest great care about outward things, then be ashamed at the great unseemliness. For the houses of them that are rich most of all want seemliness. For when thou seest tables covered with hangings, and couches inlaid with silver, much as in the theatre, much as in the display of the stage, what can be equal to this unseemliness? For what kind of house is most like the stage, and the things on the stage? The rich man's or the poor man's? Is it not quite plain that it is the rich man's? This therefore is full of unseemliness. What kind of house is most like Paul's, or Abraham's? It is quite evident that it is the poor man's. This therefore is most adorned, and to be approved. And that thou mayest learn that this is, above all, a house's adorning, enter into the house of Zacchæus, and learn, when Christ was on the point of entering therein, how Zacchæus adorned it. For he did not run to his neighbors begging curtains, and seats, and chairs made of ivory, neither did he bring forth from his closets Laconian hangings; but he adorned it with an adorning suitable to Christ. What was this? "The half of my goods I will give," he saith, "to the poor; and whomsoever I have robbed, I will restore fourfold."  On this wise let us too adorn our houses, that Christ may enter in unto us also. These are the fair curtains, these are wrought in Heaven, they are woven there. Where these are, there is also the King of Heaven. But if thou adorn it in another way, thou art inviting the devil and his company.
He came also into the house of the publican Matthew. What then did this man also do? He first adorned himself by his readiness, and by his leaving all, and following Christ.
So also Cornelius adorned his house with prayers and alms; wherefore even unto this day it shines above the very palace. For the vile state of a house is not in vessels lying in disorder, nor in an untidy bed, nor in walls covered with smoke, but in the wickedness of them that dwell therein. And Christ showeth it, for into such a house, if the inhabitant be virtuous, He is not ashamed to enter; but into that other, though it have a golden roof, He will never enter. So that while this one is more gorgeous than the palace, receiving the Lord of all, that with its golden roof and columns is like filthy drains and sewers, for it contains the vessels of the devil.
But these things we have spoken not of those who are rich for a useful purpose, but of the grasping, and the covetous. For neither is there amongst these, diligence nor care about the things needful, but about pampering the belly, and drunkenness, and other like unseemliness; but with the others about self-restraint. Therefore nowhere did Christ enter into a gorgeous house, but into that of the publican and chief publican, and fisherman, leaving the kings' palaces, and them that are clothed with soft raiment.
If then thou also desirest to invite Him, deck thy house with alms, with prayers, with supplications, with vigils. These are the decorations of Christ the King, but those of mammon, the enemy of Christ. Let no one be ashamed then of a humble house, if it hath this furniture; let no rich man pride himself on having a costly house, but let him rather hide his face, and seek after this other, forsaking that, that both here he may receive Christ, and there enjoy the eternal tabernacles, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might world without end. Amen.St. John Chrysostom
 [The only variation of text is the substitution of ka for tte, at the beginning of verse 38. The R.V. renders, "sorrowful and sore troubled," and "abide" instead of "tarry."--R.]
 Matt. xxvi. 39-41. [The first part of verse 39 is abridged, and in 40"them" is substituted for "the disciples." The remainder of the passage is in verbal agreement with the received text.--R.]
 Matt. xxvi. 36.
 Comp. Mark xiv. 37.
 Matt. xxvi. 42. [The word "cup" is omitted as in R.V., but "from me" is retained as in the received text.--R.]
 Matt. xxvi. 43. [R.V., "sleeping;" "again" is omitted.--R.]
 Gen. xli. 32.
 Matt. xxvi. 45.
 Matt. xxvi. 46.
 Matt. xxvi. 47.
 Matt. xxvi. 48. [R.V., "take him."]
 John xviii. 4.
 Matt. xxvi. 50. [The Greek text in the Homily is eph prei; but there is some authority for eph prei; which is abundantly attested in the New Testament passage. The latter reading is accepted in the R.V., "Friend, do that for which thou art come."--R.]
 Luke xxii. 48.
 Ecclus. xx. 4, xxx. 20.
 Eccles. ii. 13.
 Luke xix. 8. [Altered, as in previous citations.--R.]
When Christ had now come into the garden, He began to be sorrowful and afraid, and very heavy; and by reason of the vehemence of His inward pain, He trembled outwardly in all His members, nor was He ashamed to confess to His disciples this sorrow, and weakness, and trouble of His Body, for He said: "My Soul is sorrowful even unto death."
Let us also go and see what is the cause of so great a sorrow. And, indeed, for many reasons was Christ so sad; but we will here only touch on two reasons, which may the more forcibly stir us up to compassion and love.
The first reason was, because of our many and grievous sins, and obstinate malice, and great ingratitude, and because we were so utterly devoid of all holy fear. For on account of these things was Jesus sorrowful. For we both read, and know by experience, that if God were to permit a man to see his own sins, as He Himself seeth them, straightway his heart would break for exceeding great sorrow; or he would lose his senses, when he beheld how he had wronged, and despised, and thought lightly of his Maker and Redeemer, his God and Lord, and how basely and unworthily he had deformed his own beautiful and noble soul. Now, of a truth, Christ took all the sins of the world upon Himself, and of His own will He allowed sorrow of heart for these sins to come upon Him, even as if He Himself had committed them. And because of His divine wisdom, which saw all things, He beheld all sins, especially those that were most hateful, that ever have been, or ever will be; and, at the same time, He beheld the contempt and wrong which they inflicted on His Father. Who then can, in any way, understand how great must have been His grief and sorrow? For He was ever urged on to promote His Father's honour with His whole strength; nor did He thirst after anything, save His Father's glory and the salvation of souls.
Amongst the Jews, indeed, it was a custom, that if they heard God blasphemed or wronged, they rent their garments as a sign of grief, in order to show thereby that they sought after God's honour. Now, if the Jews, false hypocrites as they were, did this, how much must Christ, the true Son of God, have sorrowed, when He saw all the wrong and contempt which were daily inflicted on His Father Who is in heaven? For, alas! even now it is easy enough to see, how, day by day, men think nothing at all about offending God by deadly sin. For this reason, therefore, Christ took upon Himself grief and sorrow, even so far as He could, still remaining alive. Yet, not as the Jews did He rend His garments as a proof of His bitter sorrow, but He rent asunder His own Body, so that a sweat of blood broke forth from all His members, by reason of His exceeding great anguish and dread, even as the juice of the grape when in the winepress. And that He might show us how this sorrow was consuming the very inward marrow of His Soul, when He was straightened by this deadly anguish, He said: "My Soul is sorrowful even unto death." Of Phinees, the son of Eleazar, we read in the Bible, that he avenged a wrong done to God. For when he saw a certain Israelite sinning with a Moabitish woman, he burned with anger, and thrust both of them through, and for this was beloved by God. In like manner Moses avenged a wrong done to God, thousands being put to death for adoring the golden calf, after which the Lord was appeased. What, then, was the vengeance taken by the Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who was ever consumed by a burning thirst after justice, and Who placed all His zeal in this one thing, namely, that He might increase His Father's glory, and turn aside, and prevent whatever was contrary to His Will,--when He beheld not merely a single sin, but the crimes of the whole world? Who can understand how all His inward parts were shaken with grief, how all His limbs trembled by reason of His burning thirst for justice, how His whole man was moved to avenge the wrong done to His Father? Yet in this His anger He remembered mercy, for He was full, not of truth only, but of grace and loving-kindness. Therefore said He unto His Father: "O My Father, Thou knowest that I have ever loved Thee, and done Thy most gracious will; Thou seest also that My Heart is just, and how exceedingly I thirst to do Thy will, and to avenge the wrong done to Thee by Adam and his posterity. Yet, as mercy is Mine, and My nature is goodness, and I have come, not to take vengeance, but to reconcile; not to strike, but to heal; not to kill, but to redeem; and as Adam's sin cannot pass unavenged, I beseech Thee, Father in heaven, to take vengeance upon Me. I take all the sins of man upon Myself. If this tempest of anger hath risen up because of Me, cast Me into the red and bitter sea of My Passion, let Me be swallowed up, and overwhelmed in the abyss of a shameful death, if only Thy wrath may pass away, and man's debt may be justly cancelled."
Thus it was that this innocent Lamb took upon Himself all the sins of the world, and allowed such great vengeance to come upon Him,--yea, so great was the agony which He took upon Him in the garden, that had it been greater, His natural life must have given way. O unutterable goodness of Christ Jesus! O love beyond our poor understanding! All our sins did He desire to bear, Who alone was without sin. He, Who is the joy of heaven, for our sakes is made sorrowful even unto death; and for our sinful pleasures it was His will to suffer Himself this deadly agony. And because He is the brightness of His Father's glory, and the Wisdom of God, in Whom the Father's will is ever reflected as in a most pure mirror, therefore it was that He clearly knew by what works and actions His Father was to be appeased, and by what ransom our debt was to be paid; namely, by bitter sorrow, and humble prayer, and rough penance, and by patient bearing of suffering and affliction. And, at the same time, He left to all men, as His teaching and doctrine, that they also should strive to appease His Father by their works, whenever they may have fallen into sin. For this reason, He wished to be Himself the first of all to appease Him. And, indeed, so great was the sorrow and grief that He took upon Him, that they out-balance the sins of the whole world, and were not only more than the strength of His Body could bear, but pressed down His Soul even into the straits of death.
Then, falling flat on His Face upon the earth, humbly, and fervently, and with long-suffering, He prayed, and wept bitterly, not tears of water only, but tears of blood; and this in such abundance, that great drops of His Blood fell down upon the ground. Nay, they fell from His whole Body, and from every limb, that thus all His members might share in one common sorrow, and celebrate, as it were, the sad funeral rites for the sins and damnation of the human race, and might show, in very deed, the compassion by which they had been moved, and the love with which they were burning, and how ready they all were to suffer for our sakes; since not even for a little while were they able to put off their affliction, even before they were tortured by the enemy. Burning with love they were beforehand with the enemy, and they began to contend among themselves, and to tremble, and to shed blood, as if they suffered from the enemy's delay.
Oh! who hath such a heart of stone as not to turn at the thought of this fiery love of Christ? Who is so ungrateful as not to turn with all his members to his Saviour, Whom he seeth engaged in such eager toil, and suffering such cruel agony in the work of our salvation? Who hath a heart so perverse, who can be so cold in love as not to strive, according to the poor little measure of his strength, to repay love for love, and sorrow for sorrow, and prayer for prayer, and tears for tears, and resignation for resignation, and offering for offering, and agony for agony, and blood for blood, and death for death, and charity for His burning love? Oh! what can be dearer to a loving and grateful soul in this life, than to repay her lover even one little drop of love, in return for that exceeding bitter chalice, all of which, He, for the love of her and for her salvation, drank even to the dregs? Oh! where is the heart that can understand the compassion and sorrow that Christ felt, when He beheld in the mirror of God's Providence the wretched deformity and misery of His own members and creatures, which He had created in such purity, and nobleness, and holiness, and glory, when He saw what we had lost, and what we had deserved? Alas! how all the bowels of His compassion were then moved! Even as a tender father mourneth for the death of his only-begotten son, so did Christ Jesus sorrow for our wretchedness and unhappiness. Oh! who can contemplate, without compunction and without tears, this loving Joseph falling on the neck of each of us, and kissing His brethren, weeping, likewise, over each of them, comforting them, and forgiving their sins; nay, taking all their sins upon Himself, and punishing their crimes in Himself with sorrow of heart, and making the wanderings of each one of them, as it were, His own guilt. Oh! what exceeding great labour did this innocent Lamb undergo, in order to reconcile His Father unto us! Even as a mother bringeth forth her child into the world with great pain and sorrow, so did Christ make us to be born again to life everlasting with intolerable agony and torment.
O my soul, and all ye who love God, come, and let us follow now Christ Jesus with sorrow of heart and inward devotion, and with tears and pity, into the garden. Let us contemplate with the eyes of our heart, Jesus, that is, our Saviour, the Lamb without spot, how He bore therein all our sins; how heavily, all alone, He trod the wine-press, that like the grape that is pressed with all care, He, too, might be pressed in the wine-press of His Passion, and might pour upon us richly, and give us to drink, the red wine of His precious Blood, so as to make us drunk with His love. Let us see, I pray you, how the glory of the angels became sorrowful even unto death, that He might carry us into joy everlasting. For, in order to rescue us from the torments of hell, He bore in Himself all the pains which we had merited; and He, the Lord of might, at Whose look the angels tremble, and every knee is bowed, appeared not as God, but as the poorest, and most abject, and most desolate man, whom the world possessed. See how He lieth with His Face upon the ground, in much anguish of spirit, covered with a bloody sweat, forsaken even by His Father as well as by all men. There He lieth, I say, and prayeth, not as God, not as a just man, but, as it were, a public malefactor, as some dreadful sinner, as if He were not worthy to be heard by His Father, or, at least, as if He were ashamed to lift up His eyes to heaven. Doth it not seem as if He had been cast away by God, and were held to be God's enemy, that we who were, of a truth, God's enemies, might be made His friends and elect children? It is written: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Yet see, how our sweet Jesus, of His own free will, gave Himself up into those Hands, and gladly suffered all the wrath, and vengeance, and punishment of God His Father, which we had deserved, to fall down upon Himself. This is why He suffered Himself to be so cruelly scourged, and reproached, and beaten, and wounded, and, last of all, to be put to a shameful death. Oh, what resignation have we here! What an offering of Himself! What a love is this! His disciples were heavy with sleep; He alone remained watching, to pray and labour, and, like a tender and faithful shepherd, to guard His sheep with loving care. Nay, thrice He prayed, before He was comforted. O, may such sorrow, I pray, such faithfulness, such love beyond all bounds, touch these hearts of ours! For it was we that, by our sins, brought this sorrow and cross upon Him. Oh! we have thought so very little of offending the God of glory; yet see, how fearful was the sweat, and the toil, and the sorrow, which Christ had to suffer, in order to be able to reconcile His Father unto us! Dear, indeed, was the ransom which He was forced to pay for our redemption. Let us sorrow, then, I pray, together with our Saviour, in His exceeding bitter sorrow and affliction; let us pray together with Him, and watch and suffer with Him. Let us also do somewhat for the sake of our salvation; when we see how zealously Christ Jesus, in every member of His Body, and in every power of His Soul, is busied about us. And if we cannot shed tears of blood, at least let our eyes rain down tears of water. If we cannot weep with Christ in all our members, at least let our eyes weep. And if we are still so hard, and the vein of tears is so stopped up within us, that not even with our eyes are we able to weep, at least let us desire to weep in our heart.
JESUS and his disciples ate the Paschal Lamb in the supper-room. They divided into three groups. Jesus ate the Paschal Lamb with the twelve Apostles in the supper-room, properly so called; Nathaniel with twelve other disciples in one of the lateral rooms, and Eliacim (the son of Cleophas and Mary, the daughter of Heli), who had been a disciple of John the Baptist, with twelve more, in another side-room
Three lambs were immolated for them in the Temple, but there was a fourth lamb which was immolated in the supper-room, and was the one eaten by Jesus with his Apostles. Judas was not aware of this circumstance, because being engaged in plotting his betrayal of our Lord, he only returned a few moments before the repast, and after the immolation of the lamb had taken place. Most touching was the scene of the immolation of the lamb to be eaten by Jesus and his Apostles; it took place in the vestibule of the supper-room. The Apostles and disciples were present, singing the 118th Psalm. Jesus spoke of a new period then beginning, and said that the sacrifice of Moses and the figure of the Paschal Lamb were about to receive their accomplishment, but that on this very account, the lamb was to be immolated in the same manner as formerly in Egypt, and that they were really about to go forth from the house of bondage.
The vessels and necessary instruments were prepared, and then the attendants brought a beautiful little lamb, decorated with a crown, which was sent to the Blessed Virgin in the room where she had remained with the other holy women. The lamb was fastened with its back against a board by a cord around its body, and reminded me of Jesus tied to the pillar and scourged. The son of Simeon held the lamb's head; Jesus made a slight incision in its neck with the point of a knife, Which he then gave to the son of Simeon, that he might complete killing it. Jesus appeared to inflict the wound with a feeling of repugnance, and he was quick in his movements, although his countenance was grave, and his manner such as to inspire respect. The blood flowed into a basin, and the attendants brought a branch of hyssop, which Jesus dipped in it. Then he went to the door of the room, stained the side-posts and the lock with blood, and placed the branch which had been dipped in blood above the door. He then spoke to the disciples, and told them, among other things, that the exterminating angel would pass by, that they would adore in that room without fear or anxiety, when he, the true Paschal Lamb, should have been immolated--that a new epoch, and a new sacrifice were about to begin, which would last to the end of the world.
They then went to the other side of the room, near the hearth where the Ark of the Covenant had formerly stood. Fire had already been lighted there, and Jesus poured some blood upon the hearth, consecrating it as an altar; and the remainder of the blood and the fat were thrown on the fire beneath the altar, after which Jesus, followed by his Apostles, walked round the supper-room, singing some psalms, and consecrating it as a new Temple. The doors were all closed during this time. Meanwhile the son of Simeon had completed the preparation of the lamb. He passed a stake through its body, fastening the front legs on a cross piece of wood, and stretching the hind ones along the stake. It bore a strong resemblance to Jesus on the cross, and was placed in the oven, to be there roasted with the three other lambs brought from the Temple.
The Paschal Lambs of the Jews were all immolated in the vestibule of the Temple, but in different parts, according as the persons who were to eat them were rich, or poor, or Strangers. The Paschal Lamb belonging to Jesus was not immolated in the Temple, but everything else was done strictly according to the law. Jesus again addressed his disciples, saying that the lamb was but a figure, that he himself would next day be the true Paschal Lamb, together with other things which I have forgotten.
When Jesus had finished his instructions concerning the Paschal Lamb and its signification, the time being come, and Judas also returned, the tables were set out. The disciples put on travelling dresses which were in the vestibule, different shoes, a white robe resembling a shirt, and a cloak, which was short in front and longer behind, their sleeves were large and turned back, and they girded up their clothes around the waist. Each party went to their own table; and two sets of disciples in the side rooms, and our Lord and his Apostles in the supper-room. They held staves in their hands, and went two and two to the table, where they remained standing, each in his own place, with the stave resting on his arms, and his hands upraised.
The table was narrow, and about half a foot higher than the knees of a man; in shape it resembled a horseshoe, and opposite Jesus, in the inner part of the half-circle, there was a space left vacant, that the attendants might be able to set down the dishes. As far as I can remember, John, James the Greater, and James the Less sat on the right-hand of Jesus; after them Bartholomew, and then, round the corner, Thomas and Judas Iscariot. Peter, Andrew, and Thaddeus sat on the left of Jesus; next came Simon, and then (round the corner) Matthew and Philip.
The Paschal Lamb was placed on a dish in the centre of the table. Its head rested on its front legs, which were fastened to a cross-stick, its hind legs being stretched out, and the dish was garnished with garlic. By the side there was a dish with the Paschal roast meat, then came a plate with green vegetables balanced against each other, and another plate with small bundles of bitter herbs, which had the appearance of aromatic herbs. Opposite Jesus there was also one dish with different herbs, and a second containing a brown-coloured sauce or beverage. The guests had before them some round loaves instead of plates, and they used ivory knives.
After the prayer, the major-domo laid the knife for cutting the lamb on the table before Jesus, who placed a cup of wine before him, and filled six other cups, each one of which stood between two Apostles. Jesus blessed the wine and drank, and the Apostles drank two together out of one cup. Then our Lord proceeded to cut up the lamb; his Apostles presented their pieces of bread in turn, and each received his share. They ate it in haste, separating the flesh from the bone, by means of their ivory knives, and the bones were afterwards burnt. They also ate the garlic and green herbs in haste, dipping them in the sauce. All this time they remained standing, only leaning slightly on the backs of their seats. Jesus broke one of the loaves of unleavened bread, covered up a part of it, and divided the remainder among his Apostles. Another cup of wine was brought, but Jesus drank not of it: "Take this," he said, "and divide it among you, for I will not drink from henceforth, of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father" (Matt. xxvi. 29). When they had drunk the wine, they sang a hymn; then Jesus prayed or taught, and they again washed their hands. After this they sat down.
Our Lord cut up another lamb, which was carried to the holy women in one of the buildings of the court, where they were seated at table. The Apostles ate some more vegetables and lettuce. The countenance of our Divine Saviour bore an indescribable expression of serenity and recollection, greater than I had ever before Seen. He bade the Apostles forget all their cares. The Blessed Virgin also, as she sat at table with the other women, looked most placid and calm. When the other women came up, and took hold of her veil to make her turn round and speak to them, her every movement expressed the sweetest self-control and placidity of spirit.
At first Jesus conversed lovingly and calmly with his disciples, but after a while he became grave and sad: "Amen, Amen, I say to you, that one of you is about to betray me:" he said, "he that dippeth his hand with me in the dish" (Matt. xxvi. 21, 23). Jesus was then distributing the lettuce, of which there was only one dish, to those Apostles who were by his side, and be had given Judas, who was nearly opposite to him, the office of distributing it to the others. When Jesus spoke of a traitor, an expression which filled all the Apostles with fear, he said: "he that dippeth his hand with me in the dish," which means: I one of the twelve who are eating and drinking with me--one of those with whom I am eating bread. He did not plainly point out Judas to the others by these words; for to dip the hand in the same dish was an expression used to signify the most friendly and intimate intercourse. He was desirous, however, to give a warning to Judas, who was then really dipping his hand in the dish with our Saviour, to distribute the lettuce. Jesus continued to speak: "The Son of man indeed goeth," he said, "as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed: It were better for him if that man had not been born."
The Apostles were very much troubled, and each one of them exclaimed: "Lord, is it I?" for they were all perfectly aware that they did not entirely understand his words. Peter leaned towards John, behind Jesus, and made him a sign to ask our Lord who the traitor was to be, for, having so often been reproved by our Lord, he trembled lest it should be himself who was referred to. John was seated at the right hand of Jesus, and as all were leaning on their left arms, using the right to eat, his head was close to the bosom of Jesus. He leaned then on his breast and said: "Lord, who is it?" I did not see Jesus say to him with his lips: "He it is to whom I shall reach bread dipped." I do not know whether he whispered it to him, but John knew it, when Jesus having dipped the bread, which was covered with lettuce, gave it tenderly to Judas, who also asked: "Is it I, Lord?" Jesus looked at him with love, and answered him in general terms. Among the Jews, to give bread dipped was a mark of friendship and confidence; Jesus on this occasion gave Judas the morsel, in order thus to warn him, without making known his guilt to the others. But the heart of Judas burned with anger, and during the whole time of the repast, I saw a frightful little figure seated at his feet, and sometimes ascending to his heart. I did not see John repeat to Peter what he had learned from Jesus, but he set his fears at rest by a look.
The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Anne Catherine Emmerich