ON OUR SAVIOUR’S DEATH UPON THE CROSS
Consider first, how our Lord having with a loud and strong voice uttered those last words of his, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,’ leans down his head, in perfect submission to his Father’s will, and gives up the ghost, to consummate the great sacrifice of the redemption of the world. Stand astonished, my soul, in the contemplation of this incomprehensible mystery, that Life itself should die, to deliver thee from a second death, and to impart to thee eternal life. O! consider well who this is that hangs here dead before thy eyes? The Word, the Wisdom, the Son of the eternal God; the Lord of glory, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the great Creator of heaven and earth. But O how strangely has he here debased himself! how wonderfully is he here metamorphosed for the love of thee! Draw near, however, in spirit, and cast thyself down at the foot of the cross, and there exercise thyself in acts of faith, hope, love, and contrition for thy sins; there pour forth thyself in the sight of thy God in acts of adoration, praise, and thanksgiving; there make a total oblation of thyself to thy crucified Saviour, to be his both in life and death, time and eternity.
Consider 2ndly, how our Lord, in the midst of all the ignominies and torments of his passion and death, begins to reign from the cross, and is even there highly honoured and exalted by his heavenly Father. The title that hangs over his head declares him to be the ‘King of the Jews,’ even their Messias, of whom the Prophets had delivered such wonders. All nature loudly proclaims him her King and her God; the sun withdraws his light for the whole three hours that he hangs upon the cross; at his death the whole earth trembles, the rocks are split, the monuments are opened, the dead arise, the veil of the temple that hangs before the inward sanctuary is rent from top to bottom, to show that the law and its figures are now all accomplished, and the sanctuary of heaven laid open. See, my soul, how he already begins from the cross to verify what he had said, St. John xii. 32, ‘If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself.’ One of the thieves that were crucified with him is the first that experiences this miraculous attraction, and in an instant is changed into a saint; the centurion or captain of the soldiers that assisted at if the execution is the next, and loudly declares him to be the Son of God: ‘And all the multitude of them that were come together to that sight, and saw the things that done, return striking their breasts,’ St. Luke xxiii. 48. O dear Jesus, let my poor heart share also in this mercy; look down upon it from thy cross, which thou hast chosen for the throne of thy mercy and grace, and be pleased to draw it also to thyself; and to make it wholly thine from henceforth and for ever.
Consider 3rdly, how our Lord by his death triumphs over all his enemies. He casts out Satan, the ruler of this wicked world, from his usurped dominions, and binds him up in chains, by greatly abridging all the power of death, sin, and hell; he judges and condemns the world with all its favourite maxims; he exposes and pulls down human pride; he shows forth the folly of worldly wisdom, and the vanity and deceitfulness of earthly honours, riches, and carnal pleasures, and of all that is not agreeable to the cross; and he sets up this victorious standard for all nations, as the royal ensign of his kingdom, under which his true soldiers shall ever fight and triumph over the world, the flesh, and the devil, till they arrive at the crown of life, which he has purchased for them by his death. But see, my soul, how in the midst of all his triumphs he invites in a particular manner all poor sinners to his mercy. See how, with his head bowed down towards them, he offers them the kiss of peace; see how his arms are open to receive them; see how all his gaping wounds invite them to come and shelter themselves there from the divine wrath. O let us embrace these his offers of mercy, on this day of mercy!
Conclude to celebrate on this day, in the best manner thou art able, thy Saviour’s victory over sin and hell. Adore him most profoundly under all the ignominy of his cross; acknowledge him for thy king, for the true king of thy heart, and beg that he would henceforward abolish the reign of sin in thee. Embrace with all thy affection the sacred wounds of his passion, and choose them for the place of thy habitation for ever.
ON OUR SAVIOUR’S BURIAL
Consider first, how after our Lord had expired upon the cross one of the soldiers opened his side with a spear, making a wide and deep wound, out of which there presently issued blood and water, to wash and cleanse us from all our stains. See, my soul, how the heart of thy Saviour is now laid open for thee. O! enter into it in spirit, through this gate: O make it thy dwelling place for evermore. Consider in this mysterious blood and water issuing from the side of our Lord the heavenly sacraments, which issued from his wounds, (inasmuch as they have all their virtue from his sacred passion,) but especially the sacrament of his body and blood, and that of the sacred laver of baptism. See also here how our second Adam being now cast into the deep sleep of death, his side is opened to form from thence his Church, designed to be his everlasting bride.
Consider 2ndly, how Joseph of Arimathea, (who before durst not declare himself a disciple of Christ,) having obtained of Pilate leave to take away his body for decent burial, being accompanied by Nicodemus, and joined in this last duty by St. John and other disciples, unnailed the sacred body, and took it down from the cross. Run in, Christian soul, in spirit, and offer thy service upon this occasion; receive into thy arms the dead body of thy Redeemer, and lay it on the sacred lap of his Virgin Mother; and learn from her whole comportment at this melancholy ceremony the sentiments of a most affectionate devotion towards the passion and death of her Son. Join in embalming thy Saviour’s body and wrapping it up in clean linen, and laying it in a new monument, by learning the exercise of those virtues which are signified by those aromatical spices and perfumes, and by that clean linen and new monument. Especially whenever thou approachest to the body of our Lord in the blessed sacrament, see thou take along with thee the sweet odours of devotion, a pure conscience, and the cleanness of the new man.
Consider 3rdly, how our Lord lying now in his monument verifies that of the Psalmist, Ps. lxxxvii, ‘I am counted among them that go down to the pit; I am become as a man without help, free among the dead. Like the slain sleeping in the sepulchres, whom thou rememberest no more; and they are cast of from thy hand. They have laid me in the lower pit, in the dark, and in the shadow of death. Thou hast put away my acquaintance far from me,’ &c. Yes, my soul, thy Saviour lies now shut up in a lonesome monument in darkness, like one dead for ever! and as such is left and forsaken by his living friends and acquaintance. See thou leave him not, but stay with him, and watch at his sepulchre in prayer. Weep there over him with tears of compassion for his sufferings, of compunction for all thy sins, and of a tender love for his infinite goodness and his love for thee.
Conclude to keep thyself always near to thy Saviour, by daily meditating on his life and death; and thou mayest confidently hope that he will always be near to thee, both in life and death.