MARY HAS TO BID FAREWELL TO JESUS
In raising the stone to close up the entrance to the Tomb, the holy disciples of the Saviour had to approach the Blessed Mother and say: Now, O Lady, we must close the Sepulchre. Forgive us. Look once more on thy Son, and bid Him a last farewell. Then, my beloved Son--must the afflicted Mother have said--then shall I see Thee no more? Receive, therefore, on this last occasion that I behold Thee, my last farewell, the farewell of Thy dear Mother, and receive also my heart which I bury with Thee.
When a mother is by the side of her suffering and dying child, she undoubtedly feels and suffers all his pains; but after he is actually dead, when, before the body is carried to the grave, the afflicted mother must bid her child a last farewell; then, indeed, the thought that she is to see him no more is a grief that exceeds all other griefs. Behold the last sword of Mary's sorrow. After witnessing the death of her Son on the Cross, and embracing for the last time His lifeless Body, this blessed Mother had to leave Him in the sepulchre, never more to enjoy His beloved presence on earth.
That we may better understand this last dolour, we will return to Calvary and consider the afflicted Mother, who still holds the lifeless Body of her Son clasped in her arms. O my Son, she seemed to say in the words of Job: My Son, thou art changed to be cruel towards me. (Job xxx. 21). Yes, for all Thy noble qualities, Thy beauty, grace, and virtues, Thy engaging manners, all the marks of special love Thou host bestowed upon me, the peculiar favours Thou hast granted me,--all are now changed into grief, and as so many arrows pierce my heart, and the more they have excited me to love Thee, so much the more cruelly do they now make me feel Thy loss. Ah, my own beloved Son, in losing Thee I have lost all. "O truly-begotten of God, Thou wast to me a father, a son, a spouse: Thou wast my very soul! Now I am deprived of my father, widowed of my spouse, a desolate, childless Mother; having lost my only Son, I have lost all." (St. Bernard).
Thus was Mary, with her Son locked in her arms, absorbed in grief. The holy disciples, fearful that the poor Mother might die of grief, approached her to take the Body of her Son from her arms to bear it away for burial. This they did with gentle and respectful violence, and having embalmed it, they wrapped it in a linen cloth which was already prepared.
The disciples then bore Jesus to the tomb. As the mournful train sets forth, choirs of Angels from Heaven accompanied it, the holy women followed, and with them the afflicted Mother also followed her Son to the place of burial. When they had reached the appointed place, O how willingly would Mary have there buried herself alive with her Son had such been His will. "I can truly say," Mary revealed to St. Bridget, "that at the burial of my Son one tomb contained, as it were, two hearts."
My afflicted Mother, I will not leave thee to weep alone; no, I will accompany thee with my tears. This grace I now ask of thee. Obtain that I may always bear in mind and always have a tender devotion towards the Passion of Jesus and thy sorrows, that the remainder of my days may thus be spent in weeping over thy sufferings, my own sweet Mother, and those of my Redeemer. These sorrows, I trust, will give me the confidence and strength that I shall require at the hour of death, that I may not despair at the sight of the many sins by which I have offended my Lord. They must obtain me pardon, perseverance, and Heaven, where I hope to rejoice with thee, and to sing the infinite mercies of my God for all eternity. Amen.
Before leaving the Sepulchre, according to St. Bonaventure, Mary blessed the sacred stone which closed it, saying: "O happy stone, that doth now enclose that sacred Body which for nine months was contained in my womb. I bless thee and envy thee; I leave thee the guardian of my Son, of that Son Who is my whole Treasure and all my Love." Then, raising her heart to the Eternal Father, she said: "O Father, to Thee do I recommend Him--Him Who is Thy Son at the same time that He is mine." Thus bidding her last farewell to her beloved Jesus and to the Sepulchre, she left it, and returned to her own house. This Mother, says St. Bernard, went away so afflicted and sad, that she moved many to tears in spite of themselves; and wherever she passed, all who met her wept, and could not restrain their tears. And he adds that the holy disciples and women who accompanied her "mourned even more for her than for their Lord."
St. Bonaventure says that, passing, on her return before the Cross still wet with the Blood of her Jesus, she was the first to adore it. "O holy Cross," she then said, "I kiss thee, I adore thee; for thou art no longer an infamous gibbet, but a throne of love and an altar of mercy, consecrated by the Blood of the Divine Lamb, sacrificed on thee for the salvation of the world."
She then left the Cross, and returned home. When there, the afflicted Mother cast her eyes around, and no longer saw her Jesus; but, instead of the sweet presence of her dear Son, the remembrance of His beautiful life and cruel death presented itself before her eyes. She remembered how she had pressed that Son to her bosom in the stable of Bethlehem; the conversations she had held with Him during the many years they had dwelt in the house of Nazareth; she remembered their mutual affection, their loving looks, the words of Eternal Life which fell from those Divine lips; and then, the sad scene she had that day witnessed again presented itself before her. The nails, the thorns, the lacerated flesh of her Son, those deep Wounds, those uncovered bones, that open mouth, those dimmed eyes, all presented themselves before her. Ah, what a night of sorrow was that night for Mary! The afflicted Mother, turning to St. John, mournfully said: "Ah, John, tell me where is thy Master?" She then asked the Magdalene: "Daughter, tell me, where is thy Beloved? O God, who has taken Him from us?" Mary wept, and all who were present, wept with her.
And thou, my soul, weepest not! Ah, turn to Mary, and address her with St. Bonaventure: "O my own sweet Lady, let me weep; thou art innocent, I am guilty." Entreat her at least to let thee weep with her: "Grant that I may weep with thee." She weeps for love; do thou weep through sorrow for thy sins. I pity thee, my afflicted Mother, for the bitter sword which pierced thee on seeing thy Son in thy arms already dead, no longer fair and beautiful as thou didst receive Him in the stable at Bethlehem, but covered with Blood, livid and all lacerated with Wounds, so that even His bones were seen. Thou didst then say: "My Son, my Son, to what has love reduced Thee!" And when He was borne to the Sepulchre, thou wouldst thyself accompany Him, and place Him with thy own hands in the Tomb; and bidding Him the last farewell, thou didst leave thy loving heart buried with Him. By this Martyrdom of thy beautiful soul, do thou obtain for me, O Mother of fair love, the forgiveness of the offences I have committed against my beloved God, and of which I repent with my whole heart. Do thou defend me in temptations; do thou assist me at the moment of my death, that, saving my soul through the merits of Jesus and thee, I may one day, after this miserable exile, go to Paradise to sing the praises of Jesus and of thee for all eternity. Amen.
FRUITS OF THE DEATH OF JESUS.
St. John writes that our Saviour, in order to make His disciples understand the death He was to suffer upon the Cross, said: And I, if I be lifted up from, the earth, will draw all things to myself. Now this he said, signifying what death he should die. (Jo. xii. 32).
And, in fact, by exhibiting Himself crucified and dead, how many souls has Jesus drawn to Himself, so that they have left all to give themselves up entirely to His Divine love. Ah, my Jesus, draw my soul to Thyself, which was one time lost; draw it by the chains of Thy love, so that it may forget the world, to think of nothing else but of loving and pleasing Thee. Draw me after thee by the odour of thine ointments.
O my Lord, Thou knowest my weakness and the offences that I have committed against Thee. Draw me out of the mire of my passions; draw all my affections to Thyself, so that I may attend to nothing but Thy pleasure only, O my God, most lovely! Hear me, O Lord, by the merits of Thy death, and make me wholly Thine.
St. Leo tells us that he who looks with confidence upon Jesus dead upon the Cross is healed of the wounds caused by his sins. "They who with Faith behold the death of Christ are healed from the wounds of sin." Every Christian, therefore, should keep Jesus crucified always before his eyes, and say with St. Paul, I judged not myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (1 Cor. 2). In short, the Apostle says that he did not desire any other knowledge in this world than that of knowing how to love Jesus Christ crucified. My beloved Saviour, to obtain for me a good death, Thou hast chosen a death so full of pain and desolation! I cast myself into the arms of Thy mercy. I see that many years ago I ought to have been in hell, separated from Thee for ever, for having at one time despised Thy grace; but Thou hast called me to penance, and I hope hast pardoned me; but if through my fault Thou hast not yet pardoned me, pardon me now. I repent, O my Jesus, with my heart, for having turned my back upon Thee, and driven Thee from my soul. Restore me to Thy grace. But that is not enough: give me strength to love Thee with all my soul during my whole life. And when I come to the hour of my death, let me expire burning with love for Thee, and saying: My Jesus, I love Thee! My Jesus, I love Thee! and thus continue to love Thee for all eternity. From this moment I unite my death to Thy holy death, through which I hope for my salvation. In thee, O Lord, have I hoped; I shall not be confounded forever. (Ps. xxx. 2).
O great Mother of God, thou after Jesus art my hope. In thee, O Lady have I hoped; I shall not be confounded forever.
O devout souls, when the devil wishes to make us distrustful about our salvation by the remembrance of our past sins, let us lift up our eyes to Jesus dead upon the Cross, in order to deliver us from eternal death. After a God has made us know, by means of the holy Faith, the desire He has had for our salvation, having even sacrificed His life for us, if we are resolved really to love Him for the rest of our lives, cost what it may, we should be on our guard against any weakness of confidence in His mercy. After He has given us so many signs of His love for us, and of His desire for our salvation, it is a kind of sin against Him not to put our whole confidence and hope in His goodness.
Full, then, of holy confidence, let us hope for every good from the hands of a God so liberal and so loving; and at the same time let us give ourselves to Him without reserve, and thus pray to Him: O Eternal God, we are sinners, but Thou Who art Almighty canst make us Saints; grant that henceforth we may neglect nothing that we know to be for Thy glory, and may do all to please Thee. Blessed shall we be if we lose all to gain Thee, the Infinite Good. Grant that we may spend the remainder of our lives in pleasing Thee alone. Punish us as Thou wilt for our past sins, but deliver us from the chastisement of not being able to love Thee; deprive us of all things save Thyself. Thou hast loved us without reserve; and we also will love Thee without reserve, O Infinite Love, O Infinite Good! O Virgin Mary, draw us wholly to God; thou canst do so; do so for the love thou hast for Jesus Christ.
O INCARNATION, O REDEMPTION, O PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST! O SWEET NAMES!
Oh, the unhappy state of a soul in sin which has lost God! It lives on in wretchedness, for it lives without God. God sees it, but no longer loves it; He hates and abhors it. There was, then, my soul, a time when thou didst live without God. The sight of thee no longer rejoiced the Heart of Jesus Christ, as it did when thou wast in His grace, but wast hateful to Him. The Blessed Virgin regarded thee with compassion, but detested thy deformity. When hearing Mass, thou didst see Jesus Christ in the consecrated Host, Who had become thine enemy. Ah, my God, despised and lost by me, pardon me and let me find Thee again! I wished to lose Thee, but Thou wouldst not abandon me. And if Thou hast not yet returned to me, I pray Thee to come to me now that I repent with all my heart of having offended Thee. Let me be sensible of Thy return to me, by feeling a great sorrow for my sins, and a great love towards Thee.
My beloved Lord, rather than see myself separated from Thee and deprived of Thy grace, I am content to suffer any punishment. Eternal Father, for the love of Jesus Christ, I pray Thee to give me grace never more to offend Thee. May I die rather than turn my back upon Thee again!
Ah! my crucified Jesus, look on me with the same love with which Thou didst look on me when dying on the Cross for me; look on me and have pity on me; give me a general pardon for all the displeasure I have given Thee; give me holy perseverance; give me Thy holy love; give me a perfect conformity to Thy will; give me Paradise, that I may love Thee there for ever. I deserve nothing, but Thy Wounds encourage me to look for every good from Thee. Ah! Jesus of my soul, by that love which made Thee die for me, give me Thy love! Take away from me all affection for creatures, give me resignation in tribulation, and make Thyself the object of all my affections, that from this day forward I may love none other than Thee.
Thou hast created me, Thou hast redeemed me, Thou hast made me a Christian, Thou hast preserved me whilst, I was in sin, Thou hast pardoned me many times; above all, instead of chastisements Thou hast increased Thy favours to me. Who should love Thee, if I do not? Arise, and let Thy mercy triumph over me; and may the fire of love with which I burn for Thee be as great as the fire which should have devoured me in hell. O my Jesus, my Love, my Treasure, my Paradise, my All!
O Incarnation, O Redemption, O Passion of Jesus Christ! O Calvary, O Scourges, O Thorns, O Nails, O Cross, that did torment my Lord! O sweet names, which remind me of the love a God has had for me, never depart from my mind and my heart. Remind me always of the pains Jesus my Redeemer willed to suffer for me! O most sacred Wounds, ye are the perpetual resting-place of my soul; ye are the blessed furnaces where it forever burns with Divine love!
My beloved Jesus, I have deserved hell, and to be for ever separated from Thee! I refuse not the fire, nor the other pains of hell, if Thou for my just punishment dost will to send me there; but what I cannot consent to is, not to be able to love Thee any more. Let me love Thee and then send me where Thou wilt. It is just that I should suffer for my sins, but it is not just that I should have to hate and curse Him Who created me, Who redeemed me, and Who has loved me so much! Justice requires that I should love and bless Thee for ever. I bless Thee, then, and love Thee, Jesus my Love, and I hope to love and bless Thee for all eternity.
My sweet Redeemer, I know Thou dost wish me to be wholly Thine. Ah I permit not that, from this day forward, creatures should have any part in that love which belongs altogether to Thee. Thou alone dost deserve all my affections, Thou alone art infinitely beautiful, Thou alone hast truly loved me; Thee alone, then, will I love, and I will do all I can to please Thee. I renounce all,-- pleasures, riches, honours, and all the creatures of the earth. Thou alone, my Jesus, are sufficient for me. Away from me all earthly affections! Once upon a time you had a place in my heart; but then I was blind: now that God by His grace has enlightened me, and has made me to know the vanity of this world and the love which He has borne me, and that He desires me to give Him all my love, I will consecrate it to Him alone. Yes, my Jesus, take possession of my whole heart; and if I know not how to give it to Thee entirely as Thou desirest, take it Thyself, and make it Thine own. I love Thee, my God, with all my heart; I love Thee more than myself. Trahe me post te: draw me, my Lord, all to Thee, and destroy in me the love of all created things.
O Paradise, O country of loving souls, O kingdom of love, O sure haven where God is loved for all eternity, and where there is no more fear of losing Him! When shall I pass thy threshold, and see myself free from this miserable body, and delivered from the many enemies that continually try to deceive me in order to deprive me of Divine grace? Ah, my crucified Jesus, make known to me the immense riches Thou hast prepared for the souls that love Thee. Give me a great desire of possessing Paradise, so that, forgetting this world, I may there make my continual abode; and whilst I live, may I have no other desire than to come to see Thee and love Thee face to face in Thy kingdom. I do not deserve it, and I know that at one time my name was written amongst those who were condemned to hell; but now that I am, as I hope, in Thy grace, I beseech Thee, by that Blood Thou didst shed for me on the Cross, to write me in the Book of Life. Thou hast died to win Paradise for me: I wish for it, I ardently desire it, and I hope to attain it through Thy merits, that I may there ascend to be consumed with Thy love by loving Thee with all my strength. There, forgetting myself and everything else, I shall think only of loving Thee; I shall desire nothing but to love Thee, and I shall do nothing but love Thee. O my Jesus, when shall this be? O Mary, Mother of God, by thy prayers bring me to Paradise. Turn, then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Amen.