Father's meditations and prayers for Good Friday of the Year 2000
"If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and
take up his cross and follow me" (Mt 16:24).
Good Friday evening.
For 20 centuries the Church has gathered on this evening to
remember and to relive the events of the final stage of the earthly journey
of the Son of God.
Once again this year, the Church in Rome meets at the Colosseum, to follow the footsteps of Jesus, who
"went out, carrying his cross, to the place called the place of the skull,
which is called in Hebrew Golgotha" (Jn 19:17).
We are here because we are convinced that the Way of the cross
the Son of God was not simply a journey to the place of execution. We
believe that every step of the Condemned Christ, every action and
every word, as well as everything felt and done by those who took part in
this tragic drama, continues to speak to us. In his suffering and death
too, Christ reveals to us the truth about God and man.
In this Jubilee Year we want to concentrate on the full meaning
of that event, so that what happened may speak with new power to our minds
and hearts, and become the source of the grace of a real sharing in it.
To share means to have a part. What does it mean to have a part in the
cross of Christ?
It means to experience, in the Holy Spirit, the love hidden within the
cross of Christ. It means to recognize,
in the light of this love, our own cross. It means to take up that cross
once more and, strengthened by this love, to continue our journey...
To journey through life, in imitation of the one who endured the cross,
despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne
of God" (Heb 12:2).
"If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and
take up his cross and follow me" (Mt 16:24).
* * *
Lord Jesus Christ, fill our hearts with the light of your Spirit,
so that by following you on your final journey we may come to know
the price of our Redemption and become worthy of a share in the fruits
of your Passion, Death and Resurrection. You who live and reign for
ever and ever. Amen.
I. Jesus is condemned to death"Are you the King of
the Jews?" (Jn 18:33).
"My Kingdom is not of
this world; if my Kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to
the Jews; but my Kingdom is not from the world" (Jn 18:36).
Pilate said to him: "So you are a
Jesus answered: "You say that I am a
king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who
is of the truth hears my voice.
Pilate said in answer: "What is truth?".
At this point, the Roman Procurator saw no need for further
questions. He went to the Jews and told them: "I find no crime in
him" (cf. Jn 18:37-38).
The tragedy of Pilate is hidden in the question: What is truth?
This was no philosophical question about the nature of truth, but an
existential question about his own relationship with truth. It was an attempt to
escape from the voice of conscience, which was pressing him to acknowledge the truth and follow it. When someone refuses to be
guided by truth he is ultimately ready even to condemn an innocent person
The accusers sense this weakness in Pilate and so do not yield.
They relentlessly call for death by crucifixion. Pilate's attempts at
half measures are of no avail. The cruel punishment of scourging
inflicted upon the Accused is not enough. When the Procurator brings Jesus,
scourged and crowned with thorns, before the crowd, he seems to be
looking for words which he thinks might soften the intransigence of
Pointing to Jesus he says: "Ecce homo!". Behold the man!
But the answer comes back: "Crucify him, crucify him!"
tries to buy time: "Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime
in him" (Jn 19:5-7).
He is increasingly convinced that the Accused is innocent, but
this is not enough for him to decide in his favour. The accusers use their
final argument: "If you release this man, you are no friend of
Caesar; everyone who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar"
This is clearly a threat. Recognizing the danger, Pilate
finally gives in and pronounces the sentence. But not without the
contemptuous gesture of washing his hands: "I am innocent of this ... blood;
see to it yourselves!" (Mt 27:24).
Thus was Jesus, the Son of the living God, the Redeemer of the
world, condemned to death by crucifixion.
Over the centuries the denial of truth has spawned suffering and
death. It is the innocent who pay the price of human hypocrisy. Half
measures are never enough. Nor is it enough to wash one's hands.
Responsibility for the blood of the just remains.
This is why Christ prayed so fervently for his disciples in every age: Father, "sanctify
them in the truth; your word is truth" (Jn 17:17).
* * *
Lord Jesus Christ, you accepted an unjust judgment. Grant to us
and to all the men and women of our time the grace to remain faithful to
the truth. Do not allow the weight of responsibility for the sufferings
of the innocent fall upon us and upon those who come after us.
O Jesus, just Judge, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
II. Jesus takes up his cross
The cross. The instrument of a shameful death.
It was not lawful
to condemn a Roman citizen to death by crucifixion: it was too
humiliating. The moment that Jesus of Nazareth took up the cross in order to
to Calvary marked a turning-point in the history of the cross. The symbol of a shameful death, reserved for the lowest classes, the
cross becomes a key. From now on, with the help of this key, man will open
the door of the deepest mystery of God. Through Christ's acceptance of
the cross, the instrument of his own self-emptying, men will come to
that God is love.
Love without limits: "God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal
life" (Jn 3:16).
This truth about God was revealed in the cross. Could it not have
been revealed in some other way? Perhaps. But God chose the cross. The Father chose the
cross for his Son, and his Son shouldered it, carried it to Mount Calvary and on it offered his life. "In the
cross there is suffering, in the cross there is salvation, in the cross
there is a lesson of love. O God, he who once has understood you, desires
nothing else, seeks nothing else" (Polish Lenten hymn).
The cross is the sign of a love without limits!
* * *
Lord Jesus Christ, who accept the cross at the hands of men to
make of it the sign of God's saving love for humanity, grant us and all the
men and women of our time the grace of faith in this infinite love. By
passing on to the new millennium the sign of the cross, may we be authentic witnesses to the Redemption.
To you, O Jesus, Priest and Victim, be praise and glory for ever.
III. Jesus falls the first time
"God laid on him the sins of us all" (cf. Is 53:6).
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the
Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Is 53:6).
Jesus falls under the cross. This will happen three times along
the comparatively short stretch of the "via dolorosa".
Exhaustion makes him fall. His body is stained with blood from the scourging, his head is
crowned with thorns. All this causes his strength to fail. So he
falls, and the weight of the cross crushes him to the ground.
We must go back to the words of the Prophet, who foresaw this
fall centuries earlier. It is as though he were contemplating it with his
own eyes: seeing the Servant of the Lord, on the ground under the weight
of the cross, he tells us the real cause of his fall. It is this:
"God laid on him the sins of us all". It was our sins that crushed the
Condemned One to the ground. It was our sins that determined the
of the cross that he carries on his shoulders. It was our sins that
With difficulty Christ gets up again to continue his journey. The
soldiers escorting him urge him on with shouts and blows. After a
moment the procession sets out again.
Jesus falls and gets up again.
In this way, the Redeemer of the
world addresses in a wordless way all those who fall. He exhorts them to
get up again. "He himself bore our sins in his body on the wood of
cross, that we might no longer live for sin but for righteousness by
his wounds we have been healed" (cf. 1 Pt 2:24).
* * *
O Christ, as you fall under the weight of our faults and rise
again for our justification, we pray, help us and all who are weighed down by
sin to stand up again and continue the journey. Give us the strength of
the Spirit to carry with you the cross of our weakness.
To you, O Jesus, crushed under the weight of our faults be our praise and love for
IV. Jesus meets his Mother"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call
his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most
High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father
David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and his kingdom
will have no end" (Lk 1:30-33).
Mary remembered these words. She often returned to them in the
secret of her heart. When she met her Son on the way of the cross, perhaps
these very words came to her mind. With particular force. "He will
reign... His kingdom will have no end", the heavenly messenger had said.
Now, as she watches her Son, condemned to death, carrying the cross on which
he must die, she might ask herself, all too humanly: So how can these
words be fulfilled? In what way will he reign over the House of David? And
can it be that his kingdom will have no end? Humanly speaking, these are reasonable questions.
But Mary remembered that, when she first heard the Angel's message,
had replied: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be
done to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38). Now she sees that her
word is being fulfilled as the word of the cross. Because she is a mother,
Mary suffers deeply. But she answers now as she had answered then, at the
Annunciation: "May it be done to me according to your
word". In this way, as a mother would, she embraces the cross
together with the
divine Condemned One. On the way of the cross Mary shows herself to be the
Mother of the Redeemer of the world.
"All you who pass by the way, look and see whether there is
any suffering like my suffering, which has been dealt me" (Lam
1:12). It is the Sorrowful Mother who speaks, the Handmaid who is obedient to the
last, the Mother of the Redeemer of the world.
* * *
O Mary, who walked the way of the cross with your Son, your
mother's heart torn by grief, but mindful always of your fiat and fully
confident that He to whom nothing is impossible would be able to fulfil his
promises, implore for us and for the generations yet to come the
grace of surrender to God's love. Help us, in the face of suffering,
rejection, and trial, however prolonged and severe, never to doubt
his love. To Jesus, your Son, honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
V. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross
They compelled Simon (cf. Mk 15:2 1). The Roman soldiers did this
because they feared that in his exhaustion the Condemned Man would
not be able to carry the cross as far as Golgotha. Then they would not
be able to carry out the sentence of crucifixion.
They were looking for someone to help carry the cross. Their eyes fell on Simon. They
compelled him to take the weight upon his shoulders. We can imagine
that Simon did not want to do this and objected. Carrying the cross together
with a convict could be considered an act offensive to the dignity
of a free man. Although unwilling, Simon took up the cross to help Jesus.
In a Lenten hymn we hear the words: "Under the weight of the
cross Jesus welcomes the Cyrenean". These words allow us to discern a total
change of perspective: the divine Condemned One is someone who, in a
certain sense, "makes a gift" of his cross. Was it not he who
said: "He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not
worthy of me" (Mt 10:38)?
Simon receives a gift. He has become "worthy" of it.
What the crowd might see as an offence to his dignity has, from the perspective of
redemption, given him a new dignity. In a unique way, the Son of God
has made him a sharer in his work of salvation.
Is Simon aware of this? The evangelist Mark identifies Simon of
Cyrene as the "father of Alexander and Rufus" (15:2 1). If the
sons of Simon of Cyrene were known to the first Christian community, it can be
presumed that Simon too, while carrying the cross, came to believe in Christ.
From being forced, he freely accepted, as though deeply touched by the
words: "Whoever does not carry his cross with me is not worthy of
By his carrying of the cross, Simon was brought to the knowledge
of the Gospel of the cross. Since then, this gospel has spoken to many,
countless Cyreneans, called in the course of history to carry the cross
* * *
O Christ, you gave to Simon of Cyrene the dignity of carrying
your cross. Welcome us too under its weight, welcome all men and women
and grant to everyone the gift of readiness to serve. Do not permit that
we should turn away from those who are crushed by the cross of illness
loneliness, hunger or injustice. As we carry each other's burdens,
help us to become witnesses to the gospel of the cross and witnesses to
you, who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.
VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
Veronica does not appear in the Gospels. Her name is not
mentioned, even though the names of other women who accompanied Jesus do appear. It
is possible, therefore, that the name refers more to what the woman
did. In fact, according to tradition, on the road to Calvary a woman pushed
her way through the soldiers escorting Jesus and with a veil wiped the
sweat and blood from the Lord's face. That face remained imprinted on the
veil, a faithful reflection, a "true icon". This would be
the reason for the name Veronica. If this is so, the name which evokes the memory
of what this woman did carries with it the deepest truth about
her. One day, Jesus drew the criticism of onlookers when he defended a
sinful woman who had poured perfumed oil on his feet and dried them with
her hair. To those who objected, he replied: "Why do you trouble
this woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me... In pouring this ointment
on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial" (Mt 26:10,
12). These words could likewise be applied to Veronica.
Thus we see the profound eloquence of this event. The Redeemer of
the world presents Veronica with an authentic image of his face.
veil upon which the face of Christ remains imprinted becomes a message for us.
In a certain sense it says: This is how every act of goodness, every
gesture of true love towards one's neighbour, strengthens the likeness of the
Redeemer of the world in the one who acts that way.
Acts of love do not pass away. Every act of goodness, of
understanding, of service leaves on people's hearts an indelible imprint and makes
us ever more like the One who "emptied himself, taking the form of
a servant" (Phil 2:7). This is what shapes our identity and gives
us our true name.
* * *
Lord Jesus Christ, you accepted a woman's selfless gesture of
love, and in exchange ordained that future generations should remember her
by the name of your face. Grant that our works and the works of all
who will come after us will make us like unto you and will leave in the
world the reflection of your infinite love. To you, O Jesus,
of the Father's glory, be praise and glory for ever. Amen.
VII. Jesus falls the second time
"I am a worm, and no man; scorned by men, and despised by
the people" (Ps 22:6). These words of the Psalm come to mind as we see Jesus
fall to the ground a second time under the cross.
Here in the dust of the earth lies the Condemned One. Crushed by
the weight of his cross. His strength drains away from him more and
more. But with great effort he gets up again to continue his march.
To us sinners, what does this second fall say? More than the
first one, it seems to urge us to get up, to get up again on our way of the
Cyprian Norwid wrote: "Not behind us with the Saviour's cross,
but behind the Saviour with our own cross." A brief saying, but one
that conveys much truth. It explains how Christianity is the religion of
It tells us that every person here below meets Christ who
carries the cross and falls under its weight. In his turn, Christ, on the
way to Calvary, meets every man and woman and, falling under the weight of
the cross, does not cease to proclaim the good news.
For 2,000 years the gospel of the cross has spoken to man.
For twenty centuries Christ, getting up again from his fall, meets those
Throughout these two millennia many people have learned that
falling does not mean the end of the road. In meeting the Saviour they have
heard his reassuring words: "My grace is sufficient for you;
for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12:9). Comforted,
they have gotten up again and brought to the world the word of hope which
comes from the cross. Today, having crossed the threshold of the new
millennium, we are called to penetrate more deeply the meaning of
this encounter. Our generation must pass on to future centuries the good
news that we are lifted up again in Christ.
* * *
Lord Jesus Christ, you fall under the weight of human sin and you
get up again in order to take it upon yourself and cancel it. Give to us,
weak men and women, the strength to carry the cross of daily life and to
get up again from our falls, so that we may bring to future generations
the Gospel of your saving power. To you, O Jesus, our support when we
are weak, be praise and glory for ever. Amen.
VIII. Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem
"Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for
yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will
say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the
breasts that never gave suck!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains,
'Fall on us'; and to the hills, 'Cover us.' For if they do this when
wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (Lk 23:28-31).
These are the words of Jesus to the women of Jerusalem who were
weeping with compassion for the Condemned One.
"Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your
children." At the time it was certainly difficult to understand the meaning of
these words. They contained a prophecy that would soon come to pass.
Shortly before, Jesus had wept over Jerusalem, foretelling the
terrible fate that awaited the city. Now he seems to be referring again to
that fate: "Weep for your children...".
Weep, because these, your very
children, will be witnesses and will share in the destruction of Jerusalem,
the Jerusalem which "did not know the time of her visitation" (cf. Lk
If, as we follow Christ on the way of the cross, our hearts are
moved with pity for his suffering, we cannot forget that admonition.
"For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is
dry?" For our generation, which has just left a millennium behind, rather
than weep for Christ crucified, it is now the time for us to recognize
time of our visitation". Already the dawn of the resurrection
is shining forth. "Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the
day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2).
To each of us Christ addresses these words of the book of
Revelation: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my
voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with
me. He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I
myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne"
* * *
O Christ, you came into this world to visit all those who await salvation. Grant that our generation will recognize the time of its
visitation and share in the fruits of your redemption. Do not permit
that there should be weeping for us and for the men and women of the
new century because we have rejected our merciful Father's outstretched
To you, O Jesus, born of the Virgin Daughter of Zion, be
honour and praise for ever and ever. Amen.
IX. Jesus falls the third time
Once more Christ has fallen to the ground under the weight of the
cross. The crowd watches, wondering whether he will have the strength to
St Paul writes: "Though he was in the form of God, he did
not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself taking
the form of a servant, being born in human likeness. And being found in
human form, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a
cross" (Phil 2:6-8). The third fall seems to express just this:
the self-emptying the
kenosis of the Son of God, his humiliation beneath the cross. Jesus had said
to the disciples that he had come not to be served but to serve (cf. Mt
In the Upper Room, bending low to the ground and washing
their feet, he sought, as it were, to prepare them for this humiliation of
his. Falling to the ground for the third time on the way of the cross,
he cries out loudly to us once more the mystery of himself. Let us
listen to his voice! This Condemned Man, crushed to the ground
the weight of the cross, now very near the place of punishment,
tells us: "I am the way, and the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6).
"He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of
life" (Jn 8:12).
Let us not be dismayed by the sight of a condemned man, who falls
to the ground exhausted under the cross. Within this outward sign of the
death which is approaching the light of life lies hidden.
* * *
Lord Jesus Christ, through your humiliation beneath the cross you
revealed to the world the price of its redemption. Grant to the men
and women of the third millennium the light of faith, so that, as they
recognize in you the Suffering Servant of God and man, they may have
the courage to follow the same path which, by way of the cross and self-emptying, leads to life without end.
To you, O Jesus, our
support when we are weak, be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
X. Jesus is stripped and offered gall and vinegar to
"When he tasted it, he would not drink it" (Mt 27:34).
He did not want a sedative, which would have dulled his consciousness during the
agony. He wanted to be fully aware as he suffered on the cross, accomplishing
the mission he had received from the Father.
That was not what the soldiers in charge of the execution were
used to. Since they had to nail the condemned man to the cross, they tried to
dull his senses and his consciousness. But with Christ this could
not be. Jesus knows that his death on the cross must be a sacrifice of
expiation. This is why he wants to remain alert to the very end. Without consciousness, he could not, in complete freedom, accept the
full measure of suffering.
Behold, he must mount the cross, in order to offer the sacrifice
of the New Covenant. He is the Priest. By means of his own blood, he must
enter the eternal dwelling-places, having accomplished the world's
redemption (cf. Heb 9:12).
Conscience and freedom: these are the essential elements of fully
The world has so many ways of weakening the will and of darkening conscience. They must be carefully defended from all
violence. Even the legitimate attempt to control pain must always be done with
respect for human dignity.
If life and death are to retain their true value, the depths of
Christ's sacrifice must be understood, and we must unite ourselves to that
sacrifice if we are to hold firm.
* * *
Lord Jesus, who, with supreme dedication, accepted death on the cross
for our salvation, grant to us and to all the world's people a share
in your sacrifice on the cross, so that what we are and what we do may always be a free and conscious sharing in your work of
To you, O Jesus, Priest and Victim, be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
XI. Jesus is nailed to the cross
"They tear holes in my hands and my feet; I can count every
one of my bones" (Ps 21:17-18). The words of the Prophet are fulfilled.
The execution begins. The torturers' blows crush the hands and feet
of the Condemned One against the wood of the cross. The nails are
driven violently into his wrists. Those nails will hold the condemned man
as he hangs in the midst of the inexpressible torments of his agony. In
his body and his supremely sensitive spirit, Christ suffers in a way
With him there are crucified two real criminals, one on his
right, the other on his left. The prophecy is fulfilled: "He was numbered
among the transgressors" (Is 53:12).
Once the torturers raise the cross, there will begin an agony
that will last three hours. This word too must be fulfilled: "When I am
lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself" (Jn 12:32).
What is it that "draws" us to the Condemned One in
agony on the cross? Certainly the sight of such intense suffering stirs compassion. But
compassion is not enough to lead us to bind our very life to the One
who hangs on the cross.
How is it that, generation after generation, this appalling sight
has drawn countless hosts of people who have made the cross the hallmark
of their faith? Hosts of men and women who for centuries have lived and
given their lives looking to this sign?
From the cross, Christ draws us by the power of love, divine
Love, which did not recoil from the total gift of self; infinite Love, which on
the tree of the cross raised up from the earth the weight of Christ's
body, to counterbalance the weight of the first sin; boundless Love, which
has utterly filled every absence of love and allowed humanity to find
once more in the arms of the merciful Father.
May Christ lifted high on the cross draw us too, the men and
women of the new millennium! In the shadow of the cross, let us "walk in
love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and
sacrifice to God" (Eph 5:2).
* * *
O Christ lifted high, O Love crucified, fill our hearts with your
love, that we may see in your cross the sign of our redemption and, drawn by your wounds, we may live and die with you, who live
and reign with the Father and the Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.
XII. Jesus dies on the cross
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"
(Lk 23:34). At the height of his Passion, Christ does not forget man, especially
those who are directly responsible for his suffering. Jesus knows that
more than anything else man needs love; he needs the mercy which at this
moment is being poured out on the world.
"Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in
Paradise" (Lk 23:43). This is how Jesus replies to the plea of the criminal hanging on his
right: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your
kingdom" (Lk 23:42). The promise of a new life. This is the first fruit of the Passion
and imminent Death of Christ. A word of hope to man.
At the foot of the cross stood Mary, and beside her the disciple,
John the Evangelist. Jesus says: "Woman, behold your son!" and
to the disciple: "Behold your mother!" (Jn 19:26-27). "And
from that moment the disciple took her to his own home" (Jn 19:27). This is his
bequest to those dearest to his heart. His legacy to the Church. The desire of
Jesus as he dies is that the maternal love of Mary should embrace
all those for whom he is giving his life, the whole of humanity.
Immediately after, Jesus cries out: "I am thirsty" (Jn
19:28). A word which describes the dreadful burning which consumes his whole body.
It is the one word which refers directly to his physical suffering.
Then Jesus adds: "My God, my God, why have you abandoned
me?" (Mt 27:46;
cf. Ps 22:2). These words of the Psalm are his prayer. Despite their
tone, these words reveal the depths of his union with the Father.
In the last moments of his life on earth, Jesus thinks of the
Father. From this moment on, the dialogue will only be between the dying Son
and the Father who accepts his sacrifice of love.
When the ninth hour comes, Jesus cries out: "It is
accomplished!" (Jn 19:30). Now the work of the redemption is complete. The mission, for
which he came on earth, has reached its goal.
The rest belongs to the Father: "Father, into your hands I
commit my spirit" (Lk 23:46). And having said this, he breathed his last.
"The curtain of the temple was torn in two..." (Mt 27:51). The
"Holy of Holies" of the Jerusalem Temple is opened at the moment when it
is entered by the Priest of the New and Eternal Covenant.
* * *
Lord Jesus Christ, in the moment of your agony you were not
indifferent to humanity's fate, and with your last breath you entrusted to the
Father's mercy the men and women of every age, with all their
weaknesses and sins. Fill us and the generations yet to come with your Spirit
of love, so that our indifference will not render vain in us the fruits
To you, crucified Jesus, the wisdom and the power of
God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
XIII. Jesus is taken down from the cross and given
to his Mother
In the arms of his Mother they have placed the lifeless body of
the Son. The Gospels say nothing of what she felt at that moment. It is as
though by their silence the Evangelists wished to respect her sorrow, her
feelings and her memories. Or that they simply felt incapable of expressing them. It is only the devotion of the centuries that has
preserved the figure of the "Pietā", providing Christian
memory with the most sorrowful image of the ineffable bond of love which blossomed
in the Mother's heart on the day of the Annunciation and ripened as she
waited for the birth of her divine Son.
That love was revealed in
the cave at Bethlehem and was tested already during the Presentation in
the Temple. It grew deeper as Mary stored and pondered in her heart all
that was happening (cf. Lk 2:51). Now this intimate bond of love must be transformed into a union
which transcends the boundary between life and death.
And thus it will be across the span of the centuries: people
pause at Michelangelo's statue of the Pietā, they kneel before the image of
the loving and sorrowful Mother (Smetna Dobrodziejka) in the Church of the Franciscans in
Krakow, before the Mother of the Seven Sorrows, Patroness of Slovakia, they
venerate Our Lady of Sorrows in countless shrines in every part of
the world. And so they learn the difficult love which does not flee from
suffering, but surrenders trustingly to the tenderness of God, for
nothing is impossible (cf. Lk 1:37).
* * *
Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiae; vita dulcedo et spes nostra,
salve. Ad te clamamus ... illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte et
Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui nobis post hoc exilium ostende.
Implore for us the grace of faith, hope and charity, so that we,
like you, may stand without flinching beneath the cross until our last
breath. To your Son, Jesus, our Saviour, with the Father and the
Holy Spirit, all honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
XIV. Jesus is laid in the tomb
"He was crucified, died and was buried..." The lifeless
body of Christ has been laid in the tomb. But the stone of the tomb is not the
final seal on his work. The last word belongs not to falsehood, hatred and
violence. The last word will be spoken by Love, which is stronger
"Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it
remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (Jn 12:24). The
tomb is the last stage of Christ's dying through the whole course of his earthly
life; it is the sign of his supreme sacrifice for us and for our
Very soon this tomb will become the first proclamation of praise
and exaltation of the Son of God in the glory of the Father.
was crucified, died and was buried, ... on the third day he rose from the
Once the lifeless body of Jesus is laid in the tomb, at
the foot of Golgotha, the Church begins the vigil of Holy Saturday. In the
depths of her heart, Mary stores and ponders the Passion of her Son; the
women agree to meet on the morning of the day after the Sabbath, in order
to anoint Christ's body with aromatic ointments; the disciples gather
the seclusion of the Upper Room, waiting for the Sabbath to pass.
This vigil will end with the meeting at the tomb, the empty tomb
of the Saviour. Then the tomb, the silent witness of the Resurrection, will
speak. The stone rolled back, the inner chamber empty, the cloths on
the ground, this will be what John sees when he comes to the tomb with
Peter: "He saw and he believed" (Jn 20:8). And with him
believed, and from that moment she never grows weary of
communicating to the world this fundamental truth of her faith: "Christ has been
raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen
asleep" (1 Cor 15:20).
The empty tomb is the sign of the definitive victory of truth
over falsehood, of good over evil, of mercy over sin, of life over death.
The empty tomb is the sign of the hope which "does not
deceive" (Rom 5:5). "[Our] hope is full of immortality" (cf. Wis 3:4).
* * *
Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you were
drawn by the Father from the darkness of death to the light of a new life in
glory. Grant that the sign of the empty tomb may speak to us and to future generations and become a wellspring of living faith, generous
love, and unshakeable hope.
To you, O Jesus, whose presence, hidden
victorious, fills the history of the world, be honour and glory for
ever and ever. Amen.