Friday, March 29, 2013

They Crucified Him: Station XIV

This series iss not my own work, but all taken from Rev Robert Nash, S.J.'s reflections on the Stations of the Cross: They Crucified Him. I have posted one Station a day in the final days before today, Good Friday. Here is the final post, the Fourteenth Station and the Conclusion.
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What a desolate little party they were, who followed His dead body to the tomb! You would say, as you walk after them in the last of the stations, that you could imagine no more ignominious failure than this. But are you right? Even as they are walking to the place of burial, He is already beginning to enter upon the hour of His triumph. For no sooner had He expired on Calvary than His soul went to Limbo (the Limbo of the ancients) and we can dimly imagine the ecstasy of joy with which the souls imprisoned there heard the gladsome news of their fast-approaching delivery.

The faithful prophets and patriarchs of the Old Testament are there. The heroic mother of the Machabees who sacrificed her seven sons rather than violate God’s Law, Judith and Esther — types of Mary His Mother, Saint Elizabeth, Saint Zachary, and their son the Baptist, Saint Joseph His foster-father — all these names come readily to mind as we enter with the triumphant Christ into that prison house.

The place is flooded with light, for Jesus is the true light, and we hear the heartening message: “Come ye blessed of My Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

The triumphant message continues, and on Sunday morning His sacred soul returns to Calvary to be re-united with His glorified body. Such a contrast now — no more suffering or disfigurement — but the face of Our Lord radiant with joy as He hastens, first to His Mother, and then to one friend after another, to speak to them of the kingdom of God, and to assure them that He is risen indeed. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

Without the hope of our own resurrection too, life would be a sort of blind alley. But we know that if we suffer with Him we shall certainly rise with Him. And even in this vale of tears, we can begin to share in the joys of that resurrection. For there is a resurrection above our sins and passions, there is a resurrection above our worldliness and our petty jealousies, above our cramped and narrow selves, a resurrection befitting men destined to share, even here, in the glorious liberty of the sons of God.

We are told that He was risen “truly” — no mere appearances, but in very reality. After having thought on the lines indicated as we walked with Him to Calvary, surely that must be the first trait in our resurrection also — no mere external conversion, but, what He values alone, a conversion of heart, a turning of the heart away from sin, to be inflamed by His love. His resurrection was lasting, for “Jesus Christ being risen from the dead, dies now no more.” He wants from us too, a clean breakaway, a definite and entire severing of the manacles that have held us captive — such as we saw when thinking about our last fall. And, after His resurrection, He appeared openly, letting everyone know of the wonderful change. Let me not be afraid to imitate Him here also. Many are timid about giving the impression that they love Him enthusiastically, and, whatever they have been in the past, are now determined to canalise all their energies in one direction — to make Him known and loved.

He rose truly; He rose never again to die; and He let the world know of His resurrection. So, the little procession to the tomb is not so desolate after all, for Calvary is not the end but only the beginning.

One of Michelangelo’s greatest works is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The surface measures some ten thousand square feet, and it is covered with over eight hundred figures, some twelve feet long, others eighteen, all most carefully and conscientiously finished. Every detail of each picture stands out with marvellous truth to nature — the hairs of the head and beard, the finger-nails, the creases in the garments. A masterpiece, an everlasting monument to the genius of him who produced it!

But what a price it cost him! Day after day, the artist had to work, lying flat on his back, with the paint dropping down on to his face, In the course of time his eyes grew so accustomed to looking upwards that, long after he had finished his beautiful ceiling, he would have to hold a letter above his head in order to read it. You can produce a masterpiece only by being willing to pay the price.

We have seen the price paid by Our Saviour as we accompanied Him and His Mother from station to station.

His masterpiece is the human soul pulsating with His own very life. Treasures of grace He has accumulated on Calvary, and He longs for the soul to draw near and be filled. Could we see into a soul radiant with sanctifying grace we would drop down on our knees in adoration, thinking ourselves to be in presence of God Himself.

How do you think Michelangelo would feel if, when coming one morning to continue his glorious work, he found that during the night his pictures had been destroyed, that someone jealous of his genius had smeared paint all over his ceiling, effacing entirely those lovely images? It is a feeble expression of Our Lord’s attitude towards sin which utterly undoes the grand work which cost Him such a price. And suppose that during the night, the great artist conceived a new idea, and next day proceeded to put it into execution, and after a month or two has the satisfaction of seeing it in all its perfection, how his heart is gladdened by his success! But again, his joy and satisfaction are negligible compared with the joy the soul gives to Christ and Mary by endeavouring faithfully to correspond with their inspirations.

Admittedly this is hard to understand, for it is all to the soul’s interest, here and hereafter, to co-operate thus with the workings of grace within her. So concerned is Jesus about the soul’s sanctification that you would be inclined to believe that to Him some advantage must accrue from its fidelity and advancement. Nothing of the kind.

All the benefit is to itself. Why then does Christ “bother” about the soul? Why not allow it to go its way? Why pay such a price for its redemption? Only one answer is possible, and we have seen it already. Love is the only explanation. “Greater love than this no man has, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

On our first page, we promised to try to develop one single idea at each of the fourteen stations, and it may help us, when making the stations to have that idea in a form which is easy to remember. So, here is a summary, indicating each of these ideas in the corresponding station:

I. Independence of men’s opinions. Jesus is condemned to death.
II. Is it I, Lord, who am “guilty of death”? Jesus carries His cross.
III. Hell, and the sinner’s first serious fall. Jesus falls the first time.
IV. The fiat of Jesus and Mary. Jesus meets His mother.
V. The apostolate — a responsibility and an honour. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the cross.
VI. Veronica and how to sanctify pleasure. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.
VII. The falls “in-between.” Jesus falls the second time.
VIII. The safety of the hard way. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
IX. “Never again” — the sinner’s last fall. Jesus falls the third time.
X. The completeness of the giving of Christ. Jesus is stripped of his garments.
XI. The soul’s Crucifixion and exaltation. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross.
XII. Calvary and the Mass. Jesus dies on the cross.
XIII. Suffering, the acid test of love. Jesus is taken down from the cross.
XIV. Calvary, the prelude to our resurrection. Jesus is laid in the tomb.


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