Tenebræ factæ sunt: The Crucifixion of Our Lord
Tenebræ factæ sunt,
dum crucifixissent Iesum iudæi:
et circa horam nonam exclamavit Iesus voce magna:
"Deus meus, ut quid me dereliquisti?"
by Fr. A.-Joseph Chauvin S.S.S.
They want to tie His arms – He gives them; they want to pierce His hands, He opens them; they want to nail His feet, He presents them; they want to replace the crown of thorns upon Him , He offers His Head, already wounded so much… From the heights of the cross He is ready to bear everything for our well-being.
He has placed Himself in the hands of the evil ones, that they may do what they want… And not one complaint, nor a cry of indignation! If the mark of the Divinity is found in the Gospel, here it shines with greater splendor!
The prophecy announced for more than a thousand years has today been fulfilled: "They have pierced my hands and my feet and they have numbered all my bones." Jesus had often announced this cruel death: some days before He had said to the Apostles very clearly that He was about to be placed in the hands of the Gentiles in order to be mocked, scourged and crucified.
It cannot be mistaken therefore: it is not an ordinary man that mounts the gibbet of the Cross; no; it is God, because only God can predict in the most minute details, the type and circumstances of His own Death.
The hour of the Sacrifice marked by the Father has arrived. The executioners have no need to use violence: the Victim presents His hands and feet spontaneously, that they may be nailed to the Cross. His face, though tormented by thorns, now allows a ray of almost infinite joy to shine through, which floods His Soul… With what satisfaction Jesus sees the earth drink the Blood which must purify and redeem it.
Who would not feel his heart full of gratitude in the face of so much love!
For me, for my well-being, the Son of God is suspended, in the midst of atrocious sufferings, to the gibbet of the Cross. To expiate the bad use that I have made of my hands and my feet, His hands and feet are nailed to the wood of ignominy. To expiate all the sins of touch, all the confusion of my actions, all my guilty steps, He allowed His hands and feet to be pierced… To spare my members from the eternal fire of Hell, He submitted His to intolerable sufferings… Love obliges Him to keep His arms open in order to embrace me, Love obliges Him to keep His feet nailed to await me.
Who will give me the power to read on this Divine Book - on the crucified Body of Jesus - in which as many letters as wounds which teach and command love are read?
"They crucified Him…" Those who asked Pilate to have Jesus crucified wanted to inflict upon Him a cruel death and at the same time an ignominious one. Crucifixion was the most painful torture invented by human barbarism. In fact those condemned to death had their hands and feet pierced, parts which, composed of nerves and veins, are extremely sensitive to pain. The weight of the hanging body, caused the pain to be continuous and increase until death; the loss of blood brought fire into the veins and caused an ardent thirst; the tortures that finished with the life of the victim, all made this death fearsome… We add, with the Angelic Doctor, Saint Thomas Aquinas, that the Body of Christ, being perfect and in full vigour, was much more sensitive to pain.
Crucifixion was also the most infamous torture which could be inflicted on criminals and it was habitually reserved for abject delinquents and especially for slaves. What a humiliation! To increase the opprobrium, Jesus is crucified along with two well-known brigands. He was placed in the middle: "In similar circumstances – writes the Seraphic Doctor St. Bonaventure – was not the place of honour the height of humiliation?"
And on the infamous gibbet He is exposed, almost naked, to the eyes of the multitude who jeer at Him and consider Him to be cursed!
Who are the executioners who have dared to inflict such cruelty on Jesus? The people He had loved and lavished with benefits during their lives. They crucified those hands which were raised to comfort and bless; those hands which, so recently, the day before, had left them the most Sacred pledge of His Love: the Holy Eucharist.
But why should I be so indignant against the cruelty of the people? Are not all sinners the executioners of Jesus? The Gospel mentions no name of the executioners who crucified Him, to make us understand that we, sinners more than the soldiers, who were simple instruments, have crucified the Saviour of the world…
Thus, Jesus has seen each one of us distinctly, strike the nails which pierced His hands and feet with the deicide hammer.
[Text selected, translated and adapted by Contributor Francesca Romana.]