What does the Church commemorate on this day?
The death of Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of the Father, and the Saviour of the world, Who on this day was scourged, crowned with thorns, and most cruelly crucified between two thieves; through which bitter and ignominious passion and death He accomplished the redemption of mankind.
LESSON. The Book of Exodus xii. 1-11.
In those days: The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall be to you the beginning of months: it shall be the first in the months of the year. Speak ye to the whole assembly of the children of Israel, and say to them: On the tenth day of this month let every man take a lamb by their families and houses. But if the number be less than may suffice to eat the lamb, he shall take unto him his neighbour that joineth to his house, according to the number of souls which may be enough to eat the lamb. And it shall be a lamb without blemish, a male, of one year: according to which rite also you shall take a kid. And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month: and the whole multitude of the children of Israel shall sacrifice it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood thereof, and put it upon both the side posts, and on the upper door posts of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh that night roasted at the fire, and unleavened bread with wild lettuce. You shall not eat thereof any thing raw, nor boiled in water, but only roasted at the fire: you shall eat the head with the feet and entrails thereof. Neither shall there remain any thing of it until morning. If there be any thing left, you shall burn it with fire. And thus you shall eat it: you shall gird your reins, and you shall have shoes on your feet, holding staves in your hands, and you shall eat in haste: for it is the Phase (that is the Passage) of the Lord.
After this is read:
THE PASSION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.
According to Saint John xviii. and xix.
At that time Jesus went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron, where there was a garden into which He entered with His disciples. And Judas also, who betrayed Him, knew the place: because Jesus had often resorted thither together with His disciples. Judas therefore having received a band of soldiers and servants from the chief priests and the Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him, went forth and said to them: Whom seek ye? They answered Him: Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith to them: I am He. And Judas also who betrayed Him, stood with Him. As soon therefore as He had said to them: I am He: they went backward, and fell to the ground. Again therefore He asked them: Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered: I have told you that I am He. If therefore you seek Me, let these go their way. That the word might be fulfilled which He said: Of them whom Thou hast given Me I have not lost any one. Then Simon Peter having a sword, drew it, and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And the name of the servant was Malchus. Jesus therefore said to Peter: Put up thy sword into the scabbard. The chalice which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? Then the band, and the tribune, and the servants of the Jews, took Jesus, and bound Him: and they led him away to Annas first, for he was father in law to Caiphas, who was the high priest of that year. Now Caiphas was he who had given the counsel to the Jews: That it was expedient that one man should die for the people. And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. And that disciple was known to the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the court of the high priest. But Peter stood at the door without. The other disciple therefore who was known to the high priest, went out, and spoke to the portress, and brought in Peter. The maid therefore that was portress, saith to Peter: Art not thou also one of this man's disciples? He saith: I am not. Now the servants and ministers stood at a fire of coals, because it was cold, and warmed themselves. And with them was Peter also, standing, and warming himself. The high priest therefore asked Jesus of His disciples, and of His doctrine. Jesus answered him: I have spoken openly to the world: I have always taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither all the Jews resort: and in secret I have spoken nothing. Why asketh thou Me? ask them who have heard what I have spoken unto them: behold they know what things I have said. And when He had said these things, one of the servants standing by, gave Jesus a blow, saying: Answerest Thou the high priest so? Jesus answered him: If I have spoken evil, give testimony of the evil: but if well, why strikest thou Me? And Annas sent Him bound to Caiphas the high priest. And Simon Peter was standing, and warming himself. They said therefore to him: Art not thou also one of His disciples? He denied it, and said: I am not. One of the servants of the high priest, a kinsman to him whose ear Peter cut off, saith to him: Did I not see thee in the garden with Him? Again therefore Peter denied, and immediately the cock crew. Then they led Jesus from Caiphas to the governor's hall. And it was morning: and they went not into the hall, that they might not be defiled, but that they might eat the pasch. Pilate therefore went out to them, and said: What accusation bring you against this man? They answered and said to him: If He were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered Him up to thee. Pilate therefore said to them: Take Him you, and judge Him according to your law. The Jews therefore said to him: It is not lawful for us to put any man to death. That the word of Jesus might be fulfilled which He said signifying what death He should die. Pilate therefore went into the hall again, and called Jesus, and said to Him: Art thou the king of the Jews? Jesus answered: Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or have others told it thee of Me? Pilate answered: Am I a Jew? Thy own nation and the chief priests, have delivered Thee up to me. What hast Thou done? Jesus answered: My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would certainly strive that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now My kingdom is not from hence. Pilate therefore said to Him: Art Thou a king then? Jesus answered: Thou sayest that I am a king. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world, that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth Mt voice. Pilate saith to Him: What is truth? And when he said this, he went out again to the Jews, and saith to them: I find no cause in Him. But you have a custom that I should release one unto you at the pasch: will you therefore that I release unto you the king of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying: Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber. Then, therefore, Pilate took Jesus, and scourged Him. And the soldiers platting a crown of thorns, put it upon His head: and they put on Him a purple garment, and they came to Him, and said: Hail, king of the Jews! And they gave him blows. Pilate, therefore, went forth again, and saith to them: Behold I bring Him forth unto you, that you may know that I find no cause in Him. (Jesus therefore came forth, bearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment. And he saith to them: Behold the man. When the chief priests, therefore, and the servants, had seen Him, they cried out, saying: Crucify Him, crucify Him. Pilate saith to them: Take Him you, and crucify Him: for I find no cause in Him. The Jews answered him: We have a law; and according to the law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore had heard this saying, he feared the more. And he entered into the hall again, and he said to Jesus: Whence art Thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore saith to Him: Speakest Thou not to me? knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and I have power to release Thee? Jesus answered: Thou shouldst not have any power against Me, unless it were given thee from above. Therefore, he that hath delivered Me to thee, hath the greater sin. And from henceforth Pilate sought to release Him. But the Jews cried out, saying: If thou release this man, thou art not Cæsar's friend. For whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Cæsar. Now when Pilate had heard these words, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat, in the place that is called Lithostrotos, and in Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the parasceve of the pasch, about the sixth hour, and he saith to the Jews: Behold your king. But they cried out: Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him. Pilate saith to them: Shall I crucify your king? The chief priests answered: We have no king but Cæsar. Then, therefore, he delivered Him to them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him forth. And bearing His own cross, He went forth to that place which is called Calvary, but in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and with Him two others, one on each side, and Jesus in the midst. And Pilate wrote a title also, and he put it upon the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title, therefore, many of the Jews did read: because the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, in Greek, and in Latin. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate: Write not, The king of the Jews; but that He said, I am the king of the Jews. Pilate answered: What I have written, I have written. The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified Him, took His garments (and they made four parts, to every soldier a part), and also His coat. Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said then one to another: Let us not cut it, but let us cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saying: They have parted My garments among them, and upon My vesture they have cast lots. And the soldiers indeed did these things. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. When Jesus therefore had seen His mother and the disciple standing whom He loved, He saith to His mother: Woman! behold thy son. After that, He saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own. Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled said: I thirst. Now there was a vessel set there full of vinegar. And they putting a sponge full of vinegar, about hyssop, put it to His mouth. Jesus therefore, when He had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing His head, He gave up the ghost. [Here all kneel, and pause a little, to meditate on the redemption of mankind.] Then the Jews (because it was the Parasceve), that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the Sabbath day (for that was a great sabbath day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. The soldiers, therefore, came: and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with Him. But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers with a spear opened His side, and immediately there came out blood and water. And he that saw it, hath given testimony, and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true, that you also may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture might be fulfilled: You shall not break a bone of Him. And again another Scripture saith: They shall look on Him Whom they pierced. And after these things, Joseph of Arimathea (because he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews) besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave leave. He came therefore and took away the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus also came, he who at the first came to Jesus by night, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. They took therefore the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths, with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now there was in the place where He was crucified a garden: and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein no man yet had been laid. There, therefore, because of the Parasceve of the Jews, they laid Jesus; because the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
When the passion is finished, the priest prays first: 1, for the Church; 2, for the pope; 3, for the bishops, priests, deacons, and the body of the faithful; 4, for the civil rulers and catechumens; 5, for preservation from famine and sickness; 6, for heretics and schismatics; 7, for Jews and heathen.
After the prayers the priest, from the epistle side of the altar, extends towards the people the veiled crucifix, uncovered at the top, and sings with a loud voice, "Behold the wood of the cross, whereon hung the Saviour of the world." This elevation of the crucifix refers to Jesus, Who delivers us from everlasting death. After the response of the choir the priest advances to the corner of the altar, uncovers the right arm of the crucifix, and sings in a higher tone than before, "Behold the wood of the cross." The choir again answers. Then at the middle of the altar he uncovers the whole crucifix, and, elevating it, sings in a still higher tone, "Behold the wood of the cross," to which answer is given as at first. The covering of the crucifix signifies that the crucified Saviour was at first unknown and despised by the world; the gradual uncovering of it represents the gradual propagation of the knowledge and adoration of Jesus among mankind.
The uncovered crucifix is then laid upon a cushion in front of the altar, and the priest puts off his shoes and proceeds to kiss the cross, kneeling three times to remind the faithful that Christ crucified, the Fountain of life, the Centre of the Church, is in her midst, and will remain with her to the end of time.
When the adoration is ended, the cross is replaced on the middle of the altar, the candles are lighted, and the Blessed Sacrament is brought in procession from the place where it was deposited the day before.
There is no Mass said today. For there is no consecration either of bread or wine, but the priest receives one of the hosts consecrated the day before.
Why is there no Mass?
Because today the Church directs her attention exclusively to the bloody sacrifice.
During the day do for love of Jesus all the good you can; for example, to the poor, to the sick, to prisoners, to unfortunate but worthy debtors, make the Way of the Cross, visit the holy sepulchre, and meditate upon the passion of Christ.
The passion of Christ gives us unusual strength in combat with temptation. On this point St. Augustine says, "In all my adversities I have not found any remedies so powerful as the passion and wounds of Jesus. In them I sleep securely, and rest without fear."
To meditate rightly on the passion of Christ consider what Jesus suffered from the Jews, the gentiles, and even His own disciples, who all forsook Him. Then earnestly reflect that He, the Son of God, holiness and innocence itself, suffered not for His own sake, but to deliver mankind from sin, death, and hell, to free them of guilt and punishment, and to convert them from being children of the devil to be children of God. He came into the world, suffered, and died that we might have life.
The man who seriously ponders these things must have a heart of stone if he be not moved to hatred of sin and to love of Jesus.
But this is not perfect fruit of meditation on the passion of Jesus. By contemplating His passion we ought to become like Him.
As often, therefore, as you think on the passion of Christ, whether in making the Stations of the Cross, or in reciting the Rosary, or before an image of the suffering Redeemer, endeavor not only to have pity for His sufferings, not only to give Him assurance of your love, but also to impress upon your heart the virtues practised by Him in His passion, and to imitate them.