Rorate Caeli

Chalice of abandonment and mercy

Pater, si non potest hic calix transire nisi bibam illum, fiat voluntas tua. (Communion for Palm Sunday, Second Sunday in Passiontide - St. Matthew xxvi, 42: "Father, if this chalice may not pass away, but I must drink it, Thy will be done.")


... The most soothing consolation to the man who is plunged in affliction is the consciousness of his innocence; which, like an angel, watches at his side, and whispers comfort to his soul. The holy confidence arising from the consideration of innocence supported the martyrs,and upheld their enduring patience under the pressure of the most feverish tortures! This consideration acted with a magical influence: it calmed their sufferings, it lulled the excruciating sensation of the flames while they consumed their bodies, and diffused over their countenance the expression of a celestial joy.

But Jesus, the innocent Jesus, found no such consolation in his sufferings: what was given to the martyrs was denied to the King of Martyrs. Under the ignominy of the most disgraceful death, under the hostile impression of the most agonizing torments, he was not allowed to complain, nor even to think that he was treated with injustice. It is true, he was innocent respecting man; but what did the recollection of an immaculate life avail him? ...

Behold, behold the innocent Jesus, the spotless Lamb, suddenly become the goat of abomination, burdened with the crimes, the impieties, the blasphemies of all mankind. It is no longer the Jesus who once said, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" (St. John, viii, 46.). He presumes no more to speak of his innocence. Oh, Jesus! Jesus! I dare not now pronounce you innocent, while I see you bending beneath the weight of universal guilt.

Brethren, what a subject for our most serious thoughts! What a theme for our affection! For you, and for me, this miracle of benevolence is performed! Devoid as we are of all merit, what have we to offer to our suffering Redeemer but our gratitude! ... See imputed to our divine Savior the crime of the whole world: all the perfidies that ever were acted, all the impurities and adulteries that ever were committed, all the sacrileges that ever were executed, and all the imprecations, all the blasphemies that ever were yelled from the throats of unbelievers.

This turbulent ocean of iniquity is ready to engulf our Redeemer; whichever way he casts his eyes, he sees torrents of sin bursting upon him. Let us now approach the divine Sufferer, and behold him carrying his Cross. I confess that this incident overpowers my bosom with affectionate gratitude.

To be fastened to the cross is to suffer the punishment of malefactors, but to carry the cross was esteemed as a public avowal of the condemned person, that the death he was going to suffer was justly ordained; and, therefore, when our Savior was in the act of carrying his Cross, he bore testimony to the justice of his condemnation.

...[T]he Cross is now uplifted, exhibiting the sublime victim! Now flows the sacred blood! ... [T]o us, the Divine Mercy was immediately extended. As we sometimes see the face of the heavens wrapped in a brooding storm, till, gathering to maturity, it bursts with a tremendous explosion, yet wasting its strength as it descends, and losing, as it were, its brightness in diffusion, the face of the heavens resumes its wonted cheerful serenity; so the fulminating wrath of God overwhelms his sacred Son; but, like a cloud rent asunder by its own vehemence, the storm subsides, the Deity relents, and the returning beams of mercy glitter from his throne!

By a wonderful commutation, which comprises the mystery of our salvation, the Heavenly Father abandons the innocent Son, in consequence of his unbounded love towards guilty man, and receives him into the arms of his forgiveness for the love of his innocent Son! How feeble are words, how inadequate is language, to uphold this weight of mercy! Let this church be to every one of us a Calvary! And let us not depart from hence before we have kindled, in our bosom, the flame of eternal gratitude for the sublime act of mercy which is, on this day, recorded throughout the Christian world.
Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
Premier Sermon pour le Vendredi Saint sur la Passion de N.S. Jésus-Christ
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