From Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson’s Lenten Sermon on the Seven Last Words of Christ Our Lord, given about a century ago. This is Part I.
Msgr. Benson’s sermon excellent antidote to the poisonous false mercy of the modernists who have assumed control of Christ’s Church. The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ is a stark reminder that God hates sin so much His only begotten Son suffered and died to expiate the dreadful stain of it – in order that we might become children of God and heirs to the Kingdom.
And yet, look at the appalling indifference all around! Have all forsaken Him?
THE SEVEN WORDS – THE THREE HOURS
The value, to the worshippers, of the Devotion of the Three Hours’ Agony is in proportion to the degree in which they understand that they are watching not so much the tragedy of nineteen hundred years ago as the tragedy of their own lives and times. Merely to dwell on the Death of Christ on Calvary would scarcely avail them more than to study the details of the assassination of Caesar at the foot of Pompey’s statue. Such considerations might indeed be interesting, exciting, and even a little instructive or inspiring; but they could not be better than this, and they might be no better than morbid and harmful.
The Death of Christ, however, is unique because it is, so to say, universal. It is more than the crowning horror of all murderous histories; it is more even than the type of all the outrages that men have ever committed against God. For it is just the very enactment, upon the historical stage of the world, of those repeated interior tragedies that take place in every soul that rejects or insults Him; since the God whom we crucify within is the same God that was once crucified without. There is not an exterior detail in the Gospel which may not be interiorly repeated in the spiritual life of a sinner; the process recorded by the Evangelists must be more or less identical with the process of all apostasy from God.
“My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” (Matt. 26, 39)
Today, we will look at Our Lord’s Prayer in the Garden of Olives on that sad and beautiful night which began His Passion and saving death for us. Our basis for this is Father Groenings’ classic, “The Passion of Jesus and Its Hidden Meaning”, from TAN Books. It is available in Kindle and paperback.
As He left the Upper Room, Jesus led His disciples in a Passover hymn, the only time the scriptures record that He sang. When they reached the Garden of Gethsemani, He cautioned the disciples to “Watch, lest ye enter into temptation”. Taking Peter, James and John, He went a bit further and told them, “My soul is sorrowful even unto death. Stay you here and watch.” Going forward, He fell on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”
Twice, Jesus interrupted this prayer to return to His apostles, and after each disappointment, returned to this same prayer, “not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” Luke then tells us, “And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in an agony, He prayed the longer. And His sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground.”
This passage of the Gospel is one of the richest troves of wisdom for meditation available to us, particularly for times of severest trial and at the hour of death. By working on this now, we prepare ourselves for these inevitable times to come. The first and most obvious thing we all notice is that Jesus is alone in His agony, His closest friends are sleeping, unaware of His great agony of spirit nor even noticing His precious blood being shed.
Think on this. Christ prayed while they slept, unaware of the danger. We too, arise at night and pray for our sleeping brethren, who close their eyes to the danger and sleep on, oblivious. But we who know, must arise and pray with Jesus, our Lord and God. Father Groenings tells us that, “in a family, a single member who knows how to pray well, is often the greatest blessing of the rest. But if those must pray who are among the sleeping, how much more those who are among the dead, i.e., among sinners.” Yes, exactly!
Finally, Christ prayed while His enemies were banding together to take Him prisoner and deliver Him to death on the Cross. In this instance, we are shown the wisdom of Christ, His lesson for us especially at this time. His enemies were uniting in one satanic focus, to destroy Him. His response was to pray! Thus, Our Lord Jesus Christ shows us by His eloquent example that prayer is the primary, the essential weapon when we are attacked or when the Church is attacked by the dark powers of this world. The attack came from within – Judas – and from without – the synagogue of satan. Just as today. Just as today. These things never change. And prayer is the weapon given to us by Our Savior Himself. Without prayer, our other actions cannot succeed.
There is a tradition in the Church that compares the Passion of Christ to the Passion of His Church. This Lent, let’s consider for a moment the last words of Jesus as He was dying on the Cross. We may find it fruitful to think of Our Lord’s last words, which He uttered at such great cost, as they relate to the history of the Church on up to the present time and beyond. In every age of the Church, the Suffering of our Savior continues, some mock Him, some few adore Him, but most people go their way, indifferent to it all.
† “Father, forgive them, for they know what they do.”(Luke 23:34) The First Word was spoken by Jesus as He was nailed to the Cross and raised up to the jeering mockery of His executioners and passersby. It can be applied to the earliest period of the Church, a time of severe persecution, as many early Christians followed their Master to death at the hands of anti-Christians. This is being repeated and will be re-enacted until the end of sorrows.
† “Amen, I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) This Second Word applies especially to the early ages of the Church as His beloved martyrs built His Holy Church by their sufferings united to His saving Passion and Death. These words must always be before us as we follow Our Lord and His Bride in this increasingly hostile anti-Christic environment.
† “Woman, behold thy son.” (John 19:26) The first part of the Third Word applies to the rise of the Marian Age, beginning with the Blessed Virgin Mary”s revelation of the Rosary to St. Dominic in 1214 and rapidly spreading throughout the Church, effectively counteracting heresies, winning battles, converting sinners and sanctifying saints. Although the rudiments of the rosary predated St. Dominic, his response to Our Lady’s command to preach the Rosary was what brought the Marian Age into full flower. Through the Rosary, Our Blessed Mother brought many millions of souls to Christ.
† “Behold thy Mother.” (John 19:27) The second part of the Third Word is most appropriate to the latter times, when Our Lord has sent His Blessed Mother to warn us to repent and stop offending Him. At Fatima, Our Blessed Mother commanded renewed reparation and emphasized the importance of praying the Rosary. This command required an obedient response both from the hierarchical Church and from the laity. But sadly, it has been widely ignored. The opposite of passion is indifference and part of the message of Fatima is to make reparation for indifference to God’s commands. This post-Fatima period, the latter part of the Marian Age, is marked by widespread indifference to the Fatima message. It is during these times that we must work more than ever before to spread the message of Fatima, so that as many souls as possible are given the opportunity to come to Our Lady of the Rosary before the culmination of the Chastisement.
† “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46) The Fourth Word is applied especially to the period of the Chastisement in which nations will be wiped from the face of the earth in a matter of seconds and millions will perish outright, with the survivors envying the dead. During this period of darkness and chaos without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Our Lady’s Rosary and Consecration to her Immaculate Heart will sustain the remnant of the elect.
† “I thirst.” (John 19: 28) The Fifth Word may be applied to Christ’s reaching out to those suffering in the time of the Chastisement, offering them the opportunity to turn to Him and unite their sufferings with His for their salvation. It also applies to the time of peace following the Chastisement, during which many souls will be drawn to Christ through the reign of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
† “It is consummated.” (John 19:30) This Sixth Word may be applied to the period when the number of chosen souls is complete and the Antichrist deceives many. This period will not come until the period of peace promised by Our Lady has been fulfilled.
† “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” (Luke 23:46) This final Word signifies the presumed victory of the Antichrist over the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, just before the triumphant, conclusive victory of Christ the King at the end of time, bringing forth the true glory of His Resurrected Mystical Body. Just at the moment that satan believes he is victorious over Christ, Jesus ransoms His own!
Note that although a particular Word is applied to a specific period, it continues to have relevance in subsequent periods, ebbing and waning throughout history. Some speculate that as history progresses rapidly towards the latter days, these Words will resonate with greater effect as the Passion of the Church reaches its culmination.
We follow this crucified Savior. He has given us His word that He will not forsake us, let us not forsake Him!
We are Mary’s children after all and our place is at the foot of His cross, with her.
†Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
†Remember, pray the Rosary and confound the devil and all his works and pomps.
~ evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ King!