Behold, the hour cometh, and it is now come, that you shall be scattered every man to his own and shall leave me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you shall have distress. But have confidence. I have overcome the world (John 16:32-33).
And he cometh to his disciples and findeth them asleep. And he saith to Peter: What? Could you not watch one hour with me? Watch ye: and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matt. 26:40-41).
Tonight is the Great Hour, the Hour of the Passion, the Hour of the Mass, the Hour of the Agony. We live this hour as the zenith of all time and commemorate sacramentally in the Holy Sacrifice, which was instituted on this night. “Commemoration” is a word in English that can be easily misunderstood. The Mass is not simply a ceremonial solemnization of a memory. It is a living memory, a supra-chronological moment made present, by the will of Christ Himself, before He died. Remember that. The priesthood and the Eucharist Christ instituted before He suffered on the Cross, because this Hour, would be the archetype for all hours, for every moment, until the end of time.
From my meditations on the Rosary, the fifth Luminous Mystery, the Institution of the Eucharist:
Hail Thee who set God’s Table
The Victim is ready.
Blessed is the timeless Hour,
Commenced that night and wheel-
ing through the ages.
Holy Prostrate Communicant
We kneel with Thee
Before the altar
of living sacrifice.
Here are two beautiful meditations on tonight’s mysteries. First from Gerard Manley Hopkins, a meditation on the Spiritual Excercizes of St. Ignatius, based on the tradition that Our Lord appeared to Our Lady before anyone else after the Resurrection.
‘In corpore et anima’–On the pregnant principle expressed in the Mysteries and in this very one we cannot doubt at the Last Supper Christ invisibly but sacramentally communicated the Blessed Mother (as many estatics and others have been communicated) by the hands of angels or otherwise. After this she would have fasted till the Resurrection and the Sacred Host have lain in her breast unconsumed. In her then as well as on the cross Christ died and was at once buried, her body his temple becoming his sepulchre. At his rising the soul entered the body in her as in the sepulchre and, issuing from her breast, the two presences passed into one. And at the same time the windingsheet left empty fell in upon itself in the sepulchre and the empty accidents were consumed in the Blessed Virgin.
Secondly, Newman’s “Mental Sufferings of Our Lord in His Passion”. Read and weep over your sins:
There, then, in that most awful hour, knelt the Saviour of the world, putting off the defences of His divinity, dismissing His reluctant Angels, who in myriads were ready at His call, and opening His arms, baring His breast, sinless as He was, to the assault of His foe,—of a foe whose breath was a pestilence, and whose embrace was an agony. There He knelt, motionless and still, while the vile and horrible fiend clad His spirit in a robe steeped in all that is hateful and heinous in human crime, which clung close round His heart, and filled His conscience, and found its way into every sense and pore of His mind, and spread over Him a moral leprosy, till He almost felt Himself to be that which He never could be, and which His foe would fain have made Him. Oh, the horror, when He looked, and did not know Himself, and felt as a foul and loathsome sinner, from His vivid perception of that mass of corruption which poured over His head and ran down even to the skirts of His garments! Oh, the distraction, when He found His eyes, and hands, and feet, and lips, and heart, as if the members of the Evil One, and not of God! Are these the hands of the Immaculate Lamb of God, once innocent, but now red with ten thousand barbarous deeds of blood? are these His lips, not uttering prayer, and praise, and holy blessings, but as if defiled with oaths, and blasphemies, and doctrines of devils? or His eyes, profaned as they are by all the evil visions and idolatrous fascinations for which men have abandoned their Adorable Creator? And His ears, they ring with sounds of revelry and of strife; and His heart is frozen with avarice, and cruelty, and unbelief; and His very memory is laden with every sin which has been committed since the fall, in all regions of the earth, with the pride of the old giants, and the lusts of the five cities, and the obduracy of Egypt, and the ambition of Babel, and the unthankfulness and scorn of Israel. Oh, who does not know the misery of a haunting thought which comes again and again, in spite of rejection, to annoy, if it cannot seduce? or of some odious and sickening imagination, in no sense one’s own, but forced upon the mind from without? or of evil knowledge, gained with or without a man’s fault, but which be would give a great price to be rid of at once and for ever? And adversaries such as these gather around Thee, Blessed Lord, in millions now; they come in troops more numerous than the locust or the palmer-worm or the plagues of hail, and flies, and frogs, which were sent against Pharaoh. Of the living and of the dead and of the as yet unborn, of the lost and of the saved, of Thy people and of strangers, of sinners and of Saints, all sins are there. Thy dearest are there, Thy saints and Thy chosen are upon Thee, Thy three Apostles, Peter, James, and John; but not as comforters, but as accusers, like the friends of Job, “sprinkling dust towards heaven,” and heaping curses on Thy head. All are there but one; one only is not there, one only; for she, who had no part in sin, she only could console Thee, and therefore she is not nigh. She will be near Thee on the Cross, she is separated from Thee in the garden. She has been Thy companion and Thy confidant through Thy life, she interchanged with Thee the pure thoughts and holy meditations of thirty years; but her virgin ear may not take in, nor may her immaculate heart conceive, what now is in vision before Thee. None was equal to the weight but God; sometimes before Thy Saints Thou hast brought the image of a single sin, as it appears in the light of Thy countenance, or of venial sins, not mortal; and they have told us that the sight did all but kill them, nay, would have killed them, had it not been instantly withdrawn. The Mother of God, for all her sanctity, nay, by reason of it, could not have borne even one brood of that innumerable progeny of Satan which now compasses Thee about. It is the long history of a world, and God alone can bear the load of it. Hopes blighted, vows broken, lights quenched, warnings scorned, opportunities lost; the innocent betrayed, the young hardened, the penitent relapsing, the just overcome, the aged failing; the sophistry of misbelief, the willfulness of passion, the obduracy of pride, the tyranny of habit, the canker of remorse, the wasting fever of care, the anguish of shame, the pining of disappointment, the sickness of despair; such cruel, such pitiable spectacles, such heartrending, revolting, detestable, maddening scenes; nay, the haggard faces, the convulsed lips, the flushed cheek, the dark brow of the willing slaves of evil, they are all before Him now; they are upon Him and in Him. They are with Him instead of that ineffable peace which has inhabited His soul since the moment of His conception. They are upon Him, they are all but His own; He cries to His Father as if He were the criminal, not the victim; His agony takes the form of guilt and compunction. He is doing penance, He is making confession, He is exercising contrition with a reality and a virtue infinitely greater than that of all Saints and penitents together; for He is the One Victim for us all, the sole Satisfaction, the real Penitent, all but the real sinner.
He rises languidly from the earth, and turns around to meet the traitor and his band, now quickly nearing the deep shade. He turns, and lo! there is blood upon His garment and in His footprints. Whence, come these first-fruits of the passion of the Lamb? no soldier’s scourge has touched His shoulders, nor the hangman’s nails His hands and feet. My brethren, He has bled before His time; He has shed blood; yes, and it is His agonizing soul which has broken up His framework of flesh and poured it forth. His passion has begun from within. That tormented Heart, the seat of tenderness and love, began at length to labour and to beat with vehemence beyond its nature; “the foundations of the great deep were broken up;” the red streams rushed forth so copious and fierce as to overflow the veins, and bursting through the pores, they stood in a thick dew over His whole skin; then forming into drops, they rolled down full and heavy, and drenched the ground.