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CHAPTER XIX. On The Taking Down From the Cross.
The Servant.—Ah, pure Mother and tender Lady! When did thy great and bitter affliction of heart which thou hadst for thy Son, come to an end?
Answer.—Listen to my words with sorrowful compassion. When my tender Child had expired, and when He hung suspended before me, and all the strength of my heart was utterly broken, though I could do nothing else, I yet cast many a glance up at my dead Child. And when they came to take Him down, it was as if I had been roused from the dead. With what motherly love did I receive His lifeless arms, with what sighs of love did I not press them to my blood-stained cheeks, and when He was lowered down to me, how affectionately beyond measure did I not embrace Him, dead as He was in my arms; how did I not strain to my heart my only love elect, and kiss again and again the fresh bleeding wounds of His face! And, yet, with what ravishing beauty His entire body was transformed, all hearts could not sufficiently contemplate. Then did I take my tender Child on to my lap, and look at Him. I looked at Him, and He was dead! I looked at Him again and again, but He had neither voice nor consciousness. Then did my heart die within me again, and had well-nigh burst into a thousand pieces. Then did I fetch many a deep and heart-rending sigh, my eyes shed many tears, my whole figure was deplorable to see, scarcely had my doleful words reached my lips, when they were choked by grief, and only half expressed. Alas, alas, cried I, whenever was anyone so cruelly used on earth as Thou, my innocent and beloved Child! Alas, my Child, my only consolation, my only joy, how art Thou changed for me into a source of much bitterness! Where is now the joy I experienced at Thy birth? Where the delight I had in Thy childhood? Where the honour and dignity I had in Thy presence? Whither is all gone that could ravish my heart? Oh sorrow! Oh anguish! Oh bitterness! Oh desolation of heart! truly is everything transformed into an unfathomable desolation of heart, into a mortal agony! Alas, Thou Child of mine, how am I so shorn of all love, how has my heart become utterly disconsolate! Such, and many such words of lamentation did I utter, because of my deceased Child.
The Servant.—Oh, pure and beautiful Mother, permit me once more to console my heart in this moment with thy dear Child, my Lord, the Eternal Wisdom, before the hour of separation comes, before He is snatched away from us to the grave. Immaculate Mother! however unfathomable thy heart’s affliction was, however strongly it may touch all other hearts, thou didst yet, methinks, find some pleasure in the affectionate embracing of thy deceased Child. Oh, pure and gentle Lady, I desire that thou wouldst offer me thy dear Child, as He appeared in death, on the lap of my soul, so that I may experience, according to my ability, in spirit and meditation, what thou didst in thy body. Lord, my eyes are turned to Thee in the most rapturous joy and in deepest, heart-felt love, such as no only love was ever regarded with by the beloved. Lord, my soul expands to Thy embrace even as the tender rose expands to the pure sun’s brightness. Lord, my soul stretches out her arms to Thee with infinite desire. Oh, my loving Lord, with ardent desire I embrace Thee to-day, and press Thee to the bottom of my heart and soul, and put Thee in mind of the loving hour of Thy death, that Thou mayest never allow it to be lost in me; and I request that neither life, nor death, nor joy, nor sorrow, may ever separate Thee from me. Lord, my eyes contemplate Thy dead countenance, my soul kisses again and again all Thy fresh bleeding wounds, all my senses are fed with this sweet fruit beneath the living tree of the cross; and it is reasonable, for this person consoles himself with his innocent life, the other with his great exercises and strict conduct; the one with this, the other with that; but, as for me, all my consolation, all my trust, are lodged wholly in Thy Passion, in Thy satisfaction and merited reward, and, therefore, I shall at all times carry Thy Passion joyfully in the bottom of my heart, and show the image of it outwardly, in words and deeds, to the utmost of my ability.
Oh, enchanting brightness of eternal light, how art Thou now for me utterly extinguished! Extinguish in me the burning lust of all vice.
Oh, pure transparent mirror of divine majesty, how art Thou now defiled! Cleanse away the great stains of my evil deeds!
Oh, beautiful image of paternal goodness, how art Thou befouled and utterly defaced! Restore the defaced and faded image of my soul!
Oh, Thou innocent Lamb, how wretchedly art Thou used! Amend and atone for my guilty, sinful life!
Oh, Thou King of all kings, and Lord of all lords, how does my soul see Thee lying here in so lamentable and ghastly a plight! Grant, that since my soul now embraces Thee with sorrow and lamentation in Thy dereliction, she may be embraced by Thee with joy in Thy everlasting glory. Amen.
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