Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the Cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: mercifully grant; that we may follow the example of his patience, and so be made partakers of his Resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
A reading from John of Ford, Sermons on the Last Verses of the Song of Songs1
Whatever the Lord Jesus endured or still endures or will one day endure, either in himself or in his body, it is the eve of the great Sabbath, a preparation for eternal peace and freedom and a lesson in how to attain that paschal joy. So the Lord’s blessed bride, who has already greeted from far off the peaceful freedom of this great Sabbath, now prepares for herself whatever is needed for that solemn day, coming in advance to anoint the body of Jesus, which she is herself, for burial. And since she is well aware that she cannot rise with Christ unless she has first been buried with him, and that she cannot be buried with him unless she has been crucified with him, unless she has died with him, she chooses ‘crucifixion’ for her soul and death for her bones.
But now, when she voluntarily takes up the cross and her hands and feet are nailed to it with his, now the cross indeed triumphs in his members, at least for the most part. Now, though sin may tempt her, she consents in neither mind nor act, for she has something in which she greatly glories, and that is the cross of her Lord, Jesus Christ. Of course, while her soul is still within her, she cannot yet glory in it wholly. But when the Spirit of God divides soul from body with his sword, then all that is animal in her through concupiscence will be swallowed up by the spiritual. Only then will she be able to consider herself dead with Christ, only then will she venture to triumph over death and cry with Christ: ‘It is consummated’ (Jn 19:30).
But what is the soul to do who certainly has the wish to lay down her life, but is absolutely without the power to do so? It seems to me that there is only one thing that helps, while we are still on earth, to prepare the soul for the death and burial which she longs for, and that is never to come down from the cross. Whatever the persuasion of evil spirits, whatever the flattery of friends, (and however many of them are) whatever the incitements of the enemy, the soul must not come down from the cross, but must stretch out her arms all day long and say with Paul, ‘With Christ I am nailed to the cross’ (Gal 2:19). She must say with Andrew: ‘Never permit me, Lord, to be taken down from this cross’. She must say with David: ‘Pierce my flesh with your fear’ (Ps 119:20). Then she must make confession with the crucified thief, a twofold confession; she must frequently confess to the High Priest who hangs with her on the cross both her own sinfulness and the immaculate innocence which is his alone. And if she persists in these two confessions, she will win from the cross of Jesus to her own cross, yes, she will truly win not only forgiveness for her guilt but even the promise of life. Further, Jesus does not put off his promises; not in the distant future, but here and now he gives forgiveness and, after a little while, that is, on the very same day, he gives life.