Amongst all the solemn feasts which are kept by Christians, we are well aware, dearly beloved, that the paschal mystery holdeth first place. The observances of all the year are ordered to the end of preparing us to celebrate duly and worthily this one mystery. But the days which have now come upon us make an especial claim on our devotion, seeing they are those which be in immediate preparation for that most glorious mystery of the divine mercy. The holy Apostles themselves ( taught doubtless by the Holy Ghost) ordered a strict fast to be kept on these days, that by sharing together Christ's Cross with him, we too may in some measure partake in what he did for our sake, as the Apostle saith: We are the children of God, if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. He that is partaker of the sufferings of the Lord hath a sure and certain hope of that blessedness which he hath promised unto us.
To no one, no matter what be the circumstances of his life, dearly beloved, is denied a shared in this glory of partaking in Christ's sufferings, as if times of calm were without their occasions of exercising strength. The Apostle giveth us this warning : All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. Therefore, so long as godliness is not lacking, neither is persecution lacking. The Lord himself saith in one of his own exhortations : He that taketh not his cross, and followeth not after me, is not worthy of me. And we must not doubt that these words of Christ apply not only to his immediate disciples, to whom he spake them, but belong to all the faithful and to the whole Church. For the Church in the person of believers which were present and heard these words, believed and heard on behalf of all them who would afterwards accept the way of salvation in the Church.
As, then, it is the duty of the whole body of the Church to live godly, so also it is the duty of all times to be a-bearing of the Master's Cross, and that not only in the mystical body in general, but individually in the person of each member thereof, who each and every on supporteth the weight of the Cross in his own way and measure. The one common name for all their carrying of the Cross is persecution, but the manner of suffering is special to each. Now there is often more danger from the open enemy. Blessed Job, who was well tried in this world by alternate changes of good and evil, said devoutly and truly : Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? That is, Is not man's life appointed as a time of trial? The attack upon the faithful soul cometh not alone in bodily pains and suffering. For if the health of the bodily members be sound, often the soul is grievously sick of longing for fleshly indulgence. But since the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, the rational mind must be disciplined by the carrying of the Cross on such wise that, albeit the soul is enticed by evil desires, the will refuseth to give consent, by reason of the piercing of the nails of continence and the fear of God.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:
Jesus said unto the multitude of the Jews, and to the chief priests: * He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.
We beseech thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people, that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.