Tenebræ factæ sunt

Msgr. Carlo Maria Viganò

Tenebræ factæ sunt

Meditation on Good Friday

A sexta autem hora tenebræ factæ sunt super universam terram usque ad horam nonam.
From noon until three in the afternoon it was dark over the whole earth.

Mt 27:45


Tenebræ factæ sunt. In the hour of Our Lord’s agony, the whole of nature, the cosmos itself, is clothed in the black clouds of mourning. Darkness. And along with the darkness, cold, biting air, and a silence pregnant with horror and emotion for the impending death of Christ. The sky is leaden and threatening, the earth ready to quiver and tremble with indignation. On the high ground of Golgotha, where sharp stones and thorny bushes dominate Jerusalem, the Cross has been raised, and on the Cross is nailed the Immaculate Lamb, Priest and Victim. We dare not raise our eyes to look, and we remain at the foot of that scaffold, together with the Virgin and Saint John. 

This is your hour, it is the empire of darkness (Lk 22:53), the Lord said the night before, after going to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with the Apostles, who were unable to keep vigil with Him. In that terrible hour, all the sins committed by every human being, from the beginning of the world to the last moment before the Last Judgment, flow before the Savior, striking Him in the soul with greater cruelty than the scourges that will tear His flesh the next day. The immense, unspeakable, unheard-of pain caused by this vision arouses in the Lord such anguish that it causes him to sweat blood. Ego autem sum vermis et non homo; opprobrium hominum et abjectio plebis (Ps 22:7). And loneliness: feeling not only abandoned by His own, but seeing himself as if shunned by the Eternal Father, who sees in Him the scapegoat, the One who took upon Himself the sins of the world, who took them upon Himself, which for those sins committed against the Majesty of God requires the death of a God, and which in order to redeem sinful humanity requires the sacrifice of the firstborn. Cuius una stilla salvum facere totum mundum quit ab omni scelere, according to the words of Aquinas. A single drop of that most precious Blood would have saved the world, but it would not have manifested the infinite Charity of God – in the supreme act of the Sacrifice – ready to die for us, children of wrath, cursed and ungrateful, a thousand times sinners. 

Oh, if only we could conceive of the horror the Lord experienced in making Himself an innocent Victim in place of us – we who are guilty of all the most horrifying sins of which man is capable! If we could only imagine the torment of the Virgin Mother when she saw her divine Son burdened with those repugnant sins, especially the sins against purity, so horrifying for the virginal soul of Mary Most Holy and even more so for the Incarnate Word! Sharp swords that pierce the Most Sacred Heart together with the Immaculate Heart and that pierce them, in a pain that man cannot know, except vaguely, in the perfect contrition that only the fire of Charity can move. That fire of divine Love which is inextricably linked to obedience to God’s will: Pater! Si non potest hic calix transire, nisi bibam illum, fiat voluntas tua (Mt 26:42). Silence responds to this cry of the tormented soul, as in the dark night of the mystics, because Heaven must remain mute in the face of that travail precisely in order to make it fruitful. It is in that offering that the priesthood of Christ the High Priest is fulfilled, it is in that holocaust that the Sacrifice of the Redeemer is consummated, and along with it the mystical passion of the Most Sorrowful Coredemptrix.

Only a mother knows what it means to feel what her child feels: for this reason, precisely in the supreme act of the Priesthood of the New and Eternal Covenant; precisely in the hour of the most mute and profound sorrow, Our Lord gives us the gift of that Divine Motherhood, entrusting us to her and entrusting her to us. Let us be aware, dear brothers and sisters: Our Lord makes us sinners, children of His Immaculate Mother and makes His Mother our Mother, at the same time that He makes Himself the divine Victim pro peccatis suæ gentis, representing sinful humanity before the Divine Majesty by virtue of the Hypostatic Union. This is not a merely dogmatic question – even if the Modernists go so far as to deny the Compassion and Co-redemption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in order to please heretics – but it is above all a mystical and spiritual reality, which must make us exclaim with St. Paul: O altitudo divitiarum sapientiæ, et scientiæ Dei: quam incomprehensibilia sunt judicia ejus, et investigabiles viæ ejus! O the depth of the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge: how far beyond comprehension are His judgments, and beyond all knowledge are His ways! (Rom 11:33). And again: That you may be enabled to understand with all the saints the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love, and to know this love which surpasses all knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph 3:18-19). This love that surpasses all things, that impels God to take the form of a servant, and raises the servant to be not only a creature of God, but His son, and a joint heir, even a friend. We repeat it in these blessed days, with the wise pedagogy of Holy Mother Church, which progressively reveals the words of the responsory taken from Saint Paul: 

Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis. Propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum et dedit illi nomen, quod est super omne nomen (Phil 2:8-9),

and the Apostle continues: 

ut in nomine Jesu omne genu flectatur cælestium, terrestrium, et infernorum: et omnis lingua confiteatur, quia Dominus Jesus Christus in gloria est Dei Patris (Phil 2:10-11). 

For it is only by standing at the foot of the Cross – without even daring to lift our gaze to the One whom we have pierced (Jn 19:37) – that we are able to understand that the only possible, worthy, just, dutiful and salutary response for us men before the Incarnate Divine Charity, the Divine Victim, the Divine Priest and the Divine King is to prostrate ourselves on our knees and profess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father. 

Let us join our voice to this infinite chorus, in which every tongue sings the praises of God and proclaims Jesus Christ, Lord and Universal King. Yes, Christ is King. King of all: of those who submit to Him with trusting abandonment as well as of those who reject His Lordship; which was decreed and sanctioned once and for all on the wood of the Cross, arbor decora et fulgida, ornata Regis purpura, the Throne of the Lamb, Instrument of Salvation for those who believe, stumbling block for the Jews, foolishness for the Gentiles (1 Cor 1:23-24). For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Cor 1:25). 

Let us impress upon our hearts the words of the Savior, when the gates of Hell seem to overwhelm and overpower us: Ego vici mundum – I have conquered the world (Jn 16:33). These words are not a wish, a mere pious desire, or a false illusion, like everything that comes from Satan: they are the unfailing promise of God. 

And so may it be. 

+ Carlo Maria Viganò, Archbishop

29 March 2024
Feria VI in Parasceve