Meditation on the Passion of
Our Lord Jesus Christ 6.
THE CRUCIFIXION AND DEATH OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
Summary vid + full text
2.1. NAILING THE HANDS
2.2. NAILING THE FEET
2.3. BREATHING ON THE CROSS
Now they are crucifying Our Lord, and with him two thieves, one on his right and one on his left. Meanwhile, Jesus says: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). It is Love that has brought Jesus to Calvary. And once on the Cross, all his gestures and all his words are of love, a love both calm and strong. With a gesture befitting an Eternal Priest, without father or mother, without lineage (cf. Hb 7:3), he opens his arms to the whole human race. With the hammerblows with which Jesus is being nailed, there resound the prophetic words of Holy Scripture: “They have pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones, and they stare and gloat over me” (Ps 21:17-18). “My people, what have I done to thee, or in what have I saddened thee? Answer me!” (Mi 6:3).
And we, our soul rent with sorrow, say to Jesus in all sincerity: I am yours and I give my whole self to You; gladly do I nail myself to your Cross, ready to be in the cross-roads of this world a soul dedicated to You, to your glory, to the work of Redemption, the co-redemption of the whole human race.
-St. Josemaria, The Way of the Cross, 11th station.
POINTS FOR MEDITATION:
1. THE WAY OF LOVE IS THAT OF SACRIFICE
Our Lord didn’t want to hold anything back but lovingly chose to shed the last drop of His Sacred Blood in order to save us. Look at Christ: total self-giving, supreme oblation, Love! We must not forget that the way of love is a way of sacrifice.
- If we wish to be true followers of Christ, we should not be surprised to find the Cross along the way. To find the Cross is to find happiness because it is where we could find Christ.
- But in order to find Christ on the Cross, we must learn how to join our suffering with God’s will: “May thy most just, lovable Will be done, be fulfilled, be praised and exalted above all things for ever, amen! (St. Josemaria)”
- With this acceptance full of trust of Christ’s Cross, there will be serenity in us, a deep interior peace, a love which is ready for whatever sacrifice, and thus joy for we have the conviction that it is Christ who will carry it for us.
- Lord, teach me how to “love sacrifice;” for “it is a fountain of interior life”, of intimacy with God. Teach me how to “love the Cross,” for it “is an altar of sacrifice”, (St. Josemaria) of salvation, of virtue, of holiness and of Love!
2. HISTORICAL AND MEDICAL ASPECTS OF THE CRUCIFIXION:
Thompson and Harrub provide us a summary of the historical and medical details of the Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord:
- “The Jewish historian Josephus aptly described crucifixion, following the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 66-70, as ‘THE MOST WRETCHED OF DEATHS’ (War of the Jews, 7.203). The apostle Paul penned these beautiful words describing Christ: ‘And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross’ (Philippians 2:8). Knowing that He had to continue on for humanity’s sake, a beaten and scourged Jesus began that long walk to the site of His death…Golgotha is the common name of the location at which Christ was crucified. In Greek letters, this word represents an Aramaic word, Gulgaltha (Hebrew Gulgoleth), meaning ‘a skull.’ The word Calvary (Latin Calvaria; English calvaria—skullcap) also means ‘a skull.’ Calvaria (and the Greek Kranion) are equivalents for the original Golgotha. This particular area was located just outside the city on a rounded knoll that has the appearance of a bare skull. It was here, flanked by two thieves, that Christ would bear the sins of the world. The Roman guards who accompanied Him in the procession were required to stay with Him until they could substantiate His death (Bloomquist, 1964; Barbet, 1953, p. 50).
- Having suffered considerable blood loss from the scourging, Jesus likely was in a DEHYDRATED STATE when He finally reached the top of this small knoll. Jesus was offered two drinks at Golgotha. The first—a drugged wine (i.e., mixed with myrrh) that served as a mild analgesic to deaden some of the pain—was offered immediately upon His arrival (Shroud, 1871; Davis, 1965, p. 186). However, after having tasted it, Christ refused the concoction. HE CHOSE TO FACE DEATH WITH A CLEAR MIND SO HE COULD CONQUER IT WILLFULLY AS HE SUBMITTED HIMSELF TO THE CRUELTY OF THE CROSS. ‘And when they came to a place called Golgotha, they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it’ (Matthew 27:33-34). This particular drink was intended to dull the pain in preparation for the next step of crucifixion—the nailing of the hands and feet. Thus, it would have been around this time that a battered, bleeding Jesus was thrown to the ground and nailed to the cross.
2.1. NAILING THE HANDS
- …Clearly, from the text we see that Christ’s hands and feet were nailed to the cross. Archaeological data indicate that the specific nails used during the time of Christ’s crucifixion WERE TAPERED IRON SPIKES FIVE TO SEVEN INCHES LONG WITH A SQUARE SHAFT APPROXIMATELY THREE-EIGHTHS OF AN INCH ACROSS (Haas, 1970; Tzaferis, 1970; Clements, 1992, p. 108). Various studies have demonstrated that the bony palms cannot support the weight of a body hanging from them (e.g., Barbet, 1953). The weight of the body would tear quite easily through the lumbricals and flexor tendons—breaking the metacarpal bones as the nails pulled free—allowing the body to fall to the Earth. However, in ancient terminology, the wrist was considered to be part of the hand (Barbet, 1953, p. 106; Davis, 1965, p. 184; Major, 1999, 19:86). At the base of the wrist bones, the strong fibrous band of the flexor retinaculum binds down the flexor tendons. Iron spikes driven through the flexor retinaculum easily could have passed between bony elements and held the weight of a man. This location would require that the nail be placed through either: (1) the space between the radius and carpal bones (lunate and scaphoid bones); or (2) between the two rows of carpal bones (Barbet, 1953, p. 106; DePasquale and Burch, 1963, p. 434; Lumpkin, 1978; Netter, 1994, p. 426).
- A SPIKE DRIVEN THROUGH THIS LOCATION, HOWEVER, ALMOST CERTAINLY WOULD CAUSE THE MEDIAN NERVE OR PERIPHERAL BRANCHES TO BE PIERCED , resulting in a condition known as CAUSALGIA… Any damage to this nerve would have caused EXTRAORDINARY PAIN TO RADIATE UP THE ARM, THEN THROUGH THE AXILLA, TO THE SPINAL CORD, AND FINALLY TO THE BRAIN. Primary arteries travel on the medial and lateral aspects of the wrist, and therefore would be spared if the spike had been driven into this location. [Scientific studies—using volunteer college students—have shown that people suspended from crosses with their arms outstretched in the traditional manner depicted in religious art have little problem breathing (Zugibe, 1984, p. 9). Thus, the oft’-quoted idea that death on the cross results from asphyxiation would be a factor only if the hands were nailed in an elevated fashion above the head of the victim.] And so, with His hands firmly nailed to the cross and His back bleeding and emaciated, Christ was hoisted onto the rough-hewn, upright stake.
2.2. NAILING THE FEET
- THE PAIN CHRIST MUST HAVE EXPERIENCED UP TO THIS POINT WOULD HAVE BEEN EXCRUCIATING, AND YET THE ROMAN SOLDIERS WERE ABOUT TO DELIVER EVEN MORE. There were many ways to nail the feet to the stipes, but most required the knees to be flexed and rotated laterally. It is likely that the spikes were driven through either the: (1) tarsometatarsal joint (between the metatarsal bones and cuneiform bones); or (2) the transverse tarsal joint (between the calcaneus and cuboid or navicular bones). While this placement undoubtedly would prevent the bones of Christ’s feet from breaking, it nevertheless would cause severe injury to the deep peroneal nerve or lateral plantar nerve (and artery), and certainly would pierce the quadratus plantae muscle (Netter, 1994, p. 509).
- IT WOULD NOT BE UNCOMMON BY THIS TIME FOR INSECTS TO BURROW INTO OPEN WOUNDS OR ORIFICES (SUCH AS THE NOSE, MOUTH, EARS, AND EYES) OF A CRUCIFIED VICTIM; ADDITIONALLY BIRDS OF PREY FREQUENTLY WERE KNOWN TO FEED OFF THE TATTERED WOUNDS (Cooper, 1883). It was in this position, with His precious blood seeping down the cross, that Christ uttered the amazing statement: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34).
2.3. BREATHING ON THE CROSS
- Even though blood poured from His lacerated back, ONE MAJOR PATHOPHYSIOLOGICAL IMPAIRMENT JESUS FACED DURING CRUCIFIXION WAS NORMAL RESPIRATION (i.e., breathing). Maximum inhalation would have been possible only when the body weight was supported by the nailed wrists of the outstretched arms. When Christ first was lifted onto the splinter-covered surface of the cross, His arms and body were stretched out in the form of a ‘Y.’ A momentary ‘T’ position would be required to allow proper support for inhalation. Thus, in order to breathe He was required to lift His body using His nailed wrists for leverage. Exhalation would be impossible in this position, and the immense pain placed on the wrists quickly would become too great; therefore, Christ would have to slump back into a ‘Y’ position to exhale. Jesus would be forced to continue alternating between the ‘Y’ and ‘T’ positions with every breath, trying all the while not to reopen the wounds He had received from the scourging. Fatigued muscles eventually would begin to spasm, and Christ would become exhausted from these repeated tasks, slumping permanently into the shape of a ‘Y.’ In this position, chest and respiratory muscles soon would become paralyzed from the increased strain and pain. WITHOUT STRENGTH FOR BREATH, CHRIST’S BODY WOULD BEGIN TO SUFFER FROM ASPHYXIA.” Bert Thompson, Ph.D. and Brad Harrub, Ph.D. , in “An Examination of the Medical Evidence for the Physical Death of Christ”in https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=145
“Foolish child, look: all this… He has suffered it all for you… And for me. Can you keep from crying?” St. Josemaria, Holy Rosary, 5th Sorrowful Mystery.
3. FINAL CONSIDERATION
Dear friends: “To love the Cross means being able to put oneself out, gladly, for the love of Christ, though it’s hard — and because it’s hard. You have enough experience to know that this is not a contradiction.” (St. Josemaria, Furrow, n. 519).
Dear Lord, our immense gratitude to your unfathomable love. May we learn how to correspond to your generous sacrifice for our salvation by abandoning our old ways and faithfully living the new life which you have gained for us through your Passion and Death on the Cross.
Mother, Our Lord, out of love, entrusted us to your care. Grant us the same fortitude so as to be always beside Our Lord on the Cross. May we as well be loving children of yours, as Our Lord entrusted you to us at the foot of the Cross. Amen.
Cordially inviting you to like www.facebook.com/CatholicsstrivingforHoliness to help more people in their Catholic faith and life. Thanks! Fr. Rolly Arjonillo, priest of Opus Dei.
SEE AS WELL:
- THE AGONY IN THE GARDEN. Summary vid + full text: https://wp.me/p6k7Mv-2df
- THE JEWISH AND ROMAN TRIALS. Summary vid + full text: https://wp.me/p6k7Mv-2dI
- THE SCOURGING AT THE PILLAR. Summary vid + full text: https://wp.me/p6k7Mv-2eK
- THE CROWNING WITH THORNS. Summary vid + full text: https://wp.me/p6k7Mv-2fe
- THE CARRYING OF THE CROSS. Summary vid + full text: https://wp.me/p6k7Mv-2fz
- HOW TO MEDITATE ON THE PASSION OF OUR LORD: https://wp.me/p6k7Mv-wT
- SUMMARY OF CATHOLIC TEACHING. THE PASSION AND DEATH ON THE CROSS: https://catholicsstrivingforholiness.com/2016/03/19/summaries-of-catholic-teaching-topic-10-the-passion-and-death-on-the-cross-of-our-lord-jesus-christ/
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