Adoramus te Christe, et benedicimus tibi
Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.
(Translation: We adore you, O Christ and we bless you
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.)
In the days when our liturgies were in Latin, the above words were often sung during Lent and Holy Week. Their meaning is as fitting today as ever. We need to reflect on Christ’s passion and death with prayerful attention. All four Gospels portray the cross as central to our salvation. If there were no cross, there would be no Easter.
Before each evangelist enters into the full narrative of Jesus’ passion and death in the Gospels, he makes an announcement in several places about its coming. For example, in Mark 9, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up Mount Tabor where he becomes transfigured before them. Moses and Elijah appear with him talking together about the suffering and death Jesus, the Messiah, will undergo. Then they hear a voice: “This is my son, the one I love. Listen to him.” Suddenly, the vision ceases and only Jesus is standing there. Jesus tells them to keep the vision a secret until after he rises from the dead. The apostles are full of questions as they walk down the mountain, wondering what Jesus could mean about dying and rising again.
Towards the end of the next chapter Jesus takes the Twelve aside and tells them, “We’re going up to Jerusalem. There the son of man will be handed over to the chief priests and legal experts. They will condemn him, hand him over to pagans who will spit on him, flog him and kill him. After three days he will rise again.”
When the passion narrative finally begins with the Last Supper and the Agony in the Garden, the apostles and other friends abandon Jesus in terror. Even God seems to abandon him, according to his cry from the cross, “My God, my God! Why did you abandon me?” Jesus suffers and dies alone. Only his mother, Mary Magdalen, one of his mother’s sisters, and one disciple stayed with him to the end.