The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken from prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
When Joseph and Nicodemus found that the servants had prepared the things required for the entombment, they returned to the top of Calvary, where the Virgin was still holding the body of her Son. The soldiers still formed a guard around the top of the hill. The women brought sponges, water in earthen vases, linens, unguents and spices. All remained respectfully gazing on the Virgin as she went on with her mournful task. Magdalen remained at the feet of the body. John stood near the Mother, and all the others remained by to render any assistance. Mary bore up with all her anguish and never fainted. The Mother being the nearest relative prepared the body of the dead.
She opened the crown of thorns where it was fastened behind, and cut off the thorns sticking into the flesh, pulled them out and they were placed beside the nails in the basket on the grass. The Saviour's face was hardly natural, it was so disfigured by sufferings. The beard and hair were matted with blood, and the Mother washed all the blood away from his face, mouth, nostrils and glazed eyes, and closed the latter. Then she kissed the cheeks and covered the face with a linen cloth.
The joints had been dislocated, a gaping wound was in the right side, and a smaller one under the left arm, where the point of the lance, after passing through the heart had gone out. His right shoulder, where he had borne his cross, was wounded with the weight of the heavy beam under which he fell so often. All these wounds she washed, and then filled with balm from a vessel the women held for her. Longinus and some of the soldiers brought the water from a near-by pool. The soldiers then took the cross and threw it into the morass at the east of Calvary, where they had thrown the bodies of the thieves with their crosses.
The afternoon was drawing to a close, and the men came and asked her to allow them to take the body and finish the embalming. Once more embracing the body of her Beloved, she gave her consent. The men placed it on the bier they had brought, and then they all went down the little hill, the men carrying the body and the rest following after. They went straight down to the west about fifty feet into the little valley between Calvary and the wall of Joseph's garden, where was the flat rock which rose a little from the soil. Tenderly taking the body from the bier, they laid it on a wide linen sheet they had spread on the rock.
According to the Jewish custom, each one approached, knelt down, and kissed the face of the dead, thinking they were taking a last farewell of him they loved. Then his Mother again covered his face with a linen cloth.
John remained beside the Mother, who had followed the bier, and Joseph and Nicodemus covered the body with a sheet. Then both men knelt down, and underneath this covering, they removed the linen they had fastened round the loins, when they took the body down from the cross. They passed sponges under the large sheet covering the whole form, and washed the lower parts. Then with strips of linen they lifted up the body and washed the back without turning it over. They continued watching till the squeezed sponges gave forth nothing but pure water.
Then they poured water of myrrh over the whole body straightened out the limbs, and laid upon his lap sweet-scented herbs. A part of these herbs were scattered on the slab in the tomb where he was laid. For the Jewish mode of burial was to have the body lay like that of Asa, " on a bed of spices." Some of these herbs were also burned in honor of the deceased. This was the reason they brought about a hundred Ibs. weight of myrrh and aloes. (1 John xix. 39, See Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, Art. Burial.)
During the preparation, they anointed all the wounds with ointment, and Mary Magdalen poured into the great wound in his side a small bottle of costly balm. Joseph of Arimathea had bought a large linen sheet, fifteen feet long and three feet wide and they placed this under the body, the head in the center, and then they doubled it over him, covering him all over before and behind. It is said that this is the large linen cloth now in the costly casket over the altar of the royal chapel of the cathedral, Turin, Italy, with the features of the Saviour's face and form imprinted on it. After the resurrection, it is said that this sheet with the other instruments of the Passion was guarded by the Lord's followers, and handed down to following generations. But it is hard to verify these things, many learned works have been published to prove it to be the true winding-sheet.
Then the men brought the bier, which they covered with a cloth, and with care and reverence they placed the body on it. The bier used at Jewish funerals had four handles, two at each end. Coffins were not used among the Jews. But the body was prepared with ointments and spices as we have described, as the words of Christ to Mary Magdalen at the supper in Bethany in the Greek mean " with a view to dressing it with these ointments and grave-cloths."
It was customary for the nearest relatives to carry the bier from the house to the tomb. Joseph and Nicodemus took the two forward handles, and John and Emelianus the rear ones, and they lifted them on to their shoulders, and started for the tomb. Mary the Mother, being the nearest relative, walked first, with her sister Mary of Cleophas and niece Salome at each side. Then came Mary Magdalen, Mary of Hell, Christ's aunt, she being the Virgin's eldest sister, Martha, Veronica, Johanna, Chusa, Mary, Mark's mother, Salome, the mother of James and John the Apostles, Susanna, Rhode, Mary, Salome, Salome of Jerusalem. Casius or Longinus, the other Apostles and disciples who had just come. Then followed Marone of Nairn, whose son Schila Christ had raised from the dead. Diana, the Samaritan with whom Christ had talked at the well.
Other Marys besides the Virgin Mother are given in the Scriptures. One of them, wife of Cleophas, was either the Virgin's sister, or of Joseph her spouse, and therefore by birth or marriage Christ's aunt. She was mother of James the Minor, Emeriana, grandmother of John the Baptist, gave birth to Anna the mother of John the Baptist. She married Zachary the priest, after whose death she wedded Cleophas, by whom she had a daughter called Mary, who, later married Alpheus and gave birth to James and Philip the Apostles. The Virgin's sister, Anna, sister of Emeriana, having lost her husband, married Salome, by whom she had a daughter she called Mary, who espoused Zebedee and from that union were born James and John the Apostles. Two Apostles were named James.
St. Jerome's sermon for Easter has the following. " We read in the Gospels that there were four Marys; first, the Mother of the Lord and Saviour; second, his maternal aunt, who was called Mary of Cleophas ; third, Mary the mother of James and Joseph ; fourth, Mary Magdalene— though some maintain that the mother of James and Joseph was his aunt." The MS. thus concludes: " The holy Apostle and Evangelist John with his own hand wrote this little book in Hebrew, and the learned doctor Jerome rendered it from Hebrew into Latin."
Mariamne was the sister of Philip the Apostle and she traveled with him during his missionary labors to the city of Ophioryma, called Hieropolis of Asia, and Bartholomew, one of the seventy-two disciples, came with them, and sitting in the entry of Stachys' house she met the people coming to meet the Apostles. She preached Christ to them. Later she was tortured to death.
Zalomi and that other Salome St. Joseph called to attend to the Virgin in the cave at Bethlehem, just outside the city walls to the east, when she brought forth the Saviour that first Christmas night; Anna, St. Joseph's niece, Lazarus, John Mark, who wrote the Gospel, Simon the leper now healed, the servants of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, men and women whom Christ had cured of various diseases, people out of whom he had cast demons, and all these come with a great throng of men and women who had believed in him.
Leading the procession went two servants with torches to light up the tomb. The procession marched along the little valley between Calvary and Joseph's garden in which the tomb had been excavated. This vale was about twelve feet lower than the top of Calvary. A low stone wall at the left inclosed Joseph's garden, and the gate was to the north, where is now the vestry of the church. They went along north to the gale leading into the garden, and then they came back inside to the wall to the door of the tomb.
As the funeral procession wended along, according to Jewish customs, they all sang the Psalms for the Dead. "Out of the depths I have cried to thee, O Lord." (Ps. cxxix.) " Have mercy on me, O Lord, according to thy great mercy," (Ps. 1.) etc. " It is good to give praise to the Lord," (Ps. xc.) etc. The singing was in that mournful minor key used in the Temple and synagogue.
When they came to the door of the tomb, they spread a large cloth on the grass, and reverently placed the bier on it. Then seven times they all went around the bier saying to the dead words of love, sorrow and consolation. According to the rules of the Rabbis, the women went first, the nearest relative leading, and we suppose Mary led leaning on the arm of her sister. This was the way the Jews buried their dead.
Then the women stood or sat on the sides of the little hill garden, terraced like the hills of Judea in that day with trees, shrubs, grain and grass. The tomb was new. No one had been laid in it. Joseph made it for himself. It was beautifully cut and carved out of the white yellowish limestone which here jutted out.
They went into the inner chamber, spread on the rock-shelf at the right the aromatic herbs and spices, cover ing that rock-shelf about three feet from the floor. Then over them they spread a large linen sheet.
Coining out, they take the body from the bier, reverently carry it in and lay it on the bed of herbs, with the feet to towards the door, the head to the west. The women come in and cover it with the flowers they had gathered in the garden. The men take up the large cloth covering the bier, and spread it over the body. Thus was the body of the dead Lord laid to rest according to the customs of his fathers. " Thus said the Lord to me, I will take my rest, and consider in my place." (Isaias xviii. 4.)
Coming out, they carefully close the bronze gates between the two rooms. (Baruch vi. 17) Then with levers they roll the large round stone, called the Golal, which the law said must be permanently fixed the fourth day after death.
In the person of the dead Lord lying there in the dark tomb, spoke the prophet: "He hath led me and brought me into darkness and not into light. My skin and my flesh he hath make old, he hath broken my bones. He hath built round about me, and he hath compassed me with gall and labor. He hath set me in dark places, as those who are dead forever. He hath built against me round about, that I may not get out, he hath made my letters heavy." (Lamentations iii. 2-7.)