Portion of a Good Friday sermon

Giovanni Maria da Tusa

Translated by Patrick Colbourne OFM Cap

From Costanzo Cargnoni OFM Cap, I Frati Cappuccini, III, 1, pages 1855-1859

Giovanni Maria Bruno da Tusa (+ 1584) was Vicar General of the Order of Capuchin friars from 1581 to 1584. He is preaching soon after the Council of Trent.[1]

His handwritten manuscripts contain his Advent and Lenten sermons. They contain seven sermons for the Sundays in Advent, Christmas, the Circumcision and the Epiphany.[2] Four sermons for the first to the fourth Sundays after Easter as well as two other for Ordinary Time are also there.[3] Most important are forty-five sermons for the season of lent, as well as a sermon on the Incarnation, and a panegyric for the feast of St Joseph.[4]

Giovanni Maria da Tusa’s longest sermon was preached on Good Friday and ran to thirty-two pages of text. The subject was Christ’s Passion. It commented on all the Gospel accounts in a moving and meditative manner placing particular stress on Christ’s mental sufferings. This sermon is probably the most typical representation of his oratorical style and his doctrinal and theological teaching. By the use of literary imagery, he shows the capacity to emotionally dramatise apocryphal scenes. The material has been gathered from the “Meditation on the Life of Christ” that was attributed to Bonaventure and tells how Christ said goodbye to his Mother and got her permission before going to his death on the cross. A portion of this sermon is quoted below.[5]

For more details of the content and preaching style of Giovanni Maria da Tusa see Costanzo Cargnoni’s treatment in Critical Introduction to Early Capuchin Preaching.

Devout souls, you ought to consider the sorrow that his Mother experienced considering that leaving him was such a major thing. This was because her sorrow was based on love and the more love a person has for something the greater the sorrow that they experience. Since the Blessed Virgin’s love for her only Son was far beyond that of any other mother, it was out of such incomparable love that she gave Christ up to death. Christ experienced no less love for his dearest Mother and when he asked her for her final permission and left, he experienced the greatest sorrow. Now in the morning, when it was time to eat, Martha prepared the meal for her Master, as she usually did, He wanted them all to eat it together including herself and his disciples. At that time Judas was not at Bethania under the pretext of having to go to Jerusalem to prepare things for the feast of the Pasch. He made arrangements with the Chief Priests so that they could prepare people for him to make the betrayal the following night.

When our Saviour came to the table and began to eat with his most holy Mother and the disciple, as he began to eat, he turned pale because he was frightened of the sufferings that his most holy Mother would have to undergo because of losing him. He felt so sad that he could no longer eat. When she saw this, his most holy Mother asked him what was wrong and he began to sigh and look at his most holy Mother with a tender heart. Because his tenderness could not stop him from crying, so that he would not burst into tears in front of the others, he asked his Mother to take him into a room as he wanted to speak to her in private. The poor Mother experienced great grief and wanted to know what the meaning of the tears was and what her Son wanted to tell her. Martha and Magdalene were standing close by to see the outcome of such grief. The Lord looked at his Mother frequently sighing deeply and could not begin to speak, impeded by the tears and sighing. The poor Mother cried because she saw her Son crying but did not know why.

At last the Saviour said: “beloved and revered Mother, you know that the time has come for which I came down to earth, took flesh in your virginal womb and remained there for nine months. I was born and fed on your milk. I was subject to you. I have to die out of obedience to the Eternal Father. Thus, the time has come when I have to leave you. Consequently, be comforted, have patience, bless me and give me your permission to go and carry out the command of the Eternal Father so that you may be quickly consoled, on the third day by my glorious resurrection.”

My beloved in Christ, consider the sadness that the most holy Mother experienced when she heard this. If, as the Mother, she would have cried when she had to give her Son permission to go to a far off place, or how a father would cry when his chose to go to a dangerous place, how do you think the Virgin Mary felt about giving her Son Jesus Christ permission to go to his death? It is certain that, having understood what was to happen, she was struck senseless, overcome, tongue-tied with grief and unable to speak, tears flowed profusely from her venerable eyes, and her hands and legs began to tremble from intense sorrow. In the end, after a long space of time, she started to speak in a weak voice saying: “O my Son, what kind of story is this? What bitterness has filled my heart? How can I watch you, my Son, going to your death? I cannot endure this or face up to it. My Son, may I not have to witness such cruelty and affliction.”

At the sobs and sighs Martha and Magdalene came running and when they saw the Mother and her Son crying, they too began to cry. Once they had understood what had brought this about and that it was over the death of their Lord and Master they began to cry more intensely and throwing themselves at the feet of Jesus they said: “O dear Master, what does this mean? We thought that you wanted to comfort us on this feast, not to abandon us! To whom will you leave your beloved Mother, your wretched disciples and the whole of your beloved family? O Lord do not cause us so much bitterness. Remain, Lord, to comfort those of us who are weak and infirm.”

Hearing the noise, the disciples came running and when they came to know the reason they too began to cry saying: “O Master, if you abandon us to whom shall we go? Who will teach us? Who will comfort us? “All cried like that others and John and Peter said: Cur nos Pater deseris? Cur nos desolatos relinquis? Invadent enim gregem tuum lupi rapaces [Our Father why do this? Why leave us desolate? For ravenous wolves will attack your sheep: Antiphon for vespers of the feast of St Martin of Tours, Bishop].

The holy Mother, who was more uneasy than anyone, having somewhat recovered her composure, knelt down in front of her Son. Sighing deeply, he raised her up and made her sit down. Then she said: “My dear Son, my hope, you are omnipotent, nothing can resist what you wish for. You can set mankind free without dying. You are very wise and know every possible way in which salvation could be achieved. You are very merciful and without going through your Passion you could wipe out the sins of men and forgive them for everything. Because of this I beg of you not to die, or allow youself to suffer death, since you could easily find another way of achieving salvation. Comfort my suffering if you want to be of any help to me”.

Her Son responded to these words with tenderness: “Venerable Mother, you know that I possess the same substance as my Father, and that I am omnipotent. It is necessary for me to endure an ignominious death on a cross so that the divine omnipotence might be shown more clearly when by dying on a cross with my bare hands fixed to the wood of the cross I would wipe out the forceful tyranny of the Devil over the world. This would also manifest the divine wisdom which is part of the hidden and unknown mystery of death on a cross, which means triumph over the malice of the astute serpent, which conquered man by using a tree. It would also demonstrate the great goodness of divine love that after God had been offended and mankind had done the wrong thing, in seeking reconciliation for this God himself came to mankind to lead it back to him, restoring it to peace by a death which he suffered to make up for what had been don, and so there is no other way to do this other than by dying to achieve the salvation of human kind. Be comforted therefore Mother, and be patient.”

Once she had grasped the meaning of this, the Sorrowful Mother replied saying: “My dearest Son, if you are able to do nothing but die on the cross, I implore you to at least to lessen the punishment and not make it any worse.”

Her Son said: “Mother, I cannot do that even though my sufferings were to be more excessive than all kinds of suffering. It is necessary that I have to undergo mind-numbing fear in the garden and so much agony in prayer that it will open my veins to shed blood. It is necessary that after I have been tightly bound, kicked and struck that I be taken to the High Priest and hit, and cursed in his presence and receive cruel blows to my cheek and then be taken to Pilate, where I will be accused of deserving death and be accused of being insane, taken before Herod and clothed in a white garment and, following many insults, be brought back to the Praetorium of Pilate. It is necessary that I be stripped, scourged till blood comes out of every part of my body and be clothed in purple and crowned with thorns, struck, receive spit in my eyes and have a reed placed in my hand and be adored while my head is lowered in shame. It is necessary for me to be condemned to death by Pilate and go to Calvary with the cross on my shoulder where I will be given gall to drink and stripped naked to be put on a cross with great criminals, having two thieves beside me, and thus surrender my spirit to the Father amidst intolerable suffering since it was written in Isaiah [53:2-3], Non est species neque decor: Vidimus eum et non erat erat aspectus; et nos reputavimus eum quasi leprosum, virum doloru.. In the same book: [Is 1:6] A planta pedis usque ad verticem capitis non est in eo sanitas. Thus, it is necessary to fulfil what was foretold in the prophecies in Scripture and what they have predicted about me.”

At this point, the disconsolate Mother who was overcome with sadness, collapsed on top of her Son as if she were exhausted and almost dead. However, her sweet Son comforted her and all the others, that is Magdalene, Martha and the disciples cried without stopping.

After a while, when she had composed herself, the Virgin said tearfully: “If it is the Father’s will that you, my Son, should undergo such suffering, I beg of you, at least not to suffer alone, but let me suffer the scourging, the crown of thorns the cross and death with you, so that I can take some comfort by doing this.”

The Lord replied: “Sweetest Mother, you do not understand. You cannot have such a grace because it does not become your sanctity to be subject to such shame or to die in front of such a crowd. However, you will not be spared from suffering since according to the prophet Simeon your heart will be pierced by the sword of suffering and compassion. It is none the less still necessary for me to endure death and the suffering on my own since I have to overcome then and triumph in accord with Isaiah wrote: Torcular calcavi solus et de gentibus non est vir mecum [Is 63:3]. Therefore, my Mother, ease your suffering. Our suffering will not last long since comfort with come about in three days and then I will return from death in glory, strip hell, bind Lucifer. At that time you will perhaps be the only one keeping faith, when all the others have been shocked and left me and lost faith and then you will be the only one to give them strength.”

Then when the Most Holy Mother had calmed down and become tranquil, she said: “May your will and that of the Eternal Father be done, my most sweet Son. I am contented to drink the very bitter chalice since this is what has been decided and predestined by your divine will and that of the Eternal Father.” Her Son said: “Holy Mother, it is time to go to Jerusalem and eat the Pasch. Give me your permission and your blessing.”

Consider the grief that the Mother experienced when she realised what the kiss meant. O how her heart was beating with sorrow as she bent down and said: “O my Son, if it were only possible for me to arrange that you would not have to leave me, I would come to death together with you. Indeed, your leaving me is the same as death.”

Her Son said: “My Mother you cannot do that. It is necessary for me to go ahead and open heaven and that you then follow me. It is also necessary that you remain in the world for a while, not only to comfort and teach my disciples, but also so that your way of life be an example for the entire world. Give me your blessing because it is time to go.”

Like someone who was sending her Son to death, the Mother said with many tears: “O blessed Son, whom the angels and all creatures bless because you and my God and my Lord, you ought to bless me. However, out of the authority I have as a mother, may you be blessed by the Holy Spirit, by whose power you were formed and conceived in my womb. May you also be blessed by the Father from whom you were generated from eternity. May you be blessed by me your unworthy Mother. My Son, I bless your most pure body, your most holy soul. I bless you with the milk with which, as a small child, I fed you. I bless you with the sweat and blood with which I served you. I bless you from head to foot, my very sweet and beloved Son”.

As Jesus Christ genuflected on the ground, he received the blessing. Out of those who remained he said to Magdalene and Martha who were crying bitterly: “Comfort and assist my Mother, because she is an outsider. Do not abandon her at this time of tribulation.” They knelt down and kissed his sacred hands and withdrew overcome by sorrow and an abundance of tears. In the same way when the disciples were leaving, they asked permission from the Virgin. She gave them her blessing and asked them to remember her Son, speaking especially to Peter and John. Then they all went with their Master to Jerusalem. However, the Mother did not leave, she could not follow in the footsteps of her Son. She followed him with her eyes for as long as she was able to see him. Then sighing greatly, she went back into Martha and Magdalene, continuing to cry and lament over her Son, her life, her consolation and her joy.[6]

  1. Cf. Costanzo Cargnoni OFM Cap, I Frati Cappuccini, III, 1, p. 1837.
  2. Cf. Manuale, ff. 1r-33v, 42r-63v.
  3. One of these is on “Canonical election” (choice of a candidate for an office); and the other is about “Preaching with a short word”.
  4. Cf. Quadragesimale, ff. 1v-422r; cf. Costanzo Cargnoni OFM Cap, I Frati Cappuccini, III, 1, p. 1844.
  5. Translation by Patrick Colbourne of Costanzo Cargnoni OFM Cap, I Frati Cappuccini, III, 1, p. 1855.
  6. Ibid., ff. 346v-348v, sermon 42.