WE ought to consider three things concerning the Passion of the Lord — firstly, its nature; secondly, its power; thirdly, its benefit.
I. On the first head it is to be noted, that the Passion of Christ was very bitter for three reasons — (1) On account of the goodness of Him suffering. (2) On account of the indignity of His Passion. (3) On account of the cruelty of those carrying out the sentence. The goodness of Him suffering is manifest from three circumstances — Firstly, because He harmed no one: 1 S. Peter ii. 22, “Who did no sin.” Secondly, because He most patiently sustained the injuries laid upon Him: 1 S. Peter ii. 23, “Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again;” Jer. xi. 19, “I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter.” Thirdly, He was doing good to all: Acts x. 38, “Who went about doing good;” S. John x. 32, “Many good works have I shewed you from My Father.” The indignity of His Death is manifest from three things — Firstly, he was judged, which was the most wicked of all: S. Luke xxiii. 21, “But they cried, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him.” Secondly, because of the many indignities which He suffered: S. Matt, xxvii. 27-30, “Gathered unto Him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped Him, and put on Him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head, and a reed in His right hand ….. And they spit upon Him.” Thirdly, because He was condemned to a most shameful death: Wisd. ii. 20, “Let us condemn Him to a most shameful death.” The cruelty of those who crucified Him is seen from three things — Firstly, very cruelly flagellated Him before death: S. Matt, xxvii. 26, “When he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.” Secondly, in giving Him at the point of death vinegar and hyssop to drink: S. John xix. 29, “They filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth;” Ps. Ixix., “In My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.” Thirdly, in wounding Him even after death: S. John xix. 34, “One of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side.”
II. On the second head it is to be noted, that the power of His Passion appeared in three things — (1) In heaven; it took away the light from it, S. Luke xxiii. 44, 45, “There was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened.” (2) In earth, for it trembled, S. Matt, xxvii. 51, “The earth did quake and the rocks rent.” (3) In Hades, who delivered up its dead, S. Matt, xxvii. 52, “Many bodies of the Saints which slept arose.” The heavens declare the power of the Passion of Christ; the earth proclaims it; Hades announced it. Phil. ii. 8, 9, “Obedient unto death ….. That at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.”
III. On the third head it is to be noted, that the benefit of the Passion extended to inhabitants of heaven, earth, and hell. By the Passion of Christ the heavenly ones were recruited; earthly men were liberated from the hand of the Devil; and the holy fathers who were in Hades, were delivered from that place. Of the first, Coloss. i. 20, “To reconcile all things unto Himself by Him, whether things in earth or things in heaven.” Of the second, S. John xii, 31, “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the princes of this world be cast out;” Coloss. ii. 15, “Having spoiled principalities and powers.” Of the third, Zech. ix. 11, “I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.”
-St. Thomas Aquinas, Lenten Homily #12