"He who is totally light, and from whom all light comes, and without whom there is only darkness, gave a veil the power to cover him. He bestowed upon whips the power to beat him unmercifully. He bestowed upon nails the power to enter and pierce the most divine hands and feet of the God who made everything. He gave power to the gibbet, called the cross, to hold up its maker and Lord, pierced and bloodied. He bestowed upon the sponge, the vinegar, the gall, and many insensible creatures, the power to insult their God and maker and have full dominion over him. Finally, he bestowed upon the lance the power to enter, open and pierce his most divine side.
"These created things should have and could have been obedient to their own Lord and maker, and not to the creature who was misusing them. But the most profound, most faithful, and totally extraordinary humility of this most high and majestic God deflates and confounds our pride-filled nothingness! The very author of life, who alone is, wished to be annihilated and made subject to all creatures, even the insensible ones, so that you, who were dead and had become insensible to divine realities, might have life through his humility and abasement. And you, O man, who were nothing, know that he, who alone is, has loved you with a love so pure and so faithful that solely out of love for you he wished to be annihilated, in order to give you most perfect being.
"The nails and the lance should and could have bent and not obeyed a creature’s misuse of them; and not pierced and wounded the most divine hands, feet, and side of their own Lord and maker. They, and other insensible objects, obeyed a creature in opposition to their Lord and maker, only because they had received power over him."
- Angela of Foligno, The Book of the Blessed Angela (Instructions), Instruction XXII (an excerpt from a circular letter to her spiritual “sons”), ca. 1298 a.d., translated from the Latin by Paul Lachance, O.F.M., as published in Angela of Foligno Complete Works, Paulist Press, Classics of Western Spirituality series, c. 1993 by Paul Lachance, O.F.M., pp. 278-279.
From the Gospel for Good Friday:
"So Pilate said to him,
“Do you not speak to me?
Do you not know that I have power to release you
and I have power to crucify you?”
Jesus answered him,
“You would have no power over me
if it had not been given to you from above.
For this reason the one who handed me over to you
has the greater sin.” (John 19:10-11)
There is a contrast between Jesus and Barabbas that Jesus seems to have foreseen. The one, Jesus, was the good shepherd who gave up His life for His sheep. The other, Barabbas, was freed in His place while Barabbas’s disciples apparently remained behind in jail (Mark 15:7). Jesus might have been seen as a Captain, as Peter and another disciple carried swords for battle, and yet Jesus told them not to fight (John 18:11). He presented Himself to the Roman soldiers who came with Judas and asked them to let his men go free (John 18:1-8), and they fled. It would take a Captain to sacrifice Himself to let His disciples go free (John 18:8), and thereby they escaped death and injury while He went to the cross.
Angela wrote near the dawn of the Italian Renaissance, when the miraculous and the artistic beauty of the faith held sway. It is one thing to believe that Jesus could have fled silently during the night and did not do so (as might more often be observed in our own time), and quite another to believe that He could have simply commanded the nails not to pierce His flesh (Angela's observation). Whatever excesses there were in medieval Christianity, they had great acceptance of the poetic, the beautiful and the miraculous. In a later age, people often see primarily Christ's humanity, although they could also see his divinity. Angela saw primarily Christ’s divinity, although she also saw His humanity.
“If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out,” we read at Luke 19:40. Inanimate objects obey His commands. Psalm 96:12 speaks of trees rejoicing, and Isaiah 35:1 says the desert shall rejoice. Creation praises Him. He who commanded the dead Lazarus to come forth from the tomb, He who healed the sick and cast out demons, could command the nails, the sword, the soldiers and the cross, but He chose not to do so. He who had the power of God over all things, who created all things (John 1:2), chose to die in a created human body, chose to accept nails.
His love is unfathomable. He who said of His church “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it,” (Matt. 16:18) also said “I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20) He who died for us did so out of love for us. The good shepherd gave up His life for His sheep, and did so willingly from love. “ No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.” (John 10:18)
The battle with Satan was won on the Cross. Jesus cried, “It is finished,” as He died. He is the light that shines in the darkness, “and the darkness does not comprehend it.” (John 1:5) He who loved us and gave up His life for us said the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. However dark it has sometimes seemed to be, His word prevails. We abide, not only in growth and sunlight, but in the darkness of the battle, and He again calls His sheep by name and saves us from the wolves, when we are His instruments and when we act as fallen creatures.
He “prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground” as He prayed in Gethsemane (Luke 22:44). He accepted the Father’s will in the crucifixion, in order to give eternal life to those who were fallen.