These are the five days that pass between the selection of the Lamb and the sacrifice. Moses orders the lamb to be chosen on the tenth day of the month of Nisan, and so our Lord enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Moses orders the lamb to be sacrificed on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening, and so Christ will be mystically sacrificed by the sword of His own voice on Holy Thursday after the supper has been eaten. Moses commanded that if a man’s family was not sufficient to eat the lamb, he must bring his neighbour into his house to eat it with him. So because the twelve were not sufficient to receive all graces, Christ has brought into His house many kinsmen who will eat of this Lamb until the end of the world.
It could be chosen from the sheep or from the goats, because if we consider Christ as He is in Himself, we confess ‘no guile was found in His mouth’; but when we think of the roughness of our transgressions that cover Him we admit ‘God has made Him sin for us’. The lamb must be a male, because Christ is the head of every man as man is the head of the woman. It must be one year old, for in that time the material sun prefigures the Sun of justice rejoicing like a giant to complete his course, nor is there any who can hide from His heat.
In these five days, though the Lamb had been set apart, the Sacrifice was unaccomplished. Even though the apostles had some dim awareness of what was to come, they enjoyed no clear perception of it. So in the Roman Mass, after Host and Chalice are first offered, the priest continues to speak so quietly that even those who stand nearest to him cannot distinctly make out his words. And immediately before the consecration he makes five crosses over what has been set apart and what is now to be sacrificed to recall these five days that passed so long ago.
These are the five days foreshadowed at the beginning of the world, when there was as yet no rational voice to offer a sacrifice of praise. Only on the sixth day was man formed who might praise his creator with words; only on the sixth day was the silence broken and the centurion being newly created cried out as the Lamb was offered, ‘This indeed is the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world!’
These are the five days of which Ozias foolishly said, ‘let us wait these five days for mercy from our Lord, for perhaps he will put a stop to his indignation, but if after five days there come no aid, we will yield ourselves to the Assyrians’, and he was rebuked by the faith of her who was the glory of Jerusalem for presuming to put God to the test. Yet he had said this not from himself, but being a ruler of the people he prophesied that after five days the anger of God would be extinguished by the severing of the devil’s head.
These are the five smooth stones from the brook which our Shepherd took when He came to the torrent in the way, one of which was sufficient by itself to destroy the tormentor of Israel.
These are the five porches of the sheep’s pool, through which the rational Lamb is passing to sacrifice. Whether or not we may follow Him wherever He goes, we may follow Him there at least, and so coming to the foot of the Cross recognise the fulfillment of the word spoken by our father Abraham on that same mountain, and exclaim with him: Deus providebit sibi victimam holocausti, ‘God Himself has provided the Lamb for the offering’. For He stands as One who was slain before the foundation of the world, and from Him come forth the rivers of living water.