|Devotion to Our Lady||
Weeping Over Whom or What?
As the Evangelist tells us, there were other women among the crowds, who followed the Savior in bitter tears and lamentations (Luke 23:27). The sweetest Jesus turning toward them, addressed them and said: “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over Me; but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days shall come, wherein they shall say: Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that have not borne, and the pups that have not given suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains: Fall upon us, and to the hills: Cover us. For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?”
Sincere, but Blind
By these mysterious words the Lord acknowledged the tears shed on account of His Passion, and to a certain extent, by showing His appreciation of them, He approved of them. In these women He wished to teach us for what purpose our tears should be shed so that they may attain their end. These compassionate disciples of the Lord were at that time ignorant of the true reason for their tears, since they wept over His sufferings and injuries, and not over the cause of these sufferings; and therefore they merited to be instructed and admonished of the truth. Medicine makes the same mistake many times today, in seeking to alleviate the pains (which are the effects of the disease) without truly addressing the cause of those pains.
It was as if the Savior had said to them: “Weep over your sins and over the sins of your children, and attribute what I suffer to those sins. I suffer not for my sins, for I am guilty of none and it is not even possible that I be guilty of any. If I approve of your compassion for Me as good and just, much more do I desire you to weep over your sins, for which I suffer, and by this manner of weeping you shall acquire for yourselves and your children the price of my blood and of my Redemption, ignored by this blind people. For there shall come days, namely the days of universal judgment and chastisement, in which those shall be held fortunate, who have not begotten children; and the foreknown shall call upon the mountains and the hills to shield them against My wrath. For if their sins, now only assumed by Me, have such effects on Me, who am innocent, what horrible punishments will they draw upon those, who are so barren and without any fruits of grace and merits?”
The Fulfillment of Our Lord’s Prophecy—the Destruction of Jerusalem
Pilate was long since dead. Another Roman governor was in charge of Jerusalem. Gessius Florus loved money and hated Jews. As Roman procurator, he ruled Judea, caring little for their religious sensibilities. When tax revenues were low, he seized silver from the temple. As the uproar against him grew, in A.D. 66, he sent troops into Jerusalem who massacred 3,600 citizens. Florus’s action touched off an explosive rebellion—the First Jewish Revolt—that had been sizzling for some time.
Launching the Revolt
The Jewish Revolt began—and met its bitter end—at Masada, a hunk of rock overlooking the Dead Sea. The Romans had built a virtually impregnable fortress there. Yet the atrocities of Florus inspired some Zealots to attack Masada. Amazingly, they won, slaughtering the Roman army there. In Jerusalem, the temple captain signified solidarity with the revolt by stopping the daily sacrifices to Caesar. Soon all Jerusalem was in an uproar, expelling or killing the Roman troops. Then all Judea was in revolt; then Galilee.
The Roman governor of the region, marched from Syria with twenty thousand soldiers. He besieged Jerusalem for six months, yet failed. He left six thousand dead Roman soldiers, not to mention weaponry that the Jewish defenders picked up and used.
Emperor Nero then sent Vespasian, a decorated general, to quell the Judean rebellion. Vespasian put down the opposition in Galilee, then in Transjordan, then in Idumea. He circled in on Jerusalem. But before the coup de grace, Nero died. Vespasian became embroiled in a leadership struggle that concluded with the eastern armies calling for him to be emperor. One of his first imperial acts was to appoint his son Titus to conduct the Jewish War.
Crushing the Revolt
By now, Jerusalem was isolated from the rest of the nation, and factions within the city fought over strategies of defense. As the siege wore on, people began dying from starvation and plague. Some were even roasting and eating their dead children in order to stay alive. The high priest’s wife, who once basked in luxury, scavenged for crumbs in the streets.
Meanwhile the Romans employed new war machines to hurl boulders against the city walls. Battering rams assaulted the fortifications. Jewish defenders fought all day and struggled to rebuild the walls at night. Eventually the Romans broke through the outer wall, then the second wall, and finally the third wall. Still the Jews fought, scurrying to the temple as their last line of defense.
That was the end for the Jewish defenders and for the temple. Historian Josephus claimed that Titus wanted to preserve the Temple, but his soldiers were so angry at their resilient opponents that they burned it. The remaining Jews were slaughtered, thousands were crucified or sold as slaves.
Witness to the Destruction and Slaughter
The famous Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, had acted as a mediator for the Romans and, when negotiations failed, he witnessed the siege and aftermath. He wrote:
“Now as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury (for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other work to be done), [Titus] Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and Temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as they were of the greatest eminence; that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne; and so much of the wall enclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison [in the Upper City], as were the towers [the three forts] also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall [surrounding Jerusalem], it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it [Jerusalem] had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.
“And truly, the very view itself was a melancholy thing; for those places which were adorned with trees and pleasant gardens, were now become desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down. Nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judaea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change. For the war had laid all signs of beauty quite waste. Nor had anyone who had known the place before, had come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again. But though he [a foreigner] were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it.”
Josephus claims that 1.1 million people were killed during the siege, of which a majority were Jewish, and that 97,000 were captured and enslaved. He further writes:
“The slaughter within was even more dreadful than the spectacle from without. Men and women, old and young, insurgents and priests, those who fought and those who entreated mercy, were hewn down in indiscriminate carnage. The number of the slain exceeded that of the slayers. The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination.”
Many fled to areas around the Mediterranean. Titus reportedly refused to accept a wreath of victory, saying that the victory did not come through his own efforts but that he had merely served as an instrument of God’s wrath.
CONCLUDING MEDITATION AND PRAYER
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee,
R.. Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.
These devoted women, moved by compassion, weep over the suffering Savior. But He turns to them, saying: "Weep not for Me, Who am innocent, but weep for yourselves and for your children!" Do I ever weep for my sins? Do I ever weep over the sins of my family? St. Peter, it is said, never ceased to weep over his denial of Christ! How little do we weep, who have not sinned as little as St. Peter, but rather more—much more! Let us beg of God the grace of a real horror of sin and true contrition for our sins. For there is nothing more pleasing to Our Lord and nothing more profitable for thyself, than tears shed from contrition for sin. And if we cannot find tears, let us at least accept God's chastisements and admit our guilt with the Good Thief, who said: "For we receive the due reward for our deeds." That thief's Cross brought him paradise that very day. Let us also steal Heaven by our Crosses.
O Jesus, Who shall give to my eyes a torrent of tears, that day and night I may weep for my sins? I beseech Thee, through Thy bitter and bloody tears, to move my heart by Thy divine grace, so that from my eyes tears may flow abundantly, and that I may weep all my days over Thy sufferings, and still more over their cause, my sins.
Our Father Hail Mary. Glory Be.
V. Lord Jesus, crucified,
R. Have mercy on us!