|Devotion to Our Lady||
Thursday 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Jesus takes leave of His Most Holy Mother.
(taken from or based upon revelations made by the Our Lady to the Venerable Mary of Agreda in The Mystical City of God)
She realized that soon She was to be deprived of this blessed intercourse and of the beauty of his countenance, of the vivifying sweetness of his words; that She was not only to lose all this at once, but moreover that She was to deliver Him over into the hands of wicked enemies, to ignominies and torments and to the bloody sacrifice of a death on the Cross. How deeply must all these considerations and circumstances, now so clearly before Her mind, have penetrated into her tender and loving heart and filled it with a sorrow immeasurable! But with the magnanimity of a Queen, vanquishing this invincible pain, She prostrated Herself at the feet of Her divine Son and Master, and, in deepest reverence, kissing his feet, answered:
"Lord and highest God, Author of all that has being, though Thou art the Son of my womb, I am thy handmaid; the condescension of thy ineffable love alone has raised me from the dust to the dignity of being thy Mother. It is altogether becoming that I, vile wormlet, acknowledge and thank thy most liberal clemency by obeying the will of the eternal Father and thy own.
I offer myself and resign myself to his divine pleasure in order that in Me, just as in Thee, my Son and Lord his eternal and adorable will be fulfilled. The greatest sacrifice which I can make, is that I shall not be able to die with Thee, and that our lot should not be inverted; for to suffer in imitation of Thee and in thy company would be a great relief for my pains, and all torments would be sweet, if undergone in union with thine.
That Thou shouldst endure all these torments for the salvation of mankind shall be my only relief in my pains. Receive, O my God, this sacrifice of my desire to die with Thee, and of my still continuing to live, while thou, the most innocent Lamb and figure of the substance of thy eternal Father undergoest Death (Hebrews 1:3).
Receive also the agonies of my sorrow to see the inhuman cruelty of thy enemies executed on thy exalted Person because of the wickedness of the human kind. O ye heavens and elements and all creatures within them, ye sovereign spirits, ye Patriarchs and Prophets, assist me to deplore the death of my Beloved, who gave you being, and bewail with me the misery of men, who are the cause of this Death, and who, failing to profit of such great blessings, shall lose that eternal life so dearly bought!
O unhappy you, that are foreknown as doomed! and O ye happy predestined, who shall wash your stoles in the blood of the Lamb (Apocalypse 7:14), you, who knew how to profit by this blessed sacrifice, praise ye the Lord Almighty! O my Son and infinite delight of my soul, give fortitude and strength to thy afflicted Mother; admit Her as thy disciple and companion, in order that she may participate in thy Passion and Cross, in order that the eternal Father may receive the sacrifice of thy Mother in union with thine."
With these and other expressions of her sentiments, which I cannot all record in words, the Queen of heaven answered her most holy Son, and offered Herself as a companion and a coadjutrix in his Passion. Thereupon, thoroughly instructed and prepared by divine light for all the mysteries to be wrought by the Master of life towards accomplishing all his great ends, the most pure Mother, having the Lord's permission, added another request in the following words:
"Beloved of my soul and light of my eyes, my Son, I am not worthy to ask Thee what I desire from my inmost soul; but Thou, O Lord, art the life of my hope, and this my trust I beseech Thee, if such be thy pleasure, make me a participant in the ineffable Sacrament of thy body and blood.
Thou hast resolved to institute it as a pledge of thy glory and I desire in receiving Thee sacramentally in my heart to share the effects of this new and admirable Sacrament. Well do I know, O Lord, that no creature can ever merit such an exquisite blessing, which Thou hast resolved to set above all the works of thy magnificence; and in order to induce Thee to confer upon me, I have nothing else to offer except thy own and all thy infinite merits.
If by perpetuating merits through the same humanity which thou hast received from my womb, creates for me a certain right, let this right consist not so much in giving Thyself to me in this Sacrament, as in making me thine by this new possession, which restores to me thy sweetest companionship. All my desires and exertions I have devoted to the worthy reception of this holy Communion from the moment in which Thou gavest me knowledge of it and ever since it was thy fixed decree to remain in the holy Church under the species of consecrated bread and wine.
Thou then, my Lord and God, return to thy first habitation which Thou didst find in thy beloved Mother and thy slave, whom Thou hast prepared for thy reception by exempting Her from the common touch of sin. Then shall I receive within me the humanity, which I have communicated to Thee from my own blood, and thus we shall be united in a renewed and close embrace. This prospect enkindles my heart with most ardent love, and may I never be separated from Thee, who art the infinite Good and the Love of my soul."
Our Savior thus parted with his most beloved Mother and sorrowful Spouse
Thursday 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Jesus departs from His Most Holy Mother and sets out for the Cenacle.
(taken from or based upon revelations made by the Our Lady to the Venerable Mary of Agreda in The Mystical City of God)
Our Savior, having thus parted with his most beloved Mother and sorrowful Spouse, and taking along with Him all his Apostles, a little before midday of the Thursday of the last Supper, departed on his last journey from Bethany to Jerusalem. At the very outset He raised his eyes to the eternal Father, and, confessing Him in words of thankfulness and praise, again professed his most ardent love and most lovingly and obediently offered to suffer and die for the Redemption of the human race. This prayer and sacrifice of our Savior and Master sprang from such ineffable love and ardor of his spirit, that it cannot be described; all that I say of it seems to me rather a gainsaying of the truth and of what I desire to say. "Eternal Father and my God," said Christ our Lord, "in compliance with thy will I now go to suffer and die for the liberation of men, my brethren and the creatures of thy hands. I deliver Myself up for their salvation and to gather those who have been scattered and divided by the sin of Adam.
Thursday 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The Legal Supper.
The Passover was the greatest of the Jewish feasts and to understand its meaning and to follow the ritual we must turn to Exodus xii in which its institution by Moses is recorded. During the enslavement in Egypt, Jehovah had smitten the oppressors with the "tenth plague," in which all the first-born sons of the Egyptians were to be killed. In order that the Angel of Death should spare the Jewish households, the Chosen People were told to mark a sign in the blood of a lamb upon the lintel of their doorways. "Their meat that night must be roasted over the fire, their bread unleavened; wild herbs must be all their seasoning. . . . And this is to be the manner of your eating it; your loins must be girt, your feet ready shod, and every man's staff in his hand; all must be done in haste. It is the night of the Pasch, the Lord's passing by. . . . You are to observe this day . . . generation after generation; a rite never to be abrogated." For seven days the Jews must eat unleavened bread and keep the whole week consecrated to the Lord.
The Jewish tradition observed these rites faithfully and the Talmud had, in a lengthy commentary, the Pesahim, amplified the details: the lamb must be whole, with no bone broken, it must be cooked on an open fire on a spit from wood of the pomegranate; the exact number of cups which might be drunk during the sacred repast and the exact proportions, a third of wine and two of water, which each should contain; the bitter herbs were particularized and minute directions were given for the sauce in which they were steeped. Was this the meal which Jesus and his disciples ate on the Thursday night?
"On the first of the days of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, Where wilt thou have us make ready for thee to eat the paschal meal?" (Matt. 26:17-19; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7-8.)
The exact date of Last Supper, and its consequent significance, was very much debated in the early Church. Eusebius wrote a commentary on it and it even gave birth to a heresy. We have seen that the great feast day must have been the fifteenth day of Nisan. The Passover lamb was eaten on the evening of that day. The synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke), however, suggest that the Last Supper which Jesus took with his disciples was the Passover feast, but St. John says plainly that the day of the paschal meal (not the day Jesus ate the meal) was the day on which he died. According to the synoptics, the Thursday of the Last Supper was the fourteenth day of Nisan and Jesus died on Friday the fifteenth. According to the Fourth Gospel, the Supper took place on the thirteenth and the Crucifixion on the fourteenth. If we conclude, from the reading of St. John, that the Last Supper was not the Passover feast, it seems we are going against considerable evidence to the contrary from the synoptics (for example Mark 14:12; Mathew 26:17; Luke 22:7; Mark14:17; Mathew 26:20; Luke 22:14-15). Should we then conclude that it was? St. John himself states that the Pharisees ate the Passover after the death of Jesus (18:28).
Thursday 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
The Eucharistic Supper.
(taken from or based upon revelations made by the Our Lady to the Venerable Mary of Agreda in The Mystical City of God)
Thereupon Christ our Lord took into his venerable hands the bread, which lay upon the plate, and interiorly asked the permission and co-operation of the eternal Father, that now and ever afterwards in virtue of the words about to be uttered by Him, and later to be repeated in his holy Church, He should really and truly become present in the host, Himself to yield obedience to these sacred words. While making this petition He raised his eyes toward heaven with an expression of such sublime majesty, that He inspired the Apostles, the angels and his Virgin Mother with new and deepest reverence.
Then He pronounced the words of consecration over the bread, changing its substance into the substance of his true body and immediately thereupon He uttered the words of consecration also over the wine, changing it into his true blood. As an answer to the these words of consecration was heard the voice of the eternal Father, saying: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I delight, and shall take my delight to the end of the world; and He shall be with men during all the time of their banishment." In like manner was this confirmed by the Holy Ghost.
The most sacred humanity of Christ, in the Person of the Word, gave tokens of profoundest veneration to the Divinity contained in the Sacrament of his body and blood. The Virgin Mother, in her retreat prostrated Herself on the ground and adored her Son in the blessed Sacrament with incomparable reverence. Then also the angels of her guard, all the angels of heaven, and among them likewise the souls of Enoch and Elias, in their own name and in the name of the Patriarchs and Prophets of the old law, fell down in adoration of their Lord in the holy Sacrament.
All the Apostles and disciples, who, with the exception of the traitor, believed in this holy Sacrament, adored it with great humility and reverence according to each one's disposition. The great high priest Christ raised up his own consecrated body and blood in order that all who were present at this first Mass might adore it in a special manner, as they also did. During this elevation his most pure Mother, saint John, Enoch and Elias, were favored with an especial insight into the mystery of his presence in the sacred species.
They understood more profoundly, how, in the species of the bread, was contained his body and in those of the wine, his blood; how in both, on account of the inseparable union of his soul with his body and blood, was present the living and true Christ; how with the Person of the Word, was also therein united the Person of the Father and of the Holy Ghost; and how therefore, on account of the inseparable existence and union of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the holy Eucharist contained the perfect humanity of the Lord with the three divine Persons of the Godhead.
All this was understood most profoundly by the heavenly Lady and by the others according to their degree. They understood also the efficacy of the words of the consecration, now endowed with such divine virtue, that as soon as they are pronounced with the intention of doing what Christ did at that time, by any priest since that time over the proper material, they would change the bread into his body and the wine into his blood, leaving the accidents to subsist in a new way and without their proper subject. They saw, that this change would take place so certainly and infallibly that heaven and earth would sooner fall to pieces, than that the effect of these words of consecration, when pronounced in the proper manner by the sacerdotal minister of Christ, should ever fail.
The heavenly Queen understood also by a special vision how the most sacred body of Christ is hidden beneath the accidents of bread and wine without change in them or alteration of the sacred humanity; for neither can the Body be the subject of the accidents, nor can the accidents be the form of the body. The accidents retain the same extension and qualities as before, and each of their parts retain the same position after the host has been consecrated; and the sacred body is present in an invisible form, also retaining the same size without intermingling of parts. It remains in the whole host, and all of it in every particle of the host, without being strained by the host, or the host by the body. For neither is the extension of his body correlative with the accidental species, nor do they depend upon the sacred body for their existence. They therefore have a totally different mode of existence and the body interpenetrates the accidents without hindrance.
Still greater was my admiration when Jesus our God, having raised the most holy Sacrament, as I said before, for their adoration, divided it by his own sacred hands, first partook of it himself as being the First and chief of all the priests. Recognizing himself, as man, inferior to the Divinity, which He was now to receive in this his own consecrated body and blood. He humiliated and, as it were, with a trembling of the inferior part of his being, shrank within Himself before that Divinity, thereby not only teaching us the reverence with which holy Communion is to be received ; but also showing us what was his sorrow at the temerity and presumption of many men during the reception and handling of this exalted and sublime Sacrament.
The effects of holy Communion in the body of Christ were altogether miraculous and divine; for during a short space of time the gifts of glory flowed over in his body just as on mount Tabor, though the effects of this transfiguration were manifest only to his blessed Mother, and partly also to John, Enoch and Elias. This was the last consolation He permitted his humanity to enjoy as to its inferior part during his earthly life, and from that moment until his Death He rejected all such alleviation. The Virgin Mother, by a special vision, also understood how Christ her divine Son received Himself in the blessed Sacrament and what was the manner of its presence in his divine Heart. All this caused inestimable affection in our Queen and Lady.
While receiving his own body and blood Christ our Lord composed a canticle of praise to the eternal Father and offered Himself in the blessed Sacrament as a sacrifice for the salvation of man. He took another particle of the consecrated bread and handed it to the archangel Gabriel who brought and communicated it to the most holy Mary. By having such a privilege conferred on one of their number, the holy angels considered themselves sufficiently recompensed for being excluded from the sacerdotal dignity and for yielding it to man.
The privilege of merely having even one of their number hold the sacramental body of their Lord and true God filled them with a new and immense joy. In abundant tears of consolation the great Queen awaited holy Communion. When saint Gabriel with innumerable other angels approached, She received it, the first after her Son, imitating his self-abasement, reverence and holy fear. The most blessed Sacrament was deposited in the breast and above the heart of the most holy Virgin Mother, as in the most legitimate shrine and tabernacle of the Most High. There the ineffable sacrament of the holy Eucharist remained deposited from that hour until after the Resurrection, when saint Peter said the first Mass and consecrated anew.
WORDS OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
O my daughter! Would that the believers in the Catholic faith opened their hardened and stony hearts in order to attain to a true understanding of the sacred and mysterious blessing of the holy Eucharist! If they would only detach themselves, root out and reject their earthly inclinations, and, restraining their passions, apply themselves with living faith to study by the divine light their great happiness in thus possessing their eternal God in the holy Sacrament and in being able, by its reception and constant intercourse, to participate in the effects of this heavenly manna! If they would only worthily esteem this precious gift, begin to taste its sweetness, and share in the hidden power of their omnipotent God! Then nothing would ever be wanting to them in their exile. In this, the happy age of the law of grace, mortals have no reason to complain of their weakness and their passions; since in this bread of heaven they have at hand strength and health.
It matters not that they are tempted and persecuted by the demon; for by receiving this Sacrament frequently they are enabled to overcome him gloriously. The faithful are themselves to blame for all their poverty and labors, since they pay no attention to this divine mystery, nor avail themselves of the divine powers, thus placed at their disposal by my most holy Son. I tell thee truly, my dearest, that Lucifer and his demons have such a fear of the most holy Eucharist, that to approach it, causes them more torments than to remain in hell itself. Although they do enter churches in order to tempt souls, they enter them with aversion, forcing themselves to endure cruel pains in the hope of destroying a soul and drawing it into sin, especially in the holy places and in the presence of the holy Eucharist. Their wrath against the Lord and against the souls alone could induce them to expose themselves to the torment of his real sacramental presence.
Whenever He is carried through the streets they usually fly and disperse in all haste; and they would not dare to approach those that accompany Him, if by their long experience they did not know, that they will induce some to forget the reverence due to their Lord. Therefore they make special efforts to tempt the faithful in the churches; for they know what great injury they can thereby do to the Lord himself, who in his sacramental love is there waiting to sanctify men and to receive the return of his sweetest and untiring love.
Hence thou canst also understand the strength of those who prepare themselves to partake of this bread of the angels and how the demons fear the souls, who receive the Lord worthily and devoutly and who strive to preserve themselves in this purity until the next Communion. But there are few who live with this intention, and the enemy is ceaselessly alert in striving to throw them back into their forgetfulness, distraction and indifference, so that he may not be obliged to encounter such powerful weapons in the hands of men.
Write this admonition in thy heart; and since without thy merit the Almighty has ordained, that thou receive holy Communion daily, seek by all possible means to preserve thyself in the good dispositions from one Communion to the other. It is the will of the Lord and my own, that with this sword thou fight the battles of the Almighty in the name of the holy Church against the invisible enemies. For in our days they are heaping affliction and sorrow upon the mistress of nations, while there is none to console her or to take it to heart (Lamentations 1:10). Do thou thyself weep for the same reason and let thy heart be torn in sorrow.
But while the omnipotent and just Judge who is so greatly incensed against the Catholics for having outraged his justice by their unmeasurable and continual transgressions even under the aegis of their grand faith, none are found to consider and weigh the fearful damage, nor to approach the easy remedy of receiving the holy Eucharist with a contrite and humble heart; nor does any one ask for my intercession.
Though all the children of the Church largely incur this fault, yet more to be blamed are the unworthy and wicked priests; for by the irreverence with which they treat the blessed Sacrament the other Catholics have been drawn to undervalue it. If the people see their priests approach the divine mysteries with holy fear and trembling, they learn to treat and receive their God in like manner. Those that so honor Him shall shine in heaven like the sun among the stars; for the glory of my divine Son's humanity will redound in a special measure in those who have behaved well toward Him in the blessed Sacrament and have received Him with all reverence; whereas this will not happen to those who have not frequented this holy table with devotion.
Moreover the devout will bear on their breast, where they have so often harbored the holy Eucharist, most beautiful and resplendent inscriptions, showing that they were most worthy tabernacles of the holy Sacrament. This will be a great accidental reward for them and a source of jubilation and admiration for the holy angels and the rest of the blessed. They will also enjoy the special favor of being able to penetrate deeper into the mystery of the presence of the Lord in the sacrament and to understand all the rest of the wonders hidden therein. This will be such a privilege, that it alone would suffice for their eternal happiness, even if there were no other enjoyment in heaven. Moreover the essential glory of those, who have worthily and devoutly received the holy Eucharist, will in several respects exceed the glory of many martyrs who have not received the body and blood of the Lord.
I wish thee also to hear, my dearest daughter from my own mouth, what were my sentiments when in mortal life I was about to receive holy Communion. In order that thou mayest better understand what I say, reflect on all I have commanded thee to write about my gifts, merits and labors in life. I was preserved from original sin and, at the instant of my Conception, received the knowledge and vision of the Divinity, as thou hast often recorded.
I knew more than all saints; I surpassed the highest seraphim in love; I never committed any fault; I constantly practiced all the virtues in a heroic degree and in the least of them I was greater than all the saints in their highest perfection; the intention and object of my actions were most exalted and my habits and gifts were noble without measure; I imitated my most holy Son most closely; I labored faithfully; I suffered with eagerness and co-operated with the doings of the Lord exactly as was becoming to me; I ceased not to exercise my love and gain new supereminent merits of grace. Yet I thought myself to have been fully repaid by being allowed to receive Him even once in the holy Eucharist; yea, I did not consider myself worthy of this one favor.
Reflect then what should be thy sentiments, and those of the rest of the children of Adam, on being admitted to the reception of this admirable Sacrament. And if for the greatest of saints one holy Communion is a superabundant reward, what must the priests and the faithful think, when they are allowed to receive it so frequently? Open thy eyes in the deep darkness and blindness which overwhelm men around thee, and raise them up to the divine brightness in order to understand these mysteries.
Look upon all thy works as insufficient, all thy sufferings as most insignificant, all thy thanksgiving as falling far short of what thou owest for such an exquisite blessing as that of possessing in the holy Church, Christ my divine Son, present in the holy Sacrament in order to enrich all the faithful. If thou hast not wherewith to show thy thanks for this and the other blessings which thou receivest, at least humiliate thyself to the dust and remain prostrate upon it; confess thyself unworthy in all the sincerity of thy heart. Magnify the Most High, bless and praise Him, preserving thyself at all times worthy to receive Him and to suffer many martyrdoms in return for such a favor.
Thursday 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
First Hour of Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
(taken from or based upon revelations made by the Our Lady to the Venerable Mary of Agreda in The Mystical City of God)
Our Savior pursued his way across the torrent of Cedron (John 18:1) to mount Olivet and entered the garden of Gethsemane. Then He said to all the Apostles: "Wait for Me, and seat yourselves here while I go a short distance from here to pray (Matthew 26:36); do you also pray, in order that you may not enter into temptation" (Luke 22:40).
The divine Master gave them advice, in order that they might be firm in the temptations, of which He had spoken to them at the Supper: that all of them should be scandalized on account of what they should see Him suffer that night, that Satan would assail them to sift and stir them up by his false suggestions; for the Pastor (as prophesied) was to be ill-treated and wounded and the sheep were to be dispersed (Zacharias 13:7).
Then the Master of life, leaving the band of eight Apostles at that place and taking with Him saint Peter, saint John, and saint James, retired to another place, where they could neither be seen nor heard by the rest (Mark 14:33).
Being with the three Apostles He raised his eyes up to the eternal Father confessing and praising Him as was his custom; while interiorly He prayed in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zacharias, permitting death to approach the most innocent of men and commanding the sword of divine justice to be unsheathed over the Shepherd and descend upon the Godman with all its deathly force. In this prayer Christ our Lord offered Himself anew to the eternal Father in satisfaction of his justice for the rescue of the human race; and He gave consent, that all the torments of his Passion and Death be let loose over that part of his human being, which was capable of suffering.
From that moment He suspended and strained whatever consolation or relief would otherwise overflow from the impassable to the passable part of his being, so that in this dereliction his passion and sufferings might reach the highest degree possible. The eternal Father granted these petitions and approved this total sacrifice of the sacred humanity.
Thursday 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Second Hour of Agony in the Garden of Gethsemani.
This prayer was as it were the floodgate through which the rivers of his suffering were to find entrance like the resistless onslaught of the ocean, as was foretold by David (Psalm 68:2). And immediately He began to be sorrowful and feel the anguish of his soul and therefore said to the Apostles: "My soul is sorrowful unto death" (Mark 14:34).
He threw himself with his divine face upon the ground and prayed to the eternal Father: "Father, if it is possible, let this chalice pass from Me" (Matthew 24:38). This prayer Christ our Lord uttered, though He had come down from heaven with the express purpose of really suffering and dying for men; though He had counted as naught the shame of his Passion, had willingly embraced it and rejected all human consolation; though He was hastening with most ardent love into the jaws of death, to affronts, sorrows and afflictions; though He had set such a high price upon men, that He determined to redeem them at the shedding of his life-blood. Since by virtue of his divine and human wisdom and his inextinguishable love He had shown Himself so superior to the natural fear of death, that it seems this petition did not arise from any motive solely coming from Himself. That this was so in fact, was made known to me in the light which was vouchsafed me concerning the mysteries contained in this prayer of the Savior.
Thursday 11:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Third Hour of Agony in the Garden of Gethsemani.
This agony of Christ our Savior grew in proportion to the greatness of his charity and the certainty of his knowledge, that men would persist in neglecting to profit by his Passion and Death (Luke 22:44). His agony increased to such an extent, that great drops of bloody sweat were pressed from Him, which flowed to the very earth. Although this prayer was uttered subject to a condition and failed in regard to the reprobate who fell under this condition; yet He gained thereby a greater abundance and secured a greater frequency of favors for mortals. Through it the blessings were multiplied for those who placed no obstacles, the fruits of the Redemption were applied to the saints and to the just more abundantly, and many gifts and graces, of which the reprobates made themselves unworthy, were diverted to the elect.
The human will of Christ, conforming itself to that of the Divinity, then accepted suffering for each respectively: for the reprobate, as sufficient to procure them the necessary help, if they would make use of its merits, and for the predestined, as an efficacious means, of which they would avail themselves to secure their salvation by cooperating with grace. Thus was set in order, and as it were realized, the salvation of the mystical body of his holy Church, of which Christ the Lord was the Creator and Head.
As a ratification of this divine decree, while yet our Master was in his agony, the eternal Father for the third time sent the archangel Michael to the earth in order to comfort Him by a sensible message and confirmation of what He already knew by the infused science of his most holy soul; for the angel could not tell Our Lord anything He did not know, nor could he produce any additional effect on his interior consciousness for this purpose.
Friday 12:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Jesus is arrested.
The Lord returned third time to his Apostles and finding them asleep spoke to them: "Sleep ye now, and take your rest. It is enough: the hour is come ; behold the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise up, let us go. Behold he that will betray Me is at hand (Mark 14:41).
Such were the words of the Master of holiness to the three most privileged Apostles; He was unwilling to reprehend them more severely than in this most meek and loving manner. Being oppressed, they did not know what to answer their Lord, as Scripture says (Mark 14:40). They arose and Jesus went with them to join the other eight disciples. He found them likewise overcome and oppressed by their great sorrow and fallen asleep.
The Master then gave orders, that all of them together, mystically forming one body with Him their Head, should advance toward the enemies, thereby teaching them the power of mutual and perfect unity for overcoming the demons and their followers and for avoiding defeat by them. For a triple cord is hard to tear, as says Ecclesiastes (4:12), and he that is mighty against one, may be overcome by two, that being the effect of union.
The Lord again exhorted all the Apostles and forewarned them of what was to happen. Already the confused noise of the advancing band of soldiers and their helpmates began to be heard. Our Savior then proceeded to meet them on the way, and, with incomparable love, magnanimous courage and tender piety prayed interiorly: "O sufferings longingly desired from my inmost soul, ye pains, wounds, affronts, labors, afflictions and ignominious death, come, come, come quickly, for the fire of love, which burns for the salvation of men, is anxious to see you meet the Innocent one of all creatures. Well do I know your value, I have sought, desired, and solicited you and I meet you joyously of my own free will; I have purchased you by my anxiety in searching for you and I esteem you for your merits. I desire to remedy and enhance your value and raise you to highest dignity. Let death come, in order that by my accepting it without having deserved it I may triumph over it and gain life for those who have been punished by death for their sins (Osee 13:14). I give permission to my friends to forsake Me; for I alone desire and am able to enter into this battle and gain for them triumph and victory" (Isaias 53:3).
During these words and prayers of the Author of life Judas advanced in order to give the signal upon which he had agreed with his companions (Matthew 26:48), namely the customary, but now feigned kiss of peace, by which they were to distinguish Jesus as the One whom they should single out from the rest and immediately seize.
These precautions the unhappy disciple had taken, not only out of avarice for the money and hatred against his Master, but also, on account of the fear with which he was filled. For he dreaded the inevitable necessity of meeting Him and encountering Him in the future, if Christ was not put to death on this occasion. Such a confusion he feared more than the death of his soul, or the death of his divine Master, and, in order to forestall it, he hastened to complete his treachery and desired to see the Author of life die at the hands of his enemies.
The traitor then ran up to the meekest Lord, and, as a consummate hypocrite hiding his hatred, he imprinted on his countenance the kiss of peace, saying: "God save Thee, Master." By this so treacherous act the perdition of Judas was matured and God was justified in withholding his grace and help.
On the part of the unfaithful disciple, malice and temerity reached their highest degree; for, interiorly denying or disbelieving the uncreated and created wisdom by which Christ must know of his treason, and ignoring his power to destroy him, he sought to hide his malice under the cloak of the friendship of a true disciple; and all this for the purpose of delivering over to such a frightful and cruel death his Creator and Master, to whom he was bound by so many obligations. In this one act of treason he committed so many and such formidable sins, that it is impossible to fathom their immensity; for he was treacherous, murderous, sacrilegious, ungrateful, inhuman, disobedient, false, lying, impious and unequalled in hypocrisy; and all this was included in one and the same crime perpetrated against the person of God made man.
Friday 1:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
Thrown from a ledge, Jesus falls into the Cedron stream.
Having been taken prisoner and firmly bound, the most meek Lamb Jesus was dragged from the garden to the house of the high priests, first to the house of Annas (John 18:13). The turbulent band of soldiers and servants, having been advised by the traitorous disciple that his Master was a sorcerer and could easily escape their hands, if they did not carefully bind and chain Him securely before starting on their way, took all precautions inspired by such a mistrust (Mark 14:44).
Lucifer and his compeers of darkness secretly irritated and provoked them to increase their impious and sacrilegious ill treatment of the Lord beyond all bounds of humanity and decency. As they were willing accomplices of Lucifer's malice, they omitted no outrage against the person of their Creator within the limits set them by the Almighty.
They bound Him with a heavy iron chain with such ingenuity, that it encircled as well the waist as the neck. The two ends of the chain which remained free, were attached to large rings or handcuffs, with which they manacled the hands of the Lord, who created the heavens, the angels and the whole universe.
The hands thus secured and bound, they fastened not in front, but behind. This chain they had brought from the house of Annas the high priest, where it had served to raise the portcullis of a dungeon. They had wrenched it from its place and provided it with padlock handcuffs.
But they were not satisfied with this unheard-of way of securing a prisoner; for in their distrust they added two pieces of strong rope: the one they wound around the throat of Jesus and, crossing it at the breast, bound it in heavy knots all about the body, leaving two long ends free in front, in order that the servants and soldiers might jerk Him in different directions along the way. The second rope served to tie his arms, being bound likewise around his waist. The two ends of this rope were left hanging free to be used by two other executioners for jerking Him from behind.
The Pharisees lighted fresh torches, and the procession started. Ten soldiers walked in front, the archers who held the ropes and dragged Jesus along, followed, and the Pharisees and ten other soldiers brought up the rear. The disciples wandered about at a distance, and wept and moaned as if beside themselves from grief. John alone followed, and walked at no great distance from the soldiers, until the Pharisees, seeing him, ordered the guards to arrest him. They endeavored to obey, but he ran away, leaving in their hands a cloth with which he was covered, and of which they had taken hold when they endeavored to seize him. He had slipped off his coat, that he might escape more easily from the hands of his enemies, and kept nothing on but a short under garment without sleeves, and the long band which the Jews usually wore, and which was wrapped round his neck, head, and arms.
The archers behaved in the most cruel manner to Jesus as they led him along; this they did to curry favor with the six Pharisees, who they well knew perfectly hated and detested our Lord. They led him along the roughest road they could select, over the sharpest stones, and through the thickest mire; they pulled the cords as tightly as possible; they struck him with knotted cords, as a butcher would strike the beast he is about to slaughter; and they accompanied this cruel treatment with such ignoble and indecent insults that I cannot recount them. The feet of Jesus were bare; he wore, besides the ordinary dress, a seamless woolen garment, and a cloak which was thrown over all. I have forgotten to state that when Jesus was arrested, it was done without any order being presented or legal ceremony taking place; he was treated as a person without the pale of the law.
The procession proceeded at a good pace; when they left the road which runs between the Garden of Olives a, that of Gethsemane, they turned to the right, and soon reached a bridge which was thrown over the Torrent of Cedron. When Jesus went to the Garden of Olives with the Apostles, he did not cross this bridge, but went by a private path which ran through the Valley of Josaphat, and led to another bridge more to the south.
The bridge over which the soldiers led Jesus was long, being thrown over not only the torrent, which was very large in this part, but likewise over the valley, which extends a considerable distance to the right and to the left, and is much lower than the bed of the river. I saw our Lord fall twice before he reached the bridge, and these falls were caused entirely by the barbarous manner in which the soldiers dragged him; but when they were half over the bridge they gave full vent to their brutal inclinations, and struck Jesus with such violence that they threw him off the bridge into the water, and scornfully recommended him to quench his thirst there.
If God had not preserved him, he must have been killed by this fall; he fell first on his knee, and then on his face, but saved himself a little by stretching out his hands, which, although so tightly bound before, were loosened, I know not whether by miracle, or whether the soldiers had out the cords before they threw him into the water. The marks of his feet, his elbows, and. his fingers were miraculously impressed on the rock on which he fell, and these impressions were afterwards shown for the veneration of Christians. These stones were less hard than the unbelieving hearts of the wicked men who surrounded Jesus, and bore witness at this terrible moment to the Divine Power which had touched them.
I had not seen Jesus take anything to quench the thirst which had consumed him ever since his agony in the garden, but he drank when he fell into the Cedron, and I heard him repeat these words from the prophetic Psalm, 'In his thirst he will drink water from the torrent' (Psalm 108).
The archers still held the ends of the ropes with which Jesus was bound, but it would have been difficult to draw him out of the water on that side, on account of a wall which was built on the shore; they turned back and dragged him quite through the Cedron to the shore, and then made him cross the bridge a second time, accompanying their every action with insults, blasphemies, and blows.
His long woolen garment, which was quite soaked through, adhered to his legs, impeded every movement, and rendered it almost impossible for him to walk, and when he reached the end of the bridge he fell quite down. They pulled him up again in the most cruel manner, struck him with cords, and fastened the ends of his wet garment to the belt, abusing him at the same time in the most cowardly manner. It was not quite midnight when I saw the four archers inhumanly dragging Jesus over a narrow path, which was choked up with stones, fragments of rock, thistles, and thorns, on the opposite shore of the Cedron.
The six brutal Pharisees walked as close to our Lord as they could, struck him constantly with thick pointed sticks, and seeing that his bare and bleeding feet were torn by the stones and briars, exclaimed scornfully: 'His precursor, John the Baptist, has certainly not prepared a good path for him here;' or, 'The words of Malachias, "Behold, I send my angel before thy face, to prepare the way before thee," do not exactly apply now.' Every jest uttered by these men incited the archers to greater cruelty.
The enemies of Jesus remarked that several persons made their appearance in the distance; they were only disciples who had assembled when they heard that their Master was arrested, and who were anxious to discover what the end would be; but the sight of them rendered the Pharisees uneasy, lest any attempt should be made to rescue Jesus, and they therefore sent for a reinforcement of soldiers.
At a very short distance from an entrance opposite to the south side of the Temple, which leads through a little village called Ophel. to Mount Sion, where the residences of Annas and Caiphas were situated, I saw a band of about fifty soldiers, who carried torches, and appeared ready for anything; the demeanor of these men was outrageous, and they gave loud shouts, both to announce their arrival, and to congratulate their comrades upon the success of the expedition. This caused a slight confusion among the soldiers who were leading Jesus, and Malchus and a few others took advantage of it to depart, and fly towards Mount Olivet.
When the fresh band of soldiers left Ophel, I saw those disciples who had gathered together disperse; some went one way, and some another. The Blessed Virgin and about nine of the holy women, being filled with anxiety, directed their stops towards the Valley of Josaphat, accompanied by Lazarus, John the son of Mark, the son of Veronica, and the son of Simon. The last-named was at Gethsemane with Nathaniel and the eight Apostles, and had fled when the soldiers appeared. He was giving the Blessed Virgin the account of all that had been done, when the fresh band of soldiers joined those who were leading Jesus, and she then heard their tumultuous vociferations, and saw the light of the torches they carried. This sight quite overcame her; she became insensible, and John took her into the house of Mary, the mother of Mark.
The fifty soldiers who were sent to join those who had taken Jesus, were a detachment from a company of three hundred men posted to guard the gates and environs of Ophel; for the traitor Judas had reminded the High Priests that the inhabitants of Ophel (who were principally of the laboring class, and whose chief employment was to bring water and wood to the Temple) were the most attached partisans of Jesus, and might perhaps make some attempts to rescue him.
The traitor was aware that Jesus had both consoled, instructed, assisted, and cured the diseases of many of these poor workmen, and that Ophel was the place where he halted during his journey from Bethania to Hebron, when John the Baptist had just been executed. Judas also knew that Jesus had cured many of the masons who were injured by the fall of the Tower of Siloe. The greatest part of the inhabitants of Ophel were converted after the death of our Lord, and joined the first Christian community that was formed after Pentecost, and when the Christians separated from the Jews and erected new dwellings, they placed their huts and tents in the valley which is situated between Mount Olivet and Ophel, and there St. Stephen lived. Ophel was on a hill to the south of the Temple, surrounded by walls, and its inhabitants were very poor.
The slumbers of the good inhabitants of Ophel were disturbed by the noise of the soldiers; they came out of their houses and ran to the entrance of the village to ask the cause of the uproar; but the soldiers received them roughly, ordered them to return home, and in reply to their numerous questions, said, 'We have just arrested Jesus, your false prophet—he who has deceived you so grossly; the High Priests are about to judge him, and he will be crucified.'
Cries and lamentations arose on all sides; the poor women and children ran backwards and forwards, weeping and wringing their hands; and calling to mind all the benefits they had received from our Lord, they cast themselves on their knees to implore the protection of Heaven. But the soldiers pushed them on one side, struck them, obliged them to return to their houses, and exclaimed, 'What farther proof is required? Does not the conduct of these persons show plainly that the Galilean incites rebellion?'
They were, however, a little cautious in their expressions and demeanor for fear of causing an insurrection in Ophel, and therefore only endeavored to drive the inhabitants away from those parts of the village which Jesus was obliged to cross.
When the cruel soldiers who led our Lord were near the gates of Ophel he again fell, and appeared unable to proceed a step farther, upon which one among them, being moved to compassion, said to another, 'You see the poor man is perfectly exhausted, he cannot support himself with the weight of his chains; if we wish to get him to the High Priest alive we must loosen the cords with which his hands are bound, that he may be able to save himself a little when he falls.'
The band stopped for a moment, the fetters were loosened, and another kind-hearted soldier brought some water to Jesus from a neighboring fountain. Jesus thanked him, and spoke of the 'fountains of living water,' of which those who believed in him should drink; but his words enraged the Pharisees still more, and they overwhelmed him with insults and contumelious language. I saw the heart of the soldier who had caused Jesus to be unbound, as also that of the one who brought him water, suddenly illuminated by grace; they were both converted before the death of Jesus, and immediately joined his disciples.
The procession started again, and reached the gate of Ophel. Here Jesus was again saluted by the cries of grief and sympathy of those who owed him so much gratitude, and the soldiers had considerable difficulty in keeping back the men and women who crowded round from all parts. They clasped their hands, fell on their knees, lamented, and exclaimed, 'Release this man unto us, release him! Who will assist, who will console us, who will cure our diseases? Release him unto us!'
It was indeed heartrending to look upon Jesus; his face was white, disfigured, and wounded, his hair disheveled, his dress wet and soiled, and his savage and drunken guards were dragging him about and striking him with sticks like a poor dumb animal led to the slaughter. Thus was he conducted through the midst of the afflicted inhabitants of Ophel, and the paralytic whom he had cured, the dumb to whom he had restored speech, and the blind whose eyes he had opened, united, but in vain, in offering supplications for his release.
Many persons from among the lowest and most degraded classes had been sent by Annas, Caiphas, and the other enemies of Jesus, to join the procession, and assist the soldiers both in ill-treating Jesus, and in driving away the inhabitants of Ophel. The village of Ophel was seated upon a hill, and I saw a great deal of timber placed there ready for building. The procession had to proceed down a hill, and then pass through a door made in the wall. On one side of this door stood a large building erected originally by Solomon, and on the other the pool of Bethsaida. After passing this, they followed a westerly direction down a steep street called Millo, at the end of which a turn to the south brought them to the house of Annas. The guards never ceased their cruel treatment of our Divine Savior, and excused such conduct by saying that the crowds who gathered together in front of the procession compelled them to severity. Jesus fell seven times between Mount Olivet and the house of Annas.
The inhabitants of Ophel were still in a state of consternation and grief, when the sight of the Blessed Virgin, who passed through the village accompanied by the holy women and some other friends on her way from the Valley of Cedron to the house of Mary the mother of Mark, excited them still more, and they made the place re-echo with sobs and lamentations, while they surrounded and almost carried her in their arms. Mary was speechless from grief, and did not open her lips after she reached the house of Mary the mother of Mark, until the arrival of John, who related all he had seen since Jesus left the supper-room; and a little later she was taken to the house of Martha, which was near that of Lazarus.
Peter and John, who had followed Jesus at a distance, went in haste to some servants of the High Priest with whom the latter was acquainted, in order to endeavor by their means to obtain admittance into the tribunal where their Master was to be tried. These servants acted as messengers, and had just been ordered to go to the houses of the ancients, and other members of the Council, to summon them to attend the meeting which was convoked.
As they were anxious to oblige the Apostles, but foresaw much difficulty in obtaining their admittance into the tribunal, they gave them cloaks similar to those they themselves wore, and made them assist in carrying messages to the members in order that afterwards they might enter the tribunal of Caiphas, and mingle, without being recognized, among the soldiers and false witnesses, as all other persons were to be expelled.
As Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and other well-intentioned persons were members of this Council, the Apostles undertook to let them know what was going to be done in the Council, thus securing the presence of those friends of Jesus whom the Pharisees had purposely omitted to invite. In the mean time Judas wandered up and down the steep and wild precipices at the south of Jerusalem, despair marked on his every feature, and the devil pursuing him to and fro, filling his imagination with still darker visions, and not allowing him a moment's respite.
Friday 2:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.
Jesus is presented to Annas.
They dragged Him bound and chained under continued ill-treatment to the house of Annas, before whom they would present Him as a malefactor worthy of death. It was the custom of the Jews to present thus bound those criminals who merited capital punishment; and they now made use of this custom in regard to Jesus, in order to intimate his sentence even before the trial. The sacrilegious priest Annas seated himself in proud and arrogant state on the platform or tribunal of a great hall. Immediately Lucifer placed himself at his side with a multitude of evil spirits.
When Jesus reached the palace of Annas, and his guards immediately conducted him into a very large hall, where Annas, surrounded by twenty-eight councilors, was seated on a species of platform, raised a little above the level of the floor, and placed opposite to the entrance. The soldiers who first arrested Jesus now dragged him roughly to the foot of the tribunal. The room was quite full, between soldiers, the servants of Annas, a number of the mob who had been admitted, and the false witnesses who afterwards adjourned to Caiphas's hall.
Annas was delighted at the thought of our Lord being brought before him, and was looking out for his arrival with the greatest impatience. The expression of his countenance was most repulsive, as it showed in every lineament not only the infernal joy with which he was filled, but likewise all the cunning and duplicity of his heart. He was the president of a species of tribunal instituted for the purpose of examining persons accused of teaching false doctrines; and if convicted there, they were then taken before the High Priest.
Jesus stood before Annas. He looked exhausted and haggard; his garments were covered with mud, his hands manacled, his head bowed down, and he spoke not a word. Annas was a thin ill-humored-looking old man, with a scraggy beard. His pride and arrogance were great; and as he seated himself he smiled ironically, pretending that he knew nothing at all, and that he was perfectly astonished at finding that the prisoner, whom he had just been informed was to be 'brought before him, was no other than Jesus of Nazareth.
Imperiously and haughtily the high-priest asked Him about his disciples, and what doctrine He was preaching and teaching. This question was put merely for the purpose of misinterpreting his answer, if Jesus should utter any word that afforded such a chance. But the Master of holiness, who is the Guide and the Corrector of the most wise (Wisdom 7:15), offered to the eternal Father the humiliation of being presented as a criminal before the high-priest and of being questioned by him as a prevaricator and author of a false doctrine.
'Is it possible,' said Annas, 'is it possible that thou art Jesus of Nazareth? Where are thy disciples, thy numerous followers? Where is thy kingdom? I fear affairs have not turned out as thou didst expect. The authorities, I presume, discovered that it was quite time to put a stop to thy conduct, disrespectful as it was towards God and his priests, and to such violations of the Sabbath. What disciples hast thou now? Where are they all gone? Thou art silent! Speak out, seducer! Speak out, thou inciter of rebellion! Didst thou not eat the Paschal lamb in an unlawful manner, at an improper time, and in an improper place? Dost thou not desire to introduce new doctrines? Who gave thee the right of preaching? Where didst thou study? Speak, what are the tenets of thy religion?'
Jesus then raised his weary head, looked at Annas, and with an humble and cheerful countenance answered the question as to his doctrines: 'I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in the synagogue, and in the Temple, whither all the Jews resort; and in secret I have spoken nothing. Why askest thou me? Ask them who have heard what I have spoken unto them; behold, they know what things I have said.'
At this answer of Jesus the countenance of Annas flushed with fury and indignation. A base menial who was standing near perceived this, and he immediately struck our Lord on the face with his iron gauntlet, exclaiming at the same moment, 'Answerest thou the High Priest so?' Jesus was so nearly prostrated by the violence of the blow, that when the guards likewise reviled and struck him, he fell quite down, and blood trickled from his face on to the floor. Laughter, insults, and bitter words resounded through the hall. The archers dragged him roughly up again, and he mildly answered, 'If I have spoken evil, give testimony of the evil; but if well, why strikest thou me?' O sight most astounding to the supernal spirits! Since this is He, at the mere sound of whose voice the foundations of the heavens tremble and ought to tremble and the whole firmament is shaken!
Annas became still more enraged when he saw the calm demeanour of Jesus, and, turning to the witnesses, he desired them to bring forward their accusations. They all began to speak at once: 'He has called himself king; he says that God is his Father; that the Pharisees are an adulterous generation. He causes insurrection among the people; he cures the sick by the help of the devil on the Sabbath-day. The inhabitants of Ophel assembled round him a short time ago, and addressed him by the titles of Saviour and Prophet. He lets himself be called the Son of God; he says that he is sent by God; he predicts the destruction of Jerusalem. He does not fast; he eats with sinners, with pagans, and with publicans, and associates with women of evil repute. A short time ago he said to a man who gave him some water to drink at the gates of Ophel, "that he would give unto him the waters of eternal life, after drinking which he would thirst no more." He seduces the people by words of double meaning,' etc.
These accusations were all vociferated at once; some of the witnesses Stood before Jesus and insulted him while they spoke by derisive gestures, and the archers went so far as oven to strike him, saying at the same time, 'Speak; why dost thou not answer?' Annas and his adherents added mockery to insult, exclaiming at every pause in the accusations, 'This is thy doctrine, then, is it? What canst thou answer to this? Issue thy orders, great King; man sent by God, give proofs of thy mission.' 'Who art thou?' continued Annas, in a tone of cutting contempt; 'by whom art thou sent? Art thou the son of an obscure carpenter, or art thou Elias, who was carried up to heaven in a fiery chariot? He is said to be still living, and I have been told that thou canst make thyself invisible when thou pleasest. Perhaps thou art the prophet Malachias, whose words thou dost so frequently quote. Some say that an angel was his father, and that he likewise is still alive. An impostor as thou art could not have a finer opportunity of taking persons in than by passing thyself off as this prophet. Tell me, without farther preamble, to what order of kings thou dost belong? Thou art greater than Solomon—at least thou pretendest so to be, and dost even expect to be believed. Be easy, I will no longer refuse the title and the scepter which are so justly thy due.'
Annas then called for the sheet of parchment, about a yard in length, and six inches in width; on this he wrote a series of words in large letters, and each word expressed some different accusation which had been brought against our Lord. He then rolled it up, placed it in a little hollow tube, fastened it carefully on the top of. a reed, and presented this reed to Jesus, saying at the same time, with a contemptuous sneer, 'Behold the scepter of thy kingdom; it contains thy titles, as also the account of the honors to which thou art entitled, and of thy right to the throne. Take them to; the High Priest, in order that he may acknowledge thy regal dignity, and treat thee according to thy deserts. Tie the hands of this king, and take him before the High Priest.'
The hands of Jesus, which had been loosened, were then tied across his breast in such a manner as to make him hold the pretended scepter, which contained the accusations of Annas, and he was led to the Court of Caiphas, amidst the hisses, shouts, and blows lavished upon him by the brutal mob.
The house of Annas was not more than three hundred steps from that of Caiphas; there were high walls and common-looking houses on each side of the road, which was lighted up by torches and lanterns placed on poles, and there were numbers of Jews standing about talking m an angry excited manner. The soldiers could scarcely make their way through the crowd, and those who had behaved so shamefully to Jesus at the Court of Annas continued their insults and base usage during the whole of the time spent in walking to the house of Caiphas. I saw money given to those who behaved the worst to Jesus by armed men belonging to the tribunal, and I saw them push out of the way all who looked compassionately at him. The former wore allowed to enter the Court of Caiphas.
While this ill-treatment of the Lord was going on, St. Peter and the other disciple, who was none other than St. John arrived at the house of Annas. St. John, as being well known there, readily obtained entrance, while saint Peter remained outside. Afterwards the servant maid, who was an acquaintance of saint John, allowed also him to enter and see what would happen to the Lord (John 18:16).
The two disciples remained in the portico adjoining the court-hall of the priest, and saint Peter approached the fire, which the soldiers, on account of the coldness of the night, had built in the enclosure near the portico. The servant maid, on closer inspection, noticed the depressed bearing of saint Peter. Coming up to him she recognized him as a disciple of Jesus, and said: "Art thou not perhaps one of the disciples of this Man?" This question was asked by the maid with an air of contempt and reproach. Peter in his great weakness and hesitancy yielded to a sense of shame. Overcome also by his fear he answered: "I am not his disciple." Having given this answer, he slipped away to avoid further conversation, and left the premises. But he soon afterwards followed his Master to the house of Caiphas, where he denied Him again at two different times, as I shall relate farther on.
The denial of Peter caused greater pain to the Lord than the buffet which He had received; for this sin was directly opposed and abhorrent to his immense charity, while pains and sufferings were sweet and welcome to Him, since He could thereby atone for our sins. After this first denial of Peter, Christ prayed for him to his eternal Father and ordained that through the intercession of the blessed Mary he should obtain pardon even after the third denial. The great Lady witnessed all that passed from her oratory, as I have said. As she contained in her own breast the propitiatory and sacrifice of her Son and Lord in sacramental form, She directed her petitions and loving aspirations to Him, eliciting most heroic acts of compassion, thanksgiving adoration and worship. She bitterly wept over the denial of St. Peter, and ceased not, until she perceived that the Lord would not refuse him the necessary helps for effectually rising from his fall.
Friday 3:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.
Jesus in the house of Caiphas.
No sooner was Jesus arrested than Annas and Caiphas were informed, and instantly began to arrange their plans with regard to the course to be pursued. Confusion speedily reigned everywhere—the rooms were lighted up in haste, guards placed at the entrances, and messengers dispatched to different parts of the town to convoke the members of the Council, the Scribes, and all who were to take a part in the trial.
Many among them had, however, assembled at the house of Caiphas as soon as the treacherous compact with Judas was completed, and had remained there to await the course of events. The different classes of ancients were likewise assembled, and as the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians were congregated in Jerusalem from all parts of the country for the celebration of the festival, and had long been concerting measures with the Council for the arrest of our Lord, the High Priests now sent for those whom they knew to be the most bitterly opposed to Jesus, and desired them to assemble the witnesses, gather together every possible proof, and bring all before the Council.
The proud Sadducees of Nazareth, of Capharnaum, of Thirza, of Gabara, of Jotapata, and of Silo, whom Jesus had so often reproved before the people, were actually dying for revenge. They hastened to all the inns to seek out those persons whom they knew to be enemies of our Lord, and offered them bribes in order to secure their appearance. But, with the exception of a few ridiculous calumnies, which were certain to be disproved as soon as investigated, nothing tangible could be brought forward against Jesus, excepting, indeed, those foolish accusations which he had so often refuted in the synagogue.
The enemies of Jesus hastened, however, to the tribunal of Caiphas, escorted by the Scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem, and accompanied by many of those merchants whom our Lord drove out of the Temple when they were holding market there; m also by the proud doctors whom he had silenced before all the people, and even by some who could not forgive the humiliation of being convicted of error when he disputed with them in the Temple at the age of twelve.
There was likewise a large body of impenitent sinners whom he had refused to cure, relapsed sinners whose diseases had returned, worldly young men whom he would not receive as disciples, avaricious persons whom he had enraged by causing the money which they had been in hopes of possessing to be distributed in alms. Others there were whose friends he had cured, and who had thus been disappointed in their expectation of inheriting property; debauchees whose victims he had converted; and many despicable characters who made their fortunes by flattering and fostering the vices of the great.
All these emissaries of Satan were overflowing with rage against everything holy, and consequently with an indescribable hatred of the Holy of the Holies. They were farther incited by the enemies of our Lord, and therefore assembled in crowds round the palace of Caiphas, to bring forward all their false accusations and to endeavor to cover with infamy that spotless Lamb, who took upon himself the sins of the world, and accepted the burden in order to reconcile man with God.
Whilst all these wicked beings were busily consulting as to what was best to be done, anguish and anxiety filled the hearts of the friends of Jesus, for they were ignorant of the mystery which was about to be accomplished, and they wandered about, sighing, and listening to every different opinion. Each word they uttered gave rise to feelings of suspicion on the part of those whom they addressed, and if they were silent, their silence was set down as wrong.
Many well-meaning but weak and undecided characters yielded to temptation, were scandalized, and lost their faith; indeed,. the number of those who persevered was very small indeed. Things were the same then as they oftentimes are now, persons were willing to serve God if they met with no opposition from their fellow creatures, but were ashamed of the Cross if held in contempt by others.
Meanwhile, the whole rabble of infernal spirits and merciless foes of Christ left the house of Annas and dragged our Lord Savior through the streets to the house of Caiphas, exercising upon Him all the cruelty of their ignominious fury. The high-priest and his attendants broke out in loud derision and laughter, when they saw Jesus brought amid tumultuous noise into their presence beheld Him now subject to their power and jurisdiction without hope of escape. O mystery of the most exalted wisdom of heaven! O foolishness and ignorance of hell, and blind stupidity of mortals! What a distance immeasurable do I see between the doings of the Most High and yours!
The high-priest Caiphas, filled with a deadly envy and hatred against the Master of life, was seated in his chair of state or throne. With him were Lucifer and all his demons, who had come from the house of Annas. The scribes and pharisees, like bloodthirsty wolves, surrounded the gentle Lamb; all of them were full of the exultation of the envious, who see the object of their envy confounded and brought down. By common consent they sought for witnesses, whom they could bribe to bring false testimonies against Jesus our Savior (Matthew 26:59). Those that had been procured, advanced to proffer their accusations and testimony; but their accusations neither agreed with each other, nor could any of their slander be made to apply to Him, who of his very nature was innocence and holiness (Mark 25:56; Hebrews 7:26).
Jesus was led across the court, and the mob received him with groans and hisses. As he passed by Peter and John, he looked at them, but without turning his head, for fear of betraying them. Scarcely had he reached the council-chamber, than Caiphas exclaimed in a loud tone, 'Thou art come, then, at last, thou enemy of God, thou blasphemer, who dost disturb the peace of this holy night!' The tube which contained the accusations of Annas, and was fastened to the pretended sceptre in the hands of Jesus, was instantly opened and read.
Caiphas made use of the most insulting language, and the archers again struck and abused our Lord, vociferating at the same time, 'Answer at once! Speak out! Art thou dumb?' Caiphas, whose temper was indescribably proud and arrogant, became even more enraged than Annas had been, and asked a thousand questions one after the other, but Jesus stood before him in silence, and with his eyes cast down.
The archers endeavored to force him to speak by repeated blows, and a malicious child pressed his thumb into his lips, tauntingly bidding him to bite. The witnesses were then called for. The first wore persons of the lowest class, whose accusations were as incoherent and inconsistent as those brought forward at the court of Annas, and nothing could be made out of them; Caiphas therefore turned to the principal witnesses, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who had assembled from all parts of the country.
They endeavored to speak calmly, but their faces and manner betrayed the virulent envy and hatred with which their hearts were overflowing, and they repeated over and over again the same accusations, to which he had already replied so many times: 'That he cured the sick, and cast out devils, by the help of devils—that he profaned the Sabbath—incited the people to rebel—called the Pharisees a race of vipers and adulterers--predicted the destruction of Jerusalem—frequented the society of publicans and sinners--assembled the people and gave himself out as a king, a prophet, and the Son of God.' They deposed 'that he was constantly speaking of his kingdom—that he forbade divorce—called himself the Bread of Life, and said that whoever did not eat his flesh and drink his blood would not have eternal life.'
Thus did they distort and misinterpret the words he had uttered, the instructions he had given, and the parables by which he had illustrated his instructions, giving them the semblance of crimes. But these witnesses could not agree in their depositions, for one said, 'He calls himself king;' and a second instantly contradicted, saying, 'No, he allows persons to call him so; but directly they attempted to proclaim him, he fled.' Another said, 'He calls himself the Son of God,' but he was interrupted by a fourth, who exclaimed, 'No, he only styles himself the Son of God because he does the will of his Heavenly Father.'
Some of the witnesses stated that he had cured them, but that their diseases had returned, and that his pretended cures were only performed by magic. They spoke likewise of the cure of the paralytic man at the pool of Bethsaida, but they distorted the facts so as to give them the semblance of crimes, and even in these accusations they could not agree, contradicting one another. The Pharisees of Sephoris, with whom he had once had a discussion on the subject of divorces, accused him of teaching false doctrines, and a young man of Nazareth, whom he had refused to allow to become one of his disciples, was likewise base enough to bear witness against him.
It was found to be utterly impossible to prove a single fact, and the witnesses appeared to come forward for the sole purpose of insulting Jesus, rather than to demonstrate the truth of their statements. Whilst they were disputing with one another, Caiphas and some of the other members of the Council employed themselves in questioning Jesus, and turning his answers into derision. 'What species of king art thou 'Give proofs of thy power! Call the legions of angels of whom thou didst speak in the Garden of Olives! What hast thou done with the money given unto thee by the widows, and other simpletons whom thou didst seduce by thy false doctrines? Answer at once: speak out—art thou dumb? Thou wouldst have been far wiser to have kept silence when in the midst of the foolish mob: there thou didst speak far too much.'
All these questions were accompanied by blows from the under-servants of the members of the tribunal, and had Our Lord not been supported from above, he could not have survived this treatment. Our Savior Jesus answered not a word to all calumnies and lies brought forward against his innocence. Caiphas, provoked by the patient silence of the Lord, rose up in his seat and said to Him: "Why dost Thou not answer to what so many witnesses testify against Thee?" But even to this the Lord made no response. For Caiphas and the rest were not only indisposed to believe Him; but they treacherously wished make use of his answer in order to calumniate Him and satisfy the people in their proceedings against the Galilean, so that they might not be thought to have condemned Him to death without cause.
This humble silence, which should have appeased the wicked priest only infuriated him so much the more because it frustrated his evil purpose. Lucifer, who incited the high priest and all the rest, intently watched the conduct of the Savior. But the intention of the dragon was different from that of the high priest. He merely wanted to irritate the Lord, or to hear some word, by which could ascertain whether he was true God.
With this purpose Satan stirred up Caiphas to the highest pitch of rage and to ask in great wrath and haughtiness: "I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us, if Thou be the Christ, the Son of God." This question of the high-priest certainly convicted him at once of the deepest folly and of dreadful blasphemy for if it was sincere, he had permitted Christ to be brought before his tribunal in doubt whether He was the true God or not, which would make him guilty of the most formidable and audacious crime.
The doubt in such a matter should have been solved in quite another way, conformable to the demands of right reason and justice. Christ our Savior, hearing Himself conjured by the living God, inwardly adored and reverenced the Divinity, though appealed to by such sacrilegious lips. Out of reverence for the name of God He therefore answered: "Thou hast said: I am He. Nevertheless I say to you, hereafter you shall see the Son of man (who I am) sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64).
But the high-priest, furious at the answer of the Lord, instead of looking upon it as a solution of his doubt rose once more in his seat, and rending his garments as an outward manifestation of his zeal for the honor of God, loudly cried out: "He hath blasphemed; what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now you have heard the blasphemy: what think you?" (Matthew 26:65.) The real blasphemy however consisted rather in these words of Caiphas, since he denied the certain fact that Christ was the Son of God by his very nature, and since he attributed to the divine Personality sinfulness, which was directly repugnant to his very nature.
Such was the folly of the wicked priest, who by his office should have recognized and proclaimed the universal truth. He made of himself an execrable blasphemer in maintaining that He, who is holiness itself, had blasphemed. Having previously, with satanical instinct, abused his high office in prophesying that the death of one man is better than the ruin of all the people, he now was hindered by his sins from understanding his own prophecy. As the example and the opinions of princes and prelates powerfully stirs up the flattery and subserviency of inferiors, that whole gathering of wickedness was incensed at the Savior Jesus: all exclaimed in a loud voice: "He is guilty of death (Matthew 26:66), let Him die, let Him die!"
Roused by satanic fury they all fell upon their most meek Master and discharged upon Him their wrath. Some of them struck Him in the face, others kicked Him, others tore out his hair, others spat upon his venerable countenance others slapped or struck Him in the neck, which was a treatment reserved among the Jews only for the most abject and vile of criminals. All these affronts, reproaches and insults were seen and felt by the most holy Mary causing in her the same pains and wounds in the same parts of her body and at the same time as inflicted upon the Lord. The only difference was, that in our Lord the blows and torments were inflicted by the Jews themselves, while in his most pure Mother they were caused by the Almighty in a miraculous manner and upon request of the Lady. According to natural laws, the vehemence of her interior sorrow and anxiety would have put an end to her life; but she was strengthened by divine power, so as to be able to continue to suffer with her beloved Son and Lord.
The interior acts performed by the Savior under these barbarous and unheard of persecutions, cannot be fathomed by human reason or faculties. Mary alone understood them fully, so as to be able to imitate them with the highest perfection. But as the divine Master now experienced in his own Person, how necessary his sympathy would be for those who were to follow him and practice his doctrine, He exerted Himself so much the more in procuring for them grace and blessings on this occasion, in which He was teaching them by his own example the narrow way of perfection.
In the midst of these injuries and torments, and those which followed thereafter, the Lord established for his perfect and chosen souls the beatitudes, which He had promised and proposed to them some time before. He looked upon the poor in spirit, who were to imitate Him in this virtue and said: "Blessed are you in being stripped of the earthly goods; for by my Passion and Death I am to entail upon you the heavenly kingdom as a secure and certain possession of voluntary poverty. Blessed are those who meekly suffer and bear adversities and tribulations; for, besides the joy of having imitated Me, they shall possess the land of the hearts and the good will of men through the peacefulness of their intercourse and the sweetness of their virtues. Blessed are they that weep while they sow in tears; for in them, they receive the bread of understanding and life, and they shall afterwards harvest the fruits of everlasting joy and bliss."
"Blessed are also those who hunger and thirst for justice and truth; for I shall earn for them satiation far beyond all their desires, as well in the reign of grace as in the reign of glory. Blessed are they, who, imitating Me in my offers of pardon and friendship, mercifully pity those that offend and persecute them; for I promise them the fullness of mercy from my Father. Blessed be the pure of heart, who imitate Me in crucifying their flesh in order to preserve the purity of their souls. I promise them the vision of peace and of my Divinity, by becoming like unto Me and by partaking of Me. Blessed are the peaceful, who, yielding their rights, do not resist the evil-minded and deal with them with a sincere and tranquil heart without vengeance; they shall be called my children, because they imitate my eternal Father and I shall write them in my memory and in my mind as my adopted sons.
Those that suffer persecution for justice's sake, shall be the blessed heirs of my celestial kingdom, since they suffer with Me; and where I am, there also they shall be in eternity. Rejoice, ye poor; be consoled all ye that are and shall be afflicted; glory in your lot, ye little ones and despised ones of this world, you who suffer in humility and longanimity, suffer with an interior rejoicing; since all of you are following Me in the path of truth. Renounce vanity, despise the pomp and haughtiness of the false and deceitful Babylon; pass ye through the fires and the waters of tribulation until you reach Me, who am the light, the truth and your guide to the eternal rest and refreshment."
By the ill-treatment, which the Lord received in the presence of Caiphas, the wrath of this high-priest and of all his supporters and ministers was much gratified though not at all satiated. But as it was already past midnight, the whole council of these wicked men resolved to take good care, that the Savior be securely watched and confined until the morning, lest He should escape while they were asleep. For this purpose they ordered Him to be locked, bound as He was, in one of the subterranean dungeons, a prison cell set apart for the most audacious robbers and criminals of the state. Scarcely any light penetrated into this prison to dispel its darkness. It was filled with such uncleanness and stench, that it would have infected the whole house, if it had not been so remote and so well enclosed; for it had not been cleaned for many years, both because it was so deep down and because of the degradation of the criminals that were confined in it; for none thought it worthwhile making it habitable than for mere wild beasts, unworthy of all human kindness.
WORDS OF THE OUR LADY
My daughter, to great deeds art thou called and on account of the divine enlightenment thou receivest concerning the mysteries of the sufferings of my most holy Son and of myself for the human race, and on account of the knowledge which thou hast obtained concerning the small return made by heartless and ungrateful men for all our pains.
Thou livest yet in mortal flesh and art thyself subject to this ignorance and weakness; but by the force of truth thou art now roused to great wonder, sorrow and compassion at the want of attention displayed by mortals toward these great sacraments and at the losses sustained by them through their lukewarmness and negligence.
What then are the thoughts of the angels and saints, and what are my thoughts in beholding this world and all the faithful in such a dangerous and dreadful state of carelessness, when they have the Passion and Death of my divine Son before their eyes, and when they have me, for their Mother and Intercessor and his most pure life and mine for an example?
I tell thee truly, my dearest, only my intercession and the merits of his Son, which I offer to the eternal Father, can delay the punishment and placate his wrath, can retard the destruction of the world and the severe chastisement of the children of the Church, who know his will and fail to fulfill it (John 15:15).
But I am much incensed to find so few who condole with me and try to console my Son in his sorrows, as David says (Psalm 68:21). This hardness of heart will cause great confusion to them on the day of judgment; since they will then see with irreparable sorrow, not only that they were ungrateful, but inhuman and cruel toward my divine Son, toward me and toward themselves.
Consider then thy duty, my dearest, and raise thyself above all earthly things and above thyself; for I am calling thee and choose thee to imitate and follow me into the solitude, in which I am left by creatures, whom my Son and I have pursued with so many blessings and favors. Weigh in thy heart, how much it cost my Lord to reconcile mankind to the eternal Father (Colossians 1:22) and regain for them his friendship. Weep and afflict thyself that so many should live in such forgetfulness and that so many should labor with all their might at destroying and losing what was bought by the blood of God itself and all that I from the first moment of my Conception have sought to procure and am procuring for their salvation.
Awaken in thy heart the deepest grief, that in his holy Church there should be many followers of the hypocritical and sacrilegious priests who, under cover of a false piety, still condemn Christ; that pride and sumptuousness with other grave vices should be raised to authority and exalted, while humility, truth, justice and all virtues be so oppressed and debased and avarice and vanity should prevail.
Few know the poverty of Christ, and fewer embrace it. Holy faith is hindered and is not spread among the nations on account of the boundless ambition of the mighty of this earth; in many Catholics it is inactive and dead; and whatever should be living, is near to death and to eternal perdition. The counsels of the Gospel are forgotten, its precepts trodden under foot, charity almost extinct. My son and true God offers his cheeks in patience and meekness to be buffeted and wounded (Lamentations 3:30). Who pardons an insult for the sake of imitating Him? Just the contrary is set up as law in this world, not only by the infidels, but by the very children of the faith and of light.
In recognizing these sins I desire that thou imitate me in what I did during the Passion and during my whole life, namely practice the virtues opposed to these vices. As a recompense for their blasphemies, I blessed God; for their oaths, I praised Him; for their unbelief, I excited acts of faith, and so for all the rest of the sins committed.
This is what I desire thee to do while living in this world. Fly also the dangerous conversation with creatures, taught by the example of Peter, for thou art not stronger than he, the Apostle of Christ; and if thou fall in thy weakness, weep over thy fault and immediately seek my intercession. Make up for thy ordinary faults and weaknesses by thy patience in adversities, accept them with a joyous mien and without disturbance, no matter what they may be, whether they be sickness or the molestations coming from creatures, or whether they arise from the opposition of the flesh to the spirit, or from the conflicts with visible or invisible enemies.
In all these things canst thou suffer and must thou bear in faith, hope and magnanimous sentiment. I remind thee that there is no exercise more profitable and useful for the soul than to suffer: for suffering gives light, undeceives, detaches the heart from visible things and raises it up to the Lord. He will come to meet those in suffering, because He is with the afflicted and sends to them his protection and help (Psalm 40:15).
Friday 4:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.
Jesus at the mercy of the mob and soldiers.
No sooner did Caiphas, with the other members of the Council, leave the tribunal than a crowd of miscreants--the very scum of the people--surrounded Jesus like a swarm of infuriated wasps, and began to heap every imaginable insult upon him. Even during the trial, whilst the witnesses were speaking, the archers and some others could not restrain their cruel inclinations, but pulled out handfuls of his hair and beard, spat upon him, struck him with their fists, wounded him with sharp-pointed sticks, and even ran needles into his body; but when Caiphas left the hall they set no bounds to their barbarity.
They first placed a crown, made of straw and the bark of trees, upon his head, and then took it off, saluting him at the same time with insulting expressions, like the following: 'Behold the Son of David wearing the crown of his father.' 'A greater than Solomon is here; this is the king who is preparing a wedding feast for his son.' Thus did they turn into ridicule those eternal truths which he had taught under the form of parables to those whom he came from heaven to save; and whilst repeating these scoffing words, they continued to strike him with their fists and sticks, and to spit in his face.
Next they put a crown of reeds upon his head, took off his robe and scapular, and then threw an old torn mantle, which scarcely reached his knees, over his shoulders; around his neck they hung a long iron chain, with an iron ring at each end, studded with sharp points, which bruised and tore his knees as he walked. They again pinioned his arms, put a reed into his hand, and covered his Divine countenance with spittle. They had already thrown all sorts of filth over his hair, as well as over his chest, and upon the old mantle. They bound his eyes with a dirty rag, and struck him, crying out at the same time in loud tones,--'Prophesy unto us, O Christ, who is he that struck thee?' He answered not one word, but sighed, and prayed inwardly for them.
After many more insults, they seized the chain which was hanging on his neck, dragged him towards the room into which the Council had withdrawn, and with their sticks forced him in, vociferating at the same time, 'March forward, thou King of Straw! Show thyself to the Council with the insignia of the regal honors we have rendered unto thee.' A large body of councilors, with Caiphas at their head, were still in the room, and they looked with both delight and approbation at the shameful scene which was enacted, beholding with pleasure the most sacred ceremonies turned into derision.
The pitiless guards covered him with mud and spittle, and with mock gravity exclaimed, 'Receive the prophetic unction--the regal unction.' Then they impiously parodied the baptismal ceremonies, and the pious act of Magdalen in emptying the vase of perfume on his head. 'How canst thou presume,' they exclaimed, 'to appear before the Council in such a condition? Thou dost purify others, and thou art not pure thyself; but we will soon purify thee.' They fetched a basin of dirty water, which they poured over his face and shoulders, whilst they bent their knees before him, and exclaimed, 'Behold thy precious unction, behold the spikenard worth three hundred pence; thou hast been baptized in the pool of Bethsaida.' They intended by this to throw into ridicule the act of respect and veneration shown by Magdalen, when she poured the precious ointment over his head, at the house of the Pharisee.
By their derisive words concerning his baptism in the pool of Bethsaida, they pointed out, although unintentionally, the resemblance between Jesus and the Paschal lamb, for the lambs were washed in the first place in the pond near the Probatica gate, and then brought to the pool of Bethsaida, where they underwent another purification before being taken to the Temple to be sacrificed. The enemies of Jesus likewise alluded to the man who had been infirm for thirty-eight years, and who was cured by Jesus at the pool of Bethsaida; for I saw this man either washed or baptized there; I say either washed or baptized, because I do not exactly remember the circumstances.
They then dragged Jesus round the room, before all the members of the Council, who continued to address him in reproachful and abusive language. Every countenance looked diabolical and enraged, and all around was dark, confused, and terrific. Our Lord, on the contrary, was from the moment that he declared himself to be the Son of God, generally surrounded with a halo of light. Many of the assembly appeared to have a confused knowledge of this fact, and to be filled with consternation at perceiving that neither outrages nor ignominies could alter the majestic expression of his countenance.
The halo which shone around Jesus from the moment he declared himself to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God, served but to incite his enemies to greater fury, and. yet it was so resplendent that they could not look at it, and I believe their intention in throwing the dirty rag over his head was to deaden its brightness.
Friday 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.
Jesus in prison.
The Jews, having quite exhausted their barbarity, shut Jesus up in a little vaulted prison, the remains of which subsist to this day. Two of the archers alone remained with him, and they were soon replaced by two others.
He was still clothed in the old dirty mantle, and covered with the spittle and other filth which they had thrown over him; for they had not allowed him to put on his own clothes again, but kept his hands tightly bound together.
When our Lord entered this prison, he prayed most fervently that his Heavenly Father would accept all that he had already suffered, and all that he was about to suffer, as an expiatory sacrifice, not only for his executioners, but likewise for all who in future ages might have to suffer torments such as he was about to endure, and be tempted to impatience or anger.
The enemies of our Lord did not allow him a moment's respite, even in this dreary prison, but tied him to a pillar which stood in the centre, and would. not allow him to lean upon it, although he was so exhausted from ill treatment, the weight of his chains, and his numerous falls, that he could scarcely support himself on his swollen and torn feet. Never for a moment did they cease insulting him; and when the first set were tired out, others replaced them.
It is quite impossible to describe all that the Holy of Holies suffered from these heartless beings; for the sight affected me so excessively that I became really ill, and I felt as if I could not survive it. We ought, indeed, to be ashamed of that weakness and susceptibility which renders us unable to listen composedly to the descriptions, or speak without repugnance, of those sufferings which our Lord endured so calmly and patiently for our salvation.
The horror we feel is as great as that of a murderer who is forced to place his hands upon the wounds he himself has inflicted on his victim. Jesus endured all without opening his mouth; and it was man, sinful man, who perpetrated all these outrages against one who was at once their Brother, their Redeemer, and their God. I, too, am a great sinner, and my sins caused these sufferings. At the day of judgment, when the most hidden things will be manifested, we shall see the share we have had in the torments endured by the Son of God; we shall see how far we have caused them by the sins we so frequently commit, and which are, in fact, a species of consent which we give to, and a participation in, the tortures which were inflicted on Jesus by his cruel enemies. If, alas! we reflected seriously on this, we should repeat with much greater fervor the words which we find so often in prayer-books: 'Lord, grant that I may die, rather than ever willfully offend thee again by sin.'
Jesus continued to pray for his enemies, and they being at last tired out left him in peace for a short time, when he leaned against the pillar to rest, and a bright light shone around him. The day was beginning to dawn—the day of his Passion, of our Redemption—and a faint ray penetrating the narrow vent-hole of the prison, fell upon the holy and immaculate Lamb, who had taken upon himself the sins of the world.
Jesus turned towards the ray of light, raised his fettered hands, and, in the most touching manner, returned thanks to his Heavenly Father for the dawn of that day, which had been so long desired by the prophets, and for which he himself had so ardently sighed from the moment of his birth on earth, and concerning which he had said to his disciples, 'I have a baptism wherewith I am to be baptized, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished?
The archers, who were dozing, woke up for a moment, and looked at him with surprise: they said nothing, but appeared to be somewhat astonished and frightened. Our Divine Lord was confined in this prison during an hour, or thereabouts.
Whilst Jesus was in this dungeon, Judas, who had been wandering up and down the valley of Hinnom like a madman, directed his steps towards the house of Caiphas, with the thirty pieces of silver, the reward of his treachery, still hanging to his waist. All was silent around, and he addressed himself to some of the sentinels, without letting them know who he was, and asked what was going to be done to the Galilean. 'He has been condemned to death, and he will certainly be crucified,' was the reply.
Judas walked to and fro, and listened to the different conversations which were held concerning Jesus. Some spoke of the cruel treatment he had received, others of his astonishing patience, while others, again, discoursed concerning the solemn trial which was to take place in the morning before the great Council. Whilst the traitor was listening eagerly to the different opinions given, day dawned; the members of the tribunal commenced their preparations, and Judas slunk behind the building that he might not be seen, for like Cain he sought to hide himself from human eyes, and despair was beginning to take possession of his soul.
The place in which he took refuge happened to be the very spot where the workmen had been preparing the wood for making the cross of our Lord; all was in readiness, and the men were asleep by its side. Judas was filled with horror at the sight: he shuddered and fled when he beheld the instrument of that cruel death to which for a paltry sum of money he had delivered up his Lord and Master; he ran to and fro in perfect agonies of remorse, and finally hid himself in an adjoining cave, where he determined to await the trial which was to take place in the morning.
Friday 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.
Jesus before Caiphas again, who confirms His condemnation to death and sends Him to Pilate.
Caiphas, Annas, the ancients, and the scribes assembled again in the morning in the great hall of the tribunal, to have a legal trial, as meetings at night were not lawful, and could only be looked upon in the light of preparatory audiences. The majority of the members had slept in the house of Caiphas, where beds had been prepared for them, but some, and among them Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, had gone home, and returned at the dawn of day.
The meeting was crowded, and the members commenced their operations in the most hurried manner possible. They wished to condemn Jesus to death at once, but Nicodemus, Joseph, and some others opposed their wishes and demanded that the decision should be deferred until after the festival, for fear of causing an insurrection among the people, maintaining likewise that no criminal could be justly condemned upon charges which were not proved, and that in the case now before them all the witnesses contradicted one another.
The High Priests and their adherents became very angry, and told Joseph and Nicodemus, in plain terms, that they were not surprised at their expressing displeasure at what had been done, because they were themselves partisans of the Galilean and his doctrines, and were fearful of being convicted. The High Priest even went so far as to endeavor to exclude from the Council all those members who were in the slightest degree favorable to Jesus.
These members protested that they washed their hands of all the future proceedings of the Council, and leaving the room went to the Temple, and from this day never again took their seats in the Council. Caiphas then ordered the guards to bring Jesus once more into his presence, and to prepare everything for taking him to Pilate's court directly he should have pronounced sentence.
The emissaries of the Council hurried off to the prison, and with their usual brutality untied the hands of Jesus, dragged off the old mantle which they had thrown over his shoulders, made him plat on his own soiled garment, and having fastened ropes round his waist, dragged him out of the prison.
The appearance of Jesus, when he passed through the midst of the crowd who were already assembled in the front of the house, was that of a victim led to be sacrificed; his countenance was totally changed and disfigured from ill-usage, and his garments stained and torn; but the sight of his sufferings, far from exciting a feeling of compassion in the hard hearted Jews, simply filled them with disgust, and increased their rage. Pity was, indeed, a feeling unknown in their cruel breasts.
Caiphas, who did not make the slightest effort to conceal his hatred, addressed oar Lord haughtily in these words: 'If thou be Christ, tell us plainly.' Then Jesus raised his head, and answered with great dignity and calmness, 'If I shall tell you, you will not believe me; and if I shall also ask you, you will not answer me, nor let me go. But hereafter the Son of Man shall be sitting on the night hand of the power of God.' The High Priests looked at one another, and said to Jesus, with a disdainful laugh, 'Art thou, then, the Son of God?' And Jesus answered, with the voice of eternal truth, 'You say that I am.' At these words they all exclaimed, 'What need we any further testimony? For we ourselves have heard it from his own mouth.'
They all arose instantly and vied with each other as to who should heap the most abusive epithets upon Jesus, whom they termed a low-born miscreant, who aspired to being their Messiah, and pretended to be entitled to sit at the right hand of God. They ordered the archers to tie his hands again, and to fasten a chain round his neck (this was usually done to criminals condemned to death), and they then prepared to conduct him to Pilate's hall, where a messenger had already been dispatched to beg him to have all in readiness for trying a criminal, as it was necessary to make no delay on account of the festival day.
The Jewish Priests murmured among themselves at being obliged to apply to the Roman governor for the confirmation of their sentence, but it was necessary, as they had not the right of condemning criminals excepting for things which concerned religion and the Temple alone, and they could not pass a sentence of death. They wished to prove that Jesus was an enemy to the emperor, and this accusation concerned those departments which were under Pilate's jurisdiction. The soldiers were all standing in front of the house, surrounded by a large body of the enemies of Jesus, and of common persons attracted by curiosity. The High Priests and a part of the Council walked at the head of the procession, and Jesus, led by archers, and guarded by soldiers, followed, while the mob brought up the rear. They were obliged to descend Mount Sion, and cross a part of the lower town to reach Pilate's palace, and many priests who had attended the Council went to the Temple directly afterwards, as it was necessary to prepare for the festival.
Friday 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.
Jesus before Pilate. Pilate sends Him to Herod.
The malicious enemies of our Savior led him through the most public part of the town to take him before Pilate. The procession wended its way slowly down the north side of the mountain of Sion, then passed through that section on the eastern side of the Temple, called Acre, towards the palace and tribunal of Pilate, which were seated on the north-west side of the Temple, facing a large square.
Caiphas, Annas, and many others of the Chief Council, walked first in festival attire; they were followed by a multitude of scribes and many other Jews, among whom were the false witnesses, and the wicked Pharisees who had taken the most prominent part in accusing Jesus. Our Lord followed at a short distance; he was surrounded by a band of soldiers, and led by the archers.
The multitude thronged on all sides and followed the procession, thundering forth the most fearful oaths and imprecations, while groups of persons were hurrying to and fro, pushing and jostling one another.
Jesus was stripped of all save his under garment, which was stained and soiled by the filth which had been flung upon it; a long chain was hanging round his neck. which struck his knees as he walked; his hands were pinioned as on the previous day, and the archers dragged him by the ropes which were fastened round his waist. He tottered rather than walked, and was almost unrecognizable from the effects of his sufferings during the night—he was colorless, haggard, his face swollen and even bleeding, and his merciless persecutors continued to torment him each moment more and more.
They had gathered together a large body of the dregs of the people, in order to make his present disgraceful entrance into the city a parody on his triumphal entrance on Palm Sunday. They mocked, and with derisive gestures called him king, and tossed in his path stones, bits of wood, and filthy rags; they made game of, and by a thousand taunting speeches mocked him, during this pretended triumphal entry.
In the corner of a building, not far from the house of Caiphas, the afflicted Mother of Jesus, with John and Magdalen, stood watching for him. Her soul was ever united to his; but propelled by her love, she left no means untried which could enable her really to approach him. She remained at the Cenacle for some time after her midnight visit to the tribunal of Caiphas, powerless and speechless from grief; but when Jesus was dragged forth from his prison, to be again brought before his judges, she arose, cast her veil and cloak about her, and said to Magdalen and John: 'Let us follow my Son to Pilate's court; I must again look upon him.'
They went to a place through which the procession must pass, and waited for it. The Mother of Jesus knew that her Son was suffering dreadfully, but never could she have conceived the deplorable, the heartrending condition to which he was reduced by the brutality of his enemies. Her imagination had depicted him to her as suffering fearfully, but yet supported and illuminated by sanctity, love, and patience. Now, however, the sad reality burst upon her.
First in the procession appeared the priests, those most bitter enemies of her Divine Son. They were decked in flowing robes; but ah, terrible to say, instead of appearing resplendent in their character of priests of the Most High, they were transformed into priests of Satan, for no one could look upon their wicked countenances without beholding there, portrayed in vivid colors, the evil passions with which their souls were filled--deceit, infernal cunning, and a raging anxiety to carry out that most tremendous of crimes, the death of their Lord and Savior, the only Son of God.
Next followed the false witnesses, his perfidious accusers, surrounded by the vociferating populace; and last of all—himself—her Son—Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of Man, loaded with chains, scarcely able to support himself, but pitilessly dragged on by his infernal enemies, receiving blows from some, buffets from others, and from the whole assembled rabble curses, abuse, and the most scurrilous language. He would have been perfectly unrecognizable even to her maternal eyes, stripped as he was of all save a torn remnant of his garment, had she not instantly marked the contrast between his behavior and that of his vile tormentors. He alone in the midst of persecution and suffering looked calm and resigned, and far from returning blow for blow, never raised his hands but in acts of supplication to his Eternal Father for the pardon of his enemies.
As he approached, she was unable to restrain herself any longer, but exclaimed in thrilling accents: 'Alas! is that my Son? Ah, yes! I see that it is my beloved Son. O, Jesus, my Jesus!' When the procession was almost opposite, Jesus looked upon her with an expression of the greatest love and compassion; this look was too much for the heartbroken mother: she became for the moment totally unconscious, and John and Magdalen endeavored to carry her home, but she quickly roused herself, and accompanied the beloved disciple to Pilate's palace.
The inhabitants of the town of Ophel were all gathered together in an open space to meet Jesus, but far from administering comfort, they added a fresh ingredient to his cup of sorrow; they inflicted upon him that sharp pang which must ever be felt by those who see their friends abandon them in the hour of adversity. Jesus had done much for the inhabitants of Ophel, but no sooner did they see him reduced to such a state of misery and degradation, than their faith was shaken; they could no longer believe him to be a king, a prophet, the Messiah, and the Son of God. The Pharisees jeered and made game of them, on account of the admiration they had formerly expressed for Jesus. 'Look at your king now,' they exclaimed; 'do homage to him; have you no congratulations to offer him now that he is about to be crowned, and seated on his throne? All his boasted miracles are at an end; the High Priest has put an end to his tricks and witchcraft.'
Notwithstanding the remembrance which these poor people had of the miracles and wonderful cures which had been performed under their very eyes by Jesus; notwithstanding the great benefits he had bestowed upon them their faith was shaken by beholding him thus derided and pointed out as an object of contempt by the High Priest and the members of the Sanhedrin, who were regarded in Jerusalem with the greatest veneration. Some went away doubting, while others remained and endeavored to join the rabble, but they wore prevented by the guards, who had been sent by the Pharisees, to prevent riots and confusion.
It was about eight in the morning, according to our method of counting time, when the procession reached the palace of Pilate. Annas, Caiphas, and the chiefs of the Sanhedrim stopped at a part between the forum and the entrance to the Prætorium, where some stone seats were placed for them. The brutal guards dragged Jesus to the foot of the fight of stairs which led to the judgment-seat of Pilate. Pilate was reposing in a comfortable chair, on a terrace which overlooked the forum, and a small three-legged table stood by his side, on which was placed the insignia of his office, and a few other things. He was surrounded by officers and soldiers dressed with the magnificence usual in the Roman army. The Jews and the priests did not enter the Prætorium, for fear of defiling themselves, but remained outside.
When Pilate saw the tumultuous procession enter, and perceived how shamefully the cruel Jews had treated their prisoner, he arose, and addressed them in a tone as contemptuous as could have been assumed by a victorious general towards the vanquished chief of some insignificant village: 'What are you come about so early? Why have you ill-treated this prisoner so shamefully? Is it not possible to refrain from thus tearing to pieces and beginning to execute your criminals even before they are judged?
They made no answer, but shouted out to the guards, 'Bring him on—bring him to be judged!' and then, turning to Pilate, they said, 'Listen to our accusations against this malefactor; for we cannot enter the tribunal lest we defile ourselves! Scarcely had they finished these words, when a voice was heard to issue from the midst of the dense multitude; it proceeded from a venerable-looking old man, of imposing stature, who exclaimed, 'You are right in not entering the Prætorium, for it has been sanctified by the blood of Innocents; there is but one Person who has a right to enter, and who alone can enter, because he alone is pure as the Innocents who were massacred there.'
The person who uttered these words in a loud voice, and then disappeared among the crowd, was a rich man of the name of Zadoc, first-cousin to Obed, the husband of Veronica; two of his children were among the Innocents whom Herod had caused to be butchered at the birth of our Savior. Since that dreadful moment he had given up the world, and, together with his wife, followed the rules of the Essenians. He had once seen our Savior at the house of Lazarus, and there heard him discourse, and the sight of the barbarous manner in which he was dragged before Pilate recalled to his mind all he himself had suffered when his babes were so cruelly murdered before his eyes, and he determined to give this public testimony of his belief in the innocence of Jesus. The persecutors of our Lord were far too provoked at the haughty manner which Pilate assumed towards them, and at the humble position they were obliged to occupy, to take any notice of the words of a stranger.
The brutal guards dragged our Lord up the marble staircase, and led him to the end of the terrace, from whence Pilate was conferring with the Jewish priests. The Roman governor had often heard of Jesus, although he had never seen him, and now he was perfectly astonished at the calm dignity of deportment of a man brought before him in so pitiable a condition.
The inhuman behavior of the priests and ancients both exasperated him and increased his contempt for them, and he informed them pretty quickly that he had not the slightest intention of condemning Jesus without satisfactory proofs of the truth of their accusations. 'What accusation do you bring against this man?' said he, addressing the priests in the most scornful tone possible.
'If he were not a malefactor we would not have delivered him up to thee,' replied the priests sullenly.
'Take him,' said Pilate, 'and judge you him according to your law.' 'Thou knowest well,' replied they, 'that it is not lawful for us to condemn any man to death.'
The enemies of Jesus were furious--they wished to have the trial finished off, and their victim executed as quickly as possible, that they might be ready at the festival-day to sacrifice the Paschal lamb, not knowing, miserable wretches as they were, that he whom they had dragged before the tribunal of an idolatrous judge (into whose house they would not enter, for fear of defiling themselves before partaking of the figurative victim), that he, and he alone, was the true Paschal Lamb, of which the other was only the shadow.
Pilate, however, at last ordered them to produce their accusations. These accusations were three in number, and they brought forward ten witnesses to attest the truth of each. Their great aim was to make Pilate believe that Jesus was the leader of a conspiracy against the emperor, in order that he might condemn him to death as a rebel. They themselves were powerless in such matters, being allowed to judge none but religious offenses.
Their first endeavor was to convict him of seducing the people, exciting them to rebellion, and of being an enemy to public peace and tranquillity. To prove these charges they brought forward some false witnesses, and declared likewise that he violated the Sabbath, and even profaned it by curing the sick upon that day.
At this accusation Pilate interrupted them, and said in a jeering tone, 'It is very evident you were none of you ill yourselves—had you been so you would not have complained of being cured on the Sabbath-day.' 'He seduces the people, and inculcates the most disgusting doctrines. He even says, that no person can attain eternal life unless they eat his flesh and drink his blood.' Pilate was quite provoked at the intense hatred which their words and countenances expressed, and, turning from them with a look of scorn, exclaimed, 'You most certainly must wish to follow his doctrines and to attain eternal life, for you are thirsting for both his body and blood.'
The Jews then brought forward the second accusation against Jesus, which was that he forbade the people to pay tribute to the emperor. These words roused the indignation of Pilate, as it was his place to see that all the taxes were properly paid, and he exclaimed in an angry tone, 'That is a lie! I must know more about it than you.'
This obliged the enemies of our Lord to proceed to the third accusation, which they did in words such as these: 'Although this man is of obscure birth, he is the chief of a large party. When at their head, he denounces curses upon Jerusalem, and relates parables of double meaning concerning a king who is preparing a wedding feast for his son. The multitude whom he had gathered together on a mountain endeavored once to make him their king; but it was sooner than he intended: his plans were not matured; therefore he fled and hid himself. Latterly he has come forward much more: it was but the other day that he entered Jerusalem at the head of a tumultuous assembly, who by his orders made the people rend the air with acclamations of "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed be the empire of our Father David, which is now beginning." He obliges his partisans to pay him regal honors, and tells them that he is the Christ, the Anointed of the Lord, the Messiah, the king promised to the Jews, and he wishes to be addressed by these fine titles.' Ten witnesses gave testimony concerning these things.
The last accusation—that of Jesus causing himself to be called king—made some impression upon Pilate; he became a little thoughtful, left the terrace and, casting a scrutinizing glance on Jesus, went into the adjoining apartment, and ordered the guards to bring him alone into his presence. Pilate was not only superstitious, but likewise extremely weak-minded and susceptible.
He had often, during the course of his pagan education, heard mention made of sons of his gods who had dwelt for a time upon earth; he was likewise fully aware that the Jewish prophets had long foretold that one should appear in the midst of them who should be the Anointed of the Lord, their Savior, and Deliverer from slavery; and that many among the people believed this firmly. He remembered likewise that kings from the east had come to Herod, the predecessor of the present monarch of that name, to pay homage to a newly-born king of the Jews, and that Herod had on this account given orders for the massacre of the Innocents. He had often heard of the traditions concerning the Messias and the king of the Jews, and even examined them with some curiosity; although of course, being a pagan, without the slightest belief. Had he believed at all, he would probably have agreed with the Herodians, and with those Jews who expected a powerful and victorious king.
With such impressions, the idea of the Jews accusing the poor miserable individual whom they had brought into his presence of setting himself up as the promised king and Messiah, of course appeared to him absurd; but as the enemies of Jesus brought forward these charges in proof of treason against the emperor, he thought it proper to interrogate him privately concerning them.
'Art thou the king of the Jews?' said Pilate, looking at our Lord, and unable to repress his astonishment at the divine expression of his countenance.
Jesus made answer, 'Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or have others told it thee of me?'
Pilate was offended that Jesus should think it possible for him to believe such a thing, and answered, 'Am I a Jew? Thy own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee up to me as deserving of death: what hast thou done?'
Jesus answered majestically, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would certainly strive that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from hence.'
Pilate was somewhat moved by these solemn words, and said to him in a more serious tone, 'Art thou a king, then?'
Jesus answered, 'Thou sayest that I am a king. For this was I born, and for this I came into the world, that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.'
Pilate looked at him, and rising from his seat said, The truth! What is truth?'
They then exchanged a few more words, which I do not now remember, and Pilate returned to the terrace. The answers and deportment of Jesus were far beyond his comprehension; but he saw plainly that his assumption of royalty would not clash with that of the emperor, for that it was to no worldly kingdom that he laid claim; whereas the emperor cared for nothing beyond this world. He therefore again addressed the chief priests from the terrace, and said, 'I find no cause in him.'
The enemies of Jesus became furious, and uttered a thousand different accusations against our Savior. But he remained silent, solely occupied in praying for his base enemies, and replied not when Pilate addressed him in these words, 'Answerest thou nothing? Behold in how many things they accuse thee!' Pilate was filled with astonishment, and said, 'I see plainly that all they allege is false.' But his accusers, whose anger continued to increase, cried out, 'You find no cause in him?' Is it no crime to incite the people to revolt in all parts of the kingdom?—to spread his false doctrines, not only here, but in Galilee likewise?'
The mention of Galilee made Pilate pause: he reflected for a moment, and then asked, 'Is this man a Galilean, and a subject of Herod's?' They made answer, 'He is; his parents lived at Nazareth, and his present dwelling is in Capharnaum.'
'Since that is the case,' replied Pilate, 'take him before Herod; he is here for the festival, and can judge him at once, as he is his subject.' Jesus was immediately led out of the tribunal, and Pilate dispatched an officer to Herod, to inform him that Jesus of Nazareth, who was his subject, was about to be brought to him to be judged. Pilate had two reasons for following this line of conduct; in the first place he was delighted to escape having to pass sentence himself, as he felt very uncomfortable about the whole affair; and in the second place he was glad of an opportunity of pleasing Herod, with whom he had had a disagreement, for he knew him to be very curious to see Jesus.
The enemies of our Lord were enraged at being thus dismissed by Pilate in the presence of the whole multitude, and gave vent to their anger by ill-treating him even more than before. They pinioned him afresh, and then ceased not overwhelming him with curses and blows as they led him hurriedly through the crowd, towards the palace of Herod, which was situated at no great distance from the forum. Some Roman soldiers had joined the procession.
During the time of the trial Claudia Procles, the wife of Pilate, had sent him frequent messages to intimate that she wished extremely to speak to him; and when Jesus was sent to Herod, she placed herself on a balcony and watched the cruel conduct of his enemies with mingled feelings of fear, grief, and horror.
Friday 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
Jesus is brought back to Pilate and placed after Barabbas. Jesus is scourged.
The palace of the Tetrarch Herod was built on the north side of the forum, in the new town; not very far from that of Pilate. An escort of Roman soldiers, mostly from that part of the country which is situated between Switzerland and Italy, had joined the procession.
The enemies of Jesus were perfectly furious at the trouble they were compelled to take in going backwards and forwards, and therefore vented their rage upon him. Pilate's messenger had preceded the procession, consequently Herod was expecting them. He was seated on a pile of cushions, heaped together so as to form a species of throne, in a spacious hall, and surrounded by courtiers and warriors.
The Chief Priests entered and placed themselves by his side, leaving Jesus at the entrance. Herod was much elated and pleased at Pilate's having thus publicly acknowledged his right of judging the Galileans, and likewise rejoiced at seeing that Jesus who had never deigned to appear before him reduced to such a state of humiliation and degradation.
His curiosity had been greatly excited by the high terms in which John the Baptist had announced the coming of Jesus, and he had likewise heard much about him from the Herodians, and through the many spies whom he had sent into different parts: he was therefore delighted at this opportunity of interrogating him in the presence of his courtiers and of the Jewish priests, hoping to make a grand display of his own knowledge and talents.
Pilate having sent him word, ]'that he could find no cause in the man,' he concluded that these words were intended as a hint that he (Pilate) wished the accusers to be treated with contempt and mistrust. He, therefore, addressed them in the most haughty distant manner possible, and thereby increased their rage and anger indescribably.
They all began at once to vociferate their accusations, to which Herod hardly listened, being intent solely on gratifying his curiosity by a close examination of Jesus, whom he had so often wished to see. But when he beheld him stripped of all clothing save the remnant of a mantle, scarcely able to stand, and his countenance totally disfigured from the blows he had received, and from the mud and missiles which the rabble had flung at his head, the luxurious and effeminate prince turned away in disgust, uttered the name of God, and said to the priests in a tone of mingled pity and contempt, 'Take him hence, and bring him not back into my presence in such a deplorable state.' The guards took Jesus into the outer court, and procured some water in a basin, with which they cleansed his soiled garments and disfigured countenance; but they could not restrain their brutality even while doing this, and paid no regard to the wounds with which he was covered.
Herod meantime accosted the priests in much the same strain as Pilate had done. 'Your behavior vastly resembles that of butchers,' he said, 'and you commence your immolations pretty early in the morning.' The Chief Priests produced their accusations at once. Herod, when Jesus was again brought into his presence, pretended to feel some compassion, and offered him a glass of wine to recruit his strength; but Jesus turned his head away and refused this alleviation.
Herod then began to expatiate with great volubility on all he had heard concerning Our Lord. He asked a thousand questions, and exhorted him to work a miracle in his presence; but Jesus answered not a word, and stood before him with his eyes cast down, which conduct both irritated and disconcerted Herod, although he endeavored to conceal his anger, and continued his interrogations.
He at first expressed surprise, and made use of persuasive words. 'Is it possible, Jesus of Nazareth,' he exclaimed, 'that it is thou thyself that appearest before me as a criminal? I have heard thy actions so much spoken of. Thou art not perhaps aware that thou didst offend me grievously by setting free the prisoners whom I had confined at Thirza, but possibly thy intentions were good. The Roman governor has now sent thee to me to be judged; what answer canst thou give to all these accusations? Thou art silent? I have heard much concerning thy wisdom, and the religion thou teachest, let me hear thee answer and confound thy enemies. Art thou the king of the Jews? Art thou the Son of God? Who art thou? Thou art said to have performed wonderful miracles; work one now in my presence. I have the power to release thee. Is it true that thou hast restored sight to the blind, raised up Lazarus from the dead, and fed two or three thousand persons with a few loaves? Why dost thou not answer? I recommend thee to work a miracle quickly before me; perhaps thou mayest rejoice afterwards at having complied with my wishes.'
Jesus still kept silence, and Herod continued to question him with even more volubility.
'Who art thou?' said he. 'From whence hast thou thy power? How is it that thou dost no longer possess it? Art thou he whose birth was foretold in such a wonderful manner? Kings from the East came to my father to see a newly-born king of the Jews: is it true that thou wast that child? Didst thou escape when so many children were massacred, and how was thy escape managed? Why hast thou been for so many years unknown? Answer my questions? Art thou a king? Thy appearance certainly is not regal. I have been told that thou wast conducted to the Temple in triumph a short time ago. What was the meaning of such an exhibition?—speak out at once!--Answer me!'
Herod continued to question Jesus in this rapid manner; but our Lord did not vouchsafe a reply. I was shown (as indeed I already knew) that Jesus was thus silent because Herod was in a state of excommunication, both on account of his adulterous marriage with Herodias, and of his having given orders for the execution of St. John the Baptist. Annas and Caiphas, seeing how indignant Herod was at the silence of Jesus, immediately endeavored to take advantage of his feelings of wrath, and recommenced their accusations, saying that he had called Herod himself a fox; that his great aim for many years had been the overthrow of Herod's family; that he was endeavoring to establish a new religion, and had celebrated the Pasch on the previous day.
Although Herod was extremely enraged at the conduct of Jesus, he did not lose sight of the political ends which he wished to forward. He was determined not to condemn our Lord, both because he experienced a secret and indefinable sensation of terror in his presence, and because he still felt remorse at the thought of having put John the Baptist to death, besides which he detested the High Priests for not having allowed him to take part in the sacrifices on account of his adulterous connection with Herodias.
But his principal reason for determining not to condemn Jesus was, that he wished to make some return to Pilate for his courtesy, and he thought the best return would be the compliment of showing deference to his decision and agreeing with him in opinion. But he spoke in the most contemptuous manner to Jesus, and turning to the guards and servants who surrounded him, and who were about two hundred in number, said: 'Take away this fool, and pay him that homage which is his due; he is mad, rather than guilty of any crime.'
Our Lord was immediately taken into a large court, where every possible insult and indignity was heaped upon him. This court was between the two wings of the palace, and Herod stood a spectator on a platform for some time. Annas and Caiphas wore by his side, endeavoring to persuade him to condemn our Savior. But their efforts were fruitless, and Herod answered in a tone loud enough to be heard by the Roman soldiers: 'No, I should act quite wrongly if I condemned him.' His meaning was, that it would be wrong to condemn as guilty one whom Pilate had pronounced innocent, although he had been so courteous as to defer the final judgment to him.
When the High Priests and the other enemies of Jesus perceived that Herod was determined not to give in to their wishes, they dispatched emissaries to that division of the city called Acre, which was chiefly inhabited by Pharisees, to let them know that they must assemble in the neighborhood of Pilate's palace, gather together the rabble, and bribe them to make a tumult, and demand the condemnation of Our Lord.
They likewise sent forth secret agents to alarm the people by threats of the divine vengeance if they did not insist on the execution of Jesus, whom they termed a sacrilegious blasphemer. These agents were ordered likewise to alarm them by intimating that if Jesus were not put to death, he would go over to the Romans, and assist in the extermination of the Jewish nation, for that it was to this he referred when he spoke of his future kingdom They endeavored to spread a report in other parts of the city, that Herod had condemned him, but still that it was necessary for the people likewise to express their wishes, as his partisans were to be feared; for that if he were released he would join the Romans, make a disturbance on the festival day, and take the most inhuman revenge.
Some among them circulated contradictory and alarming reports, in order to excite the people, and cause an insurrection; while others distributed money among the soldiers to bribe them to ill-treat Jesus, so as to cause his death, which they were most anxious should be brought about as quickly as possible, lest Pilate should acquit him.
Whilst the Pharisees wore busying themselves in this manner, our Blessed Savior was suffering the greatest outrages from the brutal soldiers to whom Herod had delivered him, that they might deride him as a fool. They dragged him into the court, and one of their number having procured a large white sack which had once been filled with cotton, they made a hole in its center with a sword, and then tossed it over the head of Jesus, accompanying each action with bursts of the most contemptuous laughter.
Another soldier brought the remnant of an old scarlet cloak, and passed it round his neck, while the rest bent their knee before him—shoved him—abused him—spat upon him—truck him on the cheek, because he had refused to answer their king, mocked him by pretending to pay homage—threw mud upon him—seized him by the waist, pretending to make him dance; then, having thrown him down, dragged him through a gutter which ran on the side of the court, thus causing his sacred head to strike against the column and sides of the wall, and when at last they raised him up, it was only in order to recommence their insults.
The soldiers and servants of Herod who were assembled in this court amounted to upwards of two hundred, and all thought to pay court to their monarch by torturing Jesus in some unheard-of way. Many were bribed by the enemies of our Lord to strike him on the head with their sticks, and they took advantage of the confusion and tumult to do so. Jesus looked upon them with compassion; excess of pain drew from him occasional moans and groans, but his enemies rejoiced in his sufferings, and mocked his moans, and not one among the whole assembly showed the slightest degree of compassion. Blood was streaming from his head, and three times did the blows prostrate him, but angels were weeping at his side, and they anointed his head with heavenly balsam. It was revealed to me that had it not been for this miraculous assistance he must have died from those wounds. The Philistines at Gaza, who gave vent to their wrath by tormenting poor blind Samson, were far less barbarous than these cruel executioners of our Lord.
The priests were, however, impatient to return to the Temple; therefore, having made certain that their orders regarding Jesus would be obeyed, they returned to Herod, and endeavored to persuade him to condemn our Lord. But he, being determined to do all in his power to please Pilate, refused to accede to their wishes, and sent Jesus back again clothed in the fool's garment.
Friday 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns. Presented to the people: “Ecce Homo!” Jesus is condemned to death.
The enemies of Jesus were perfectly infuriated at being obliged to take Jesus back, still uncondemned, to Pilate, who had so many times declared his innocence. They led him round by a much longer road, in order in the first place to let the persons of that part of the town see him in the state of ignominy to which he was reduced, and in the second place to give their emissaries more time to stir up the populace.
This road was extremely rough and uneven; and the soldiers, encouraged by the Pharisees, scarcely refrained a moment from tormenting Jesus. The long garment with which he was clothed impeded his steps, and caused him to fall heavily more than once; and his cruel guards, as also many among the brutal populace, instead of assisting him in his state of exhaustion, endeavored by blows and kicks to force him to rise.
To all these outrages Jesus offered not the smallest resistance; he prayed constantly to his Father for grace and strength that he might not sink under them, but accomplish the work of his Passion for our redemption.
It was about eight o'clock when the procession reached the palace of Pilate. The crowd was dense, and the Pharisees might be seen walking to and fro, endeavoring to incite and infuriate them still more. Pilate, who remembered an insurrection which had taken place the year before at the Paschal time, had assembled upwards of a thousand soldiers, whom he posted around the Prætorium, the Forum, and his palace.
The Blessed Virgin, her elder sister Mary (the daughter of Heli), Mary (the daughter of Cleophas), Magdalen, and about twenty of the holy women, were standing in a room from whence they could see all which took place, and at first John was with them.
The Pharisees led Jesus, still clothed in the fool's garment, through the midst of the insolent mob, and had done all in their power to gather together the most vile and wicked of miscreants from among the dregs of the people. A servant sent by Herod had already reached Pilate, with a message to the effect that his master had fully appreciated his polite deference to his opinion, but that be looked upon the far-famed Galilean as no better than a fool, that he had treated him as such, and now sent him back. Pilate was quite satisfied at finding that Herod had come to the same conclusion as himself, and therefore returned a polite message. From that hour they became friends, having been enemies many years; in fact, ever since the falling-in of the aqueduct.
Jesus was again led to the house of Pilate. The archers dragged him up the stairs with their usual brutality; his feet became entangled in his long robe, and he fell upon the white marble steps, which were stained with blood from his sacred head. His enemies had again taken their seats at the entrance of the forum; the mob laughed at his fall, and the archers struck their innocent victim, instead of assisting him to rise.
Pilate was reclining on a species of easy-chair, with a little table before him, and surrounded with officers and persons who held strips of parchment covered with writing in their hands. He came forward and said to the accusers of Jesus: 'You have presented unto me. this man, as one that perverteth the people, and behold I, having examined him before you, find no came in this man in those things wherein you accuse him. No, nor Herod neither. For I sent you to him, and behold, nothing worthy of death is done to him. I will chastise him, therefore, and release him.'
When the Pharisees heard these words, they became furious, and endeavored to the utmost of their power to persuade the people to revolt, distributing money among them to effect this purpose. Pilate looked around with contempt, and addressed them in scornful words.
It happened to be the precise time when, according to an ancient custom, the people had the privilege of demanding the deliverance of one prisoner. The Pharisees had dispatched emissaries to persuade the people to demand the death, and not the life, of our Lord. Pilate hoped that they would ask for Jesus, and determined to give them to choose between him and a criminal called Barabbas, who had been convicted of a dreadful murder committed during a sedition, as also of many other crimes, and was, moreover, detested by the people.
There was considerable excitement among the crowd; a certain portion came forward, and their orators, addressing Pilate in a loud voice, said: 'Grant us the favor you have always granted on the festival day.' Pilate made answer: 'It is customary for me to deliver to you a criminal at the Paschal time; whom will you that I release to you, Barabbas, or Jesus that is called Christ?'
Although Pilate did not in his own mind feel at all certain that Jesus was the King of the Jews, yet he called him so, partly because his Roman pride made him take delight in humbling the Jews by calling such a despicable-looking person their king; and partly because he felt a kind of inward belief that Jesus might really be that miraculous king, that Messiah who had been promised. He saw plainly that the priests were incited by envy alone in their accusations against Jesus; this made him most anxious to disappoint them; and the desire was increased by that glimmering of the truth which partly enlightened his mind.
There was some hesitation among the crowd when Pilate asked this question, and a few voices answered, 'Barabbas.' A servant sent by Pilate's wife asked for him at this moment; he left the platform, and the messenger presented the pledge which he had given her, saying at the same time: 'Claudia Procles begs you to remember your promise this morning.' The Pharisees and the priests walked anxiously and hastily about among the crowd, threatening some and ordering others, although, in fact, little was required to incite the already infuriated multitude.
Mary, with Magdalen, John, and the holy women, stood in a corner of the forum, trembling and weeping; for although the Mother of Jesus was fully aware that the redemption of man could not be brought about by any other means than the death of her Son, yet she was filled with the anguish of a mother, and with a longing desire to save him from those tortures and from that death which he was about to suffer.
She prayed God not to allow such a fearful crime to be perpetrated; she repeated the words of Jesus in the Garden of Olives: 'If it is possible, let this chalice pass away.' She still felt a glimmering of hope, because there was a report current that Pilate wished to acquit Jesus. Groups of persons, mostly inhabitants of Capharnaum, where Jesus had taught, and among whom he had wrought so many miraculous cures, were congregated in her vicinity; they pretended not to remember either her or her weeping companions; they simply cast a glance now and then, as if by chance, at their closely-veiled figures. Many thought, as did her companions likewise, that these persons at least would reject Barabbas, and beg for the life of their Savior and Benefactor; but these hopes were, alas, fallacious.
Pilate sent back the pledge to his wife, as an assurance of his intention to keep his promise. He again came forward on the platform, and seated himself at the little table. The Chief Priests took their seats likewise, and Pilate once more demanded: 'Which of the two am I to deliver up to you?' A general cry resounded through the hall: 'Not this man, but Barabbas!' 'But what am I to do with Jesus, who is called Christ?' replied Pilate. All exclaimed in a tumultuous manner: 'Let him be crucified! let him be crucified!' 'But what evil has he done?' asked Pilate for the third time. 'I find no cause in him. I will scourge and then acquit him.' But the cry, 'Crucify him! Crucify him!' burst from the crowd, and the sounds echoed like an infernal tempest; the High Priests and the Pharisees vociferated and hurried backwards and forwards as if insane. Pilate at last yielded; his weak pusillanimous character could not withstand such violent demonstrations; he delivered up Barabbas to the people, and condemned Jesus to be scourged.
That most weak and undecided of all judges, Pilate, had several times repeated these dastardly words: 'I find no crime in him: I will chastise him, therefore, and let him go;' to which the Jews had continued to respond, 'Crucify him! Crucify him!' but he determined to adhere to his resolution of not condemning our Lord to death, and ordered him to be scourged according to the manner of the Romans. The guards were therefore ordered to conduct him through the midst of the furious multitude to the forum, which they did with the utmost brutality, at the same time loading him with abuse, and striking him with their staffs.
The pillar where criminals were scourged stood to the north of Pilate's palace, near the guard-house, and the executioners Soon arrived, carrying whips, rods, and ropes, which they tossed down at its base. They were six in number, dark, swarthy men, somewhat shorter than Jesus; their chests were covered with a piece of leather, or with some dirty stuff; their loins were girded, and their hairy, sinewy arms bare. They were malefactors from the frontiers of Egypt, who had been condemned for their crimes to hard labor, and were employed principally in making canals, and in erecting public buildings, the most criminal being selected to act as executioners in the Prætorium.
These cruel men had many times scourged poor criminals to death at this pillar. They resembled wild beasts or demons, and appeared to be half drunk. They struck our Lord with their fists, and dragged him by the cords with which he was pinioned, although he followed them without offering the least resistance, and, finally, they barbarously knocked him down against the pillar. This pillar, placed in the center of the court, stood alone, and did not serve to sustain any part of the building; it was not very high, for a tall man could touch the summit by stretching out his arm; there was a large iron ring at the top, and both rings and hooks a little lower down. It is quite impossible to describe the cruelty shown by these ruffians towards Jesus: they tore off the mantle with which he had 'been clothed in derision at the court of Herod, and almost threw him prostrate again.
Jesus trembled and shuddered as he stood before the pillar, and took off his garments as quickly as he could, but his hands were bloody and swollen. The only return he made when his brutal executioners struck and abused him was, to pray for them in the most touching manner: he turned his face once towards his Mother, who was standing overcome with grief; this look quite unnerved her: she fainted, and would have fallen, had not the holy women who were there supported her. Jesus put his arms round the pillar, and when his hands were thus raised, the archers fastened them to the iron ring which was at the top of the pillar; they then dragged his arms to such a height that his feet, which were tightly bound to the base of the pillar, scarcely touched the ground.
Thus was the Holy of holies violently stretched, without a particle of clothing, on a pillar used for the punishment of the greatest criminals; and then did two furious ruffians who were thirsting for his blood begin in the most barbarous manner to scourge his sacred body from head to foot. The whips or scourges which they first made use of appeared to me to be made of a species of flexible white wood, but perhaps they were composed of the sinews of the ox, or of strips of leather.
Our loving Lord, the Son of God, true God and true Man, writhed as a worm under the blows of these barbarians; his mild but deep groans might be heard from afar; they resounded through the air, forming a kind of touching accompaniment to the hissing of the instruments of torture. These groans resembled rather a touching cry of prayer and supplication, than moans of anguish.
The clamor of the Pharisees and the people formed another species of accompaniment, which at times as a deafening thunder-storm deadened and smothered these sacred and mournful cries, and in their place might be heard the words, 'Put him to death!' 'Crucify him!' Pilate continued parleying with the people, and when he demanded silence in order to be able to speak, he was obliged to proclaim his wishes to the clamorous assembly by the sound of a trumpet, and at such moments you might again hear the noise of the scourges, the moans of Jesus, the imprecations of the soldiers, and the bleating of the Paschal lambs which were being washed in the Probatica pool, at no great distance from the forum. There was something peculiarly touching in the plaintive bleating of these lambs: they alone appeared to unite their lamentations with the suffering moans of our Lord.
The Jewish mob was gathered together at some distance from the pillar at which the dreadful punishment was taking place, and Roman soldiers were stationed in different parts round about. Many persons were walking to and fro, some in silence, others speaking of Jesus in the most insulting terms possible, and a few appearing touched, and I thought I beheld rays of light issuing from our Lord and entering the hearts of the latter. I saw groups of infamous, bold-looking young men, who wore for the most part busying themselves near the watch-house in preparing fresh scourges, while others went to seek branches of thorns.
Several of the servants of the High Priests went up to the brutal executioners and gave them money; as also a large jug filled with a strong bright red liquid, which quite inebriated them, and increased their cruelty tenfold towards their innocent victim. The two ruffians continued to strike our Lord with unremitting violence for a quarter of an hour, and were then succeeded by two others. His body was entirely covered with black, blue, and red marks; the blood was trickling down on the ground, and yet the furious cries which issued from among the assembled Jews showed that their cruelty was far from being satiated.
The night had been extremely cold, and the morning was dark and cloudy; a little hail had fallen, which surprised every one, but towards twelve o'clock the day became brighter, and the sun shone forth.
The two fresh executioners commenced scourging Jesus with the greatest possible fury; they made use of a different kind of rod,--a species of thorny stick, covered with knots and splinters. The blows from these sticks tore his flesh to pieces; his blood spouted out so as to stain their arms, and he groaned, prayed, and shuddered. At this moment, some strangers mounted on camels passed through the forum; they stopped for a moment, and were quite overcome with pity and horror at the scene before them, upon which some of the bystanders explained the cause of what they witnessed. Some of these travelers had been baptized by John, and others had heard the sermon of Jesus on the mountain. The noise and the tumult of the mob was even more deafening near the house of Pilate.
Two fresh executioners took the places of the last mentioned, who were beginning to flag; their scourges were composed of small chains, or straps covered with iron hooks, which penetrated to the bone, and tore off large pieces of flesh at every blow. What word, alas! could describe this terrible--this heartrending scene!
The cruelty of these barbarians was nevertheless not yet satiated; they untied Jesus, and again fastened him up with his back turned towards the pillar. As he was totally unable to support himself in an upright position, they passed cords round his waist, under his arms, and above his knees, and having bound his hands tightly into the rings which wore placed at the upper part of the pillar, they recommenced scourging him with even greater fury than before; and one among them struck him constantly on the face with a new rod. The body of our Lord was perfectly torn to shreds—it was but one wound. He looked at his torturers with his eyes filled with blood, as if entreating mercy; but their brutality appeared to increase, and his moans each moment became more feeble.
The dreadful scourging had been continued without intermission for three quarters of an hour, when a stranger of lowly birth, a relation to Ctésiphon, the blind man whom Jesus had cured, rushed from amidst the crowd, and approached the pillar with a knife shaped like a cutlass in his hand. 'Cease!' he exclaimed, in an indignant tone; 'Cease! Scourge not this innocent man unto death!' The drunken miscreants, taken by surprise, stopped short, while he quickly severed the cords which bound Jesus to the pillar, and disappeared among the crowd. Jesus fell almost without consciousness on the ground, which was bathed with his blood. The executioners left him there, and rejoined their cruel companions, who were amusing themselves in the guard-house with drinking, and plaiting the crown of thorns.
Our Lord remained for a short time on the ground, at the foot of the pillar, bathed in his own blood, and two or three bold-looking girls came up to gratify their curiosity by looking at him. They gave a glance, and were turning away in disgust, but at the moment the pain of the wounds of Jesus was so intense that he raised his bleeding head and looked at them. They retired quickly, and the soldiers and guards laughed and made game of them.
During the time of the scourging of our Lord, I saw weeping angels approach him many times; I likewise heard the prayers he constantly addressed to his Father for the pardon of our sins—prayers which never ceased during the whole time of the infliction of this cruel punishment. Whilst he lay bathed in his blood I saw an angel present to him a vase containing a bright-looking beverage which appeared to reinvigorate him in a certain degree.
The archers soon returned, and after giving him some blows with their sticks, bade him rise and follow them. He raised himself with the greatest difficulty, as his trembling limbs could scarcely support the weight of his body; they did not give him sufficient time to put on his clothes, but threw his upper garment over his naked shoulders and led him from the pillar to the guard-house, where he wiped the blood which trickled down his face with a corner of his garment. When he passed before the benches on which the High Priests were seated, they cried out, 'Put him to death! Crucify him! crucify him!' and then turned away disdainfully. The executioners led him into the interior of the guard-house, which was filled with slaves, archers, hodmen, and the very dregs of the people, but there were no soldiers.
The great excitement among the populace alarmed Pilate so much, that he sent to the fortress of Antonia for a reinforcement of Roman soldiers, and posted these well-disciplined troops round the guard-house; they were permitted to talk and to deride Jesus in every possible way, but were forbidden to quit their ranks. These soldiers, whom Pilate had sent for to intimidate the mob, numbered about a thousand.
Pilate harangued the populace many times during the time of the scourging of Jesus, but they interrupted him once, and vociferated, 'He shall be executed, even if we die for it.' When Jesus was led into the guard-house, they all cried out again, 'Crucify him, crucify him!'
After this there was silence for a time. Pilate occupied himself in giving different orders to the soldiers, and the servants of the High Priests brought them some refreshments; after which Pilate, whose superstitious tendencies made him uneasy in mind, went into the inner part of his palace in order to consult his gods, and to offer them incense.
When the Blessed Virgin and the holy women had gathered up the blood of Jesus, with which the pillar and the adjacent parts were saturated, they left the forum, and went into a neighboring small house, the owner of which I do not know. John was not, I think, present at the scourging of Jesus.
A gallery encircled the inner court of the guard-house where our Lord was crowned with thorns, and the doors were open. The cowardly ruffians, who were eagerly waiting to gratify their cruelty by torturing and insulting our Lord, were about fifty in number, and the greatest part slaves or servants of the jailers and soldiers. The mob gathered round the building, but were soon displaced by a thousand Roman soldiers, who were drawn up in good order and stationed there. Although forbidden to leave their ranks, these soldiers nevertheless did their utmost by laughter and applause to incite the cruel executioners to redouble their insults; and as public applause gives fresh energy to a comedian, so did their words of encouragement increase tenfold the cruelty of these men.
In the middle of the court there stood the fragment of a pillar, and on it was placed a very low stool which these cruel men maliciously covered with sharp flints and bits of broken potsherds. Then they tore off the garments of Jesus, thereby reopening all his wounds; threw over his shoulders an old scarlet mantle which barely reached his knees; dragged him to the seat prepared, and pushed him roughly down upon it, having first placed the crown of thorns upon his head.
The crown of thorns was made of three branches plaited together, the greatest part of the thorns being purposely turned inwards so as to pierce our Lord's head. Having first placed these twisted branches on his forehead, they tied them tightly together at the back of his head, and no sooner was this accomplished to their satisfaction than they put a large reed into his hand, doing all with derisive gravity as if they were really crowning him king.
They then seized the reed, and struck his head so violently that his eyes were filled with blood; they knelt before him, derided him, spat in his face, and buffeted him, saying at the same time, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' Then they threw down his stool, pulled him up again from the ground on which he had fallen, and re-seated him with the greatest possible brutality.
It is quite impossible to describe the cruel outrages which were thought of and perpetrated by these monsters under human form. The sufferings of Jesus from thirst, caused by the fever which his wounds and sufferings had brought on, were intense. He trembled all over, his flesh was torn piecemeal, his tongue contracted, and the only refreshment he received was the blood which trickled from his head on to his parched lips. This shameful scene was protracted a full half-hour, and the Roman soldiers continued during the whole time to applaud and encourage the perpetration of still greater outrages.
The cruel executioners then re-conducted our Lord to Pilate's palace, with the scarlet cloak still thrown over his shoulders, the crown of thorns on his head, and the reed in his fettered hands. He was perfectly unrecognizable, his eyes, mouth, and beard being covered with blood, his body but one wound, and his back bowed down as that of an aged man, while every limb trembled as be walked. When Pilate saw him standing at the entrance of his tribunal, even he (hard-hearted as he usually was) started, and shuddered with horror and compassion, whilst the barbarous priests and the populace, far from being moved to pity, continued their insults and mockery. When Jesus had ascended the stairs, Pilate came forward, the trumpet was sounded to announce that the governor was about to speak, and he addressed the Chief Priests and the bystanders in the following words: 'Behold, I bring him forth to you, that you may know that I find no cause in him.'
The archers then led Jesus up to Pilate, that the people might again feast their cruel eyes on him, in the state of degradation to which he was reduced. Terrible and heartrending, indeed, was the spectacle he presented, and an exclamation of horror burst from the multitude, followed by a dead silence, when he with difficulty raised his wounded head, crowned as it was with thorns, and cast his exhausted glance on the excited throng. Pilate exclaimed, as he pointed him out to the people; 'Ecce homo! Behold the man!'
The hatred of the High Priests and their followers was, if possible, increased at the right of Jesus, and they cried out, 'Put him to death; crucify him.' 'Are you not content?' said Pilate. 'The punishment he has received is, beyond question, sufficient to deprive him of all desire of making himself king.'
But they cried out the more, and the multitude joined in the cry, 'Crucify him, crucify him!' Pilate then sounded the trumpet to demand silence, and said: 'Take you him and crucify him, for I find no cause in him.' 'We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die,' replied the priests, 'because he made himself the Son of God.' These words, 'he made himself the Son of God,' revived the fears of Pilate; he took Jesus into another room, and asked him; 'Whence art thou?' But Jesus made no answer. 'Speakest thou not to me?' said Pilate; 'knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and power to release thee?' 'Thou shouldst not have any power against me,' replied Jesus, 'unless it were given thee from above; therefore he that hath delivered me to thee hath the greater sin.'
The undecided, weak conduct of Pilate filled Claudia Procles with anxiety; she again sent him the pledge, to remind him of his promise, but he only returned a vague, superstitious answer, importing that he should leave the decision of the case to the gods. The enemies of Jesus, the High Priests and the Pharisees, having heard of the efforts which were being made by Claudia to save him, caused a report to be spread among the people, that the partisans of our Lord had seduced her, that he would be released, and then join the Romans and bring about the destruction of Jerusalem, and the extermination of Jews.
Pilate was in such a state of indecision and uncertainty as to be perfectly beside himself; he did not know what step to take next, and again addressed himself to the enemies of Jesus, declaring that 'he found no crime in him,' but they demanded his death still more clamorously. He then remembered the contradictory accusations which had been brought against Jesus, the mysterious dreams of his wife, and the unaccountable impression which the words of Jesus had made on himself, and therefore determined to question him again in order thus to obtain some information which might enlighten him as to the course he ought to pursue; he therefore returned to the Prætorium, went alone into a room, and sent for our Savior.
He glanced at the mangled and bleeding Form before him, and exclaimed inwardly: 'Is it possible that he can be God?' Then he turned to Jesus, and adjured him to tell him if he was God, if he was that king who had been promised to the Jews, where his kingdom was, and to what class of gods he belonged. I can only give the sense of the words of Jesus, but they were solemn and severe. He told him 'that his kingdom was not of this world,' and he likewise spoke strongly of the many hidden crimes with which the conscience of Pilate was defiled; warned him of the dreadful fate which would be his, if he did not repent; and finally declared that he himself, the Son of Man, would come at the last day, to pronounce a just judgment upon him.
Pilate was half frightened and half angry at the words of Jesus; he returned to the balcony, and again declared that he would release Jesus; but they cried out: 'If thou release this man, thou art not Cæsar's friend. For whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Cæsar.' Others said that they would accuse him to the Emperor of having disturbed their festival; that he must make up his mind at once, because they were obliged to be in the Temple by ten o'clock at night.
The cry, 'Crucify him! crucify him!' resounded on all sides; it re-echoed even from the flat roofs of the houses near the forum, where many persons were assembled. Pilate saw that all his efforts were vain, that he could make no impression on the infuriated mob; their yells and imprecations were deafening, and he began to fear an insurrection. Therefore he took water, and washed his hands before the people, saying, 'I am innocent of the blood of this just man; look you to it.' A frightful and unanimous cry then came from the dense multitude, who were assembled from all parts of Palestine, 'His blood be upon us, and upon our children.'
Pilate, who did not desire to know the truth, but was solely anxious to get out of the difficulty without harm to himself, became more undecided than ever; his conscience whispered—'Jesus is innocent;' his wife said, 'he is holy;' his superstitious feelings made him fear that Jesus was the enemy of his gods; and his cowardice filled him with dread lest Jesus, if he was a god, should wreak his vengeance upon his judge. He was both irritated and alarmed at the last words of Jesus, and he made another attempt for his release; but the Jews instantly threatened to lay an accusation against him before the Emperor.
This menace terrified him, and he determined to accede to their wishes, although firmly convinced in his own mind of the innocence of Jesus, and perfectly conscious that by pronouncing sentence of death upon him he should violate every law of justice, besides breaking the promise he had made to his wife in the morning. Thus did he sacrifice Jesus to the enmity of the Jews, and endeavor to stifle remorse by washing his hands before the people, saying, 'I am innocent of the blood of this just man; look you to it.' Vainly dost thou pronounce these words, O Pilate! for his blood is on thy head likewise; thou canst not wash his blood from thy soul, as thou dost from thy hands.
Those fearful words, 'His blood be upon us and upon our children,' had scarcely ceased to resound, when Pilate commenced his preparations for passing sentence. He called for the dress which he wore on state occasions, put a species of diadem, set in precious stones, on his head, changed his mantle, and caused a staff to be carried before him. He was surrounded with soldiers, preceded by officers belonging to the tribunal, and followed by Scribes, who carried rolls of parchments and books used for inscribing names and dates. One man walked in front, who carried the trumpet.
The procession marched in this order from Pilate's palace to the forum, where an elevated seat, used on these particular occasions, was placed opposite to the pillar where Jesus was scourged. This tribunal was called Gabbatha; it was a kind of round terrace, ascended by means of staircases; on the top was a seat for Pilate, and behind this seat a bench for those in minor offices, while a number of soldiers were stationed round the terrace and upon the staircases. Many of the Pharisees had left the palace and were gone to the Temple, so that Annas, Caiphas, and twenty-eight priests alone followed the Roman governor on to the forum, and the two thieves were taken there at the time that Pilate presented our Savior to the people, saying: 'Ecce homo!'
Our Lord was still clothed in his purple garment, his crown of thorns upon his head, and his hands manacled, when the archers brought him up to the tribunal, and placed him between the two malefactors. As soon as Pilate was seated, he again addressed the enemies of Jesus, in these words, 'Behold your King!'
But the cries of 'Crucify him! Crucify him!' resounded on all sides.
'Shall I crucify your King?' said Pilate.
'We have no King but Caesar!' responded the High Priests.
Pilate found it was utterly hopeless to say anything more, and therefore commenced his preparations for passing sentence. The two thieves had received their sentence of crucifixion some time before; but the High Priests had obtained a respite for them, in order that Our Lord might suffer the additional ignominy of being executed with two criminals of the most infamous description. The crosses of the two thieves were by their sides; that intended for our Lord was not brought, because he was not as yet sentenced to death.
The Blessed Virgin, who had retired to some distance after the scourging of Jesus, again approached to hear the sentence of death pronounced upon her Son and her God. Jesus stood in the midst of the archers, at the foot of the a staircase leading up to the tribunal. The trumpet was sounded to demand silence, and then the cowardly, the base judge, in a tremulous undecided voice, pronounced the sentence of death on the Just Man.
The sight of the cowardice and duplicity of this despicable being, who was nevertheless puffed up with pride at his important position, almost overcame me, and the ferocious joy of the executioners —the triumphant countenances of the High Priests, added to the deplorable condition to which our loving Saviour was reduced, and the agonizing grief of his beloved Mother--still further increased my pain. I looked up again, and saw the cruel Jews almost devouring their victim with their eyes, the soldiers standing coldly by, and multitudes of horrible demons passing to and fro and mixing in the crowd. I felt that I ought to have been in the place of Jesus, my beloved Spouse, for the sentence would not then have been unjust; but I was so overcome with anguish, and my sufferings were so intense, that I cannot exactly remember all that I did see. However, I will relate all as nearly as I can.
After a long preamble, which was composed principally of the most pompous and exaggerated eulogy of the Emperor Tiberias, Pilate spoke of the accusations which had been brought against Jesus by the High Priests. He said that they had condemned him to death for having disturbed the public peace, and broken their laws by calling himself the Son of God and King of the Jews; and that the people had unanimously demanded that their decree should be carried out. Notwithstanding his oft-repeated conviction of the innocence of Jesus, this mean and worthless judge was not ashamed of saying that he likewise considered their decision a just one, and that he should therefore pronounce sentence--which he did in these words: 'I condemn Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews, to be crucified;' and he ordered the executioners to bring the cross. I think I remember likewise that he took a long stick in his hands, broke it, and threw the fragments at the feet of Jesus.
On hearing these words of Pilate the Mother of Jesus became for a few moments totally unconscious, for she was now certain that her beloved Son must die the most ignominious and the most painful of all deaths. John and the holy women carried her away, to prevent the heartless beings who surrounded them from adding crime to crime by jeering at her grief; but no sooner did she revive a little than she begged to be taken again to each spot which had been sanctified by the sufferings of her Son, in order to bedew them with her tears; and thus did the Mother of our Lord, in the name of the Church, take possession of those holy places.
Pilate then wrote down the sentence, and those who stood behind him copied it out three times. The words which he wrote were quite different from those he had pronounced; I could see plainly that his mind was dreadfully agitated—an angel of wrath appeared to guide his hand. The substance of the written sentence was this: 'I have been compelled, for fear of an insurrection, to yield to the wishes of the High Priests, the Sanhedrin, and the people, who tumultuously demanded the death of Jesus of Nazareth, whom they accused of having disturbed the public peace, and also of having blasphemed and broken their laws. I have given him up to them to be crucified, although their accusations appeared to be groundless. I have done so for fear of their alleging to the Emperor that I encourage insurrections, and cause dissatisfaction among the Jews by denying them the rights of justice.'
He then wrote the inscription for the cross, while his clerks copied out the sentence several times, that these copies might be sent to distant parts of the country.
The High Priests were extremely dissatisfied at the words of the sentence, which they said were not true; and they clamorously surrounded the tribunal to endeavor to persuade him to alter the inscription, and not to put King of the Jews, but that he said, I am the King of the Jews.
Pilate was vexed, and answered impatiently, 'What I have written I have written!'
They were likewise anxious that the cross of our Lord should not be higher than those of the two thieves, but it was necessary for it to be so, because there would otherwise not have been sufficient place for Pilate's inscription; they therefore endeavored to persuade him not to have this obnoxious inscription put up at all. But Pilate was determined, and their words made no impression upon him; the cross was therefore obliged to be lengthened by a fresh bit of wood. Consequently the form of the cross was peculiar--the two arms stood out like the branches of a tree growing from the stem, and the shape was very like that of the letter Y, with the lower part lengthened so as to rise between the arms, which had been put on separately, and were thinner than the body of the cross. A piece of wood was likewise nailed at the bottom of the cross for the feet to rest upon.
During the time that Pilate was pronouncing the iniquitous sentence, his wife, Claudia Procles, sent him back the pledge which he had given her, and in the evening she left his palace and joined the friends of our Lord, who concealed her in a subterraneous vault in the house of Lazarus at Jerusalem. Later in the same day, a friend of our Lord engraved the words, Judex injustus, and the name of Claudia Procles, on a green-looking stone, which was behind the terrace called Gabbatha—this stone is still to be found in the foundations of a church or house at Jerusalem, which stands on the spot formerly called Gabbatha. Claudia Procles became a Christian, followed St. Paul, and became his particular friend.
No sooner had Pilate pronounced sentence than Jesus was given up into the hands of the archers, and the clothes which he had taken off in the court of Caiphas were brought for him to put on again. I think some charitable persons had washed them, for they looked clean. The ruffians who surrounded Jesus untied his hands for his dress to be changed, and roughly dragged off the scarlet mantle with which they had clothed him in mockery, thereby reopening all his wounds; he put on his own linen under-garment with trembling hands, and they threw his scapular over his shoulders. As the crown of thorns was too large and prevented the seamless robe, which his Mother had made for him, from going over his head., they pulled it off violently, heedless of the pain thus inflicted upon him. His white woolen dress was next thrown over his shoulders, and then his wide belt and cloak. After this, they again tied round his waist a ring covered with sharp iron points, and to it they fastened the cords by which he was led, doing all with their usual brutal cruelty.
The two thieves were standing, one on the right and the other on the left of Jesus, with their hands tied and a chain round their necks; they were covered with black and livid marks, the effects of the scourging of the previous day. The demeanour of the one who was afterwards converted was quiet and peaceable, while that of the other, on the contrary, was rough and insolent, and he joined the archers in abusing and insulting Jesus, who looked upon his two companions with love and compassion, and offered up his sufferings for their salvation. The archers gathered together all the implements necessary for the crucifixions, and prepared everything for the terrible and painful journey to Calvary.
Annas and Caiphas at last left off disputing with Pilate, and angrily retired, taking with them the sheets of parchment on which the sentence was written; they went away in haste, fearing that they should get to the Temple too late for the Paschal sacrifice. Thus did the High Priests, unknowingly to themselves, leave the true Paschal Lamb. They went to a temple made of stone, to immolate and to sacrifice that lamb which was but a symbol, and they left the true Paschal Lamb, who was being led to the Altar of the Cross by the cruel executioners; they were most careful not to contract exterior defilement, while their souls were completely defiled by anger, hatred, and envy.
They had said, 'His blood be upon us and upon our children!' And by these words they had performed the ceremony, and had placed the hand of the sacrificer upon the head of the Victim. Thus were the two paths formed--the one leading to the altar belonging to the Jewish law, the other leading to the Altar of Grace: Pilate, that proud and irresolute pagan, that slave of the world, who trembled in the presence of the true God, and yet adored his false gods, took a middle path, and returned to his palace.
The iniquitous sentence was given at about ten in the morning.
Friday 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Jesus takes up His Cross and walks toward Calvary, He is stripped.
When Pilate left the tribunal a portion of the soldiers followed him, and were drawn-up in files before the palace; a few accompanying the criminals. Twenty-eight armed Pharisees came to the forum on horseback, in order to accompany Jesus to the place of execution, and among these were the six enemies of Jesus, who had assisted in arresting him in the Garden of Olives. The archers led Jesus into the middle of the court, the slaves threw down the cross at his feet, and the two arras were forthwith tied on to the center piece.
Jesus knelt down by its side, encircled it with his sacred arms, and kissed it three times, addressing, at the same time, a most touching prayer of thanksgiving to his Heavenly Father for that work of redemption which he had begun. It was the custom among pagans for the priest to embrace a new altar, and Jesus in like manner embraced his cross, that august altar on which the bloody and expiatory sacrifice was about to be offered.
The archers soon made him rise, and then kneel down again, and almost without any assistance, place the heavy cross on his right shoulder, supporting its great weight with his right hand. I saw angels come to his assistance, otherwise he would have been unable even to raise it from the ground. Whilst he was on his knees, and still praying, the executioners put the arms of the crosses, which were a little curved and not as yet fastened to the center pieces, on the backs of the two thieves, and tied their hands tightly to them. The middle parts of the crosses were carried by slaves, as the transverse pieces wore not to be fastened to them until just before the time of execution.
The trumpet sounded to announce the departure of Pilate's horsemen, and one of the Pharisees belonging to the escort came up to Jesus, who was still kneeling, and said, 'Rise, we have had a sufficiency of thy fine speeches; rise and set off.' They pulled him roughly up, for he was totally unable to rise without assistance, and he then fell upon his shoulders the weight of that cross which we must carry after him, according to his true and holy command to follow him. Thus began that triumphant march of the King of King, a march so ignominious on earth, and so glorious in heaven.
By means of ropes, which the executioners had fastened to the foot of the cross, two archers supported it to prevent its getting entangled in anything, and four other soldiers took hold of the ropes, which they had fastened to Jesus underneath his clothes. The sight of our dear Lord trembling beneath his burden, reminded me forcibly of Isaac, when he carried the wood destined for his own sacrifice up the mountain.
The trumpet of Pilate was sounded as the signal for departure, for he himself intended to go to Calvary at the head of a detachment of soldiers, to prevent the possibility of an insurrection. He was on horseback, in armor, surrounded by officers and a body of cavalry, and followed by about three hundred of the infantry, who came from the frontiers of Italy and Switzerland. The procession was headed by a trumpeter, who sounded his trumpet at every corner and proclaimed the sentence.
A number of women and children walked behind the procession with ropes, nails, wedges, and baskets filled with different articles, in their hands; others, who were stronger, carried poles, ladders, and the center pieces of the crosses of the two thieves, and some of the Pharisees followed on horseback.
A boy who had charge of the inscription which Pilate had written for the cross, likewise carried the crown of thorns (which had been taken off the head of Jesus) at the end of a long stick, but he did not appear to be wicked and hard-hearted like the rest.
Next I beheld our Blessed Savior and Redeemer—his bare feet swollen and bleeding—his back bent as though he were about to sink under the heavy weight of the cross, and his whole body covered with wounds and blood. He appeared to be half fainting from exhaustion (having had neither refreshment or sleep since the supper of the previous night), weak from loss of blood, and parched with thirst produced by fever and pain. He supported the cross on his right shoulder with his right hand, the left hung almost powerless at his side, but he endeavored now and then to hold up his long garment to prevent his bleeding feet from getting entangled in it.
The four archers who held the cords which were fastened round his waist, walked at some distance from him, the two in front pulled him on, and the two behind dragged him back, so that he could not get on at all without the greatest difficulty. His hands were cut by the cords with which they had been bound; his face bloody and disfigured; his hair and beard saturated with blood; the weight of the cross and of his chains combined to press and make the woolen dress cleave to his wounds, and reopen them: derisive and heartless words alone were addressed to him, but he continued to pray for his persecutors, and his countenance bore an expression of combined love and resignation.
Many soldiers under arms walked by the side of the procession, and after Jesus came the two thieves, who were likewise led, the arms of their crosses, separate from the middle, being placed upon their backs, and their hands tied tightly to the two ends. They were clothed in large aprons, with a sort of sleeveless scapular which covered the upper part of their bodies, and they had straw caps upon their heads.
The good thief was calm, but the other was, on the contrary, furious, and never ceased cursing and swearing.
The rear of the procession was brought up by the remainder of the Pharisees on horseback, who rode to and fro to keep order. Pilate and his courtiers were at a certain distance behind; he was in the midst of his officers clad in armor, preceded by a squadron of cavalry, and followed by three hundred foot soldiers; he crossed the forum, and then entered one of the principal streets, for he was marching through the town in order to prevent any insurrection among the people.
Jesus was conducted by a narrow back street, that the procession might not inconvenience the persons who were going to the Temple, and likewise in order that Pilate and his band might have the whole principal street entirely to themselves. The crowd had dispersed and started in different directions almost immediately after the reading of the sentence, and the greatest part of the Jews either returned to their own houses, or to the Temple, to hasten their preparations for sacrificing the Paschal Lamb; but a certain number were still hurrying on in disorder to see the melancholy procession pass; the Roman soldiers prevented all persons from joining the procession, therefore the most curious were obliged to go round by back streets, or to quicken their steps so as to reach Calvary before Jesus.
The street through which they led Jesus was both narrow and dirty; he suffered much in passing through it, because the archers were close and harassed him. Persons stood on the roofs of the houses, and at the windows, and insulted him with opprobrious language; the slaves who were working in the streets threw filth and mud at him; even the children, incited by his enemies, had filled their pinafores with sharp stones, which they throw down before their doors as he passed, that he might be obliged to walk over them.
Friday 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Jesus is crucified.
The preparations for the crucifixion being finished four archers went to the cave where they had confined our Lord and dragged him out with their usual brutality, while the mob looked on and made use of insulting language, and the Roman soldiers regarded all with indifference, and thought of nothing but maintaining order. When Jesus was again brought forth, the holy women gave a man some money, and begged him to pay the archers anything they might demand if they would allow Jesus to drink the wine which Veronica had prepared; but the cruel executioners, instead of giving it to Jesus, drank it themselves. They had brought two vases with them, one of which contained vinegar and gall, and the other a mixture which looked like wine mixed with myrrh and absinthe; they offered a glass of the latter to our Lord, which he tasted, but would not drink.
There were eighteen archers on the platform; the six who had scourged Jesus, the four who had conducted him to Calvary, the two who held the ropes which supported the cross, and six others who came for the purpose of crucifying him. They were strangers in the pay of either the Jews or the Romans, and were short thick-set men, with most ferocious countenances, rather resembling wild beasts than human beings, and employing themselves alternately in drinking and in making preparations for the crucifixion.
This scene was rendered the more frightful to me by the sight of demons, who were invisible to others, and I Saw large bodies of evil spirits under the forms of toads, serpents, sharp-clawed dragons, and venomous insects, urging these wicked men to still greater cruelty, and perfectly darkening the air. They crept into the mouths and into the hearts of the assistants, sat upon their shoulders, filled their minds with wicked images, and incited them to revile and insult our Lord with still greater brutality. Weeping angels, however, stood around Jesus, and the sight of their tears consoled me not a little, and they were accompanied by little angels of glory, whose heads alone I saw. There were likewise angels of pity and angels of consolation among them; the latter frequently approached the Blessed Virgin and the rest of the pious persons who were assembled there, and whispered words of comfort which enabled them to bear up with firmness.
The executioners soon pulled off our Lord's cloak, the belt to which the ropes were fastened, and his own belt, when they found it was impossible to drag the woolen garment which his Mother had woven for him over his head, on account of the crown of thorns; they tore off this most painful crown, thus reopening every wound, and seizing the garment, tore it mercilessly over his bleeding and wounded head.
Our dear Lord and Savior then stood before his cruel enemies, stripped of all save the short scapular which was on his shoulders, and the linen which girded his loins. His scapular was of wool; the wool had stuck to the wounds, and indescribable was the agony of pain he suffered when they pulled it roughly off. He Shook like the aspen as he stood before them, for he was so weakened from suffering and loss of blood that he could not support himself for more than a few moments; he was covered with open wounds, and his shoulders and back were torn to the bone by the dreadful scourging he had endured.
He was about to fall when the executioners, fearing that he might die, and thus deprive them of the barbarous pleasure of crucifying him, led him to a large stone and placed him roughly down upon it, but no sooner was he seated than they aggravated his sufferings by putting the crown of thorns again upon his head.
They then offered him some vinegar and gall, from which, however, he turned away in silence. The executioners did not allow him to rest long, but bade him rise and place himself on the cross that they might nail him to it.
Then seizing his right arm they dragged it to the hole prepared for the nail, and having tied it tightly down with a cord, one of them knelt upon his sacred chest, a second held his hand flat, and a third taking a long thick nail, pressed it on the open palm of that adorable hand, which had ever been open to bestow blessings and favors on the ungrateful Jews, and with a great iron hammer drove it through the flesh, and far into the wood of the cross.
Our Lord uttered one deep but suppressed groan, and his blood gushed forth and sprinkled the arms of the archers. The nails were very large, the heads about the size of a crown piece, and the thickness that of a man's thumb, while the points came through at the back of the cross.
The Blessed Virgin stood motionless; from time to time you might distinguish her plaintive moans; she appeared as if almost fainting from grief, and Magdalen was quite beside herself. When the executioners had nailed the right hand of our Lord, they perceived that his left hand did not reach the hole they had bored to receive the nail, therefore they tied ropes to his left arm, and having steadied their feet against the cross, pulled the left hand violently until it reached the place prepared for it.
This dreadful process caused our Lord indescribable agony, his breast heaved, and lib legs were quite contracted. They again knelt upon him, tied down his arms, and drove the second nail into his left hand; his blood flowed afresh, and his feeble groans were once more heard between the blows of the hammer, but nothing could move the hard-hearted executioners to the slightest pity. The arms of Jesus, thus unnaturally stretched out, no longer covered the arms of the cross, which were sloped; there was a wide space between them and his armpits. Each additional torture and insult inflicted on our Lord caused a fresh pang in the heart of his Blessed Mother; she became white as a corpse, but as the Pharisees endeavored to increase her pain by insulting words and gestures, the disciples led her to a group of pious women who were standing a little farther off.
The executioners had fastened a piece of wood at the lower part of the cross under where the feet of Jesus would be nailed, that thus the weight of his body might not rest upon the wounds of his hands, as also to prevent the bones of his feet from being broken when nailed to the cross. A hole had been pierced in this wood to receive the nail when driven through his feet, and there was likewise a little hollow place for his heels. These precautions were taken lest his wounds should be torn open by the weight of his body, and death ensue before he had suffered all the tortures which they hoped to see him endure.
The whole body of our Lord had been dragged upward, and contracted by the violent manner with which the executioners had stretched out his arms, and his knees were bent up; they therefore flattened and tied them down tightly with cords; but soon perceiving that his feet did not reach the bit of wood which was placed for them to rest upon, they became infuriated. Some of their number proposed making fresh holes for the nails which pierced his hands, as there would be considerable difficulty in removing the bit of wood, but the others would do nothing of the sort, and continued to vociferate, 'He will not stretch himself out, but we will help him;' they accompanied these words with the most fearful oaths and imprecations, and having fastened a rope to his right leg, dragged it violently until it reached the wood, and then tied it down as tightly as possible.
The agony which Jesus suffered from this violent tension was indescribable; the words 'My God, my God,' escaped his lips, and the executioners increased his pain by tying his chest and arms to the cross, lest the hands should be torn from the nails. They then fastened his left foot on to his right foot, having first bored a hole through them with a species of piercer, because they could not be placed in such a position as to be nailed together at once. Next they took a very long nail and drove it completely through both feet into the cross below, which operation was more than usually painful, on account of his body being so unnaturally stretched out; I counted at least six and thirty blows of the hammer.
During the whole time of the crucifixion our Lord never ceased praying, and repeating those passages in the Psalms which he was then accompanying, although from time to time a feeble moan caused by excess of suffering might be heard. In this manner he had prayed when carrying his cross, and thus he continued to pray until his death. I heard him repeat all these prophecies; I repeated them after him, and I have often since noted the different passages when reading the Psalms, but I now feel so exhausted with grief that I cannot at all connect them.
When the crucifixion of Jesus was finished, the commander of the Roman soldiers ordered Pilate's inscription to be nailed on the top of the cross. The Pharisees were much incensed at this, and their anger was increased by the jeers of the Roman soldiers, who pointed at their crucified king; they therefore hastened back to Jerusalem, determined to use their best endeavors to persuade the governor to allow them to substitute another inscription.
It was about a quarter past twelve when Jesus was crucified; and at the moment the cross was lifted up, the Temple resounded with the blast of trumpets, which were always blown to announce the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb.
When the executioners had finished the crucifixion of our Lord, they tied ropes to the trunk of the cross, and fastened the ends of these ropes round a long beam which was fixed firmly in the ground at a little distance, and by means of these ropes they raised the cross. Some of their number supported it while others shoved its foot towards the hole prepared for its reception--the heavy cross fell into this hole with a frightful shock--Jesus uttered a faint cry, and his wounds were torn open in the most fearful manner, his blood again burst forth, and his half dislocated bones knocked one against the other. The archers pushed the cross to get it thoroughly into the hole, and caused it to vibrate still more by planting five stakes around to support it.
A terrible, but at the same time a touching sight it was to behold the cross raised up in the midst of the vast concourse of persons who were assembled all around; not only insulting soldiers, proud Pharisees, and the brutal Jewish mob were there, but likewise strangers from all parts. The air resounded with acclamations and derisive cries when they beheld it towering on high, and after vibrating for a moment in the air, fall with a heavy crash into the hole cut for it in the rock.
But words of love and compassion resounded through the air at the same moment; and need we say that these words, these sounds, were emitted by the most saintly of human beings--Mary--John--the holy women, and all who were pure of heart? They bowed down and adored the 'Word made flesh,' nailed to the cross; they stretched forth their hands as if desirous of giving assistance to the Holy of Holies, whom they beheld nailed to a cross and in the power of his furious enemies.
But when the solemn sound of the fall of the cross into the hole prepared for it in the rock was heard, a dead silence ensued, every heart was filled with an undefinable feeling of awe--a feeling never before experienced, and for which no one could account, even to himself; all the inmates of hell shook with terror, and vented their rage by endeavoring to stimulate the enemies of Jesus to still greater fury and brutality; the souls in Limbo were filled with joy and hope, for the sound was to them a harbinger of happiness, the prelude to the appearance of their Deliverer.
Thus was the blessed cross of our Lord planted for the first time on the earth; and well might it be compared to the tree of life in Paradise, for the wounds of Jesus were as sacred fountains, from which flowed four rivers destined both to purify the world from the curse of sin, and to give it fertility, so as to produce fruit unto salvation.
The eminence on which the cross was planted was about two feet higher than the surrounding parts; the feet of Jesus were sufficiently near the ground for his friends to be able to reach to kiss them, and his face was turned to the north-west.
Friday 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.
First Hour of Agony on the Cross.
During the time of the crucifixion of Jesus, the two thieves were left lying on the ground at some distance off; their arms were fastened to the crosses on which they were to be executed, and a few soldiers stood near on guard. The accusation which had been proved against them was that of having assassinated a Jewish woman who, with her children, was traveling from Jerusalem to Joppa. They were arrested, under the disguise of rich merchants, at a castle in which Pilate resided occasionally, when employed in exercising his troops, and they had been imprisoned for a long time before being brought to trial.
The thief placed on the left-hand side was much older than the other; a regular miscreant, who had corrupted the younger. They were commonly called Dismas and Gesmas, and as I forget their real names I shall distinguish them by these terms, calling the good one Dismas, and the wicked one Gesmas.
Both the one and the other belonged to a band of robbers who infested the frontiers of Egypt; and it was in a cave inhabited by these robbers that the Holy Family took refuge when flying into Egypt, at the time of the massacre of the Innocents. The poor leprous child, who was instantly cleansed by being dipped in the water which had been used for washing the infant Jesus, was no other than this Dismas, and the charity of his mother, in receiving and granting hospitality to the Holy Family, had been rewarded by the cure of her child; while this outward purification was an emblem of the inward purification which was afterwards accomplished in the soul of Dismas on Mount Calvary, through that Sacred Blood which was then shed on the cross for our redemption.
Dismas knew nothing at all about Jesus, but as his heart was not hardened, the sight of the extreme patience of our Lord moved him much. When the executioners had finished putting up the cross of Jesus, they ordered the thieves to rise without delay, and they loosened their fetters in order to crucify them at once, as the sky was becoming very cloudy and bore every appearance of an approaching storm.
After giving them some myrrh and vinegar, they stripped off their ragged clothing, tied ropes round their arms, and by the help of small ladders dragged them up to their places on the cross. The executioners then bound the arms of the thieves to the cross, with cords made of the bark of trees, and fastened their wrists, elbows, knees, and feet in like manner, drawing the cords so tight that their joints cracked, and the blood burst out. They uttered piercing cries, and the good thief exclaimed as they were drawing him up, 'This torture is dreadful, but if they had treated us as they treated the poor Galilean, we should have been dead long ago.'
The executioners had divided the garments of Jesus, in order to draw lots for them; his mantle, which was narrow at the top, was very wide at the bottom, and lined over the chest, thus forming a pocket between the lining and the material itself; the lining they pulled out, tore into bands, and divided. They did the same with his long white robe, belt, scapular, and under-garment, which was completely saturated with his Sacred Blood. Not being able to agree as to who was to be the possessor of the seamless robe woven by his Mother, which could not be cut up and divided, they brought out a species of chessboard marked with figures, and were about to decide the point by lots, when a messenger, sent by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, informed them that there were persons ready to purchase all the clothes of Jesus; they therefore gathered them together and sold them in a bundle. Thus did the Christians get possession of these precious relies.
The tremendous concussion caused by the fall of the cross into the hole prepared for it drove the sharp points of the crown of thorns, which was still upon the head of our dear Savior, still deeper into his sacred flesh, and blood ran down again in streams, both from it and from his hands and feet.
The archers then placed ladders against the sides of the cross, mounted them and unfastened the ropes with which they had bound our Lord to the cross, previous to lifting it up, fearing that the shock might tear open the wounds in his hands and feet, and that then the nails would no longer support his body. His blood had become, in a certain degree, stagnated by his horizontal position and the pressure of the cords, but when these wore withdrawn, it resumed its usual course, and caused such agonizing sensations throughout his countless wounds, that he bowed his head, and remained as if dead for more than seven minutes.
A pause ensued; the executioners were occupied with the division of his garments; the trumpets in the temple no longer resounded; and all the actors in this fearful tragedy appeared to be exhausted, some by grief, and others by the efforts they had made to compass their wicked ends, and by the joy which they felt now at having at last succeeded in bringing about the death of him whom they had so long envied.
Then Catherine Emmerch speaks of her own feelings in seeing all this:
With mixed feelings of fear and compassion I cast my eyes upon Jesus—Jesus my Redeemer—the Redeemer of the world. I beheld him motionless, and almost lifeless. I felt as if I myself must expire; my heart was overwhelmed between grief, love, and horror; my mind was half wandering, my hands and feet burning with a feverish heat; each vein, nerve, and limb was racked with inexpressible pain; I saw nothing distinctly, excepting my beloved Spouse hanging on the cross.
I contemplated his disfigured countenance, his head encircled with that terrible crown of thorns, which prevented his raising it even for a moment without the most intense suffering, his mouth parched and half open from exhaustion, and his hair and beard clotted with blood. His chest was torn with stripes and wounds, and his elbows, wrists, and shoulders so violently distended as to be almost dislocated; blood constantly trickled down from the gaping wounds in his hands, and the flesh was so torn from his ribs that you might almost count them.
His legs and thighs, as also his arms, were stretched out almost to dislocation, the flesh and muscles so completely laid bare that every bone was visible, and his whole body covered with black, green, and reeking wounds. The blood which flowed from his wounds was at first red, but it became by degrees light and watery, and the whole appearance of his body was that of a corpse ready for interment. And yet, notwithstanding the horrible wounds with which he was covered, notwithstanding the state of ignominy to which he was reduced, there still remained that inexpressible look of dignity and goodness which had ever filled all beholders with awe.
The complexion of our Lord was fair, like that of Mary, and slightly tinted with red; but his exposure to the weather during the last three years had tanned him considerably. His chest was wide, but not hairy like that of St. John Baptist; his shoulders broad, and his arms and thighs sinewy; his knees were strong and hardened, as is usually the case with those who have either walked or knelt much, and his legs long, with very strong muscles; his feet were well formed, and his hands beautiful, the fingers being long and tapering, and although not delicate like those of a woman, still not resembling those of a man who had labored hard.
His neck was rather long, with a well-set and finely proportioned head; his forehead large and high; his face oval; his hair, which was far from thick, was of a golden brown color, parted in the middle and falling over his shoulders; his beard was not any great length, but pointed and divided under the chin. When I contemplated him on the cross, his hair was almost all torn off, and what remained was matted and clotted with blood; his body was one wound, and every limb seemed as if dislocated.
The crosses of the two thieves were placed, the one to the right and the other to the left of Jesus; there was sufficient space left for a horseman to ride between them. Nothing can be imagined more distressing than the appearance of the thieves on their crosses; they suffered terribly, and the one on the left-hand side never ceased cursing and swearing. The cords with which they were tied were very tight, and caused great pain; their countenances were livid, and their eyes inflamed and ready to start from the sockets. The height of the crosses of the two thieves was much less than that of our Lord.
As soon as the executioners had crucified the two thieves and divided the garments of Jesus between them, they gathered up their tools, addressed a few more insulting words to our Lord, and went away.
The Pharisees, likewise, rode up to Jesus, looked at him scornfully, made use of some opprobrious expressions, and then left the place. The Roman soldiers, of whom a hundred had been posted round Calvary, were marched away, and their places filled by fifty others, the command of whom was given to Abenadar, an Arab by birth, who afterwards took the name of Ctésiphon in baptism; and the second in command was Cassius, who, when he became a Christian, was known by the name of Longinus. Pilate frequently made use of him as a messenger.
Twelve Pharisees, twelve Sadducees, as many Scribes, and a few Ancients, accompanied by those Jews who had been endeavoring to persuade Pilate to change the inscription on the Cross of Jesus, then came up: they were furious, as the Roman governor had given them a direct refusal. They rode round the platform, and drove away the Blessed Virgin, whom St. John led to the holy women. When they passed the Cross of Jesus, they shook their heads disdainfully at him, exclaiming at the same time, “Vah! thou that destroyest the temple of God, and in three days buildest it up again, save thyself, coming down from the Cross. Let Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the Cross, that we may see and believe.” The soldiers, likewise, made use of deriding language.
The countenance and whole body of Jesus became even more colorless: he appeared to be on the point of fainting, and Gesmas (the wicked thief) exclaimed, “The demon by whom he is possessed is about to leave him.”
A soldier then took a sponge, filled it with vinegar, put it on a reed, and presented it to Jesus, who appeared to drink. “If thou art the King of the Jews,” said the soldier, “save thyself, coming down from the Cross.”
These things took place during the time that the first band of soldiers was being relieved by that of Abenadar. Jesus raised his head a little, and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
And Gesmas cried out, “If thou art the Christ, save thyself and us.” Dismas (the good thief) was silent, but he was deeply moved at the prayer of Jesus for his enemies.
When Mary heard the voice of her Son, unable to restrain herself, she rushed forward, followed by John, Salome, and Mary of Cleophas, and approached the Cross, which the kind-hearted centurion did not prevent.
The prayers of Jesus obtained for the good thief a most powerful grace; he suddenly remembered that it was Jesus and Mary who had cured him of leprosy in his childhood, and he exclaimed in a loud and clear voice, “How can you insult him when he prays for you? He has been silent, and suffered all your outrages with patience; he is truly a Prophet―he is our King―he is the Son of God.”
This unexpected reproof from the lips of a miserable malefactor who was dying on a cross caused a tremendous commotion among the spectators; they gathered up stones, and wished to throw them at him; but the centurion Abenadar would not allow it.
The Blessed Virgin was much comforted and strengthened by the prayer of Jesus, and Dismas said to Gesmas, who was still blaspheming Jesus, “Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art under the same condemnation. And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done no evil. Remember thou art now at the point of death, and repent.”
He was enlightened and touched: he confessed his sins to Jesus, and said: “Lord, if thou condemnest me it will be with justice.”
And Jesus replied, “Thou shalt experience my mercy.”
Dismas, filled with the most perfect contrition, began instantly to thank God for the great graces he had received, and to reflect over the manifold sins of his past life. All these events took place between twelve and the half-hour shortly after the crucifixion; but such a surprising change had taken place in the appearance of nature during that time as to astonish the beholders and fill their minds with awe and terror.
A little hail had fallen at about ten o'clock—when Pilate was passing sentence—and after that the weather cleared up, until towards twelve, when the thick red-looking fog began to obscure the sun. Towards the sixth hour, according to the manner of counting of the Jews, the sun was suddenly darkened. I was shown the exact cause of this wonderful phenomenon. The moon reappeared behind the Mountain of Olives, looking pale and full, and advancing rapidly towards the sun, which was dim and over-shrouded by a fog. To the east of the sun, there was a large dark body, which had the appearance of a mountain, and which soon entirely hid the sun. The center of this body was dark yellow, and a red circle like a ring of fire was round it.
The sky grew darker and the stars appeared to cast a red and lurid light. Both men and beasts were struck with terror; the enemies of Jesus ceased reviling him, while the Pharisees endeavored to give philosophical reasons for what was taking place, but they failed in their attempt, and were reduced to silence. Many were seized with remorse, struck their breasts, and cried out, 'May his blood fall upon his murderers!' Numbers of others, whether near the Cross or at a distance, fell on their knees and entreated forgiveness of Jesus, who turned his eyes compassionately upon them in the midst of his sufferings.
However, the darkness continued to increase, and every one excepting Mary and the most faithful among the friends of Jesus left the Cross. Dismas then raised his head, and in a tone of humility and hope said to Jesus, 'Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom.' And Jesus made answer, 'Amen, I say to thee, This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.'
Magdalen, Mary of Cleophas, and John stood near the Cross of our Lord and looked at him, while the Blessed Virgin, filled with intense feelings of motherly love, entreated her Son to permit her to die with him; but he, casting a look of ineffable tenderness upon her, turned to John and said, 'Woman, behold thy son;' then he said to John, 'Behold thy mother.' John looked at his dying Redeemer, and saluted this beloved mother (whom he henceforth considered as his own) in the most respectful manner. The Blessed Virgin was so overcome by grief at these words of Jesus that she almost fainted, and was carried to a short distance from the Cross by the holy women.
Friday 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Second Hour of Agony on the Cross.
It was about half-past one o'clock when I was taken into Jerusalem to see what was going on there. The inhabitants were perfectly overcome with terror and anxiety; the streets dark and gloomy, and some persons were feeling their way about, while others, seated on the ground with their heads veiled, struck their breasts, or went up to the roofs of their houses, looked at the sky, and burst forth in bitter lamentations. Even the animals uttered mournful cries, and hid themselves; the birds flew low, and fell to the ground. I saw Pilate conferring with Herod on the alarming state of things: they were both extremely agitated, and contemplated the appearance of the sky from that terrace upon which Herod was standing when he delivered up Jesus to be insulted by the infuriated rabble. 'These events are not in the common course of nature,' they both exclaimed: 'they must be caused by the anger of the gods, who are displeased at the cruelty which has been exercised towards Jesus of Nazareth.' Pilate and Herod, surrounded by guards, then directed their hasty trembling steps through the forum to Herod's palace.
Pilate turned away his head when he passed Gabbatha, from whence he had condemned Jesus to be crucified. The square was almost empty; a few persons might be seen re-entering their houses as quickly as possible, and a few others running about and weeping, while two or three small groups might be distinguished in the distance. Pilate sent for some of the Ancients and asked them what they thought the astounding darkness could possibly portend, and said that he himself considered it a terrific proof of the anger of their God at the crucifixion of the Galilæan, who was most certainly their prophet and their king: he added that he had nothing to reproach himself with on that head, for he had washed his hands of the whole affair, and was, therefore, quite innocent. The Ancients were as hardened as over, and replied, in a sullen tone, that there was nothing unnatural in the course of events, that they might be easily accounted for by philosophers, and that they did not repent of anything they had done. However, many persons were converted, and among others those soldiers who fell to the ground at the words of our Lord when they were sent to arrest him in the Garden of Olives.
The rabble assembled before Pilate's house, and instead of the cry of 'Crucify him, crucify him!' which had resounded in the morning, you might have heard vociferations of 'Down with the iniquitous judge!' 'May the blood of the just man fall upon his murderers!' Pilate was much alarmed; he sent for additional guards, and endeavored to cast all the blame upon the Jews. He again declared that the crime was not his; that he was no subject of this Jesus, whom they had put to death unjustly, and who was their king, their prophet, their Holy One; that they alone were guilty, as it must be evident to all that he condemned Jesus solely from compulsion.
The Temple was thronged with Jews, who were intent on the immolation of the Paschal lamb; but when the darkness increased to such a degree that it was impossible to distinguish the countenance of one from that of the other, they were seized with fear, horror, and dread, which they expressed by mournful cries and lamentations. The High Priests endeavored to maintain order and quiet. All the lamps were lighted; but the confusion became greater every moment, and Annas appeared perfectly paralyzed with terror. I saw him endeavoring to hide first in one place, and then in another. When I left the Temple, and walked through the streets, I remarked that, although not a breath of wind was stirring, yet both the doors and windows of the houses were shaking as if in a storm, and the darkness was becoming every moment more dense.
The consternation produced by the sudden darkness at Mount Calvary was indescribable. When it first commenced, the confusion of the noise of the hammers, the vociferations of the rabble, the cries of the two thieves on being fastened to their crosses, the insulting speeches of the Pharisees, the evolutions of the soldiers, and the drunken shouts of the executioners, had so completely engrossed the attention of every one, that the change which was gradually coming over the face of nature was not remarked; but as the darkness increased, every sound ceased, each voice was hushed, and remorse and terror took possession of every heart, while the bystanders retired one by one to a distance from the Cross.
Then it was that Jesus gave his Mother to St. John, and that she, overcome by grief, was carried away to a short distance. As the darkness continued to grow more and more dense, the silence became perfectly astounding; every one appeared terror-struck; some looked at the sky, while others, filled with remorse, turned towards the Cross, smote their breasts, and were converted.
Although the Pharisees were in reality quite as much alarmed as other persons, yet they endeavored at first to put a bold face on the matter, and declared that they could see nothing unaccountable in these events; but at last even they lost assurance, and were reduced to silence. The disc of the sun was of a dark-yellow tint, rather resembling a mountain when viewed by moonlight, and it was surrounded by a bright fiery ring; the stars appeared, but the light they cast was red and lurid; the birds were so terrified as to drop to the ground; the beasts trembled and moaned; the horses and the asses of the Pharisees crept as close as possible to one another, and put their heads between their legs. The thick fog penetrated everything.
Stillness reigned around the Cross. Jesus hung upon it alone; forsaken by all,--disciples, followers, friends, his Mother even was removed from his side; not one person of the thousands upon whom he had lavished benefits was near to offer him the slightest alleviation in his bitter agony,--his soul was overspread with an indescribable feeling of bitterness and grief—all within him was dark, gloomy, and wretched.
The darkness which reigned around was but symbolical of that which overspread his interior; he turned, nevertheless, to his Heavenly Father, he prayed for his enemies, he offered the chalice of his sufferings for their redemption, he continued to pray as he had done during the whole of his Passion, and repeated portions of those Psalms the prophecies of which were then receiving their accomplishment in him. He at that moment endured anguish which no mortal pen can describe—he felt that suffering which would overwhelm a poor weak mortal if deprived at once of all consolation, both divine and human, and then compelled, without refreshment, assistance, or light, to traverse the stormy desert of tribulation upheld by faith, hope, and charity alone.
His sufferings were inexpressible; but it was by them that he merited for us the grace necessary to resist those temptations to despair which will assail us at the hour of death—that tremendous hour when we shall feel that we are about to leave all that is dear to us here below.
When our minds, weakened by disease, have lost the power of reasoning, and even our hopes of mercy and forgiveness are become, as it were, enveloped in mist and uncertainty—then it is that we must fly to Jesus, unite our feelings of desolation with that indescribable dereliction which he endured upon the Cross, and be certain of obtaining, a glorious victory over our infernal enemies.
Jesus then offered to his Eternal Father his poverty, his dereliction, his labors, and, above all, the bitter sufferings which our ingratitude had caused him to endure in expiation for our sins and weaknesses; no one, therefore, who is united to Jesus in the bosom of his Church must despair at the awful moment preceding his exit from this life, even if he be deprived of all sensible light and comfort; for he must then remember that the Christian is no longer obliged to enter this dark desert alone and unprotected, as Jesus has cast his own interior and exterior dereliction on the Cross into this gulf of desolation, consequently he will not be left to cope alone with death, or be suffered to leave this world in desolation of spirit, deprived of heavenly consolation. All fear of loneliness and despair in death must therefore be cast away; for Jesus, who is our true light, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, has preceded us on that dreary road, has overspread it with blessings, and raised his Cross upon it, one glance at which will calm our every fear.
Jesus then (if we may so express ourselves) made his last testament in the presence of his Father, and bequeathed the merits of his Death and Passion to the Church and to sinners. Not one erring soul was forgotten; he thought of each and every one; praying, likewise, even for those heretics who have endeavored to prove that, being God, he did not suffer as a man would have suffered in his place.
The cry which he allowed to pass his lips in the height of his agony was intended not only to show the excess of the sufferings he was then enduring, but likewise to encourage all afflicted souls who acknowledge God as their Father to lay their sorrows with filial confidence at his feet. It was towards three o'clock when he cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabacthani?' 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'
These words of our Lord interrupted the dead silence which had continued so long; the Pharisees turned towards him, and one of them said, 'Behold, he calleth Elias;' and another, 'Let us see whether Elias will come to deliver him.'
When Mary heard the voice of her divine Son, she was unable to restrain herself any longer, but rushed forwards, and returned to the foot of the Cross, followed by John, Mary the daughter of Cleophas, Mary Magdalen, and Salome. A troop of about thirty horsemen from Judæa and the environs of Joppa, who were on their way to Jerusalem for the festival, passed by just at the time when all was silent round the Cross, both assistants and spectators being transfixed with terror and apprehension. When they beheld Jesus hanging on the Cross, saw the cruelty with which he had been treated, and remarked the extraordinary signs of God's wrath which overspread the face of nature, they were filled with horror, and exclaimed, 'If the Temple of God were not in Jerusalem, the city should be burned to the ground for having taken upon itself so fearful a crime.'
These words from the lips of strangers—strangers too who bore the appearance of persons of rank—made a great impression on the bystanders, and loud murmurs and exclamations of. grief were heard on all sides; some individuals gathered together in groups, more freely to indulge their sorrow, although a certain portion of the crowd continued to blaspheme and revile all around them.
The Pharisees were compelled to assume a more humble tone, for they feared an insurrection among the people, being well aware of the great existing excitement among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They therefore held a consultation with Abenadar, the centurion, and agreed with him that the gate of the city, which was in the vicinity, should be closed, in order to prevent farther communication, and that they should send to Pilate and Herod for 500 men to guard against the chance of an insurrection, the centurion, in the mean time, doing all in his power to maintain order, and preventing the Pharisees from insulting Jesus, lest it should exasperate the people still more.
Friday 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Third Hour of Agony on the Cross. The death of Jesus.
Shortly after three o'clock the light reappeared in a degree, the moon began to pass away from the disc of the sun, while the sun again shone forth, although its appearance was dim, being surrounded by a species of red mist; by degrees it became more bright, and the stars vanished, but the sky was still gloomy. The enemies of Jesus soon recovered their arrogant spirit when they saw the light returning; and it was then that they exclaimed, 'Behold, he calleth Elias.'
The light continued to return by degrees, and the livid exhausted countenance of our Lord again became visible. His body was become much more white from the quantity of blood he had lost; and I heard him exclaim, 'I am pressed as the grape, which is trodden in the winepress. My blood shall be poured out until water cometh, but wine shall here be made no more.' I cannot be sure whether he really pronounced these words, so as to be heard by others, or whether they were only an answer given to my interior prayer. I afterwards had a vision relating to these words, and in it I saw Japhet making wine in this place.
Jesus was almost fainting; his tongue was parched, and he said: 'I thirst.' The disciples who were standing round the Cross looked at him with the deepest expression of sorrow, and he added, 'Could you not have given me a little water?' By these words he gave them to understand that no one would have prevented them from doing so during the darkness. John was filled with remorse, and replied: 'We did not think of doing so, O Lord.'
Jesus pronounced a few more words, the gist of which was: 'My friends and my neighbors were also to forget me, and not give me to drink, that so what was written concerning me might be fulfilled.' This omission had afflicted him very much. The disciples then offered money to the soldiers to obtain permission to give him a little water: they refused to give it, but dipped a sponge in vinegar and gall, and were about to offer it to Jesus, when the centurion Abenadar, whose heart was touched with compassion, took it from them, squeezed out the gall, poured some fresh vinegar upon it, and fastening it to a reed, put the reed at the end of a lance, and presented it for Jesus to drink.Our Lord said several other things, one of which was: 'When my voice shall be silent, the mouths of the dead shall be opened.' Some of the bystanders cried out: 'He blasphemeth again.' But Abenadar compelled them to be silent.
The hour of our Lord was--at last come, his death-struggle had commenced; a cold sweat overspread every limb. John stood at the foot of the Cross, and wiped the feet of Jesus with his scapular. Magdalen was crouched to the ground in a Perfect' frenzy of grief behind the Cross. The Blessed Virgin stood between Jesus and the good thief, supported by Salome and Mary of Cleophas, with her eyes rivetted on the countenance of her dying Son.
Jesus then said: 'It is consummated;' and, raising his head, cried out in a loud voice, 'Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.' These words, which he uttered in a clear and thrilling tone, resounded through heaven and earth; and a moment after, he bowed down his head and gave up the ghost. I saw his soul, under the appearance of a bright meteor, penetrate the earth at the foot of the Cross. John and the holy women fell prostrate on the ground.
The centurion Abenadar had kept his eyes steadfastly fixed on the disfigured countenance of our Lord, and was perfectly overwhelmed by all that had taken place. When our Lord pronounced his last words, before expiring, in a loud tone, the earth trembled, and the rock of Calvary burst asunder, forming a deep chasm between the Cross of our Lord and that of Gesmas.
The voice of God--that solemn and terrible voice--had re-echoed through the whole universe; it had broken the solemn silence which then pervaded all nature. All was accomplished. The soul of our Lord had left his body: his last cry had filled every breast with terror. The convulsed earth had paid homage to its Creator: the sword of grief had pierced the hearts of those who loved him. This moment was the moment of grace for Abenadar, his horse trembled under him; his heart was touched; it was rent like the hard rock; he threw his lance to a distance, struck his breast, and cried out: 'Blessed be the Most High God, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; indeed this Man was the Son of God!' His words convinced many among the soldiers, who followed his example, and were likewise converted.
Abenadar became from this moment a new man; he adored the true God, and would no longer serve his enemies. He gave both his horse and his lance to a subaltern of the name of Longinus, who, having addressed a few words to the soldiers, mounted his horse, and took the command upon himself. Abenadar then left Calvary, and went through the Valley of Gihon to the caves in the Valley of Hinnom, where the disciples were hidden, announced the death of our Lord to them, and then went to the town, in order to see Pilate. No sooner had Abenadar rendered public testimony of his belief in the divinity of Jesus, than a large number of soldiers followed his example, as did also some of the bystanders, and even a few Pharisees. Many struck their breasts, wept, and returned home, while others rent their garments, and cast dust on their heads, and all were filled with horror and fear. John arose; and some of the holy women who were at a short distance came up to the Blessed Virgin, and led her away from the foot of the Cross.
When Jesus, the Lord of life and death, gave up his soul into the hands of his Father, and allowed death to take possession of his body, this sacred body trembled and turned lividly white; the countless wounds which were covered with congealed blood appeared like dark marks; his cheeks became more sunken, his nose more pointed, and his eyes, which were obscured with blood, remained but half open. He raised his weary head, which was still crowned with thorns, for a moment, and then dropped it again in agony of pain; while his parched and torn lips, only partially closed, showed his bloody and swollen tongue. At the moment of death his hands, which were at one time contracted round the nails, opened and returned to their natural size, as did also his arms; his body became stiff, and the whole weight was thrown upon the feet, his knees bent, and his feet twisted a little on one side.
What words can, alas, express the deep grief of the Blessed Virgin? Her eyes closed, a death-like tint overspread her countenance; unable to stand, she fell to the ground, but was soon lifted up, and supported by John, Magdalen, and the others. She looked once more upon her beloved Son--that Son whom she had conceived by the Holy Ghost, the flesh of her flesh, the bone of her bone, the heart of her heart--hanging on a cross between two thieves; crucified, dishonored, contemned by those whom he came on earth to save; and well might she at this moment be termed 'the queen of martyrs.'"
The sun still looked dim and suffused with mist; and during the time of the earthquake the air was close and oppressive, but by degrees it became more clear and fresh.
It was about three o'clock when Jesus expired. The Pharisees were at first much alarmed at the earthquake; but when the first shock was over they recovered themselves, began to throw stones into the chasm, and tried to measure its depth with ropes. Finding, however, that they could not fathom its bottom, they became thoughtful, listened anxiously to the groans of the penitents, who were lamenting and striking their breasts, and then left Calvary. Many among the spectators were really converted, and the greatest part returned to Jerusalem perfectly overcome with fear. Roman soldiers were placed at the gates, and in other principal parts of the city, to prevent the possibility of an insurrection. Cassius remained on Calvary with about fifty soldiers. The friends of Jesus stood round the Cross, contemplated our Lord, and wept; many among the holy women had returned to their homes, and all were silent and overcome with grief.
Friday 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Jesus, dead, is pierced by the thrust of a lance. Deposition from the Cross.
The soul of Jesus, at the moment he expired, appeared under the form of a bright orb, and accompanied by angels, among whom was angel Gabriel, penetrated the earth at the foot of the Cross. These angels cast a number of evil spirits into the great abyss, and Jesus ordered several of the souls in Limbo to re-enter the bodies in which they once dwelt, in order that the sight might fill sinners with a salutary terror, and that these souls might render a solemn testimony to his divinity.
The earthquake which produced the deep chasm at Calvary did much damage in different parts of Palestine, but its effects were even more fatal in Jerusalem Its inhabitants were just beginning to be a little reassured by the return of light, when their terror was reawakened with double force by the shocks of the earthquake, and the terrible noise and confusion caused by the downfall of houses and walls on all sides, which panic was still farther increased by the sudden appearance of dead persons, confronting the trembling miscreants who were flying to hide themselves, and addressing them in the most severe and reproachful language.
The High Priests had recommenced the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb (which had been stopped by the unexpected darkness), and they were triumphing at the return of light, when suddenly the ground beneath them trembled, the neighboring buildings fell down, and the veil of the Temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom. Excess of terror at first rendered those on the outside speechless, but after a time they burst forth into cries and lamentations.
The confusion in the interior of the Temple was not, however, as great as would naturally have been expected, because the strictest order and decorum were always enforced there, particularly with regard to the regulations to be followed by those who entered to make their sacrifice, and those who left after having offered it. The crowd was great, but the ceremonies were so solemnly carried out by the priests, that they totally engrossed the minds of the assistants. First came the immolation of the lamb, then the sprinkling of its blood, accompanied by the chanting of canticles and the sounding of trumpets.
The priests were endeavoring to continue the sacrifices, when suddenly an unexpected and most appalling pause ensued; terror and astonishment were depicted on each countenance; all was thrown into confusion; not a sound was heard; the sacrifices ceased; there was a general rush to the gates of the Temple; every one endeavored to fly as quickly as possible. And well might they fly, well might they fear and tremble; for in the midst of the multitude there suddenly appeared persons who had been dead and buried for many years!
These persons looked at them sternly, and reproved them most severely for the crime they had committed that day, in bringing about the death of 'the just man,' and calling down his blood upon their heads. Even in the midst of this confusion, some attempts were, however, made by the priests to preserve order; they prevented those who were in the inner part of the Temple from rushing forward, pushing their way through the crowds who were in advance of them, and descending the steps which led out of the Temple: they even continued the sacrifices in some parts, and endeavored to calm the fears of the people.
The appearance of the Temple at this moment can only be described by comparing it to an ant-hill on which persons have thrown stones, or which has been disturbed by a stick being driven into its center. The ants in those parts on which the stones have fallen, or which the stick has disturbed, are filled with confusion and terror; they run to and fro and do nothing; while the ants in those parts which have not been disturbed continue to labor quietly, and even begin to repair the damaged parts.
The High Priest Caiphas and his retinue did not lose their presence of mind, and by the outward tranquility which their diabolical hardness of heart enabled them to preserve, they calmed the confusion in a great degree, and then did their utmost to prevent the people from looking upon these stupendous events as testimonies of the innocence of Jesus. The Roman garrison belonging to the fortress of Antonia likewise made great efforts to maintain order; consequently, the disturbance of the festival was not followed by an insurrection, although every heart was fixed with fear and anxiety, which anxiety the Pharisees endeavored (and in some instances with success) to calm.
I remember a few other striking incidents: in the first place, the two columns which were placed at the entrance of their Holy of Holies, and to which a magnificent curtain was appended, were shaken to the very foundations; the column on the left side fell down in a southerly, and that on the right side in a northerly direction, thus rending the veil in two from the top to the bottom with a fearful sound, and exposing the Holy of Holies uncovered to the public gaze. A large stone was loosened and fell from the wall at the entrance of the sanctuary, near where the aged Simeon used to kneel, and the arch was broken. The ground was heaved up, and many other columns were thrown down in other parts of the Temple.
An apparition of the High Priest Zacharias, who was slain between the porch and the altar, was seen in the sanctuary. He uttered fearful menaces, spoke of the death of the second Zacharias and of that of St. John Baptist, as also of the violent deaths of the other prophets. The two sons of the High Priest Simon, surnamed the Just (ancestors of the aged Simeon who prophesied when Jesus was presented in the Temple), made their appearance in the part usually occupied by the doctors, of the law; they also spoke in terrific terms of the deaths of the prophets, of the sacrifice of the old law which was now about to cease, and they exhorted all present to be converted, and to embrace the doctrines which had been preached by him whom they had crucified.
The prophet Jeremiah likewise appeared; he stood near the altar, and proclaimed, in a menacing tone, that the ancient sacrifice was at an end, and that a new one had commenced. As these apparitions took place in parts where none but priests were allowed to enter, Caiphas and a few others were alone cognizant of them, and they endeavored, as far as possible, either to deny their reality, or to conceal them. These prodigies were followed by others still more extraordinary. The doors of the sanctuary flew open of themselves, and a voice was heard to utter these words: 'Let us leave this place;' and I saw all the angels of the Lord instantly leave the Temple.
The thirty-two Pharisees who went to Calvary a short time before our Lord expired were almost all converted at the foot of the Cross. They returned to the Temple in the midst of the confusion, and were perfectly thunderstruck at all which had taken place there. They spoke most sternly, both to Annas and to Caiphas, and left the Temple. Annas had always been the most bitter of the enemies of Jesus, and had headed every proceeding against him; but the supernatural events which had taken place had so completely unnerved him that he knew not where to hide himself. Caiphas was, in reality, excessively alarmed, and filled with anxiety, but his pride was so great that. he concealed his feelings as far as possible, and endeavored to reassure Annas. He succeeded for a time; but the sudden appearance of a person who had been dead many years marred the effect of his words, and Annas became again a prey to the most fearful terror and remorse.
Whilst these things were going on in the Temple, the confusion and panic were not less in Jerusalem. Dead persons were walking about, and many walls and buildings had been shaken by the earthquake, and parts of them fallen down. The superstition of Pilate rendered him even more accessible to fear; he was perfectly paralyzed and speechless with terror; his palace was shaken to the very foundation, and the earth quaked beneath his feet. He ran wildly from room to room, and the dead constantly stood before him, reproaching him with the unjust sentence he had passed upon Jesus. He thought that they were the gods of the Galilean, and took refuge in an inner room, where he offered incense, and made vows to his idols to invoke their assistance in his distress. Herod was equally alarmed; but he shut himself up in his palace, out of the sight of every one.
More than a hundred persons who had died at different epochs re-entered the bodies they had occupied when on earth, made their appearance in different parts of Jerusalem, and filled the inhabitants with inexpressible consternation. Those souls which had been released by Jesus from Limbo uncovered their faces and wandered to and fro in the streets, and although their bodies were, the same as those which they had animated when on earth, yet these bodies did not appear to touch the ground as they walked. They entered the houses of their descendants, proclaimed the innocence of Jesus, and reproved those who had taken part in his death most severely. Passing through the principal streets; they were generally in couples, and appeared to glide through the air without moving their feet. The countenances of some were pale; others of a yellow tint; their beards were long, and their voices sounded strange and sepulchral. Their grave-clothes were such as it was customary to use at the period of their decease.
When they reached the place where sentence of death was proclaimed on Jesus before the procession started for Calvary they paused for a moment, and exclaimed in a loud voice: 'Glory be to Jesus for ever and ever, and destruction to his enemies!' Towards four o'clock all the dead returned to their graves. The sacrifices in the Temple had been so interrupted, and the confusion caused by the different prodigies was so great that very few persons ate the Paschal lamb on that evening.
Scarcely had the commotion which the town had been thrown into begun to subside in a degree, when the Jews belonging to the Council sent to Pilate to request that the legs of the criminals might be broken, in order to put an end to their lives before the Sabbath-day dawned. Pilate immediately dispatched executioners to Calvary to carry out their wishes.
Joseph of Arimathea then demanded an audience; he had heard of the death of Jesus, and he and Nicodemus had determined to bury him in a new sepulcher which he had made at the end of his garden, not far from Calvary. Pilate was still filled with anxiety and solicitude, and was much astonished at seeing a person holding a high position like Joseph so anxious for leave to give honorable burial to a criminal whom he had sentenced to be ignominiously crucified. He sent for the centurion Abenadar, who returned to Jerusalem after he had conferred with the disciples who were hidden in the caverns, and asked him whether the King of the Jews was really dead. Abenadar gave Pilate a full account of the death of our Lord, of his last words, and of the loud cry he uttered immediately before death, and of the earthquake which had rent the great chasm in the rock.
The only thing at which Pilate expressed surprise was that the death of Jesus should have taken place so quickly, as those who were crucified usually lived much longer; but although be said so little, every word uttered by Joseph increased his dismay and remorse. He instantly gave Joseph an order, by which he was authorized to take down the body of the King of the Jews from the Cross, and to perform the rites of burial at once. Pilate appeared to endeavor, by his readiness in granting this request, to wish to make up, in a degree, for his previous cruel and unjust conduct, and he was likewise very glad to do what he was certain would annoy the priests extremely, as he knew their wish was to have Jesus buried ignominiously between the two thieves. He dispatched a messenger to Calvary to see his orders executed. I believe the messenger was Abenadar, for I saw him assisting in taking Jesus down from the Cross.
When Joseph of Arimathea left Pilate's palace, he instantly rejoined Nicodemus, who was waiting for him at the house of a pious woman, which stood opposite to a large street, and was not far from that alley where Jesus was so shamefully ill-treated when he first commenced carrying his Cross. The woman was a vendor of aromatic herbs, and Nicodemus had purchased many perfumes which were necessary for embalming the body of Jesus from her. She procured the more precious kinds from other places, and Joseph went away to procure a fine winding-sheet. His servants then fetched ladders, hammers, pegs, jars of water, and sponges, from a neighboring shed, and placed them in a hand-barrow similar to that on which the disciples of John the Baptist put his body when they carried it off from the castle of Macherus.
While these events were taking place in Jerusalem, silence reigned around Calvary. The crowd which had been for a time so noisy and tumultuous was dispersed; all were panic-stricken; in some that panic had produced sincere repentance, but on others it had had no beneficial effects.
Mary, John, Magdalen, Mary of Cleophas, and Salome had remained, either standing or sitting before the Cross, closely veiled and weeping silently. A few soldiers were leaning over the terrace which enclosed the platform; Cassius rode up and down; the sky was lowering, and all nature wore a garb of mourning. Six archers soon after made their appearance, bringing with them ladders, spades, ropes, and large iron staves for the purpose of breaking the legs of the criminals, in order to hasten their deaths.
When they approached our Lord's Cross, his friends retired a few paces back, and the Blessed Virgin was seized with fear lest they should indulge their hatred of Jesus by insulting even his dead body. Her fears were not quite unfounded, for when they first placed their ladders against the Cross they declared that he was only pretending to be dead; in a few moments, however, seeing that he was cold and stiff, they left him, and removed their ladders to the crosses on which the two thieves were still hanging alive.
They took up their iron staves and broke the arms of the thieves above and below the elbow; while another archer at the same moment broke their legs, both above and below the knee. Gesmas uttered frightful cries, therefore the executioner finished him off by three heavy blows of a cudgel on his chest. Dismas gave a deep groan, and expired: be was the first among mortals who had the happiness of rejoining his Redeemer. The cords were then loosened, the two bodies fell to the ground, and the executioners dragged them to a deep morass, which was between Calvary and the walls of the town, and buried them there.
The archers still appeared doubtful whether Jesus was really dead, and the brutality they had shown in breaking the legs of the thieves made the holy. women tremble as to what outrage they might next perpetrate on the body of our Lord. But Cassius, the subaltern officer, a young man of about five-and-twenty, whose weak squinting eyes and nervous manner had often excited the derision of his companions, was suddenly illuminated by grace, and being quite overcome at the sight of the cruel conduct of the soldiers, and the deep sorrow of the holy women, determined to relieve their anxiety by proving beyond dispute that Jesus was really dead.
The kindness of his heart prompted him, but unconsciously to himself he fulfilled a prophecy. He seized his lance and rode quickly up to the mound on which the Cross was planted, stopped just between the cross of the good thief and that of our Lord, and taking his lance in both hands, thrust it so completely into the right side of Jesus that the point went through the heart, and appeared on the left side. When Cassius drew his lance out of the wound a quantity of blood and water rushed from it, and flowed over his face and body. This species of washing produced effects somewhat similar to the vivifying waters of Baptism: grace and salvation at once entered his soul. He leaped from his horse, threw himself upon his knees, struck his breast, and confessed loudly before all his firm belief in the divinity of Jesus.
The Blessed Virgin and her companions were still standing near, with their eyes fixed upon the Cross, but when Cassius thrust his lance into the side of Jesus they were much startled, and rushed with one accord up to it. Mary looked as if the lance had transfixed her heart instead of that of her Divine Son, and could scarcely support herself. Cassius meantime remained kneeling and thanking God, not only for the graces he had received but likewise for the cure of the complaint in his eyes, which had caused the weakness and the squint. This cure had been effected at the same moment that the darkness with which his soul was previously filled was removed. Every heart was overcome at the sight, of the blood of our Lord, which ran into a hollow in the rock at the foot of the Cross. Mary, John, the holy women, and Cassius, gathered up the blood and water in flasks, and wiped up the remainder with pieces of linen.
Cassius, whose sight was perfectly restored at the same moment that the eyes of his soul were opened, was deeply moved, and continued his humble prayer of thanks( giving. The soldiers were struck with astonishment at the miracle which had taken place, and cast themselves on their knees by his side, at the same time striking their breasts and confessing Jesus. The water and blood continued to flow from the large wound in the side of our Lord; it ran into the hollow in the rock, and the holy women put it in vases, while Mary and Magdalen mingled their tears. The archers, who had received a message from Pilate, ordering them not to touch the body of Jesus, did not return at all.
All these events took place near the Cross, at a little before four o'clock, during the time that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were gathering together the articles necessary for the burial of Jesus. But the servants of Joseph having been sent to clean out the tomb, informed the friends of our Lord that their master intended to take the body of Jesus and place it in his new sepulcher. John immediately returned to the town with the holy women; in the first place, that Mary might recruit her strength a little, and in the second, to purchase a few things which would be required for the burial. The Blessed Virgin had a small lodging among the buildings near the Cenacle. They did not re-enter the town through the gate which was the nearest to Calvary, because it was closed, and guarded by soldiers placed there by the Pharisees; but they went through that gate which leads to Bethlehem.
Friday 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The burial of Jesus. Desolate Mary Most Holy.
At the time when everyone had left the neighborhood of the Cross, and a few guards alone stood around it, I saw five persons, who I think were disciples, and who had come by the valley from Bethania, draw nigh to Calvary, gaze for a few moments upon the Cross, and then steal away. Three times I met in the vicinity two men who were making examinations and anxiously consulting together. These men were Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. The first time was during the Crucifixion (perhaps when they caused the clothes of Jesus to be brought back from the soldiers), and they were then at no great distance from Calvary. The second was when, after standing to look whether the crowd was dispersing, they went to the tomb to make some preparations. The third was on their return from the tomb to the Cross, when they were looking around in every direction, as if waiting for a favorable moment, and then concerted together as to the manner in which they should take the body of our Lord down from the Cross, after which they returned to the town.
Their next care was to make arrangements for carrying with them the necessary articles for embalming the body, and their servants took some tools with which to detach it from the Cross, as well as two ladders which they found in a barn close to Nicodemus's house. Each of these ladders consisted of a single pole, crossed at regular intervals by pieces of wood, which formed the steps. There were hooks which could be fastened on any part of the pole, and by means of which the ladder could be steadied or on which, perhaps, anything required for the work could also be hung.
The woman from whom they had bought their spices had packed the whole neatly together. Nicodemus had bought a hundred pounds' weight of roots, which quantity is equal to about thirty-seven pounds of our measure, as has been explained to me. They carried these spices in little barrels make of bark, which were hung round their necks, and rested on their breasts. One of these barrels contained some sort of powder. They had also some bundles of herbs in bags made of parchment or leather, and Joseph carried a box of ointment. The servants were to carry vases, leathern bottles, sponges, and tools, on a species of litter, and they likewise took fire with them in a closed lantern.
They left the town before their master, and by a different gate and then turned their steps towards Mount Calvary. As they walked through the town they passed by the house where the Blessed Virgin, St. John, and the holy women had gone to seek different things required for embalming the body of Jesus, and John and the holy women followed the servants at a certain distance. The women were about five in number, and some of them carried large bundles of linen under their mantles.
It was the custom for women, when they went out in the evening, or if intending to perform some work of piety secretly, to wrap their persons carefully in a long sheet at least a yard wide. They began by one arm, and then wound the linen so closely round their body that they could not walk without difficulty. I have seen them wrapped up in this manner, and the sheet not only extended to both arms, but likewise veiled the head. On the present occasion, the appearance of this dress was most striking in my eyes, for it was a real mourning garment. Joseph and Nicodemus were also in mourning attire, and wore black sleeves and wide sashes. Their cloaks, which they had drawn over their heads, were both wide and long, of a common gray color, and served to conceal everything that they were carrying.
They turned their steps in the direction of the gate leading to Mount Calvary. The streets were deserted and quiet, for terror kept everyone at home. The greatest number were beginning to repent, and but few were keeping the festival. When Joseph and Nicodemus reached the gate they found it closed, and the road, streets, and every corner lined with soldiers. These were the soldiers whom the Pharisees had asked for at about two o'clock, and whom they had kept under arms and on guard, as they still feared a tumult among the people. Joseph showed an order, signed by Pilate, to let them pass freely, and the soldiers were most willing that they should do so, but explained to him that they had endeavored several times to open the gate, without being able to move it; that apparently the gate had received a shock, and been strained in some part; and that on this account the archers sent to break the legs of the thieves had been obliged to return to the city by another gate. But when Joseph and Nicodemus seized hold of the bolt, the gate opened as if of itself, to the great astonishment of all the bystanders.
It was still dark and the sky cloudy when they reached Mount Calvary, where they found the servants who had been sent on already arrived, and the holy women sitting weeping in front of the Cross. Cassius and several soldiers who were converted remained at a certain distance, and their demeanor was respectful and reserved. Joseph and Nicodemus described to the Blessed Virgin and John all they had done to save Jesus from an ignominious death, and learned from them how they had succeeded in preventing the bones of our Lord from being broken, and how the prophecy had been fulfilled. They spoke also of the wound which Cassius had made with his lance. No sooner was the centurion Abenadar arrived than they began, with the deepest recollection of spirit, their mournful and sacred labor of taking down from the Cross and embalming the adorable body of our Lord.
The Blessed Virgin and Magdalen were seated at the foot of the Cross; while, on the right-hand side, between the cross of Dismas and that of Jesus, the other women were engaged in preparing the linen, spices, water, sponges, and vases. Cassius also came forward, and related to Abenadar the miraculous cure of his eyes. All were deeply affected, and their hearts overflowing with sorrow and love; but, at the same time, they preserved a solemn silence, and their every movement was full of gravity and reverence. Nothing broke the stillness save an occasional smothered word of lamentation, or a Stifled groan, which escaped from one or other of these holy personages, in spite of their earnest eagerness and deep attention to their pious labor. Magdalen gave way unrestrainedly to her sorrow, and neither the presence of so many different persons, nor any other consideration, appeared to distract her from it.
Nicodemus and Joseph placed the ladders behind the Cross, and mounted them, holding in their hands a large sheet, to which three long straps were fastened. They tied the body of Jesus, below the arms and knees, to the tree of the Cross, and secured the arms by pieces of linen placed underneath the hands. Then they drew out the nails, by pushing them from behind with strong pins pressed upon the points. The sacred hands of Jesus were thus not much shaken, and the nails fell easily out of the wounds; for the latter had been made wider by the weight of the body, which, being now supported by the cloths, no longer hung on the nails. The lower part of the body, which since our Lord's death had sunk down on the knees, now rested in a natural position, supported by a sheet fastened above to the arms of the Cross.
Whilst Joseph was taking out the nail from the left hand, and then allowing the left arm, supported by its cloth, to fall gently down upon the body, Nicodemus was fastening the right arm of Jesus to that of the Cross, as also the sacred crowned head, which had sunk on the right shoulder. Then he took out the right nail, and having surrounded the arm with its supporting sheet, let it fall gently on to the body. At the same time, the centurion Abenadar, with great difficulty, drew out the large nail which transfixed the feet. Cassius devoutly received the nails, and laid them at the feet of the Blessed Virgin.
Then Joseph and Nicodemus, having placed ladders against the front of the Cross, in a very upright position, and close to the body, untied the upper strap, and fastened it to one of the hooks on the ladder; they did the same with the two other straps, and passing them all on from hook to hook, caused the sacred body to descend gently towards the centurion, who having mounted upon a stool received it in his arms, holding it below the knees; while Joseph and Nicodemus, supporting the upper part of the body, came gently down the ladder, stopping at every step, and taking every imaginable precaution, as would be done by men bearing the body of some beloved friend who had been grievously wounded. Thus did the bruised body of our Divine Savior reach the ground.
It was a most touching sight. They all took the same precautions, the same care, as if they had feared to cause Jesus some suffering. They seemed to have concentrated on the sacred body all the love and veneration which they had felt for their Savior during his life. The eyes of each were fixed upon the adorable body, and followed all its movements; and they were continually uplifting their hands towards Heaven, shedding tears, and expressing in every possible way the excess of their grief and anguish. Yet they all remained perfectly calm, and even those who were so busily occupied about the sacred body broke silence but seldom, and, when obliged to make some necessary remark, did so in a low voice.
During the time that the nails were being forcibly removed by blows of the hammer, the Blessed Virgin, Magdalen, and all those who had been present at the Crucifixion, felt each blow transfix their hearts. The sound recalled to their minds all the sufferings of Jesus, and they could not control their trembling fear, lest they should again hear his piercing cry of suffering; although, at the same time, they grieved at the silence of his blessed lips, which proved, alas too surely, that he was really dead. When the body was taken down it was wrapped in linen from the knees to the waist, and then placed in the arms of the Blessed Virgin, who, overwhelmed with sorrow and love, stretched them forth to receive their precious burden.
The Blessed Virgin seated herself upon a large cloth spread on the ground, with her right knee, which was slightly raised, and her back resting against some mantles, rolled together so as to form a species of cushion. No precaution had been neglected which could in any way facilitate to her--the Mother of Sorrows--in her deep affliction of soul, the mournful but most sacred duty which she was about to fulfil in regard to the body of her beloved Son. The adorable head of Jesus rested upon Mary's knee, and his body was stretched upon a sheet. The Blessed Virgin was overwhelmed with sorrow and love. Once more, and for the last time, did she hold in her arms the body of her most beloved Son, to whom she had been unable to give any testimony of love during the long hours of his martyrdom. And she gazed upon his wounds and fondly embraced his blood-stained cheeks, whilst Magdalen pressed her face upon his feet.
The men withdrew into a little cave, situated on the south-west side of Calvary, there to prepare the different things needful for the embalming; but Cassius, with a few other soldiers who had been converted, remained at a respectful distance. All ill-disposed persons were gone back to the city, and the soldiers who were present served merely to form a guard to prevent any interruption in the last honours which were being rendered to the body of Jesus. Some of these soldiers even gave assistance when desired. The holy women held the vases, sponges, linen, unction, and spices, according as required; but when not thus employed, they remained at a respectful distance, attentively gazing upon the Blessed Virgin as she proceeded in her mournful task. Magdalen did not leave the body of Jesus; but John gave continual assistance to the Blessed Virgin, and went to and fro from the men to the women, lending aid to both parties. The women had with them some large leathern bottles and a vase filled. with water standing upon a coal fire. They gave the Blessed Virgin and Magdalen, according as they required, vases filled with clear water, and sponges, which they afterwards squeezed in the leathern bottles.
The courage and firmness of Mary remained unshaken even in the midst of her inexpressible anguish. It was absolutely impossible for her to leave the body of her Son in the awful state to which it had been reduced by his sufferings, and therefore she began with indefatigable earnestness to wash and purify it from the traces of the outrages to which it had been exposed. With the utmost care she drew off the crown of thorns, opening it behind, and then cutting off one by one the thorns which had sunk deep into the head of Jesus, in order that she might not widen the wounds. The crown was placed by the side of the nails, and then Mary drew out the thorns which had remained in the skin with a species of rounded pincers, 2 and sorrowfully showed them to her friends. These thorns were placed with the crown, but still some of them must have been preserved separately.
The divine face of our Savior was scarcely recognizable, so disfigured was it by the wounds with which it was covered. The beard and hair were matted together with blood. Mary washed the head and face, and passed damp sponges over the hair to remove the congealed blood. As she proceeded in her pious office, the extent of the awful cruelty which had been exercised upon Jesus became more and more apparent, and caused in her soul emotions of compassion and tenderness which increased as she passed from one wound to another.
She washed the wounds of the head, the eyes filled with blood, the nostrils, and the ears, with a sponge and a small piece of linen spread over the fingers of her right hand; and then she purified, in the same manner, the half-opened mouth, the tongue, the teeth, and the lips. She divided what remained of our Lord's hair into three parts, a part falling over each temple, and the third over the back of his head; and when she had disentangled the front hair and smoothed it, she passed it behind his ears.
When the head was thoroughly cleansed and purified, the Blessed Virgin covered it with a veil, after having kissed the sacred cheeks of her dear Son. She then turned her attention to the neck, shoulders, chest, back, arms, and pierced hands. All the bones of the breast and the joints were dislocated, and could not be bent. There was a frightful wound on the shoulder which had borne the weight of the Cross, and all the upper part of the body was covered with bruises and deeply marked with the blows of the scourges.
On the left breast there was a small wound where the point of Cassius's lance had come out, and on the right side was the large wound made by the same lance, and which had pierced the heart through and through. Mary washed all these wounds, and Magdalen, on her knees, helped her from time to time; but without leaving the sacred feet of Jesus, which she bathed with tears and wiped with her hair.
The head, bosom, and feet of our Lord were' now washed, and the sacred body, which was covered with brown stains and red marks in those places where the skin had been torn off, and of a bluish-white color, like flesh that has been drained of blood, was resting on the knees of Mary, who covered the parts which she had washed with a veil, and then proceeded to embalm all the wounds.
The holy women knelt by her side, and in turn presented to her a box, out of which she took some precious ointment, and with it filled and covered the wounds. She also anointed the hair, and then, taking the sacred hands of Jesus in her left hand, respectfully kissed them, and filled the large wounds made by the nails with this ointment or sweet spice. She likewise filled the ears, nostrils, and wound in the side with the same precious mixture. Meanwhile Magdalen wiped and embalmed our Lord's feet, and then again washed them with her tears, and often pressed her face upon them.
The water which had been used was not thrown away, but poured into the leathern bottles in which the sponges had been squeezed. I saw Cassius or some other soldier go several times to fetch fresh water from the fountain of Gihon, which was at no great distance off.
When the Blessed Virgin had filled all the wounds with ointment, she wrapped the head up in linen cloths, but she did not as yet cover the face. She closed the half-open eyes of Jesus, and kept her hand upon them for some time. She also closed the mouth, and then embraced the sacred body of her beloved Son, pressing her face fondly and reverently upon his. Joseph and Nicodemus had been waiting for some time, when John drew near to the Blessed Virgin, and besought her to permit the body of her Son to be taken from her, that the embalming might be completed, because the Sabbath was close at hand.
Once more did Mary embrace the sacred body of Jesus, and utter her farewells in the most touching language, and then the men lifted it from her arms on the sheet, and carried it to some distance. The deep sorrow of Mary had been for the time assuaged by the feelings of love and reverence with which she had accomplished her sacred task; but now it once more overwhelmed her, and she fell, her head covered with her veil, into the arms of the holy women. Magdalen felt almost as though her Beloved were being forcibly carried away from her, and, hastily ran forward a few steps, with her arms stretched forth; but then, after a moment, returned to the Blessed Virgin.
The sacred body was carried to a spot beneath the level of the top of Golgotha, where the smooth surface of a rock afforded a convenient platform on which to embalm the body. I first saw a piece of open-worked linen, looking very much like lace, and which made me think of the large embroidered curtain hung between the choir and nave during Lent. It was probably worked in that open stitch for the water to run through. Then another large sheet was unfolded. The body of our Savior was placed on the open-worked piece of linen, and some of the other men held the other sheet spread above it. Nicodemus and Joseph then knelt down, and underneath this covering took off the linen which they had fastened round the loins of our Savior, when they took his body down from the Cross.
They then passed sponges under this sheet and washed the lower parts of the body; after which they lifted it up by the help of pieces of linen crossed beneath the loins and knees, and washed the back without turning it over. They continued washing until nothing but clear water came from the sponges when pressed.
Next they poured water of myrrh over the whole body, and then, handling it with respect, stretched it out full length, for it was still in the position in which our Divine Lord had died--the loins and knees bent. They then placed beneath his hips a sheet which was a yard in width and three in length, laid upon his lap bundles of sweet-scented herbs, and shook over the whole body a powder which Nicodemus had brought. Next they wrapped up the lower part of the body, and fastened the cloth which they had placed underneath round it strongly. After this they anointed the wounds of the thighs, placed bundles of herbs between the legs, which were stretched out to their fall length, and wrapped them up entirely in these sweet spices.
Then John conducted the Blessed Virgin and the other holy women once more to the side of the body. Mary knelt down by the head of Jesus, and placed beneath it a piece of very fine linen which had been given her by Pilate's wife, and which she had worn round her neck under her cloak; next, assisted by the holy women, she placed from the shoulders to the cheeks bundles of herbs, spices, and sweet-scented powder, and then strongly bound this piece of linen round the head and shoulders.
Magdalen poured besides a small bottle of balm into the wound of the side, and the holy women placed some more herbs into those of the hands and feet. Then the men put sweet spices around all the remainder of the body, crossed the sacred stiffened arms on the chest, and bound the large white sheet round the body as high as the chest, in the same manner as if they had been swaddling a child.
Then, having fastened the end of a large band beneath the armpits, they rolled it round the head and the whole body. Finally, they placed our Divine Lord on the large sheet, six yards in length, which Joseph of Arimathea had bought, and wrapped him in it. He was lying diagonally upon it, and one corner of the sheet was raised from the feet to the chest, the other drawn over the head and shoulders, while the remaining two ends were doubled round the body.
The Blessed Virgin, the holy women, the men-all were kneeling round the body of Jesus to take their farewell of it, when a most touching miracle took place before them. The sacred body of Jesus, with all its wounds, appeared imprinted upon the cloth which covered it, as though he had been pleased to reward their care and their love, and leave them a portrait of himself through all the veils with which he was enwrapped.
With tears they embraced the adorable body, and then reverently kissed the wonderful impression which it had left. Their astonishment increased when, on lifting up the sheet, they saw that all the bands which surrounded the body had remained white as before, and that the upper cloth alone had been marked in this wonderful manner. It was not a mark made by the bleeding wounds, since the whole body was wrapped up and covered with sweet spices, but it was a supernatural portrait, bearing testimony to the divine creative power ever abiding in the body of Jesus.
The men placed the sacred body on a species of leathern hand-barrow, which they covered with a brown-colored cloth, and to which they fastened two long stakes. This forcibly reminded me of the Ark of the Covenant. Nicodemus and Joseph bore on their shoulders the front shafts, while Abenadar and John supported those behind. After them came the Blessed Virgin, Mary of Heli, her eldest sister, Magdalen and Mary of Cleophas, and then the group of women who had been sitting at some distance--Veronica, Johanna Chusa, Mary the mother of Mark, Salome the wife of Zebedee, Mary Salome, Salome of Jerusalem, Susanna, and Anne the niece of St. Joseph. Cassius and the soldiers closed the procession.
The other women, such as Marone of Naïm, Dina the Samaritaness, and Mara the Suphanitess, were at Bethania, with Martha and Lazarus. Two soldiers, bearing torches in their hands, walked on first, that there might be some light in the grotto of the sepulcher; and the procession continued to advance in this order for about seven minutes, the holy men and women singing psalms in sweet but melancholy tones. I saw James the Greater, the brother of John, standing upon a hill the other side of the valley, to look at them as they passed, and he returned immediately afterwards, to tell the other disciples what he had seen.
The procession stopped at the entrance of Joseph's garden, which was opened by the removal of some stakes, afterwards used as levers to roll the stone to the door of the sepulcher. When opposite the rock, they placed the Sacred Body on a long board covered with a sheet. The grotto, which had been newly excavated, had been lately cleaned by the servants of Nicodemus, so that the interior was neat and pleasing to the eye.
The holy women sat down in front of the grotto, while the four men carried in the body of our Lord, partially filled the hollow couch destined for its reception with aromatic spices, and spread over them a cloth, upon which they reverently deposited the sacred body. After having once more given expression to their love by tears and fond embraces, they left the grotto. Then the Blessed Virgin entered, seated herself close to the head of her dear Son, and bent over his body with many tears.
When she left the grotto, Magdalen hastily and eagerly came forward, and flung on the body some flowers and branches which she had gathered in the garden. Then she clasped her hands together, and with sobs kissed the feet of Jesus; but the men having informed her that they must close the sepulcher, she returned to the other women. They covered the sacred body with the extremities of the sheet on which it was lying, placed on the top of all the brown coverlet, and closed the folding-doors, which were made of a bronze-colored metal, and had on their front two sticks, one straight down and the other across, so as to form a perfect cross.
The large stone with which they intended to close the sepulcher, and which was still lying in front of the grotto, was in shape very like a chest, or tomb; its length was such that a man might have laid himself down upon it, and it was so heavy that it was only by means of levers that the men could roll it before the door of the sepulcher. The entrance of the grotto was closed by a gate made of branches twined together. Everything that was done within the grotto had to be accomplished by torchlight, for daylight never penetrated there.