Thursday, 17 September 2009

Considerations on the passion of Jesus Christ - Chapter 3

The Scourging.
St. Paul writes respecting Jesus Christ: He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant.1 On this text St. Bernard remarks, “He took not only the form of a servant, that he might obey, but that of a slave, that he might be beaten.”2 Our Redeemer, who is the Lord of all, was willing not only to take upon him the condition of a servant, but even that of a bad servant, that he might be punished as a malefactor, and thus make satisfaction for our sins. It is certain that the scourging was the most cruel of the tortures that shortened the life of our Redeemer; for the great effusion of blood (already foretold by him, when he said, This is My blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many3) was the principal cause of his death. It is true that this blood was first poured forth in the garden, and was also poured forth in the crowning with thorns, and by the driving-in of the nails; but the largest portion was shed in the scourging, which was also a cause of great shame and insult to Jesus Christ, because this was a punishment inflicted only on slaves. On this account, also, the tyrants who condemned the holy martyrs to death scourged them after their condemnation, and then slew them; while our Lord was scourged before he was condemned to death. He had himself particularly predicted the scourging to his disciples during his life: He shall be given up to the Gentiles, and mocked and scourged.4 Thus he signified to them the great anguish which this torture would inflict upon him.
It was revealed to St. Bridget that one of the executioners first commanded Jesus Christ to strip himself of his garments. He obeyed, and then embraced the pillar to which he was bound, and was then so cruelly scourged that his whole body was lacerated.5 The revelation stated that the stripes not only struck him, but ploughed into his most holy flesh. He was so torn open that, as the same revelation declares, his ribs appeared laid bare.6 With this agrees what was written by St. Jerome: “The stripes cut the most holy body of God;”7 and also what St. Peter Damian wrote, that the executioners exhausted themselves with fatigue8 in scourging our Lord. All this was already foretold by Isaias in the words, He was bruised for our iniquities;9 the word bruised signifying the same as being broken to pieces, or as being pounded in a mortar.
Behold me, O my Jesus! I am one of Thy most cruel executioners, who have scourged Thee with my sins; have pity upon me. O my loving Saviour! a heart is too little with which to love Thee. I desire no longer to live for myself, I desire to live only for Thee, my love, my all. Wherefore I say to Thee, with St. Catharine of Genoa, “O love! O love! let there be no more sins. It is enough that I have already offended Thee so much! now I hope to be wholly Thine, and with Thy grace I desire to be ever Thine through all eternity.”
The Crowning with Thorns.
The divine Mother revealed to the same St. Bridget that the crown of thorns surrounded the whole sacred head of her Son, as low down as the middle of his forehead; and that the thorns were driven in with such violence that the blood gushed out in streams over all his countenance, so that the whole face of Jesus Christ appeared covered with blood.10
Origen writes that this crown of thorns was not taken from the head of the Lord until he had expired upon the cross.11 In the mean time, as the inner garment of Christ was not sewed together, but woven all in one piece, on this account it was not divided among the soldiers, like his outer garments, but it was given by lot, as St. John writes: The soldiers, therefore, when they had crucified Him, took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part, and also His coat. Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said then one to another: Let us not cut it; but let us cast lots for it, whose it shall be.12 As this garment, then, must have been drawn off over the head, many authors write, with great probability, that when Jesus was stripped of it, the crown of thorns was taken from his head, and was replaced before he was nailed to the cross.
In the book of Genesis it is written: Cursed is the earth in thy work; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.13 This curse was inflicted by God upon Adam and upon all his posterity; and by the earth here spoken of we must understand, not only the material earth, but the flesh of man, which, being infected by the sin of Adam, brings forth only the thorns of sin. In order to remedy this infection, says Tertullian, it was necessary that Jesus Christ should offer to God in sacrifice this great torment of the crowning with thorns.14
This torture also, besides being in itself most acute, was accompanied by blows and spitting, and by the mockings of the soldiers, as St. Matthew and St. John relate: And plaiting a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head, and a reed in His right hand. And bowing the knee before Him, they mocked Him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And spitting upon Him, they took the reed, and struck His head.15 And the soldiers plaiting a crown of thorns, put it upon His head; and they put on Him a purple garment. And they came to Him and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they gave Him blows.16
O my Jesus! what thorns have I added to this crown with my sinful thoughts to which I have consented! I would I could die with grief! Pardon me, through the merit of this grief, which Thou didst then accept in order to pardon me. O my Lord, thus bruised and thus despised! Thou hast laden Thyself with all these pains and mockeries in order to move me to have compassion upon Thee, that, at least through compassion, I may love Thee, and no more displease Thee. It is enough, O my Jesus; cease to suffer more: I am convinced of the love that Thou bearest to me, and I love Thee with all my heart. But now I see that it is not enough for Thee; Thou art not satisfied with thorns, until Thou findest Thyself dead with anguish upon the cross. O goodness! O infinite love! Miserable is the heart that loves Thee not.
Jesus Carries His Cross.
The cross began to torture Jesus Christ before he was nailed upon it; for after he was condemned by Pilate, the cross on which he was to die was given to him to carry to Calvary, and, without refusing, he took it upon his shoulders.17 Speaking of this, St. Augustine writes: “If we regard the wickedness of his tormentors, the insult was great; if we regard the love of Jesus, the mystery is great;18 for in carrying the cross, our Captain then lifted up the standard under which his followers upon this earth must be enrolled and must fight, in order to be made his companions in the kingdom of heaven.”
St. Basil, speaking of the passage in Isaias, A child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon His shoulder,19 says “that earthly tyrants load their subjects with unjust burdens, in order to increase their own power; but Jesus Christ chose to take upon himself the burden of the cross, and to carry it, in order to leave life to us therein, that he might obtain salvation for us.” He further remarks that the kings of the earth found their sovereignties in the force of arms and in the heaping-up of riches; but Jesus Christ founded his sovereignty in the insults of the cross,—that is, in humbling himself and in suffering,—and on this account he willingly accepted it, and carried it on that painful journey, in order, by his example, to give us courage to embrace with resignation every cross, and thus to follow him. Wherefore, also, he said to his disciples, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.20
It is useful here to note the beautiful expressions applied to the cross by St. John Chrysostom:
He calls it the hope of the despairing;21 for what hope of salvation would sinners have were it not for the cross on which Jesus Christ died to save them?
The guide of the voyager;22 for the humiliation of the cross (that is, of tribulation) is the cause which, in this life that is like a sea of dangers, gives us grace to keep the divine law, and to amend ourselves after our trangressions; as the prophet says, It is good for me that Thou host humbled me, that I might learn Thy justifications.23
The counsellor of the just;24 because in adversities the just learn wisdom, and gain motives for uniting themselves more closely to God.
The rest of the troubled;25 for where can the troubled find relief but in beholding that cross on which their Redeemer and God died of pain for love of them?
The glorying of the martyrs;26 because in this consists the glory of the holy martyrs, that they were able to unite their deaths to the pains and death which Jesus Christ suffered on the cross; as St. Paul says, God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.27
The physician of the sick.28 and great indeed is the remedy of the cross to those who are sick in spirit; tribulations make them repent, and detach them from the world.
The fount for the thirsty;29 the cross, that is, suffering for Jesus Christ, being the desire of the saints, as St. Teresa was wont to say, “Oh that I might suffer! oh that I might die!” and as St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi said, “May I suffer, and not die;” meaning that she would refuse to die and to go to rejoice in heaven, in order that she might continue to suffer upon this earth.
Finally, to speak of all alike, both the just and sinners, every one has his own cross. The just, though they enjoy peace of conscience, yet all have their vicissitudes; at one time they are comforted by visits of divine mercy, at another they are afflicted by bodily vexations and infirmities, and especially by desolation of spirit, by darkness and weariness, by scruples and temptations, and by fears for their own salvation. Much heavier are the crosses of sinners, through remorse of conscience, through the terrors of eternal punishment, which from time to time affright them, and through the pains they suffer when things go wrong with them. The saints, when adversities befall them, unite themselves with the divine will, and suffer them with patience; but how can the sinner calm himself by recollecting the divine will, when he is living at enmity with God? The pains of the enemies of God are unmixed pains, pains without relief. Wherefore St. Teresa was wont to say “that he who loves God embraces the cross, and thus does not feel it; while he who does not love him drags the cross along by force and thus cannot but feel it.”
The Crucifixion.
It was revealed to St. Bridget that when the Saviour saw himself laid upon the cross, he stretched out his right hand to the place where it was to be nailed.30 They then immediately nailed the other hand, and then his sacred feet; and Jesus Christ was left to die upon this bed of anguish. St. Augustine says that the punishment of the cross was a most bitter torment, because, upon the cross, death itself was prolonged, lest the pain should be speedily ended.31
O God! what horror must then have smitten heaven, at the sight of the Son of the Eternal Father crucified between two thieves! Such, in truth, was the prophecy of Isaias: He was reputed with the wicked.32 Therefore St. John Chrysostom, contemplating Jesus upon the cross, cried out, full of amazement and love, “I see him in the midst, in the holy Trinity; I see him in the midst, between Moses and Elias; I see him in the midst, between two thieves.”33 As though he had said, “I see my Saviour first in heaven between the Father and the Holy Ghost; I see him upon the Mount Tabor, between two saints, Moses and Elias; how, then, can I see him crucified upon Calvary between two thieves?” How could this come to pass, but through the divine decree, that thus he must die, to satisfy by his death for the sins of men, and to save from death, as Isaias had foretold: He was reputed with the wicked, and He hath borne the sins of many.34
The same prophet also asks, Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Basra; this beautiful one in His robe, walking in the greatness of His strength?35 (Edom signifying a red color, though somewhat dark, as is explained in Gen. xxv. 30); and he gives the answer, I that speak justice, and am a defender to save.36 The person who thus replies is, according to the interpreters, Jesus Christ, who says, I am the promised Messiah, who am come to save men, by triumphing over their enemies. Then, further, he is again asked, Why is Thy apparel red, and Thy garments like theirs that that tread in the wine-press?37 And he answers, I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the Gentiles there is not a man with Me.38 Tertullian, St. Cyprian, and St. Augustine explain the wine-press to mean the Passion of Jesus Christ, in which his garments—that is, his most holy flesh—was covered with blood and wounds, according to what St. John wrote: He was clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood; and His name is called the Word of God.39 St. Gregory, explaining the expression I have trodden the wine-press alone, says, “He trod the wine-press, and was himself trodden.”40 He trod it, because Jesus Christ, by his Passion, overcame the devil; he was trodden, because, in his Passion, his body was bruised and broken, as the grapes are broken in the wine-press, and, as Isaias expresses it in another text, The Lord was pleased to bruise Him in infirmity.41
And now behold this Lord, who was fairest among men,42 appears on Calvary with his form so disfigured by torments, that it struck horror into all who saw it. Yet this deformity makes him seem more beautiful in the eyes of souls that love him, because these wounds, these marks of the scourging, this lacerated flesh, are all tokens and proofs of the love he bears them; upon which the poet Petrucci beautifully sings, “O Lord, if Thou sufferest scourgings for us, to the souls that are bound to Thee, the more deformed Thou art, the more fair dost Thou appear.”
St. Augustine adds, “He hung in deformity upon the cross, but his deformity is our beauty.”43 And truly so, because this deformity of Jesus crucified was the cause of the beauty of our souls, which, when they were deformed, were washed with his divine blood, and became fair and lovely, according to what St. John wrote, Who are these that are clothed in white garments? These are they who have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their garments, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.44 All the saints, as being children of Adam (with the exception of the Blessed Virgin), were at one time covered with a foul garment, and soiled with Adam’s sin and with their own; but being washed with the blood of the Lamb, they became white and agreeable in the sight of God.
Well, then, didst Thou say, O my Jesus, that, when Thou shouldst be lifted up upon the cross, Thou wouldst draw everything unto Thee;45 “and this he said, signifying by what death he should die.” Truly Thou hast left undone nothing to draw all hearts unto Thee. Many are the happy souls who, in seeing Thee crucified and dying for love of them, have abandoned everything—possessions, dignities, country, and kindred, even to the embracing of torments and death—in order to give themselves wholly to Thee. Unhappy they who resist Thy graces, which Thou hast gained for them with Thy great labors and sorrows. O my God, this will be their great torment in hell, to think that they have lost a God who, to draw them to love him, gave his life upon a cross, that of their own choice they have perished, and that there will be no remedy for their ruin through all eternity. O my Redeemer, I have already deserved to fall into this ruin, through the sins I have committed against Thee. Alas, how often have I resisted Thy grace, which sought to draw me unto Thee, and, in order to cleave to my own inclinations, have despised Thy love, and turned my back upon Thee! Oh that I had died before I had offended Thee! Oh that I had ever loved Thee! I thank Thee, O my love, that Thou hast borne with me with so much patience, and that, instead of abandoning me, as I deserved, Thou hast repeated Thy calls, and increased Thy lights and Thy loving impulses upon me. I will sing the mercies of God forever.46 Oh, cease not, my Saviour and my hope, to continue to draw me, and to multiply Thy graces upon me, that I may love Thee in heaven with more fervor, remembering the many mercies that Thou hast shown me, after all the offences that I have committed against Thee. I hope for all, through that precious blood which Thou hast shed for me, and that bitter death which Thou hast endured for me.
O holy Virgin Mary, protect me; pray to Jesus for me.
Jesus upon the Cross.
Jesus upon the cross was a spectacle which filled heaven and earth with amazement, at the sight of an Almighty God, the Lord of all, dying upon an infamous gibbet, condemned as a malefactor between two other malefactors. It was a spectacle of justice, in displaying the Eternal Father, in order that his justice might be satisfied; punishing the sins of men in the person of his only-begotten Son, loved by him as himself. It was a spectacle of mercy, displaying his innocent Son dying a death so shameful and so bitter, in order to save his creatures from the punishment that was due to them. Especially was it a sight of love, in displaying a God who offered and gave his life to redeem from death his slaves and enemies.
It is this spectacle which ever was and ever will be the dearest object of the contemplations of the saints, through which they have counted it little to strip themselves of all earthly pleasures and goods, and to embrace with desire and joy both pain and death, in order to make some return of gratitude to a God who died for love of them.
Comforted by the sight of Jesus derided upon the cross, the saints have loved contempt more than worldly people have loved all the honors of the world. At the sight of Jesus naked and dying upon the cross, they have sought to abandon all the good things of this earth. At the sight of him all wounded upon the cross, while the blood flowed forth from all his limbs, they have learnt to abhor sensual pleasures, and have sought to afflict their flesh as much as they could, in order to accompany with their own sufferings the sufferings of the Crucified. At the sight of the obedience and conformity of will retained by Jesus Christ to the will of his Father, they have labored to conquer all those appetites which were not conformed to the divine pleasure; while many, though occupied in works of piety, yet, knowing that to be deprived of their own will was the sacrifice the most welcome to the heart of God which they could offer, have entered into some religious Order, to lead a life of obedience, and subject their own will to that of others. At the sight of the patience of Jesus Christ, in being willing to suffer so many pains and insults for the love of us, they have received with satisfaction and joy injuries, infirmities, persecutions, and the torments of tyrants. At the sight of the love which Jesus Christ has shown to us in sacrificing to God his life upon the cross for us, they have sacrificed to Jesus Christ all they possessed,—their property, their pleasures, their honors, and their life.
How is it, then, that so many Christians, although they know by faith that Jesus Christ died for love of them, instead of devoting themselves wholly to love and serve him, devote themselves to offend and despise him for the sake of brief and miserable pleasures? Whence comes this ingratitude? It comes from their forgetfulness of the Passion and death of Jesus Christ. And, O my God, what will be their remorse and shame at the day of judgment, when the Lord shall reproach them with all that he has done and suffered for them?
Let us not, then, cease, O devout souls, ever to keep before our eyes Jesus crucified, and dying in the midst of torments and insults through love of us. From the Passion of Jesus Christ all the saints have drawn those flames of love which made them forget all the good things of this world, and even their own selves, to give themselves up wholly to love and please this divine Saviour, who has so loved men that it seems as if he could not have done more in order to be loved by them. In a word, the cross, that is, the Passion of Jesus Christ, is that which will gain for us the victory over all our passions and all the temptations that hell will hold out to us, in order to separate us from God. The cross is the road and ladder by which we mount to heaven. Happy he who embraces it during his life, and does not put it off till the hour of death. He that dies embracing the cross has a sure pledge of eternal life, which is promised to all those who follow Jesus Christ with their cross.
O my crucified Jesus! to make Thyself loved by men Thou has spared nothing; Thou hast even given Thy life with a most painful death; how, then, can men who love their kindred, their friends, and even animals from whom they receive any token of affection, be so ungrateful to Thee as to despise Thy grace and Thy love, for the sake of miserable and vain delights! Oh, miserable that I am, I am one of those ungrateful beings who, for things of no worth, have renounced Thy friendship, and have turned my back upon Thee. I have deserved that Thou shouldst drive me from Thy face, as I have often banished Thee from my heart. But I know that Thou dost not cease to ask my heart of me: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.47 Yea, O my Jesus, as Thou desirest that I should love Thee and offerest me pardon, I renounce all creatures, and henceforth I desire to love Thee alone, my Creator and my Redeemer. Thou dost deserve to be the only object of my soul’s love.
O Mary, Mother of God, and refuge of sinners, pray for me; obtain for me the grace of loving God, and I ask for nothing more.

1“Semetipsum exinanivit, formam servi accipiens.” – Phil. ii. 7.
2“Non solum formam servi accepit, ut subesset, sed etiam servi, ut vapularet.” – S. de Pass. D.
3“Hic est enim sanguis meus novi testamenti, qui pro multis effundetur.” – Matt. xxvi. 28.
4“Tradetur enim Gentibus, et illudetur, et flagellabitur.” – Luke, xviii. 32.
5“Jubente lictore, seipsum vestibus exult, columnam sponte amplectens ligatur, et flagellis, non evellendo, sed sulcando, totum corpus laceratur.” – Rev. 1. 4, c. 70.
6“Ita ut costa viderentur.” – Ibid. l. 1, c. 10.
7“Sacratissimum corpus Dei flagella secuerunt.” – In Matt. xxvii.
8“Usque ad defatigationem.”
9“Attritus est propter scelera nostra.” – Isa. liii. 5.
10“Quæ (corona) tam vehementer caput Filii mei pupugit. in ex sanguine affluente replerentnr oculi ejus. – Ad medium frontis descendebat, plurimis rivis sanguinis decurrentibus per faciem ejus, ut quasi nihil nisi sanguis totum videretur.” – Rev. l. 1, c. 10; l. 4, c. 70.
11“Corona spinea, semel imposita, et nunquam detracta.” – In Matt. tr. 35.
12“Milites ergo, cum crucifixissent eum. acceperunt vestimenta ejus (et fecerunt quatuor panes, unicuique militi partem), et tunicam; erat autem tunica inconsutilis, desuper contexta per totum; dixerunt ergo ad invicem: Non scindamus eam, sed sortiarnur de ilia cujus sit.” – John, xix. 23, 24.
13“Maledieta terra in opere tuo . . .; spinas et tribulos germinabit tibi.” – Gen. iii. 17.
14“Hunc (Christum) alias oportebat pro omnibus gentibus fieri sacrificium.” – Adv. Judæos.
15“Et exeuntes eum, chlamydem coccineam circumdederunt ei; et piectentes coronam de spinis, posuerunt super caput ejus, et arundinem in dextera ejus; et genu flexo ante eum, illudebant ei, dicentes: Ave, Rex Judæorum. Et expuentes in eum, acceperunt arundinem, et percutiebant caput ejus.” – Matt. xxvii. 28-30.
16“Et dabant ei alapas.” – John, xix. 3.
17“Et bajulans sibi crucem, exivit in eum, qui dicitur Calvariæ, locum” – John, xix. 17.
18“Si spectet impietas, grande ludibrium; si pietas, grande mysterium.” – In Jo. tr. 117.
19“Factus est principatus super humerum ejus.” – Isa. ix. 6.
20“Si quis vult post me venire, abneget semetipsum, et tollat crucem suam, et sequatur me.” – Matt. xvi. 24.
21“Spes Christianorum, desperatorum Via.”
22“Navigantium Gubernator.”
23“Bonum mihi quia humiliasti me, ut discam justificationes tuas.” – Ps. cxviii. 71.
24“Justorum Consiliarius.”
25“Tribulatoram Requies.”
26“Martyrum Gloriatio.”
27“Mihi absit gloriari, nisi in cruce Domini nostri Jesu Christi.” – Gal. vi. 14.
28“Ægrotandum Medicus.”
29“Sitientium Fons.”
30“Voluntarie extendit brachium, et, aperta sua dextera manu, posuit eam in cruce; quam tortores crucifixerunt.” – Rev. l. 7, c. 15.
31“Mors ipsa protendebatur, ne dolor citius finiretur.” – In Jo. tr. 36.
32“Et cum sceleratis reputatus est.” – Isa. liii. 12.
33“Medium in Sancta Triade, medium inter Moysen et Eliam, medium inter Latrones!”
34“Et cum sceleratis reputatus est, et ipse peccata multorum tulit” – Isa. liii. 12.
35“Quis est iste qui venit de Edom, tinctis vestibus de Bosra? iste formosus in stola sua, gradiens in multitudine fortitudinis suæ.” – Isa. lxiii. 1.
36“Ego, qui loquor justitiam, et propugnator sum ad salvandum.” – Isa. lxiii. 1.
37“Quare ergo rubrum est vestimentum tuum, et vestimenta tua sicut calcantium in torculari?” – Ibid. 2.
38“Torcular calcavi solus, et de gentibus non est vir mecum.” – Ibid. 3.
39“Et vestitus erat veste aspersa sanguine, et vocatur nomen ejus Verbum Dei.” – Apoc. xix. 13.
40“Torcular in quo calcatus calcavit.” – In Es. hom. 13.
41“Et voluit Dominus conterere eum in infirmitate.” – Isa. liii. 10.
42“Speciosus forma præ filiis hominum.” – Ps. xliv. 3.
43“Pendebat in cruce deformis, sed deformitas illius pulchritudo nostra erat.” – Serm. 27, E. B.
44“Hi qui amicti sunt stolis albis, qui sunt? . . . Hi sunt qui venerunt de tribulatione marina, et laverunt stolas suas et dealbaverunt eas in sanguine Agni.” – Apoc. vii. 13.
45“Et ego, si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum.” – John, xii.
46“Misericordias Domini in æternum cantabo.” – Ps. lxxxviii. 2.
47“Diliges Dominum Deum tuum.” – Deut. vi. 5.

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