Life Of Christ:
Jesus Before Annas
Jesus Before Caiphas
Jesus Before Pilate
Jesus Before Herod
Jesus Is Condemned To Death
Way Of The Cross
Crucifixion Of Jesus
Seven Last Words Of Jesus
Miraculous Events At Our Lord's Death
Side Of Jesus Pierced With A Lance
Read More Articles About: Life Of Christ
Way Of The Cross
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
WHEN the fatal words of condemnation had passed the lips of Pilate, great haste was made to carry the sentence into execution. " And after they had mocked Him, they took off the purple from Him, and put His own garments on Him: and they led Him out to crucify Him." (Mark xv. 20.) "And bearing His own cross He went forth to that place which is called Calvary, but in Hebrew Golgotha." (John xix. 17.) The executioners took off the purple garment which Jesus had worn since His crowning with thorns. His tunic, which was.. woven, was of one piece, and had only an opening for the head; hence, before it could be put on Him, it was necessary to take off the crown of thorns. As the soldiers, handled Our Lord very roughly, there is no doubt that many of the thorns broke off and remained fast in the wounds they had caused. What pain this must have been! Christian soul, have compassion on your divine Saviour, who suffered so much for you.
After they had replaced His garments, they again put. the crown of thorns on His head. As the thorns caused fresh wounds, we can imagine what intense pain Our Lord suffered; indeed, only His omnipotence and His desire to suffer for us sustained Him, so that He did not die of this cruel treatment.
Then the executioners bound Him tightly with ropes and chains, for it was customary so to lead criminals condemned to death to the place of execution. Thereby His garments were pressed fast into the wounds with which His body was covered, which were thus irritated by every movement.
A rude cross which had been hastily constructed was now brought to the place where Jesus stood. When our blessed Lord's eyes first fell upon the cross, His human nature shuddered for an instant. But remembering that it was to be the instrument of salvation, His soul was gladdened, and with deep emotion He clasped it in His arms and kissed it. Then it was laid upon His shoulder; the centurion in command of the soldiers gave the word to advance, and Jesus set forth upon the last weary journey of His mortal life. Everywhere the streets were thronged with a multitude of people, eager to see Him pass to His death. Yelling men, curious women, thought-less children, exulting enemies, jealous priests, jeering Pharisees, coarse soldiers, and in the midst Our Saviour, tottering under the weight of His cross. There were some who exulted over Him, either because He had not feared to denounce their wicked lives, or because His heavenly wisdom had brought confusion upon them when they attempted to contradict His teaching or to gainsay His word. Others were indignant that they had been carried away and deceived by a man upon whom they were now taught to look as an impostor. Some few pitied Him, and they were laughed at and despised for their weakness and sympathy. Thus, in the midst of His enemies, with their gibes and scoffs and bitter taunts ringing in His ears and piercing His heart with sorrow, our Redeemer staggers slowly along under the weight of the heavy cross. A strong man would have found its burden as much as his strength could bear; but Our Lord, in His pitiable condition, after so many hours of bodily and mental torture, and after so much loss of blood, must have been well-nigh crushed beneath its weight. Behold Him, as His weary eyes look sorrowfully around, searching for one friendly, compassionate glance. The perspiration is trickling down His face in great beads; it is purpled with the blood which flows from its many wounds. His hands are trembling, He is panting with fatigue; the whole scene swims around Him, and He falls under His burden, not once only, but again and again. Is there no one present to pity Him? None! He is lifted up and pushed forward. There is no more rest for Him in this world, for He is bearing the heavy load of our sins.
Fix your eyes well upon Jesus as He totters under the weight of the cross. That spectacle will give you courage to bear your own petty crosses; it will give you strength to follow in the footsteps of Our Lord. And should you ever grow weary and be well-nigh fainting under your burden, look at Jesus and persevere. Say to yourself: "Can I not bear this light and easy weight for the love of Him who, beneath the crushing weight of the cross. looks at me with weary eyes, and asks me to keep Him company?" Surely, after all that He has suffered for you, you will not refuse Him this little consolation.
" And there followed Him a great multitude of people, and of women, who bewailed and lamented Him. But Jesus, turning to them, said: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold the days shall come wherein they will say : Blessed are the barren and the wombs that have not borne, and the paps that have not given suck. Then they shall begin to say to the mountains: Fall upon us; and to the hills: Cover us. For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?" (Luke xxiii. 27-31.) These words of Our Lord to the weeping women teach us that the grief excited by the contemplation of His sufferings must not be a grief of mere sentiment: if it be of that nature, it will be fruit-less. Our sorrow must be made to spring from grief at the cause of Our Lord's sufferings. It must be a sorrow for our sins and for our unmortified passions. To shed tears for Our Lord from any other motive is to indulge a morbid sensibility; solid piety is rarely generated by it. It is for the most part a mere matter of nerves, and does not affect the will so as to move it to action.
"And as they led Him away they laid hold of one Simon of Cyrene coming from the country: and they laid the cross on him to carry after Jesus." (Luke xxiii. 26.) Jesus had probably stumbled under His heavy burden, and fallen, and His executioners, fearing lest He should die before reaching the appointed spot, seized upon Simon, and compelled him to carry the instrument of torture after Our Lord. Simon of Cyrene, we are told, made a virtue of necessity, and carried Our Lord's cross willingly, so that he thereby changed what was a disgraceful imposition into a source of merit and salvation. Let the example of Simon furnish you with an additional reason for patiently enduring the little trials and contradictions of life. Like him, you will be thereby made to share in the suffering of your Redeemer. You will be bearing the cross with your Lord, and atoning for your sins. Think of this when the burden of daily routine presses heavily upon you. Look up : Jesus is before you —faint, weary, panting with exhaustion. Take up your burden cheerfully: it is the cross which you are helping your Saviour to carry.
Tradition tells us that the Mother of Jesus, led and protected by the beloved disciple, stood by the wayside to catch a glimpse of her beloved Son as He went to death. Who can conceive her agony on seeing her tenderly cherished Child, her adorable Lord and God, thus dishonored and abused? Legend relates that, immediately after the capture of Jesus in the garden, several of the apostles, particularly St. John, hastened to Bethania to break the news to the Blessed Virgin and other friends. The holy Mother, who had anticipated this affliction, besought St. John to accompany her to Jerusalem, that she might see her deserted, desolate, and suffering Son, be near Him, and perhaps find an opportunity to offer Him some little relief, or, at least, some words of sympathy and encouragement. What must have been their thoughts and feelings as they hurried, side by side, from Bethania, over the brook Cedron, and up the steep hill to Jerusalem! And when, after traversing in breathless haste the intervening streets, they reached the palace of Caiphas, what a dreadful state of mind was that of the grief-stricken and frightened Mary, as she heard within the palace the wild laughter and the cruel mockeries with which the soldiers and servants taunted the innocent Jesus! Although repeatedly pushed violently back by the officers, Mary succeeded in keeping near her dear Son, whom she accompanied on His painful journey from the high-priest's dwelling to the house of Pilate and to Herod's court, and thus became a witness of His ill-treatment and horrible indignities.
As Jesus staggered along under the weight of the cross, and came nigh to the place where His Mother was, He raised His weary head and looked into her face. Their eyes met, and the sword of sorrow, foretold by Simeon, entered into her soul. There was her Child and her God! He had ever been so loving, so obedient, so gentle to her; and now she saw Him disgraced, reviled, and insulted. She heard the bitter reproaches of the priests and scribes; she saw the savage blows, and the merciless soldiers goading on the unresisting Victim. As Jesus looked into her white and agonized face, and saw the speechless woe stamped upon her features, He trembled in every limb, His little remaining strength forsook Him, and He fell prostrate to the ground. Who can doubt that the Mother was in an instant by the side of her Son, and imprinted upon His brow the parting kiss? Neither priest, nor scribe, nor soldier, hardened and brutal as they might be, would dare interfere or lay a hand upon her in that last act of maternal affection.
Alas, dearest Mother, how thy heart must have throbbed with anguish, and terror, and indignation, at the appalling sight before thee! O heroic and dauntless Virgin! Mother of sorrows! I implore thee, by all the tears which thou didst shed when beholding thy Son staggering under the weight of the cross, to obtain for me the grace to follow in His and thy footsteps.
From our holy Mother Mary we may learn never to be ashamed of Our Lord. At the moment when she met Him, He was branded a public malefactor. The people were told that He was no prophet, that He was not a just man, that He was not the expected Messias. The priests, it was said, had unmasked Him, and found Him to be nothing more than a clever impostor, whose cunning had failed to serve Him just as He was on the point of carrying away with Him the minds and hearts of all. She was pointed at as the Mother of this notorious criminal, whom the Roman governor had just condemned to death. It was looked upon as a disgrace to have known Him, or to have been in His company. What must it have been to be His Mother? But that loving Mother acknowledged Him in the presence of them all. She followed in His footsteps; she stood by Him faithfully to the end. Learn from her never to be ashamed of Jesus before men, that He may never have cause to disown you before the face of heaven and earth, on the great accounting day.
Among the tender-hearted women who pushed their way through the crowd to be near Jesus, and to offer Him their sympathy, was one in particular, named Veronica, of whom reliable tradition relates a very touching incident. She was a lady of wealth and position, whose name was Seraphia, and who lived in a house on a street through which Jesus was to pass on His way to Calvary. Seeing Him, as He drew near, weak and suffering, covered with perspiration and blood, her heart was touched with compassion. She hastened into the street, forced her way through the wild crowd, and, undismayed by the threats of the officers, came before Jesus, and, falling on her knees, offered Him a handkerchief, saying: " Be pleased, O Lord, to wipe Thy suffering face with the handkerchief of Thy unworthy handmaid." Jesus, full of gratitude, looked benignantly at the tender-hearted woman, took the cloth and applied it to His face, and, much refreshed, handed it back to Seraphic. He passed on, and she reentered her dwelling, when, lo! a miracle. On looking at the handkerchief, she saw imprinted upon it the likeness of the divine countenance. Thus did Our Lord repay the kindness of His servant. Seraphia became a Christian, taking the name of Veronica. The miraculous impression of the face of Jesus passed into the hands of Pope Clement, and has since remained one of the most cherished relics of the Church.
Merciful Jesus, we beseech Thee that all who contritely venerate the image of Thy holy face, disfigured as it appears by the sufferings caused by our sins, may be made worthy, through the merits of Thy bitter passion, to behold Thy divine countenance forever in the glory of heaven.