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A Meditation On The Incarnation Of Christ, Sermons On The Life And
Passion Of Our Lord And Of Hearing And Speaking Good Words. -Thomas A Kempis

ATTEND and see: if there be any sorrow like to My sorrow. Above all the benefits of God bestowed on the human race, the Passion of Christ stands supreme: and touches the heart most tenderly. Therefore ought the mind be watchful to, remember so great a benefit; and with great compassion of heart earnestly ponder on the bitterness of Christ’s Passion: for this is grateful to God, and wholesome for him that meditates. For each several wound is a medicine of the soul; and the pitiless blows of the scourge are proofs of God’s love: and the wiping out of our sins. O what great thanks am I bound to render Christ for every blow and cruel wound: which He endured in His body for me, a vile sinner.

Ponder, therefore, first, Who is He that suffers these things; secondly, from whom He suffers: thirdly, how much He suffers; fourthly, for whom He suffers: fifthly, how long He suffers; sixthly, in what places He suffers: seventhly, in what members He suffers. For it helps much to interior compassion: if these seven notable points are considered in order. For if thou heedest the person of the Sufferer; none is more worthy, none more noble: none more holy, none more excellent. Verily, He is the Son of God Who suffers: the only-begotten of God the Father, the First-born of the Virgin-Mother, conceived of the Holy Ghost, full of holiness and grace; renowned for signs and virtues: living in the world without sin. He is the true Lamb of God without stain, prefigured in the Law: foretold by the prophets, desired by many kings and just men; sent into the world by the Father to suffer for the salvation of the world, ready of His own accord for the cross and death: sacrificed to God the Father on the altar of the cross for our sins. He therefore, being such and so great, a true priest and supreme Pontiff, holy, innocent, stainless, King of kings, Lord, Creator of all things, Maker of the angels, Saviour of men, refused not to be despised by men, made captive, bound, scourged, crucified, slain, buried: as the text of His sacred Passion clearly teaches.

O woful sight to every one that passes by the way of this life, manifested without: and given as example to all the faithful to be imitated within. Prithee, diligently weigh every single word and blow narrated in the Passion: since they were all wrought for thy salvation. For they commend to thee the very great charity of Christ: and they show thee that patience is to be exercised in every tribulation. It is most certainly evident that in comparison with the griefs and reproaches of Christ: the troubles, which thou dost suffer, are of no account. It is good for thee therefore to fix thy eye here often; and to seek solace in the sorrowful Passion of Christ: and as a dove to dwell in the clefts of the rock and mourn for the sufferings of Jesus. For Jesus will comfort thee more in the meditation of His blessed Passion: than all this world in all its honours and riches. In the Passion of Christ thou shalt find what will edify thee, and purify the conscience; but brief is the pleasure in worldly delights: and the conscience is left defiled. For everything that is not of God is vanity: and is to be esteemed as nothing. But the Passion of Christ is a living word and an efficacious lesson to instruct and inflame and purify: and more keen than any sword it reaches even to the interior of the heart. For it reproves negligence, softens hardness; pierces the heart of the lover with compassion: and very often moves to tears. For so often is the devout soul touched with compunction, and in a certain manner wounded within; as often as the Passion of Christ is read, or preached: or when a cross is gazed upon, or Jesus Christ and He crucified is named. And this for the soul is a great consolation, if thinking of the Passion of Christ she feels His pain in the spirit: which Christ endured and felt in manifold ways in the body.

Now therefore take heed and gaze upon Christ, as it were present: Who suffers these things for thee. First, think on the dignity of the person: and grieve vehemently that God in the flesh is so contumeliously handled. Behold the highest above all is put down lower than all; the noblest is dishonoured, the loveliest is disfigured with spittle: the wisest is mocked, the mightiest is bound; the most innocent is scourged, the holiest is crowned with thorns: the most meek is buffeted, the richest is made poor; the most generous is despoiled, the most chaste is stripped naked: the most worthy is blasphemed, the most excellent is reproached; the most learned is held a fool, the most loving is hated: the most truthful is contradicted, the most sweet is given to drink of gall; the blessed is cursed, the peaceful is baited: the just is accused, the guiltless is condemned; the physician is wounded, the Son of God is crucified: the immortal is slain, the Master is hanged for the slave. O unheard-of crime: O awful and accursed wickedness of the Jews; which God, by His most loving mercy and sufferance, changed into so great a good: to wit, into the salvation of believers. For whence for a time the light of the world is quenched: thence light eternal is relit in the minds of the faithful. And whence for a brief season life is dead: thence everlasting death is slain in the elect. Finally, from the Passion of Christ the devil is overcome, and shamed; hell is despoiled, the thief converted, the world redeemed: the souls of the just are delivered from Limbo; the gates of Heaven are opened, the losses of the angels repaired: eternal salvation, wrought by Christ, is proclaimed to the whole world.

Consider, secondly, from whom Christ suffers these wrongs. Assuredly from His own people, from His own race dear to Him; from His kindred according to the flesh: from the Israelites, children of Abraham, whom of old He enriched with so many blessings; ennobled with so many privileges: instructed beyond the other nations with precepts and laws and ceremonies; from men whom He Himself founded, to whom He gave the best portion of the earth: for whose sake He came into the world and whom He desired to save. By these then, so gloriously favoured and exalted, Christ is wickedly spurned; enviously accused, ill-treated without cause, and finally condemned to a most disgraceful death. They were not mindful of the multitude of His mercies, which are from the ages: nor of His wondrous works, which He showed them, even after they had offended in many things. They heeded not how humbly He lived in their midst; how wholesomely He taught them: how He loved poverty and despised wealth; how He fled honours, and chose the lowly and simple: how many sick He healed, to how many blind He gave sight, how many demons He expelled, how many lepers He cleansed; and how resplendent with many other glorious signs, by His works He proved Himself God: and, undergoing the needs of our body, showed Himself to be a true man. For these good things and wonderful virtues, wrought by the divine power, certainly He deserved, not insult, but glory; not punishment, but gratitude, not hatred, but love: He should have received from all, not mockery, but rather honour. But, alack, they were perverse and unbelieving, thankless for all favours: and for many good things they returned many evil; and also they incited numerous others to the same crime for the increase of their malice: with threats and shouts they demanded the death of the innocent. For by the persuasion of the princes, and the agitation of the priests, the people are moved: all are turned against Christ; old men with youths clamour, with awful cries: “Away with Him, away with Him, let Him be crucified.” All previous praise and honour is changed into lament: all the applause and singing of the Hebrew children, into the howling of raging wolves. No age was wanting, neither sex was silent; no state of life was unrepresented, all the evil-minded Jews and Gentiles agree and consent, to deliver Jesus speedily to death: and hang the blameless life upon the cross. Wherefore all these are guilty of eternal damnation in the death of Christ; verily are they malignant murderers and excessively cruel deicides, who spared in naught the Son of God: but wrought on Him all the injuries which they were able. For they fabricated falsehoods: and perverted things done well and nobly. O wondrous clemency of God; O inestimable patience of Christ; which could not be moved by such wrongs, nor exhausted by sufferings. For herein He gave to all that suffer wrongs a most excellent and strong encouragement; that they bear at least a few passing words: who cannot yet endure hard blows.

Thirdly, thou shouldst meditate how much Christ suffers: and by how many, numerous evils are inflicted upon Him. It is evidently clear from the gospel witness, that first He was sold for a little money by His own disciple; afterwards, by a kiss of feigned peace betrayed to the enemy: grievously reproached by the priests; called a blasphemer by the Pontiff: defamed by the Scribes and Pharisees; accused by the elders of the city: brought before the judge by the servants; by Herod despised and mocked: by Pilate condemned to death; taken and bound by the armed men: scourged and crowned by the soldiers; insulted, spat upon and cuffed by the retainers: detested by the maid-servants; so that they said to Peter, “Of a truth thou art one of them: thou also wast with Jesus, the Galilean.” Scarcely was there found one so poor and base: as not to rejoice in the sufferings of Jesus. O sorrow upon sorrow; O poor and humble Jesus: having no comforter or helper from among the sons of men. Thy acquaintance withdrew; Thy friends stood afar off: they could weep, aid they were not able. Amid most wicked enemies Jesus was forsaken; from the greatest even to the least He was hounded to death: with shame and shouting He was led outside the city, laden with the wood of the cross; stripped of His garments, hanged naked between thieves: fastened with nails, given to drink of vinegar and gall. Grievous were the wicked words; more grievous, the cruel blows: most grievous, the dreadful sufferings of the cross. On His most tender, most holy, most stainless, most comely virgin body they wrought such disgraceful tortures: that from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head there was no soundness of body: but He seemed as a leper to all that beheld. See then now and ponder whether there is a sorrow like to His sorrow: which thy God endures for thee. Number, if thou canst, all the blows, all the wounds, all the stripes, all the reproaches, all the ignominies inflicted on Him by many: and with pitiful heart compassionate Him, suffering all this with patience. Write it on the tablet of thy heart, as a constant memorial: and in thy every trouble turn the eye of thy mind to Jesus hanging on the cross. For this crucifixion was to Christ, after so many sufferings inflicted upon Him, most disgraceful, most bitter, and most grievous. For it was most sad for Him on the part of His friends standing afar off, and weeping copiously: for their grief and groaning He deemed His own sorrow. It was also most cruel on the part of His enemies deriding Him, insulting, and rejoicing over His death: who were touched by no pity for such pains and sufferings. Lo, now thou hast heard how much and from how many Christ suffered: whom every Christian should justly compassionate. If a man were to see his father, or some very dear friend tortured before him with such torments, and hanged on the public gallows outside the gate; would he not at once, as if driven mad, wither away and faint for sorrow? Much more then should the Passion of Christ pierce thy inmost bowels: and provoke thee to wholesome mourning. Strive therefore to cast from thee all carnal love; to shut out all vain joy: that thereby thou mayest merit to be numbered among the devout lovers of Christ; who daily exercise themselves in the Lord’s Passion, and so bring all the sufferings of Christ home to themselves: as to think little or nothing of their own wounds and wrongs. Of whom blessed Paul the apostle, the lover of the Lord’s Passion, saith: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who debased Himself, taking the form of a servant, becoming obedient even to the death of the cross.”

Fourthly, thou shalt weigh for whom Christ suffered: and for what reason God endured so bitter a death. Doubtless for our sins, which we contracted from our first parents; which also we have each committed by our own wickedness: in in every age or condition, or order, or office whatsoever. “For all have sinned and do need the glory of God,” saith the Apostle; whether Jews or gentiles, whether slaves or freedmen: whether poor or rich, whether kings or princes; whether clerics or laymen, whether priests or teachers, whether prelates or subjects: all the sons of Adam, I say, we are all born children of wrath by nature; but by the grace of Christ we are delivered, by the baptism of Christ cleansed: by the death of Christ saved from death everlasting. Whether then it be called the Passion of Christ, or the blood of Christ, or the cross of Christ, or the death of Christ, it is the same; and all this profits us unto salvation: for by believing in Christ, and loving Christ, we are incorporated and united with Christ. For the head suffered for the members, the head ached for the members: the head on the cross prayed for the members and gained forgiveness. Therefore for all Christ died; so that, undergoing temporal death, He might overcome eternal death, and of sin destroy sin: that is, that by the suffering of His Passion He might pay all the debts of our sins. Hence also blessed Peter, commending the grace of Christ and the merit of His Passion, saith, “Christ died once for our sins, the just for the unjust; that He might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh: but enlivened in the spirit.” Hence also it is read in the Apocalypse that the souls of the saints with great thanksgiving fell down before the throne of God: and before the Lamb sang praises for their redemption, saying, “Thou hast redeemed us to God in Thy blood from every tribe and tongue and people and nation: and hast made us to our God a kingdom and priests.” Hence also it is that holy mother Church in the Litany of the Saints when she prays for divers needs and perils: directs especially this petition to Christ: “By Thy Passion and cross, by Thy death and burial: deliver us, O Lord.” For such a prayer is exceedingly pleasing to God: and bestows greater confidence of obtaining forgiveness: because of the merit of the Passion of Christ. Indeed the Passion of Christ is the treasure of the Church, which cannot be exhausted or consumed: but is of infinite power and worth. For hereby every debt is paid: every sin is forgiven; and to the penitent the kingdom of Heaven is promised and given: which for many thousands of years was held fast closed. O most sweet reconciliation unto appeasing the face of God: O most worthy sacrifice unto recovering lost grace; O most full satisfaction unto washing away every stain of the sins of the sons of Adam: in whom all sinned and fell. Since then Christ found no man free from sin: therefore He came to deliver all; by love He satisfied for all: by His compassion He willed; by His divinity He was able: by His humanity He accomplished the work of redemption. Whence blessed Paul said, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself; for Christ we beseech you: be reconciled to God.” Lo, thou knowest and hast heard for whom Christ suffered, and for what reason He condescended to undergo this death: namely, for all men, of every age and sex, born of the stock of Adam.

Fifthly, thou shalt ponder how long a time Christ suffered, and how long He was in pain; for this is a part of the endurance of His patience: and brings great encouragement to the cowardly and sad. Take heed and read diligently all the books of the holy Gospel: and thou shalt plainly find that the whole life of Christ, from the beginning of His birth to the giving up of the ghost, was spent in great poverty, in persecution and temptation, in toil and weariness, in the contempt and insults of wicked men; and, finally, consummated in the death of the cross: and thus no period passed without tribulation, as long as He lived in the world. But, considering the particular day and hour of His Passion, then from the evening of the most holy supper, the sadness of the threatening sorrow and coming death commenced; when, while His disciples still supped, He foretold them that the same night He should be betrayed by one of them into the hands of sinners: and it continued until after the hour of His burial: yea, even to the third day on which He rose from the dead: for then He appeared to His disciples living, joyous and glorious. Grievous therefore was the sin of man, which could barely be expiated by so long a time and such great pains: for which also it was necessary that the Son of God should be crucified and die. Whence, since human weakness is exceedingly great, and prone to evil from its youth: moreover it also happens that men sin through many occasions and temptations at divers seasons and times both day and night, often even knowingly, often in ignorance: so that scarce any day or hour pass without sin and offence against God; therefore, lest man should despair of obtaining pardon because of the frequency of his crimes: Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, suffered for us all the most grievous torments, a long time and at different hours: for a whole night and day He bore suffering for the sins of the sons of men: very often shedding His precious blood. Then also verily at those periods He observed the seven canonical Hours to the praise of His Father: not chanting, but suffering and praying for us. Wherefore all religious, instructed by the example of Christ, ought daily offer these seven Hours to God; because Christ presented Himself a holocaust to God in the odour of sweetness on the altar of the cross: and as a chosen ram, caught among the briars of sin, was sacrified for Isaac, that is, for all the elect. Whereof blessed Peter writing to the faithful of Christ, exhorts them to thankfulness, saying, “For you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as gold and silver, from your vain conversation versation of the tradition of your fathers: but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, as of a Lamb unspotted.” Our Redeemer, therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ, willed to endure in His most holy body so long a time so many pains: to take away the handwriting of our condemnation; to arouse us to the fervour of severe penance: to give an example of great patience all the days of our life. And in sooth patience is to us all supremely necessary, as long as we live in this miserable life, full of trials; for no man is safe, not even one day or hour, from the snares of the devil and the ruin of sin, in whatsoever place, or order, or office, he may be constituted: unless every hour he be watched and guarded from above by the grace and mercy of God. But amid these evils and perils we must have recourse chiefly to the Lord’s Passion, and hide and rest under the tree of the cross, as under the shadow of the divine protection: and deeply and often meditate on the patience of Christ; for it has a most savoury power to sweeten and soften all the bitterness of our sufferings: and to lighten burdens, by whatever man, or spirit one may be troubled.

Study therefore, after the example of Christ and His saints, to bear with even mind all the adversities of this life: and to hold on to patience as thy armour. Complain not of the length of the time, nor of the bitterness of the affliction; but think that Christ suffered longer more grievous things for thee: and therefore it is just thou shouldst follow the same way. For in suffering for Christ thou shalt merit much: and thou shalt reap thence many good things. First, indeed, thou dost honour God more highly: if thou takest with good will every contradiction from His hand. Thou dost rejoice the angels: who are glad in Heaven over thy endurance. Thou dost edify the neighbour: if thou bearest wrongs in silence. Thou dost confound the devil: if thou givest thanks, when wronged and despised. Thou dost double thy crown: for here thou shalt receive greater grace, and hereafter higher glory. Every present toil indeed is little, and this life is short: but the reward to come is great and the repose infinite. In effect, thou shalt become a martyr of God as often: as thou dost suffer pain willingly for God. Think not therefore that God is against thee: if in this world thou art troubled and downtrodden. Rejoice rather that here thou art humbled, and scourged: so that hereafter with Christ thou mayest be glorified for ever. For oft prosperity is more harmful than adversity: and flattery more speedily deceives than bitter blame. Faint not therefore in thy affliction for the name and love of Christ: but constantly with patient soul endure all, as did Christ and all the saints: who, undergoing pain, conquered the enemy. For by suffering adversity a man becomes holier; brighter than gold, more transparent than glass: more free from vice, more perfect in virtue; more acceptable to Christ, more like the saints: stronger against his enemies, more lovable to his friends. Each man also becomes more watchful in self-custody, more ready to compassionate; more deeply humble, more prudently discreet: more fervent for prayer, more prepared for Heaven more secure from hell. These are the good fruits of holy patience; which are especially evident in the most bitter Passion of Christ: and this is proposed as an example to us all. For this most sacred Passion was in pain the most bitter of all the sufferings of the saints: in humility, the most profound, in charity, the most excellent: in obedience, the most perfect, in patience, the strongest; in purity, the most blameless, in profit, the most wholesome: in merits, the most worthy, in remedies, the most efficacious; in satisfaction for all, the most satisfying, in atonement, the most appeasing: in reconciliation, the most acceptable: in sacrifice, the most grateful; in redemption, the most fruitful, in mysteries, the most abundant: in sweetness of all virtues, the most fragrant, preferable to all sciences, arts and medicines. So great, so high, so long, so deep, so sweet, so devout, so compunctious, so loving, so fervent, so comforting, so savoury, so virtuous is the Passion of Our Redeemer: that by no human words can it be fully praised; by no tongues of angels can it be worthily unfolded: but it is ever new and fresh; always it invigorates and strengthens, instructs, and enkindles: but chiefly those who, despising all things, seek their solace in the wounds of Christ Jesus.

Sixthly, thou shalt note all those places in which Christ suffered any insults or pains for thee. On Mount Olivet indeed He prayed thrice; there for sadness and fear He sweated blood: and in the prayer He made, He perfectly resigned Himself to the will of His Father. In the garden He was sought and found by the Jews: He did not flee from them, but went to meet them; by Judas He was betrayed, and kissed with a false mouth: by the armed servants taken and bound: by the vile band, as a wicked thief, He was violently dragged and brought to the city in the dark night with torches and lanterns: and He is most carefully guarded, lest He should escape or be snatched away by any one. In the house of Annas He is first examined, and He is questioned concerning His teaching and His disciples; and when He had given a good answer to this: He was severely buffeted on the cheek by one of the retainers. In the house of Caiaphas, the high priest, where many were gathered together against Him, He is subjected to numerous wrongs and mockeries; His face is veiled, defiled with spittle, struck with blows: and He is declared as worthy of death. And, when it was dawn, He is publicly led with hands bound, through the streets to the judgement hall of Pilate: and grievously charged as a breaker of the law and a seducer of the people. Thence He is sent over to the court of Herod: by whom derided and clothed in a white garment, He is treated as a fool, and sent back to Pilate; mocked on all sides, reproached on all sides: nowhere safe, nowhere at rest; hated by all, made hateful to all: without He hears clamours, within He suffers griefs; and after receiving cruel blows and many wounds, as if unworthy of this life, He is led out of the city with the shameful cross: and hanged naked between thieves on the place of Calvary. And, when all things had been consummated that were written concerning Him, in the bosom of the earth, to wit, in a tomb newly sculptured, He is reverently buried by the just men, Joseph and Nicodemus, and wept over by the holy women with many sighs and tears. Behold how many places Christ visited in His Passion, how often therein He shed His precious blood; how many insults He endured with blows, that He might sanctify His people, and cleanse the contaminated places: in which men often sin and offend God. Who could number, alack, all the evils which are still done publicly and privately in many places; both in houses and in squares, in gardens, in towns, in mountains and valleys, in fields and woods, in halls and earthly palaces? Christ is not there; there is not heard weeping over the Saviour’s Passion: but vanity of vanities, jest and laughter in the banquets of Herod, with his princes. Wo to them that have thus separated themselves from Him, Who redeemed them; having their face towards the world: and turning their back upon God. However, the compassionate Lord ceases not to cry after such: and to call His wandering sheep to repentance. For He left men a great hope of His mercy in such a patient endurance of all the wrongs and griefs of His most bitter Passion: and especially in those places, where He was dragged and wounded. Whence to wipe out the malice of men and to cleanse unclean places: He was most terribly afflicted in His most holy body by many. And He, who of old laid a curse upon the world because of the sins of men: now by the shedding of His sacred blood promised all penitents a blessing and remission of sin. Moreover He overthrew by the word of His preaching the idols of the gentiles and the temples of the demons: and He destroyed the altars and the names of false gods; and in place of the sacrilegious rite of the pagans and the calves of the Jews: He instituted the true and new sacrifice of His precious body to be celebrated in many places. For therefore He made many temples and altars be consecrated in many regions to the honour of His name and the saints; that the faith of Christians may stand firm: and the divine worship flourish with the praises of hymns. Yea also, to adorn the place of the dwelling of His glory, and to render illustrious the house of prayer with most holy relics: He placed there the devout and precious symbols of His Passion as an everlasting memorial: and erected the holy cross as a triumphal token of vanquished death, as a gage of covenant and peace between God and man: and as a brazen bow against the fear of the devil.

It is fitting therefore that now in divers places by all the faithful of Christ, by small and great, by poor and rich, by wise and unskilled, by strong and weakly, by prelates and subjects, throughout the whole world, with open doors and in the voice of all tongues, Christ suffering be preached, praised and glorified: and raised higher than every name in Heaven and on earth, for all the insults and pains, wrought Him in many places by many persons. Thou then also shouldst for the sake of devotion, aroused on this holy Good Friday, picture in thy mind all the places of the Lord’s Passion, and traverse Jerusalem in spirit; and often lift thine eyes to the image of the Crucified: and with deep compassion see the sacred wounds of Jesus Christ, how great and numerous they were. Then crave forgiveness, that He may mercifully pardon thee: as often as in any place, or time, thou hast offended Him. Thou canst also visit the altars of thy church, and prostrate thyself on the ground; kiss the pavement, or predella of the altar, three or five times: in memory of the blood of Christ poured out upon the earth.

Thou shouldst also, for the love and honour of Christ, ever hold in reverence all the places of holy Church consecrated to God, all monasteries and hospices, wherever religious life is practised and God served; and rejoice in their good actions, and sympathize with their misfortunes: that thereby thou mayest merit to become a sharer of all the good that is there done day and night to the praise of God. For speedily he shall obtain forgiveness of God: whoever truly grieving for his sins, firmly purposes for the future to amend. He also shall gain great confidence of the divine mercy; who in every matter and petition takes as his help the Passion of Christ: and trusts more in the merits of Christ and the prayers of the, saints than in his own labours and virtues. For our works, strictly examined: are seldom found wholly pure. And therefore it is needful to have recourse to humility and the remedy of confession; ever to seek mercy of God and to place our whole hope of salvation in Christ: Who alone is perfect in all things. For He can speedily and entirely heal our imperfections: and bestow fuller grace on the humble and contrite of heart.

In the seventh, and last place, thou shouldst heed and with immense grief consider, in what members Christ suffered: and what pains He endured for us in every joint and in the five senses of the body. O what cruel blows He bore in the scourging: how many thousands of wounds were inflicted on Him; how often He was struck again in the same place: how painfully He felt all this and yet held His peace. He did not stretch out His hand, and moved not a foot or other member from the blows; but willingly and freely gave up His whole body to the strikers: that He might fully satisfy for the sins of all men. For as it was shown in a vision to a certain religious, as often as Christ received a blow from the scourger; at once He offered it to the Father out of love for us: begging also that He would forgive our crimes. For the so beloved Son murmured not once against the Father, because He exposed Him to such sufferings; He threatened not them that cruelly tortured Him: He was not angry with them that shamefully spat upon Him, nor cursed them that falsely accused Him; but rather grieved: excused, endured: and prayed for them, that they might receive pardon, saying, “Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do.”

But what was the cause of such suffering and boundless sorrow? Assuredly, the many sins of men; who in their many members most frequently sin with their five senses: and grievously offend God. For the members of the body whereby they should serve God, and could work much good; these, alas, casting out the fear of God, with bold daring they give over to divers vanities and wicked pleasures: and so sinning, become the slaves of vice, and members and vessels of the demons. Wherefore Christ, the Son of God, compassionating men and desiring to heal sinners and deliver them from the snares of the devil, received and endured grievous and continued tortures in His most sacred body; that by bodily sufferings in His five senses He might bring medicine to our souls: and teach that all delights of the flesh, which war against the spirit, should be avoided and mortified. That God therefore might not for ever punish for his sin man, who, forsaking the supreme good, cleaved to creatures; the loving Lord Jesus underwent this temporal penalty in His own person and the death of the flesh for our sins without any guilt of His own: to appease the wrath of the Father, and deliver us from eternal pains.

But now turn the eye of the heart to the different limbs pierced with wounds: and pour forth tears with pious affection of pity. Begin from the sole of the foot; and go up to the crown of the head: for the whole body of Jesus is full of the most bitter torment. For indeed, if thou wert now in such pain, or wert lying in bed oppressed with sickness; would he not please thee, who sympathized with thee, and he displease thee, who passed thee carelessly by? See then the Lord Jesus suffering for thee, wounded and dead for thee; and have for all His sorrows at least a sigh; if thou canst not shed a tear. For when blessed Stephen was stoned: men fearful and faithful made great mourning over him. And behold here a greater than Stephen, yea, the greatest of saints, beyond all the saints, hangs on the cross full of wounds; and therefore justly should every faithful soul condole with Him: but especially the devout religious, who has renounced the world. Regard therefore, first, how grievously Christ suffered and was wounded in His beautiful and innocent feet, wherewith He walked, often wearied, through the land preaching the word of God: wherewith He trod the waves of the sea passing over without a boat, without human aid. For by that virtue and power whereby He created all things: He could also command the winds and the sea, and use them as He chose. But, alas, what a wondrous change: and what an incomprehensible ordinance of God; that the Author of all creatures and the supreme physician of bodies and souls, Who made many lame and infirm of a sudden able to walk: is now so fiercely wounded in His feet, so pitilessly bored with iron nails; so that He cannot even walk nor move: but like the wicked thief is held bound to the cross by cruel bonds. With such pain then was fastened in each foot the blameless Christ: who, according to the prophet, looseth them that are fettered, enlighteneth the blind: lifteth up them that are cast down, loveth the just. And why this? Certainly, to loose the bonds of our sins, and to wash the stains of our feet: which are very often contracted in running, walking, wandering, playing, dancing. O how grievously they sin, who tread the poor under foot: who travel with pomp: who make disturbance in church, and trouble them that pray: who scandalize many by frivolous excursions and dissolute conduct. Wo to those that for weariness in good work and want of devotion, seek consolation in news and external affairs. For if these were fastened by one nail of the fear of the Lord, they would assuredly abide alone willingly by themselves, thinking on the Passion of Christ: or read somewhat from holy Writ, whereby being touched they might be inflamed to the love of Christ: by Whom they would overcome all the bitter and sweet of the world. Blessed the feet of them, who are ready to hear the word of God: who, leaving vain things aside, haste to the church: often engage in prayer, refrain their senses from wandering: so that with a good conscience they may say, “I have restrained my feet from every evil way: that I may keep Thy words.” Blessed the feet that follow the steps of Jesus even to the cross: and love to stand there and weep with Mary, rather than go to banquets and assist at shows.

Christ also suffered and was grievously wounded in His holy hands, whereby He often gave blessing, touched the sick and made them whole: with which He took bread and eat: consecrated His body, and gave to His disciples for their comfort. But, O loving God, why dost Thou suffer Thy hands to be dug with such pain, and to be covered with so much blood; Who didst stretch out the heavens without toil, and didst adorn the earth with wondrous beauty? Alas, holy God, strong and immortal, behold Thy hands which formed the first man in Paradise, without defect, without any vice; now, alack, by evil men and wicked hands are pierced with the iron nails of the Jews; and in the sight of Thy friends stretched out on the cross, then accursed by all: and held as the greatest scandal. But, O good, most sweet Jesus, this wrong and violence Thou didst will to bear most patiently for our first parents and their children: that Thou mightest tear up the handwriting of the decree, and wash out with Thy holy blood original sin, contracted by the touch of the forbidden tree and the eating of the fatal apple: that, whence death sprang through sin: thence salvation might come back through suffering. Therefore at the demand of justice, Thou didst stretch out both hands on the wood of the cross for the wiping out of guilt: and under the impulse of charity, with bleeding hands Thou didst pray for all sinners.

O how grateful and acceptable was that offering for us; when Thou, most loving Jesus, only Son of God, didst present Thyself an everlasting sacrifice to appease the face of God the Father Almighty, Whom we all offend in many things; from which we cannot be justified by ourselves, save by the intervention of Thy most sacred Passion, and Thy death in time on the tree of the cross: whence issued our sanctification and redemption in the gaining of eternal salvation. Give heed, here, to the grievousness of our sins and the bitterness of the wounds of Christ; the affection of His charity, and His pleading for His enemies: His mildness also towards all them that afflicted Him. Very often Christ prayed, and taught His disciples to pray: sometimes with bended knees, sometimes with eyes raised to Heaven; but nowhere do we find Him pray so tearfully and lovingly, as now we hear Him: when with outstretched hands and transpierced feet, and all His members racked and wounded, He prayed for His enemies on the altar of the cross. For then He poured forth a prayer most sweet in the Father’s ears, that He should forgive them that sinned against Him. Therefore to restrain the malice of men, who are quick to anger, and slow to do good to their foes: Christ received most wide wounds in His hands, instructing all to do good and suffer evil; for it is accounted very great gain: if a man pays back to his adversaries, not the retaliation of vengeance, but the gift of prayer. Take heed therefore, O man, poor, frail and vicious: lest with evil word or wicked deed thou injure or sadden anyone, for whom Christ suffered and died; for precious in His sight is every soul that faithfully believes in Him: and truly keeps His commandments. But it is meet that thou think well of thy neighbour and hope for better things; because such a one is either already good, or by grace he can speedily amend. Do thou therefore show charity and beg also God the Father; that whom thou now hast an enemy: thou mayest again receive him a brother brought to a better mind. But if he has wronged thee; forgive from thy heart for the love of Jesus Christ: Who has spared thee in many things. For He was loving and compassionate towards all; He despised not the poor, He shunned not the leper: He mocked not the feeble, He soothed the sad, He calmed the angry; He bore with the perverse, He received the repentant: He instructed the erring, He defended the innocent; He strengthened the wavering, He showed charity towards all: and what is more wonderful, struck with blows and wounds, He ceased not from prayer. Behold how Christ by enduring the evil, by consoling the good, presented an example of excellent teaching in His Passion for both sound and sick: and, as it were with the two arms of His love, drew to Himself foe and friend alike; reckoning not their crimes, if only they will be reconciled to God, and forgive all offences to them that trespass against them: and moreover keep mutual charity.

Christ also suffered very painfully in His most holy head, as in the chief member of His body, for all the lower members, which we are, who believe in Him: and cleave to Him by faith and love. For every faithful soul as a living and sound member ought to suffer and be wounded together with Christ his head in all His pains; for the member that does not feel and mourn for its wounded and sick head: is either corrupt or unsound. Therefore, if thou art a member of Christ, and livest and savourest of the spirit of Christ; give heed now to the head of Christ, the Son of the living God: and see with what sharp thorns it is pierced all round for thy sins. It is not easy to say how grievous, how long, how keen was this pain in the blessed and noble head of Jesus, consecrated above all the heads of saints and Nazarenes, the holy crown of which sharp scissors had not touched: and a hair had not fallen from His head to the ground; unless perchance the impious Jews, with the retainers of the Prefect, furiously tore some hairs from His holy head, or with unworthy hands plucked at His sacred beard. For they are accounted to have inflicted many insults and blows upon Christ: which are not singly narrated by the evangelists. However, St. Luke tells us that “blaspheming many other things they said against Him.” For some openly derided Christ as a fool: others, more perverse, added insulting words: others, more cruel than brute beasts, ground their teeth against Him, and struck Him with blows not a few; and maybe with their heels they trod upon the sacred feet of Jesus: which recently Mary Magdalene washed with many tears, and anointed. Ah, Lord God, how deeply the points of the thorns entered Thy most holy head: how cruelly they tore the tender skin of Thy flesh with the bones and nerves; so that from the wounds they made streams of blood flowed down Thy neck, down Thy eyes, down Thy ears and face: and utterly obscured Thy comely countenance and all its former beauty. O wicked and provoking generation, why dost thou so severely punish the guiltless? Why dost thou oppress the loving and lowly one; and as in a ring torture His head? Certainly, falsely dost thou lay it to His charge that He made Himself, king; for never here did He bear regal ornaments according to the style of the world: He neither wore shoes, nor desired a crown. No man also did He harm by word or deed: yea, rather He delivered them that were wronged and oppressed by the devil.

Daughters of Jerusalem and all devout matrons, come and see Christ the King, Jesus of Nazareth, the true and peaceful Solomon, sprung from the royal house of David; see how on the day of His crowning, He is crowned with a crown of thorns, by His wicked stepmother, the synagogue: while the devil encourages, and the envy of the priests urges. Then most abundantly wept His most blessed Mother Mary with Saint Mary Magdalene, and all her company utterly desolate: wept also the disciples scattered in the Jewish crowd for shame and sorrow at the sight of the thorny diadem, which was most cruelly pressed upon the sacred brow of Christ, their lord and Master: while the judge cried before the raging people, “Behold your King.”

Think now, all ye faithful, if ever you have heard or read of such disgrace and such most bitter pain in any of the holy kings or prophets of old, as at this time wrought on the Lord of prophets; on the King of angels, the Prelate of all priests: on the Lamb of God, Who came to take away the sins of the world by various torments of bodily punishment. Behold He, Who before was resplendent in signs and great powers; is now most irreverently treated with many mockeries: and struck with rods and scourges. He, Whom the princes ought to have honoured exceedingly, and to have received for the true King and High Priest; now they dishonour with unheard of insults: and torture with a crown of most sharp piercing. For all work the very opposite of the many favours shown them: and bitterly rage against the Author of their salvation. For instead of roses and lilies: they offer Him sharp thorns. For gems and jewels: they give Him cruel blows. For a royal crown: a garland of sea-rushes. For a collar of gold: striking without pity. For a garment of fine linen: the white robe of a fool with shame. For regal purple: the drops of His red blood. For silver belt: a waistband of thin cotton. For kingly sceptre: a reed shaken by the wind. For a horse He had an ass: for bridle, a rope. For sword, a rod: for shield, the scourge. For buskins, naked thighs: for gloves, handcuffs. For gilded spurs: iron nails in His feet. For battle-standard: the cross with its title inscribed. For breast-plate, the seamless tunic: for helmet, the veil over His eyes. For regal spear: the soldier’s lance. For pontifical mitre: the napkin on His naked head. For the doctor’s chair: the marble pillar. For goblet, a sponge: for flask, a vinegar cruet. For wine, vinegar: for nectar, myrrh: for mead, most bitter gall. For a kiss, spittle: for compassion, the arrow of scorn: for greeting He received the word of curse. Besides these things already told: hear yet other sorrows of EXTREME DESOLATION. For HE WAS FORSAKEN BY THE FATHER IN HIS GREATEST DISTRESS, AS IF HE WERE NOT HIS BELOVED SON. He was abandoned by all His friends and disciples as a stranger and wanderer. He lost his noble companions: He found most bitter foes. He lost Saint Peter, His defender: He found Malchus, Peter’s accuser. What more? For accountant, He had a thief: for secretary, a traitor. For standard-bearer, Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross: for chamberlain, the wicked thief, who reproached Him. For infirmarian, a mocker: for wardrober, one who stripped Him. For refectorian, a brewer of gall: for dormitory, the tomb: for bed, the hard stone cut out of the rock. However, amid these wrongs, wrought on the Lord Christ, there were not wanting the laments of friends; but they were concealed and stood afar off: they were silent and mourned: for never was seen such evil in Israel: since the day whereon Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But all these things were done by the divine ordinance for our salvation: and to fulfil the sacred oracles of the prophets. Behold with these weapons is armed our King, Christ Jesus of Nazareth, setting out to fight against the prince of the world: and to redeem by His precious blood the human race. He fought even to death, He overcame the pride of the devil by humility: the rage of the world by patience: the petulance of the flesh by the most bitter suffering of the cross. He left us holy examples of life: holy good words for meditation; and against all vices He gave mast excellent remedies to shun sin: and to attain the rewards of eternal life by the cross. To Whom be praise and glory for every good in Heaven and on earth: for endless ages of ages. Amen.








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