Consider first, that our Saviour's passion began the night before his death; when, after having eaten the paschal lamb with his disciples, humbly washed their feet, instituted the great Passover of the new covenant, and given them, in an admirable sacrament of love, his own most precious body and blood, he went out with them unto Mount Olivet - the place to which he was accustomed to resort after the preaching and labours of the day, to spend the evening, if not the whole night, in prayer. Hither he went on this his last night, to prepare himself for his passion by prayer; not for any need he had of it for himself, but to give us an example, and for our instruction. O learn, my soul, by this great example, how thou art to arm thyself against all trials and temptations! Learn from whence all thy strength is to come, in the time of battle. Give ear to what our Lord said to his disciples upon this occasion, Matt. xxvi. 41, 'Watch ye and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.' O take heed, lest if thou sleep as Peter did, when thou shouldst pray, thou deny thy Lord when thou comest to the trial.
Consider 2ndly, how our Saviour began to disclose to his disciples the mortal anguish, fear, and sadness which he then suffered in his soul. 'My soul' (saith he) 'is sorrowful, even unto death;' that is to say with a sadness which is capable of even now taking away my life, if I did not, by miracle, support myself for enduring the other torments of my passion. Sweet Jesus, what can be the meaning of this? Didst thou not from the first instant of life accept of and embrace, in the midst of thy heart, all that thou art now going to suffer - forasmuch as it would be for the glory of thy Father, and the redemption of man? Hast thou not even a longing desire of accomplishing this great sacrifice of our redemption? And how comes it that thou art now thus oppressed with sadness and anguish? Where is that courage and fortitude which thou hast imparted to thy martyrs, which has made even tender maids despise the worst of torments, when they endured them for the love of thee? And shalt thou, who art the strengths of the martyrs, shrink at the fear of death? But O! very well understand that it is at thy own choice thou hast condescended to all this sadness, fear, and anguish; to the end that thou mightest suffer the more for me, and engage me to love thee the more; it is that thou mightest teach me how to behave under all my interior anguishes and afflictions, and how to endure them for the love of thee.
Consider 3rdly, the prayer our Saviour made on this occasion, that if it were agreeable to the will of his Father, the bitter cup might pass away from him. But O with what fervour did he pray? 'With a strong cry and tears.' - Heb. v. 7. With what reverence and humility? - lying prostrate upon the ground, Matt. xxvi. 39. With what earnestness and perseverance? - continuing a long time in prayer, and repeating again and again the same supplication. Learn, my soul, to imitate him under all thy distresses and betake thyself to prayer; but see thou pray, as the Lord did, with fervour, humility, and perseverance; see thou pray with the like resignation! 'Not my will but thine be done.' Remember that in thy prayers thou art not to seek thy own pleasure or comfort, but the holy will of God: O make this holy will thy pleasure and comfort, and thy prayer will be always acceptable. 'Stay thou here and watch with me,' saith our Lord to His disciples; but at every time that he came to them, he found them still asleep; and no help or comfort had he from their company, in this his desolate condition. O my soul, do thou at least pity thy Saviour under all this anguish and desolation; do thou stay and watch with him, by a frequent meditation on his sufferings.
Conclude never to forget what thy Saviour suffered for thee in his soul, during his prayer in the garden. No sufferings can be greater than such as immediately affect the soul. St. Teresa did not let a night pass, from her very childhood, without reflecting, before she fell asleep, on our Saviourís sufferings in that part of his passion; and, by this means, she gradually arrived at the perfection of mental prayer, and of all holiness. Do thou likewise.
Consider first, what pangs, what anguish, what floods of sorrow overwhelmed the soul of our dear Redeemer during his prayer in this his last night. Alas! no tongue can sufficiently express, nor heart conceive them! However, that thou mayest make some sort of judgment of them from their effects, consider how they cast him into a mortal agony; how they forced from his body a wonderful sweat of blood, which not only imbrued all his garments, but also trickled down from his body upon the ground, on which he lay prostrate in prayer. O how inconceivable a torture must he have endured in his interior, when the pangs of his soul had such a strong operation exteriorly, and produced such strange effects in the body! But why all this agony, dear Lord? Why these pangs? Why this prodigious sweat of blood? Was not the death of the cross sufficient for our redemption? Why then these anticipated sorrows? Thy love alone can account for them. O blessed be thy infinite charity!
Consider 2ndly, how bitter were the ingredients of this chalice which our Saviour so much dreaded to drink. Ah! my soul, they were bitter indeed. He had at this time before his eyes a most lively apprehension, a most clear and express representation of all and every particular injury and indignity, stripe and torment, that he was afterward successively to endure in the whole course of his passion, now all at once assaulting his soul, and making him feel beforehand all the sorrows which afterwards only came one by one. But what was more terrible to our Saviour was the clear sight and lively sense he had then of all the sins and abominations of the whole world, from the first to the last, with all their filthiness and horror, all now laid upon him as if they were his own; and himself, like the 'emissary goat,' Levit. xvi. 21, charged with all the maledictions due to them, and with the wrath of his Father justly enkindled by them. Sweet Jesus, any one of these monsters is more odious to thee than hell. And how then must thou be affected, when thou not only hast before thy eyes this infinite number of millions of millions of these odious monsters, mortal enemies of thy Father, mustered up all against thee, but also feelest their enormous weight laid upon thy shoulders? O what a share had my sins in this tragical scene; how did they depress the soul of my Redeemer! How did they force from him this shower of blood, as if all the pores of his body were turned into eyes to weep for my sins. O let thy agony and bloody sweat teach me effectually how heinous my sins are in thy eyes, and in what manner I ought to bewail them.
Consider 3rdly, another bitter ingredient of that cup of thy Redeemer, which was the foresight he then had of the little sense the greatest part even of Christians would have of all his sufferings, of their ingratitude for his infinite charity, of their abuse of all those graces he was going to purchase for them with the last drop of his blood, of their perverseness in taking occasion from his very passion to sin more freely, and to draw down the more dreadful judgments upon their own heads; and in fine, of the eternal loss of innumerable souls, who, notwithstanding all his sufferings, through their obstinacy in sin, and final impenitence, would incur the second and everlasting death. Consider that every one of those poor souls was more dear to Christ than his own life, since he parted with his life to save them. What a cruel anguish then must it have been to his tender and charitable heart to see so many of them blindly and wilfully running into the bottomless pit of endless and irremediable evils, and plunging themselves for ever into the flames of hell! No wonder after this that so many lamentable objects presenting themselves at once before the eyes of his soul, and joined with all those mentioned in the foregoing consideration, should cast him into a mortal agony and bloody sweat.
Conclude to admire and adore the wondrous ways of God in bringing about the redemption of man. Embrace with all the affections of thy heart the infinite charity of thy Redeemer, which shines forth so bright in this mystery. And see thou be no longer one of that unhappy number who repay all his mercy and love with sin and ingratitude.
Consider first, how sensible an affliction it was to our Lord, to be betrayed and sold by one of his own Apostles into the hands of those that sought his life. Inasmuch that he, who bore in silence all the insolences of the Jewish rabble and the pagan soldiers; he who suffered the whips, thorns, and nails without complaint: could not but complain of this treachery, ingratitude, and perfidiousness of a false friend, both in his words to his disciples the night before his passion, and to the traitor himself when he offered him the treacherous kiss; and long before by the Royal Prophet. Hear how he expresses himself in the Psalms. 'Even the man of my peace,' (the friend whom I had taken into my bosom,) 'in whom I trusted, who eat my bread,' (even the bread of life,) 'hath greatly supplanted me,' xl. 10. And again, 'If my enemy hath reviled me, I would willingly have borne with it; and if he that hated me hath spoken great things against me, I would perhaps have hid myself from him. But thou a man of one mind, my guide and my familiar, who didíst take sweet meats together with me,' (even the sacred body and blood of thy Redeemer,) 'in the house of God we walked with consent,' Ps. liv. 13, 14. Yes, I had associated thee to the communion of all my goods and graces in my church; I had admitted thee to be one of my individual companions, a witness of all my doctrine and miracles, and even one of my twelve Apostles. And that thou, so highly favoured without any merit of thine, should be thus ungrateful, thus false and perfidious, as without any injury or provocation, for a petty trifling interest, to betray me into the hands of my enemies, and to join thyself with them to persecute me unto death - O, this it is that afflicts my soul; and the more insupportably because in betraying and selling me thou betrayest and sellest thy own soul (which is so dear to me) to be an eternal prey to devils. O take care, my soul, thou never imitate the traitor! O dear Jesus, be thou my keeper, or else I shall also betray both myself and thee! Alas, how often have I betrayed thee already by wilful sin! O never suffer me to be so miserable any more.
Consider 2ndly, what an aggravation it was to the injury which the traitor offered to our Redeemer, that he should set no greater value on him, but sell him at so low a rate as thirty pieces of silver, the price it is likely of the meanest slave; and that he should prefer such a trifling consideration before his Lord and his God, who made both him and all things, and who set such a value upon his soul, as to employ his whole life, and give his most precious blood to redeem it. My soul, dost thou not loudly condemn and detest this monstrous treason? But hast thou never been guilty of the like or worse? Hast thou never sold for a more trifling consideration that grace and friendship of thy Redeemer? hast thou never preferred before him a petty interest, a filthy pleasure, a punctilio of honour, or the gratifying of some unreasonable passion? And what was all this, but selling both thy God and thy own soul for something of less value than the traitorís thirty pieces of silver? Alas it is what thou hast been guilty of as often as thou hast committed mortal sin. Be confounded, repent, and amend.
Consider 3rdly, and see in this example of Judas that no state of life or calling, how holy soever, can secure us from danger, since an Apostle, called by Christ and trained up in his school, so well instructed by his heavenly doctrine and great example, and empowered by him to cast out devils and work wonderful miracles, is fallen, nevertheless, and fallen so as to rise no more, even into the bottomless pit. O! let him that stands be sensible upon what slippery ground he stands, and by whose grace he is supported and kept from falling; that so, by entirely distrusting himself and placing his whole confidence in God, he may work out his salvation with fear and trembling. But what was it that brought Judas to this enormity? It was the love of money. This was his predominant passion. This he indulged at first in lesser injustices, by the opportunity of carrying the common purse and thus, whilst he took no care to mortify his evil inclinations, by degrees they gained ground upon him, till they introduced Satan into the full possession of his soul, and so prevailed upon him to betray and to sell his Master, and then to hang himself in despair. Christians, beware of your passions, stifle them betimes, lest they grow headstrong by being neglected in the beginning; especially take care of that cheating vice of the love of money, the source of innumerable evils; and yet the poison works so insensibly, that few or none are willing to think themselves infected by it. Alas! how many pretexts and pretences are made use of to cover the evil; how many ways of palliating even frauds, injustices, usuries, and what not! And how ingenious are men, where their interest is concerned, to persuade themselves that their way is right, the latter end of which (as they will find to their cost, when it is too late,) leads to the second death.
Conclude to mistrust thyself and thy own judgment, in all cases where thy worldly honour, interest, or pleasure is concerned because it is natural on these occasions to be biassed to that side of the question that is most agreeable to self-love. O how hard it is to be an impartial judge in oneís own case! But O, how happy then are they who in simplicity of heart seek God and his holy will and law on all occasions, and do not desire to bend down the law of God to their will, but their will to the law of God.
Consider first, how our Saviour, rising up from the ground where he had lain prostrate in prayer, all imbrued in his own blood, which he shed during his anguish and agony, goes for the third time to his disciples, whom he had desired to pray and to watch with him, but alas he finds them still asleep. So little comfort did they afford their Lord in his distress! O my soul, has not this been often thy case, to be unconcernedly sleeping when it behoved thee to be watching and praying with thy Saviour? And what has been the consequence of this? Why thou hast run away and hast abandoned him in the time of trial and temptation. But now by this time, the traitor, who was not asleep, has conducted to the place a multitude, headed by some of the priests and Pharisees, and armed with swords and clubs, to apprehend our Lord. See, my soul, how thy Saviour goes forth to meet them, how ready he is to suffer, how willing to deliver himself up for the love of thee; see in what manner he receives the traitorís kiss; 'My friend,' says he, 'to what end art thou come hither?' Reflect what thou art about, and repent whilst thou hast time, and I will show thee mercy: 'Judas, wilt thou betray the Son of man with a kiss?' O the meekness and charity of our Redeemer, who is ready to receive with open arms even Judas himself; if his hardened heart had not been proof against all the charms of his mercy! Sinners, see what an encouragement we have to run to him for mercy, since he was desirous to show it even to the traitor himself.
Consider 2ndly, how our Lord was pleased on this occasion to manifest his power, by casting down to the ground all the armed multitude that were come to apprehend him, with only these words, 'I am he,' to show the world that no power of man could apprehend him but by his own will and consent, in consequence of his own free love; O blessed be that free love for evermore! On the same occasion, when Malchus, a servant of the high priest, more busy than the rest in apprehending our Saviour, had his ear cut off by the sword of Peter, our Lord not only restrained this Apostle from using any further violence in his defence, but instantly showed both his power and his goodness, in healing the wretch, and restoring his ear upon the spot by his one word, to teach us by his example to overcome evil with good. Then after having meekly expostulated with the priests and the Pharisees, for their coming out in this manner in the night, with an armed mob, to take him, as if he had been some highway robber, he gave them leave to use their pleasure with him; but this upon conditions that they should not meddle with any of his disciples. So solicitous was our dear Redeemer that none of his little ones should suffer any thing upon this occasion, whilst he was going to offer up himself in sacrifice for the love of them.
Consider 3rdly, that our Lord had no sooner delivered himself up with these words, 'This is your hour and the power of darkness,' but they immediately rush in upon him, and, as we may presume from the rest of their carriage, and from their hatred to him, load him with injuries and blasphemies. Then they bind him fast, as if he were some notorious criminal, and drag him violently along with them in the dark into the city. See, my soul, and contemplate the meekness, patience, and silence of the Lamb of God under all these outrages; accompany him in spirit upon this occasion, for his Apostles have all left him (in the hands of his enemies), and strive to enter into his interior, and to learn from the secret conversation he has all the while with his Father, from the prayer he is there making for his enemies, and from the charity with which he offers up both his present and future sufferings for thy sins, and for the sins of the whole world, what ought to be thy dispositions under all the sufferings thou meetest with - what thy interior exercises of devotion - and what thy spirit of charity for them that afflict thee and persecute thee?
Conclude to follow thy Saviour in spirit, through all the different stages of his passion, with a sincere desire to study and learn the great lessons he teaches thee in his sufferings, and withal to make the best return of love thou art able, for the infinite love he has shown thee, in suffering so much for the love of thee.
Consider first, how the rabble that had apprehended our Saviour, having dragged him into the city with loud shouts and cries, brought him first before Annas, one of the chief priests, to give him the pleasure of seeing the prisoner, and of exulting over him. Go in, my soul, with him, and see the Son of God, the Judge of the living and the dead, standing with his hands tied behind him before this insolent Jewish priest. Hear the impertinent questions he puts to him concerning his disciples and his doctrine, and admire the courage, meekness, and evenness of soul which thy Saviour shows in his whole comportment on this occasion. See how he suffers even a vile servant not only to rebuke him in words, for his modest and just answer, but also to strike him on the face before all the company; an affront which, if offered to the meanest of men, would be thought insupportable by the children of this world; but our great Master has taught us, both by word and example, that true courage consists in bearing and not in revenging injuries. And surely nothing can be more honourable to a Christian than to walk in the footsteps of his King, and keep his laws.
Consider 2ndly, how our Saviour, bound as he was, is hurried away with the like shouts and insolences from Annas to the house of Caiphas, the high priest, where the senate or council was assembled, determined to destroy him, right or wrong; and therefore, notwithstanding it was now late at night, they immediately proceeded to his trial, and to the examining the witnesses, of whom they had provided a good store, to depose against this innocent Lamb of God. Christians, what shall we most admire on this occasion - the malice of the enemies of our Saviour and the gross falsehoods they impose upon him, or the force of truth and the wonderful innocence of our Lord, which would not suffer their testimonies to be of any weight against him, even in the judgment of so partial and so wicked a court? But what is the most admirable of all is that invincible meekness and patience, that perfect peace and tranquillity of soul, with which our Lord suffered in silence to hear himself charged by these wicked impostors with so many false crimes, tending to rob him both of his honour and his life! O surely one must be more than man to be silent on such occasions! Learn at least, thou my soul, from this silence of thy Saviour not to be so excessively nice with regard to thy honour; and if thou must speak in defence of thy own innocence, see thou do it with that calmness and modesty that becomes a disciple of such a Master. A noisy and passionate defence will only make thy cause worse, and will rob thee of thy peace, which is a more valuable good than any thing the world can either give or take away.
Consider 3rdly, how the high priest, finding his evidences did not agree in their story, stood up and adjured our Saviour by the living God, to tell them if he was indeed the Christ, the Son of God? Our Lord, in reverence to his Fatherís name, and to give testimony to that capital truth, the great foundation of the Christian religion, which he came to seal with his blood, immediately answered that he was, and that hereafter they should see him sitting on the right hand of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Christians, give thanks to your Saviour for this solemn profession of what he was, though standing now in the midst of enemies determined not to believe him. They rejected and condemned the grand truth to their own condemnation; do you embrace and adore it for your salvation. Upon this open declaration of his divinity the high priest rends his garments and cries out Ďblasphemy!í and they all with one voice condemn him to death. See, my soul, the Saint of Saints traduced now as a blasphemer, and the Author of Life judged worthy of death; and this by the whole council of the priests and ancients of his people; and learn thou henceforward not to be so much concerned about the judgment of the world: if it condemns thee wrongfully, what wonder, since it has condemned Christ himself; he was innocence itself; whereas thy sins deserve other kinds of punishment than the world can condemn thee to.
Conclude, in opposition to this unjust sentence given against the Lamb of God, to join with all the heavenly Spirits, and with all the Elect of God, in that solemn canticle, Apoc. v. 12. 'The Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive power, and divinity, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and benediction.' But learn withal, from his great example, when thou art called to the trial never to be ashamed of him, nor his truth, though thou wert even to lay down thy life with him and for him.
Consider first, how this sentence of condemnation was no sooner pronounced against our Lord than the whole multitude of them began to fall upon him, and to treat him with all kind of outrages and unheard of barbarity. 'They spit in his face, and buffet him,' Matt. xxvi. 67. 'They blindfold him, and smite his face, and ask him saying: Prophesy who is it that struck thee,' Luke xxii. 64. They pluck his hair and beard, whilst he with his hands tied behind him, makes no resistance, but as he tells us, Isaias l. 6, 'Gives up his body to them that strike him, and his cheeks to them that pluck them, and turns not away his face from them that rebuke him and spit upon him.' Not to speak of many other shameful abuses and injuries, so that here he is treated indeed 'as a worm and no man: the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people,' Ps. xxi. 7. Here, as the prophet foretold, Lament. iii. 30, 'he is filled with reproaches.' See, my soul, what the Son of God has willingly submitted to to save thee from sin and hell. O embrace that infinite charity of his which has made him stoop so low that he might take thee up from the dunghill and place thee with him on his throne; but O! detest thy sins which have so often buffeted him and spit in his face.
Consider 2ndly, what kind of a night our Saviour passed in the hands of the rabble after the council was broken up, and the priests and ancients had retired to rest. These brutish men, instigated by the example of their masters, and by those wicked spirits that possessed them, would not suffer our Lord to take any rest during that last night of his mortal life, but continued acting over and over again the same tragedy, by mocking, beating, and abusing the Lord of Glory, and discharging their filthy phlegm on his sacred face, whilst he has no hand at liberty nor friend to ward off any of their blows, nor any one to wipe their filthy spittle from off his face, all bruised and quite disfigured with their buffets. Ah! who shall be able to recount one half what our Saviour suffered that night from these wretches - besides all the reproaches, slanders, curses, and blasphemies with which they loaded him, more intolerable than their blows; 'Many other things (says St. Luke xxii. 65,) they said against him blaspheming:' while he all the while replied not a word: 'When he was reviled he did not revile; when he suffered he threatened not,' 1 Pet. ii. 23, 'but delivered himself, not only to him that judged him unjustly,' but also to these vile wretches that so shamefully abused him at their pleasure. Be astonished, O ye heavens, to see your Lord and Maker treated in this outrageous manner by the vilest of men! But alas! my soul, they were thy sins that were the chief actors in all this tragedy. O! repent and amend.
Consider 3rdly, and set before thy eyes the image of thy Saviour in the hands of these miscreants; take a view of his face all bruised, his eyes black and blue, his whole countenance disfigured so that not one of his heavenly features can now be distinguished; his forehead and cheeks defiled with their spittle; his beard plucked, his hair all rent and torn, and his whole person strangely metamorphosed. Then reflect who this is that suffers all this, and for whom; how freely he suffers all by his own choice, and what lessons he gives thee in his sufferings; and thou wilt find abundant matter for thy meditation. But carry the eyes of thy soul still further and look in to his interior, and see the peace and tranquillity that reign there in the midst of all these sufferings, from his perfect conformity to the will of his Father; see how he prays for his enemies; see the joy with which he suffers in consideration of the greater glory of his Father, and of our salvation which he is to purchase by all these his sufferings.
Conclude with admiration and love of the infinite charity of thy Redeemer, and a resolution of imitating his patience, his meekness, his humility, and his conformity in all things to his Fatherís will.
Consider first, that amongst all the sufferings of that last night of our Saviourís life, nothing went so much to his heart as the behaviour of his own Apostles: one of them betrayed him, all of them abandoned him, and Peter, the very chief of them all, who had been the most favoured by his Master, and who upon all occasions had professed the greatest zeal and love for him, thrice denied that he knew him. O my soul, pity thy Saviour, thus forsaken by all his friends. Hear his complaints: 'I looked on my right hand, and beheld, and there was no one that would have me. Flight has perished from me, and there is no one that hath regard to my soul!' Ps. cxli. 5. And again, 'Friend and neighbour Thou hast put away far from me, and my acquaintance, because of my misery.' Ps. lxxxvii. 19. But what was it induced Peter to deny his Lord and Master, who a little while before had drawn his sword to defend him against an armed multitude, and had cut off the ear of the man that offered to lay hands on him, and who had boasted that very night, that though all the rest should forsake him, he would always cleave to him; that he was ready to go with him to prison and to death; and that though he were to die for it, he would never deny him? What was it? Alas! the voice of a poor maid, putting the question to him, if he were not one of his disciples, put him in such terror that he not only denied, but even swore and cursed himself if ever he knew the man! Good Jesus! what is man - what is he not capable of; if thou support him not by thy grace. O look well to me, Lord, and stand by me, or I shall also deny thee.
Consider 2ndly, how Peter came to fall so quickly after such strong resolutions and so much zeal for his Master. Alas! he depended too much upon his resolutions; he did not sufficiently know himself; he built too much upon his own strength; and this secret presumption was the chief cause of his fall. Ah! my soul, beware of any confidence in thyself; thou art never nearer falling than when thou seemest to have the strongest resolutions, if thy resolutions are built upon mere sand, and not upon the rock, which is Christ. Peter slept when he was admonished to watch and pray lest he should fall in the time of temptation; this neglect was another occasion of his sin, by depriving him of that grace which otherwise would have effectually preserved him. See, my soul, if thy frequent falls be not owing to thy neglect of watching and praying. In fine, Peter was too rash in exposing himself to the danger by going into the company of the enemies of our Saviour, and giving ear to their discourses, which so far influenced him as to make him ashamed of his Master. Beware lest the like causes should have the like effects in thee. Beware of bad company, and of all such conversations as may make thee ashamed of Christ or his maxims, or any way influence thee to the prejudice of thy soul.
Consider 3rdly, in Peterís three denials, how easily one fall draws on another, and generally speaking a deeper; and learn from hence the necessity of a speedy repentance. Alas! Peter now fallen, as he passed over unregarded the crowing of the cock, so he might have continued in his sin, and died in his sin too, had not his loving Redeemer, in the midst of all the outrages he was suffering, cast an eye of pity upon him, and touching his heart at the same time with a strong and efficacious grace, sent him out from the wicked company he was in, to weep bitterly in private for his sins; a practice which he is said ever after to have retained, as often as he heard the cock crowing. Bless thy Lord, my soul, for the mercy he showed to this Apostle. Learn to imitate him by a ready correspondence with divine grace, when it invites thee to go out from Babylon, the society of the wicked, and to weep bitterly for thy sins. But O! content not thyself with short passing acts of repentance, but if thou wouldst be secure, bewail thy sins like St. Peter as long as thou livest.
Conclude to be always upon thy guard, and if thou seemest to thyself to stand, take heed lest thou fall. Thou hast not half the strength that Peter had; be not then high-minded, but fear. Humility is thy best security.
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