N.B. Palm Sunday being kept in memory of our Saviour’s solemn entry into Jerusalem, five days before His passion, we here insert, to correspond with the devotion of the day, a meditation upon that subject, and interrupt the course of the considerations on the Passion.
Consider first, how the time now drawing near when our Saviour was to offer himself up a sacrifice for the sins of the world, he was pleased to come to the place where he was to complete this sacrifice; and as, in order to fulfil the ancient figures, he chose that very night for the institution of the Passover of the new law, which was set aside for the immolation of the paschal lamb, in the old Law, and that very day for the redemption of the world, in which God’s people had formerly been redeemed from their Egyptian bondage; so also he was pleased to make his entry into Jerusalem in order to his sacrifice, on the very day on which by the appointment of the law, (Exodus xii. 3), the lamb was to be brought to town, which was to be sacrificed for the Passover. Contemplate here, O Christian soul, the greatness of that love and charity for thee, which pushes thy Saviour forward on this occasion; see the joyful readiness with which he goes to offer up himself to death for the love of thee; admire and adore the dispositions of his providence, who was pleased that the glory of his birth should be hidden in the obscurity of a poor stable in little Bethlehem, whilst he chose for the ignominy of his passion, the great theatre of Jerusalem, and the paschal time, when the whole nation of the Jews was assembled thither.
Consider 2ndly, the manner in which our Lord was pleased to be received on this day by a solemn procession of the people, strewing their garments in the way, and bearing branches of palm-trees in their hands, to testify his victory over the prince of darkness, and accompanying him with loud acclamation and hosannas of joy, to honour him as their King and Messias. See, my soul, if thou art in proper dispositions to join in this triumphal procession, and with a palm branch in thy hand, to celebrate the victory of thy Lord over death, sin, and hell: alas! with what face canst thou attend him on this occasion if thou art still a slave to death, sin, and hell? Reflect also here on the inconstancy of the world, and how little account thou art to make of the esteem and applause of men, when thou seest how this same people, who on this day received our Lord with these loud hosannas, and acknowledged him for their King and their Saviour, five days after cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him, crucify him!’
Consider 3rdly, the dispositions of the soul of our Redeemer in the midst of these honours and acclamations, and how little he is affected with them. See how upon this occasion he weeps over the unhappy Jerusalem, and over every impenitent soul that, like Jerusalem, takes no notice, ‘in this her day, of the things that are for her peace; but lets slip the time of her visitation.’ - Luke xix. 42, 44. Learn from his very triumph his love of poverty and his meekness, in the manner of his riding into Jerusalem upon an ass’s colt. Give ear to the prophet, Zach. ix. 9, ‘Rejoice, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King will come to thee; the Just, and the Saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass,’ &c. O see thou imitate his humility whilst rejoicing in his victory.
Conclude to honour the triumph of thy Saviour, in the best manner thou art able, in the procession of this day. Acknowledge him for the King and Lord of thy heart, and invite him in thither. But see that sin and hell have no place there.
Consider first, how upon Pilate’s pronouncing sentence against our Lord they immediately proceed to execution: and first they strip off his purple robe and clothe him again with his own garments; then they bring him the cross, which he was to carry on his shoulders to mount Calvary, as Isaac formerly did the wood upon which he was to be offered in sacrifice. But O who can express or conceive that affection of soul with which our Saviour embraces his cross, which he is now going to consecrate with his precious blood? this cross, designed to be the happy instrument of our redemption, the altar of his sacrifice, the throne of his mercy, the trophy of his victory, the eternal monument of his love, the refuge of sinners, the comfort of the afflicted, the glory of his elect, the school of all virtues, and the source of all our good. O my soul, what are thy sentiments with regard to the cross of Christ? Thou must embrace the cross with him if thou desirest to reign with him. Give ear to a great servant of God, expressing his affection to the cross in this pathetic manner: ‘I bow down to thee, O precious cross, consecrated by the embraces and by the blood of Jesus, my Lord and my King. I look upon thee as the standard of his armies, as the watch-tower showing forth its light to guide his elect in this stormy ocean, as the defence of his servants and as the mark and badge of his children. I adore thee, O hidden wisdom! O light unknown to the world! the honour of them that follow thee, the safety of them that carry thee, the crown of them that embrace thee, the reward of them that love thee, and the salvation of them that cast themselves into thy arms. To die on thee is to live and to live on thee is to reign. He that loves thee is content; he that desires thee is easy; he that possesses thee is rich. I bow down to thee, O tree of life, the fruit of which is the solid food of the children of God. O balance ever even, in which alone we discover the just value and the true price of all things: in thee is found health and life, the victory over hell, the sweets of Paradise, strength of heart, joy of spirit, perfection of virtue, and assurance of eternal goods, &c. I embrace thee, O holy cross, consecrated by the sweat and by the blood of my Saviour. Thou shalt be henceforward my refuge, my light, my knowledge, and all my wisdom. Forsake me not, keep not at a distance from me, though this flesh of mine dreads thee, and seeks to fly from thee. O fasten me to the cross with thee, my sweet Jesus, and enlighten me with thy admirable light; that my spirit may penetrate into the depth of the mysteries and of the wisdom of the cross.’ - Sufferings of Jesus, chap. xlii. My soul, are these thy sentiments?
Consider 2ndly, and take a view of the Lamb of God setting out upon this his last, most wearisome, and most painful journey of his mortal life; loaded with the enormous weight of the cross and with the far more intolerable weight of the sins of the world. See the length and whole size of the cross, proportioned to bear the weight of a human body suspended in the air; and reflect how little strength remains in his body after so many sufferings and fatigues and the loss of so much blood. Ah! how rough, how hard, how insupportable, then, is this load to his shoulders and back, all mangled, rent, and torn with whips and scourges! How does it press upon his green wounds and squeeze out his sacred blood all the way! O mark this last procession. A crier leads the way, publishing his pretended crimes and blasphemies; then follow the soldiers and executioners with ropes, hammers, nails, &c. And after them goeth, or rather creepeth along, our high priest and victim, all bruised and bloody, and staggering under the burden of his cross, attended with a thief on each hand and surrounded with a multitude of his enemies, insulting over him and loading him with scoffs, reproaches, and curses, whilst the cruel executioners at every turn are hastening him forward with their kicks and blows. Follow thy Lord, my soul, in this his last and most painful procession; offer him what service thou canst to ease him of some part of his burden; weep over him at least with the good women that followed him; but take notice of his admonishing them rather to weep for themselves and for their children; and see how, in the midst of his sufferings, he is much more concerned for our miseries and sins than for any thing he himself endures. O! blessed be his infinite charity for us poor sinners!
Consider 3rdly, how our Lord, having for some time with unspeakable labour and torment carried his cross through the streets, at last falleth down under the enormous weight of it, unable to carry it any longer. But with what a shock does he fall! with what an additional torture to his wounded body, now quite exhausted with pain and labour, and loss of blood! See how the bloody executioners employ their kicks and blows to oblige him to rise again with his burden, but all in vain: his strength is quite gone, he is not able to carry it any further. Therefore, lest his execution should be delayed, they lay hold on Simon of Cyrene, whom they met coming out of the country, and they oblige him to take up the cross, and to ease our Lord of part of the burden by carrying it after him. But O! who shall ease him of any part of that other load, infinitely more insupportable, which his heavenly Father has laid upon him, of the sins of the whole world! My soul, do thou give him what little ease thou canst by lamenting the share thy sins have in this tragedy, and by ceasing henceforward to afflict him by sin.
Conclude to run in and offer thy service to thy Redeemer on this occasion, to take up his cross for him and to help him, like Simon of Cyrene, in the carriage of it; or rather offer thyself to him, to take up thy own cross with perfect resignation and patience, and follow him. It is this he particularly calls for and expects at thy hands.
Consider first, how our Lord being at length arrived at mount Calvary, quite wearied and spent, the untired malice of his enemies pursuing him still, finds out a new torture for him by mingling gall with the wine that, according to custom, was presented as a strengthening draught to criminals that were to be executed. Our Lord, that he might suffer the more for us, was pleased by tasting it to embitter his palate parched up before with a violent thirst; but he would not admit of the comfort that the drinking of it might have afforded his stomach: ‘When he had tasted, he would not drink,’ Matt. xxvii. 34. And now they strip him violently of his clothes, which by this time began to cleave fast to his mangled body, being pressed into the wounds by the weight of the cross; so that all his wounds are now opened afresh, and this Lamb of God is in a manner flayed alive in order to be laid on the altar of the cross. O! my soul, see how he stands all covered with his blood, with his eyes lifted up to Heaven, with infinite charity praying for poor sinners, and even for his very executioners. O! run in now and cast thyself at his feet, and bathe thyself in that precious blood, which he so plentifully sheds for thee; but see thou mingle with it thy penitential tears, in consideration of the share thou hast had in bringing these sufferings upon him by thy sins.
Consider 2ndly, how all things being now ready, they order him to lie down upon the cross. He obeys without resistance or demur, and lays himself down upon this hard bed on which he is to die; the bed of sorrow on which he is to bring us forth to God. Here he lies with his eyes fixed on heaven as high priest of all mankind, offering himself a victim of propitiation for our sins to his eternal Father, and freely giving up his hands and feet to the executioners to be pierced with the nails. See now, my soul, how one of these ruffians comes with a large sharp nail, and fixing the point of it upon the sacred palm of one of our Saviour’s hands, violently drives it with his hammer into the tender flesh, forcing its way with inconceivable torment through the nerves, sinews, muscles, and bones of which the hand is composed, deep into the hard wood of the cross. The extremity of pain which was caused by the violent piercing of so many nerves and bones as meet in the hands made all the nerves and sinews shrink up, and draw the body towards that hand that was nailed; so that great violence was used by the executioners in dragging the other arm and hand to the opposite side, to the place prepared for it, where they served it in like manner. And then, with equal barbarity they drew down his sacred feet, and nailed them also to the cross, verifying the words of the prophet, Ps. xxi.17, ‘they have dug my hands and feet; they have numbered all my bones:’ inasmuch as by the violence of their pulling the bones of our Lord were so drawn from their places and disjointed that they might be numbered. Ah! sweet Saviour, who can conceive the least part of what thou hast here endured for the love of me.
Consider 3rdly, what shocks, what tortures, our Lord (being now nailed fast to the cross) must have suffered in his whole body, when they dragged the cross along the ground to the hole prepared for it; how much, when they began with ropes to raise him up in the air; how much, when they let the foot of the cross fill with a jolt into the hole; how much, when they fastened it in the ground with long stakes, which they drove in with their mallets. O! who can think without horror on the racking pains that every motion or shock of this nature must have caused to a body all disjointed, and supported only by the bones and sinews of the hands and feet pierced through with gross nails But though this torture which our Lord here endured was so great and insupportable that one would think it might have moved the hardest heart to compassion, to have seen even a brute beast undergo so much: yet such was the insatiable malice of the enemies of our Saviour that instead of showing him any pity, or relenting at the sight of his torments, they shout and triumph when they see him appear above the heads of the people; and drawing nigher they stand shaking their heads at him, rejoicing at all his sufferings, scoffing, and insulting over him. Christians, whilst you detest this Jewish malice see you have no share in it, by your obstinacy in sin; ‘crucifying again to yourselves the Son of God, and making a mockery of him.’ Heb. vi. 6.
Conclude by detesting the handiwork of your sins, which have nailed your Saviour to the cross; and by loving him who out of pure love for you has endured so much. O! that we could say here with the martyr Ignatius, and with the like affection, ‘My love is fastened to the cross.’
Consider first, what our Lord suffers upon the cross for the whole time that he continues living upon it, till he consummates his sacrifice. Draw near, my soul, and sit down under the shadow of thy true lover, with a longing desire to be his scholar in this school of love. Contemplate at leisure the multitude and variety of his sufferings. And first, as to his sacred body; see how ‘from the sole of the foot to the top of the head there is no soundness therein;’ Isaias i.6, see how it is all covered with wounds and blood. O how rough is this hard bed of the cross to a body all torn and mangled! O how uneasy is this pillow of a thorny crown to his wounded head! See all the cruel bruises with which his divine face is disfigured, and reflect on the smart and the pain of them. See how the whole body is violently stretched and extended as upon a rack, with an inexpressible torture in all the joints and limbs. But above all, remark those four streams of blood, those fountains of Paradise, that flow from the four most painful wounds of his hands and feet; and consider how the whole weight of his body, hanging by these gross nails that pierce the nerves and bones, while it naturally sinks downwards, is continually rending and tearing his wounds and increasing his pains.
Consider 2ndly, what our Saviour suffers interiorly in his soul, and thou shalt find it to be much more insupportable than all he endures in his body. Witness the inexpressible horror he has for the sins of the world, all now lying upon him and oppressing his soul with their infinite weight; his deep sense of those blasphemies he hears uttered against the Deity, and the contempt they show for his person and his divine truths. Witness the anguish of his soul to see the hardness, blindness, and reprobation of his once chosen people, the Jews; together with the final impenitence of Judas, and the eternal damnation of so many millions of souls for whom he is now offering himself in sacrifice, every one of whom he loves more than his own life. Add to this his grief to see the unspeakable desolation of his blessed Mother, and of all his friends, and himself left without any manner of relief or comfort from any creatures whatsoever, and even forsaken by his heavenly Father, and given up to the will and pleasure of his enemies. Ah! Christians, no tortures can be comparable to those of the soul!
Consider 3rdly, that besides these sufferings both of body and soul, which our Lord endures on the cross for the love of us, he pleased moreover to suffer in all other ways which any mortal can be liable to in this life. He suffers in his honour, by the disgrace of being hanged between two thieves, and loaded with all kinds of reproaches and affronts; he suffers in his reputation, by outrages, calumnies, and impositions; he suffers in his goods, by being stript of his very clothes, (the all he had in this world,) and exposed naked to shame and cold; he suffers from all sorts of people, from Jews and Gentiles, great and small, priests and laity, all conspiring as much as they can to add to his afflictions. His enemies insult and triumph over him; his friends are ashamed of him; those whom he had favoured with his miracles declare against him; his disciples keep at a distance, and are afraid of being involved in his punishments. His eyes see nothing but what may add to his anguish; his ears are entertained with nothing but injuries and blasphemies; his palate is afflicted with a mortal thirst; and his own body, by its weight, is a continual and most grievous torment to him. O sweet Jesus, how dearly hast thou paid for my sins!
Conclude to station thyself at the foot of the cross, and there to contemplate in the sufferings of thy Saviour the enormity of thy sins, and the goodness of thy God, that thou mayest there learn how thou art to detest thy sins and to love thy God.
Consider first, that the whole life and doctrine of Christ was a continual lesson to his followers to renounce self-love, with its three wretched branches, viz., the lust of the flesh, that is, the love of sensual pleasures; the lust of the eyes, that is, the love of the perishable goods of this world; and the pride of life. These are the unhappy sources of all our evils, which withdraw us from our allegiance to God, and make us exchange the fountain of life for poisonous puddles, that can never satisfy our thirst. These are the foundations of a worldly and sinful life, and the broad road to death and hell. Alas! we love ourselves and our own will more than God; we are ever full of ourselves, sensual, covetous, presumptuous, as if we were some thing, and we can bear with nothing that opposes or contradicts us. But mark in particular, my soul, the sermon which the Son of God preaches from the cross, and see how loudly he there condemns from that pulpit all the illusions of our self-love, with all the maxims and practices of the world, and the unhappy attachments of worldlings to their carnal and sensual affections. O! remember that what he suffers is all by his own choice, and this not only to the end that he may expiate our sins, but also in order to undeceive us in the preposterous judgment we make of things, and to teach us to embrace what he embraces, to despise what he despises, and to condemn what he condemns. Learn then, my soul, at the foot of the cross, to overcome thy pride, by the great example of the voluntary humiliations of the Son of God; thy love of the world, by his voluntary poverty, and by his being stript of all things, and abandoned by all; and thy love of pleasures, by his voluntary sufferings and inexpressible torments.
Consider 2ndly, that Jesus Christ, in offering himself upon the cross a sacrifice to his Father, without any manner of reserve, and in dying in pure obedience to his heavenly will, preaches another excellent sermon to us, containing the whole perfection of a spiritual life; which consists in giving our whole selves to God, and in being obedient unto death. Yes, Christians, if you desire to be perfect, you must learn of your dying Saviour to make this offering of yourselves without reserve, to his Father and to your Father; you must join your offering with his, and make it by his hands, that it may be acceptable. You must make it every day and oftentimes in the day. O! give him then daily your soul and body; give him your understanding, your memory, and your will; give him your whole being, with all that belongs to it, both for time and eternity: and he will give his whole self to you. O happy exchange! Offer yourself then daily to do for him whatsoever he pleases; to suffer for him whatsoever he pleases; dedicate yourselves eternally to his love, and resolve to die a thousand deaths rather than to forfeit in any thing the obedience you owe to this your Father, Maker, King, and God.
Consider 3rdly, the particular lessons that our Lord also gives in his seven last dying words upon the cross. 1. Of perfect charity to our enemies, by his praying for them and excusing them to his Father: ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’ 2. Of mercy and compassion for sinners, by the plenary indulgence he imparts to the penitent thief: ‘Amen, I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.’ 3. Of duty to our parents, in his recommending his Virgin Mother to the care of his beloved disciple, and of a filial devotion to her, as recommended for a mother to us all: ‘Woman, behold thy son. - Behold thy mother.’ 4. Of an earnest thirst for the conversion and salvation of all men, by that which he expresses in this word, ‘I thirst.’ 5. Of fervent prayer to God under anguish and desolation, by the fervour of his prayer, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ 6. Of perseverance to the end, till we have consummated, (that is, completely finished) the work for which he came into the world, by that word of his, ‘It is consummated.’ 7. Of committing ourselves both in life and death, by a perfect resignation, into the hands of God, by his great example: ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.’ O let us learn these last lessons of our dying Lord!
Conclude to frequent daily this school of the cross, if thou would learn to be wise indeed. But more especially take care to study well at the foot of the cross those two most essential lessons, the renouncing thy own will and embracing the will of God, by a resolute conformity and obedience, even unto death.
Consider first, how our Lord having with a loud and strong voice uttered those last words of his, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,’ leans down his head, in perfect submission to his Father’s will, and gives up the ghost, to consummate the great sacrifice of the redemption of the world. Stand astonished, my soul, in the contemplation of this incomprehensible mystery, that Life itself should die, to deliver thee from a second death, and to impart to thee eternal life. O! consider well who this is that hangs here dead before thy eyes? The Word, the Wisdom, the Son of the eternal God; the Lord of glory, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the great Creator of heaven and earth. But O how strangely has he here debased himself! how wonderfully is he here metamorphosed for the love of thee! Draw near, however, in spirit, and cast thyself down at the foot of the cross, and there exercise thyself in acts of faith, hope, love, and contrition for thy sins; there pour forth thyself in the sight of thy God in acts of adoration, praise, and thanksgiving; there make a total oblation of thyself to thy crucified Saviour, to be his both in life and death, time and eternity.
Consider 2ndly, how our Lord, in the midst of all the ignominies and torments of his passion and death, begins to reign from the cross, and is even there highly honoured and exalted by his heavenly Father. The title that hangs over his head declares him to be the ‘King of the Jews,’ even their Messias, of whom the Prophets had delivered such wonders. All nature loudly proclaims him her King and her God; the sun withdraws his light for the whole three hours that he hangs upon the cross; at his death the whole earth trembles, the rocks are split, the monuments are opened, the dead arise, the veil of the temple that hangs before the inward sanctuary is rent from top to bottom, to show that the law and its figures are now all accomplished, and the sanctuary of heaven laid open. See, my soul, how he already begins from the cross to verify what he had said, St. John xii. 32, ‘If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself.’ One of the thieves that were crucified with him is the first that experiences this miraculous attraction, and in an instant is changed into a saint; the centurion or captain of the soldiers that assisted at if the execution is the next, and loudly declares him to be the Son of God: ‘And all the multitude of them that were come together to that sight, and saw the things that done, return striking their breasts,’ St. Luke xxiii. 48. O dear Jesus, let my poor heart share also in this mercy; look down upon it from thy cross, which thou hast chosen for the throne of thy mercy and grace, and be pleased to draw it also to thyself; and to make it wholly thine from henceforth and for ever.
Consider 3rdly, how our Lord by his death triumphs over all his enemies. He casts out Satan, the ruler of this wicked world, from his usurped dominions, and binds him up in chains, by greatly abridging all the power of death, sin, and hell; he judges and condemns the world with all its favourite maxims; he exposes and pulls down human pride; he shows forth the folly of worldly wisdom, and the vanity and deceitfulness of earthly honours, riches, and carnal pleasures, and of all that is not agreeable to the cross; and he sets up this victorious standard for all nations, as the royal ensign of his kingdom, under which his true soldiers shall ever fight and triumph over the world, the flesh, and the devil, till they arrive at the crown of life, which he has purchased for them by his death. But see, my soul, how in the midst of all his triumphs he invites in a particular manner all poor sinners to his mercy. See how, with his head bowed down towards them, he offers them the kiss of peace; see how his arms are open to receive them; see how all his gaping wounds invite them to come and shelter themselves there from the divine wrath. O let us embrace these his offers of mercy, on this day of mercy!
Conclude to celebrate on this day, in the best manner thou art able, thy Saviour’s victory over sin and hell. Adore him most profoundly under all the ignominy of his cross; acknowledge him for thy king, for the true king of thy heart, and beg that he would henceforward abolish the reign of sin in thee. Embrace with all thy affection the sacred wounds of his passion, and choose them for the place of thy habitation for ever.
Consider first, how after our Lord had expired upon the cross one of the soldiers opened his side with a spear, making a wide and deep wound, out of which there presently issued blood and water, to wash and cleanse us from all our stains. See, my soul, how the heart of thy Saviour is now laid open for thee. O! enter into it in spirit, through this gate: O make it thy dwelling place for evermore. Consider in this mysterious blood and water issuing from the side of our Lord the heavenly sacraments, which issued from his wounds, (inasmuch as they have all their virtue from his sacred passion,) but especially the sacrament of his body and blood, and that of the sacred laver of baptism. See also here how our second Adam being now cast into the deep sleep of death, his side is opened to form from thence his Church, designed to be his everlasting bride.
Consider 2ndly, how Joseph of Arimathea, (who before durst not declare himself a disciple of Christ,) having obtained of Pilate leave to take away his body for decent burial, being accompanied by Nicodemus, and joined in this last duty by St. John and other disciples, unnailed the sacred body, and took it down from the cross. Run in, Christian soul, in spirit, and offer thy service upon this occasion; receive into thy arms the dead body of thy Redeemer, and lay it on the sacred lap of his Virgin Mother; and learn from her whole comportment at this melancholy ceremony the sentiments of a most affectionate devotion towards the passion and death of her Son. Join in embalming thy Saviour’s body and wrapping it up in clean linen, and laying it in a new monument, by learning the exercise of those virtues which are signified by those aromatical spices and perfumes, and by that clean linen and new monument. Especially whenever thou approachest to the body of our Lord in the blessed sacrament, see thou take along with thee the sweet odours of devotion, a pure conscience, and the cleanness of the new man.
Consider 3rdly, how our Lord lying now in his monument verifies that of the Psalmist, Ps. lxxxvii, ‘I am counted among them that go down to the pit; I am become as a man without help, free among the dead. Like the slain sleeping in the sepulchres, whom thou rememberest no more; and they are cast off from thy hand. They have laid me in the lower pit, in the dark, and in the shadow of death. Thou hast put away my acquaintance far from me,’ &c. Yes, my soul, thy Saviour lies now shut up in a lonesome monument in darkness, like one dead for ever! and as such is left and forsaken by his living friends and acquaintance. See thou leave him not, but stay with him, and watch at his sepulchre in prayer. Weep there over him with tears of compassion for his sufferings, of compunction for all thy sins, and of a tender love for his infinite goodness and his love for thee.
Conclude to keep thyself always near to thy Saviour, by daily meditating on his life and death; and thou mayest confidently hope that he will always be near to thee, both in life and death.
Contents of Challoner's Meditations
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