Consider first, how the high priest and his fellows in iniquity (notwithstanding their late sitting up at night), very early in the morning convene a more numerous assembly of the Sanhedrim or great council, to carry on and to bring to execution their wicked designs against the Son of God. Alas! how often are the children of this world more industrious in rising early to wickedness, than the servants of God to advance his glory and their own eternal salvation! Here our Lord is again brought before them, and the question is put to him again: ‘Art thou the Christ, the Son of God?’ And upon his answering again in the affirmative, they all renew their former sentence, and declare him worthy of death. But see the depth of the malice of these unhappy men against the Lord of Life, which will not suffer them to be content with putting him to death privately, or with stoning him, as they afterwards did St. Stephen, or with any other ordinary death; but they must needs have him die upon a Cross, as being the most disgraceful and at the same time the most cruel of all deaths; and therefore, as they could not of their own authority inflict this kind of death, they determined to deliver him up to Pilate the governor, in order to his being crucified by him. See what envy and malice is capable of when once they have taken possession of the soul; and remember withal that their envy and malice could not make the Son of God suffer any thing more than what his infinite charity had freely made choice of to suffer for the love of thee. Blessed be that infinite charity for evermore, which has freely chosen so disgraceful and so cruel a death for our redemption from sin and hell!
Consider 2ndly, the manner of their conducting our Lord to Pilate, through the streets, lined with an immense multitude of people, assembled at Jerusalem upon occasion of the paschal solemnity. Hear how they publish all the way as they go that now they had found him to be a cheat and a hypocrite, had discovered all his impostures, and convicted him, by his own confession, of blasphemy, and therefore had condemned him to die. See how the people, who a little while before reverenced him as a Prophet, are now all changed in his regard and join with his enemies. O see what a wretched figure he makes in their hands, after the treatment he had received in the night: see how his enemies take occasion from thence to triumph and to insult over him, and how his friends grow cold and are ashamed of him. O, my soul, do thou at least follow thy Lord with compassion and love in the way that he walks for thy redemption; a painful and humble way indeed, and quite opposite to the ways the world is fond of, and distasteful to flesh and blood; but O! how wholesome to all such souls as willingly embrace them and follow them in the company of Jesus Christ!
Consider 3rdly, how the high priest and the rest of the council being come to Pilate’s house, made a scruple of going in for fear of contracting a legal uncleanness that might disqualify them from partaking of the sacrifices that were offered on that day - it being the very day of the feast of the Passover, celebrated in memory of their redemption from the bondage of Egypt. And yet, unhappy men, whilst they scruple going into the house of a Gentile, for fear of an uncleanness that could only reach the body, they are not afraid of polluting their souls with the most heinous of all crimes, and profaning thereby the greatest of all their solemnities. But what are men not capable of when they suffer themselves to be hurried away by their passions! But see the wonderful providence of God! whilst they, on their part, are so bent upon their wickedness that no other day will serve their turn but the very day of their sacrificing the paschal lamb, without thinking or designing it they are concurring as instruments to bring about the merciful designs of God for the redemption of the whole world, by the sacrifice of the true Paschal Lamb on that same day, of which their yearly Passover was an illustrious figure.
Conclude to beware of thy passions, which, if indulged, are capable of blinding thee to that degree as to pervert the greatest good into evil. And on the other side, embrace and love the wonderful ways of Divine Providence, which so often draws the greatest good out of the greatest evils.
Consider first, how Pilate going out to inquire what accusation they brought against our Saviour, these children of iniquity made no scruple of laying many notorious untruths to his charge; such as raising seditions, stirring up the people to rebellion, forbidding tribute to be paid to the emperor, and treasonably giving himself out for the king of the Jews. Under all these wicked slanders, that tended to nothing less than procuring his condemnation to the worst of deaths, our Lord still showed the same peace and tranquillity of soul, and still kept silence to the great astonishment of the governor. Admirable lessons for Christians! to learn to possess their souls at least in patience, if they cannot be wholly silent, under calumnies and detractions, and to learn that calmness and meekness will be a better proof and defence of their innocence than passion and rage, or returning injury for injury. We see here that Pilate himself, though otherwise a wicked man, was so far from interpreting our Saviour’s silence joined with that tranquillity of soul for an acknowledgment of his guilt, that he concluded it to be an argument of his innocence, and clearly perceived in the Jews’ way of acting that they were carried on by envy and passion, and not by zeal for justice; and therefore, after inquiring of our Lord concerning his being King, and understanding from him that his kingdom was not of this world, and therefore no way prejudicial to Caesar’s authority, he declared himself fully satisfied, and sought to discharge him.
Consider 2ndly, how the Jews still urging to have our Lord condemned, Pilate, to get rid of their importunity, sends him away to Herod king of Galilee, as one of his subjects, and refers his cause to him. Follow thy Saviour, O my soul, in this new stage, and admire the serenity of his countenance and the peace of his soul whilst he is hurried through the streets in the midst of an insulting mob, and loaded with reproaches and injuries. See how he is brought in bonds before that prince attended by the whole council, who there renew all their false accusations against him, whilst Herod, who is overjoyed to see him, in hopes of being eyewitness of some miracle, puts a thousand idle questions to him. But our Lord is silent still, and neither takes any notice of the falsities laid to his charge by his accusers nor seeks to gratify the vain curiosity of Herod, or to do any thing that might incline him to set him at liberty. No, my soul, thy Saviour has too great a love for thee to work a miracle to deliver himself from that death which he so gladly embraces as the only means of giving thee life. Blessed by all creatures be his goodness for ever!
Consider 3rdly, how Herod, provoked by our Lord not consenting to gratifying his inclinations of seeing a miracle, revenges himself on him by treating him with mockery and scorn, exposes him to the scoffs of all his soldiers, orders him to be clothed in contempt with a white garment, as with a fool’s coat, or as a mock king; and in this garb sends him back to Pilate, attended as before by the priests and scribes and an insulting rabble, who take fresh occasion of abusing him on account of his disgraceful habit. See here, my soul, with astonishment, the eternal Wisdom of the Father treated by the world as a fool; see the great King of Heaven and earth abused as a mock king, and an idle pretender to royalty. And learn from hence not to be solicitous about the judgment of the world, nor to repine if they charge thee with folly; for why should’st thou expect better treatment than thy Lord? O remember that the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God; and that what the world censures as foolishness, is indeed true wisdom. Remember that ‘Whosover will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God,’ James iv. 4.
Conclude to adhere to thy Lord, in the midst of all his reproaches and sufferings; to embrace his wisdom hidden under the fool’s coat, which the world had flung over it, and ever to acknowledge him for the true king of thy heart. O beg that his kingdom may be established there, and the reign of sin be totally abolished.
Consider first, how Pilate, seeing our Lord brought back to his tribunal, and the high priest and council still bent upon destroying the innocent, thinks of another way to bring him off without giving them offence. It was the privilege of the people to have their choice of a prisoner to be set at liberty of that day of the paschal solemnity, in memory of their being delivered on that day from the bondage of Egypt. He proposes therefore to their choice our Saviour on the one hand, and Barabbas, a notorious malefactor, robber, and murderer, on the other; making sure that they would rather choose to have our Saviour released to them, in whom neither he nor they could find any crime, than Barabbas the worst of criminals. O eternal Son of God, how low dost thou here stoop for my sins, when thou sufferest thyself to he put in competition with the vilest and most wicked of men, and to have it put to the votes of the rabble which of the two is the more deserving of death! O the unparalleled humility of my Saviour! O the unparalleled injury here offered to him by Pilate, whilst he pretends to favour him! But O! the unparalleled blindness of this unhappy people who make choice of Barabbas before their Messias, and demand with loud cries that the former may be released, and the latter crucified! See, my soul, in this wonderful humiliation of thy Lord, how deep, how desperate was the wound of thy pride which could not be healed but by such and so great humility. Learn henceforward, at least from him, to be humble of heart and never think much if others how mean soever, be preferred before thee, since Barabbas was preferred before Christ! Alas! how often hast thou thyself preferred some thing worse than Barahbas, even that ugly monster sin, before this Lord of Glory.
Consider 2ndly, how the Jews still insisting in a tumultuous manner that our Lord should he crucified, Pilate in hopes of appeasing them by a kind of composition, and so making them relent, orders him to be cruelly scourged; a torment most grievous to our dear Redeemer, (who therefore on divers occasions, speaking of his Passion, takes special notice of it,) and at the same time most disgraceful and most ignominious. Look on now, my soul, in spirit, and see in what manner thy Saviour is treated for thee. See how the bloody executioners lay violent hands on the Lamb of God; see how they tear off his clothes, and expose him all naked before a great multitude, to cold and shame see how they bind him fast to a stony pillar; see how they discharge upon His sacred back, shoulders, and sides, innumerable stripes, lashes, and scourges; see how his body is all rent, torn, and mangled by their barbarity ; see how the blood comes spouting out on all sides. See in his gaping wounds, the handiwork of thy sins. O take pity on his mangled flesh, and let the sight of so much blood shed for thee mollify thy heart, and determine thee from this hour never any more to scourge him by sin. Run in now, and cast thyself at his feet, and bathe thyself in his precious blood; mingle, at least, some few tears with his sacred gore, and repent from thy heart for the share thou hast had in this scourging of thy Lord.
Consider 3rdly, in this scourging of our Saviour, who it is that is thus barbarously and ignominiously treated? And why he suffers all this? O my soul, ‘tis the God that made thee; ‘tis the Lord and Maker of heaven and earth who suffers all this, by his own free choice, for the love of thee; ‘tis to deliver thee by his sufferings, from the grievous and eternal torments thy sins have deserved, and to purchase for thee everlasting joys which thou never could’st deserve. O infinite love of my God ! O never suffer me, dearest Saviour, to forget what thou hast here endured for the love of me But see in what manner our Lord suffers all this barbarous usage - without resistance, without complaint, in silence, with a perfect resignation and conformity to the will of his Father, in perfect charity, praying for his enemies, whilst they stand by insulting over him and rejoicing at his torments. My soul, let us study well and learn these lessons of our suffering Redeemer.
Conclude to make the best acknowledgment thou art able of the love thy Saviour has shown thee in his sufferings, by a return of thanksgiving and love, and by a constant detestation of sin as his and thy mortal enemy, and the occasion of all his sufferings.
Consider first, how the barbarous ruffians, being wearied at last with scourging our Lord, untie him from the pillar, all covered with wounds, and with his strength quite exhausted by the loss of so much blood; and now, whilst they rest themselves they leave him to seek out and to pick up his clothes, which they had scattered about, and to put them on as well as he can; for he is so stiff and weak, so mangled by their barbarity as to be but little able to help himself; and he has no friend at hand to help him. But O! how ill do these rough woollen clothes suit with his green wounds! how does the rubbing of them at every step or motion increase the smart? But now behold, my soul, another scene of barbarity not to be paralleled in all history, acted by these bloody soldiers in crowning our Lord for a king, by a most cruel mockery, and sporting themselves in all his sufferings. To perform this tragical ceremony with more solemnity, they drag our Saviour into the court of the governor’s hall, and assemble the whole regiment about him; then they strip him again of all his garments, which now were beginning to stick to his wounds, which they rend and widen by this violence. See, my soul, how the Lord now stands as a lamb, in the midst of innumerable wolves; see how, from head to foot, he is imbrued in blood; see at how dear a rate he has purchased thy redemption.
Consider 2ndly, what a throne, what royal robes, what a crown, what a sceptre, these wretches have provided for the Lord of Glory! See, my soul, how they make him sit down on some dirty stool for a throne, and how they throw about him for his royal robes an old ragged purple garment, causing the greatest pain to his wounded back, shoulders, and arms. After this they press down on his sacred head a twisted wreath of long, hard, and sharp thorns for a royal diadem or crown; then they put into his hands for a sceptre a reed or cane; and having thus arrayed him, they come and kneel before him in mockery, to pay him their homage, saluting him scornfully with a ‘Hail! king of the Jews;’ and then, by turns they buffet him, spit in his face, and strike him over the head with the sceptre they had given him, and by that means drive the thorns deeper in, whilst the blood trickles down apace from the numberless wounds which he receives from their points! Ah! who shall be able to number the multitude and variety of sufferings which our Lord endured upon this occasion? In which it is hard to say whether the torment or the ignominy and disgrace was more intolerable. Yet our dear Lord bore all in patience and silence for the love of us.
Consider 3rdly, and take a view at leisure of our Saviour sitting on this stool of ignominy, in the midst of this whole regiment of insolent and barbarous pagan soldiers. Reflect on what he suffers in his sacred head and temples from those hard sharp thorns, which pierce his flesh with so many wounds. O! who can conceive the greatness of this torture. See, my soul, how the blood trickles down his face and neck; see the many bruises he receives from the violent blows they gave him with their hands; see his divine countenance covered with the filth they cast upon him; see through the ragged purple all the wounds of his mangled body, bleeding plentifully for thy sins; in fine, see how this lawless, insulting multitude strives which shall outdo each other in their scoffs, affronts, and injuries; whilst our Lord on his part still preserves the same serenity in his countenance, the same tranquillity in his soul, and the same charity in his heart. But, O my soul, whilst thou art contemplating him under all these barbarous mockeries and torments, cast thy eye upwards and see him sitting on his throne of glory, adored by all the legions of Angels; and do thou join with them in paying him the best homage thou art able; and ever remember that the more he has debased himself for thee, the more dear he ought to be to thee.
Conclude by acknowledging thy Saviour, in the midst of all these ignominies, for the true King of thy heart, and begging him to come and establish his throne there. Learn from him to bear and to submit to the thorns which are appointed for thee in this thy mortal pilgrimage. O pretend not to a crown of roses, to a life of worldly pleasures, whilst thy Lord makes choice of a crown of thorns for the love of thee.
Consider first, how Pilate hoping now that the malice of the Jews would be so far abated as to insist no longer on our Saviour’s death, after they should see in what a barbarous manner he had been created in compliance with their passions, leads him out just as he was, with his crown of thorns upon his head and his ragged purple on his shoulders, and from an eminence shows him to the people with these words ‘Ecce homo!’ Behold the man! as much as to say, take a view of him now from head to foot; see how he is all covered with wounds; how his whole body is rent, torn, and mangled with scourges; his head and temples pierced with bloody thorns; face all black and blue, and his person quite disfigured! See how cruelly he has been handled in complaisance to you, though neither I nor Herod could find any crime in him! Let then this outrageous treatment he has received from the soldiers, let all this blood he has shed satisfy you; take pity on him now, at least, and cease to seek his death. But O! how vain it is to expect that men’s passions should be abated by giving way to them! Pilate imagined the sight of so much innocent blood already shed would extinguish the thirst of the Jews, whereas it increased it and made them the more eager after our Lord’s death. See, my soul, thou never suffer thyself to be imposed upon in the like manner by thinking to rid thyself the easier, hereafter, of thy troublesome temptations or passions, by making a kind of composition, and giving them at present what they crave. The more thou givest them the more they will demand and the more they will tyrannize over thee. It is not by yielding but by fighting resolutely against them thou art to conquer.
Consider 2ndly, my soul, thy Saviour presenting himself to thee upon this occasion with all his wounds and all the disgraceful attire of his ragged robes and thorny crown, with an ‘Ecce homo!’ Behold the man! But see thou look upon him with other eyes than those unhappy miscreants did, who only took occasion from the sight of his sufferings to cry out more eagerly, ‘Away with, him, away with him; crucify him, crucify him!’ O! behold the man, even the eternal Word of the Father, made man for the love of thee. Behold his head crowned with a wreath of sharp thorns piercing and entering in on all sides with excessive pains; behold his face bruised beyond measure, and all covered with blood and spittle; behold, through his ragged purple, the innumerable stripes and wounds of his mangled body! Behold and see to what a condition thy sins, and his own infinite charity, have reduced the Lord of Glory! Then see and consider what return thou wilt make him for all his sufferings, and for all his love. He desires no other return but that of thy heart but then it must be an humble and contrite heart; it must be a loving and obedient heart.
Consider 3rdly, the Eternal Father presenting his Son to us in his passion, all covered with wounds and imbrued in his blood, with another ‘Ecce homo!’ Behold the man! Setting before our eyes all that he has suffered out of pure love for us, representing to us his infinite goodness and mercy, and the heinousness of our sins and ingratitude to him; encouraging us to hope in him, inviting us to love him, and to detest our sins for the love of him, and offering us all good things through him; only desiring that we would cease to persecute him by sin. O give attention, my soul, to this loving voice of thy God, and to all the sufferings of his Son; but in return do thou also present him to his Father, with the like ‘Ecce homo!’ Behold the man! laying before him all that his Son has endured for thee in the whole course of his passion; and putting in thy claim to all that mercy, grace, and salvation which he has purchased for thee by all these sufferings. In particular insist upon this one favour to be granted thee, through his passion and death, that thou mayest never more be disloyal to him.
Conclude by representing all thy miseries and sins to thy Redeemer, and through him to his Father with another ‘Ecce homo!’ Behold the man! and begging a redress from him, and through his precious blood of all thy miseries, and the remission of all thy sins.
Consider first, the foresight the Blessed Virgin had of the passion of her Son, from the time that she heard that prophetic prediction addressed to her by holy Simeon, Luke ii. 34, 35, that he should ‘be set for a sign which should be contradicted, and that a sword should pierce her own soul.’ Yes, blessed Lady, a sword indeed, far more sharp and penetrating than any earthly steel, which can only pierce the body and cannot reach the soul, whereas this sword, of more than mortal anguish, which thou sufferest by occasion of the passion of thy Son, inflicts a most bitter, deep, and deadly wound in the very midst of thy soul. A wound which began to be inflicted at the time of this prophecy, by the sense which the heavenly Father then gave thee of what thy Son was to suffer; a wound which was a most bitter alloy of all those consolations which thou receivedst from the sight, conversation, and embraces of thy Jesus; a wound which thou carriedst about with thee in thy soul all the time of his mortal life, still growing upon thee as the time of his Passion drew nearer, and not healed but by his glorious Resurrection. Christians, see how the greatest favourite of heaven by divine appointment meets with the greatest crosses in this mortal pilgrimage. But no wonder Christ himself was first to suffer, and so to enter into his glory; his blessed Mother and all the Saints were to walk in the same road in order to follow him and to partake us his glorious kingdom. O! think not much if your Lord chooses for you what he chose for himself, for his blessed Mother, and for all his elect.
Consider 2ndly, how much the affliction and anguish of this Virgin Lady was increased, when the news was brought her of her Son’s being betrayed by Judas, apprehended, bound, and dragged away in that inhuman manner before the council, and what treatment he had met with there, after being condemned by them. But as the sight usually affects us more than the hearing, so doubtless this blessed Mother was oppressed with a far more killing grief, when on the next morning she was an eye-witness of all the injuries, outrages, and torments which he suffered in the different stages of his passion. For as no love that any person upon earth has ever experienced could any ways approach to the love she bore our Lord, not only as her Son, but much more as her God; so, in proportion to her love her anguish and sorrow to see him treated in that cruel, and barbarous, and outrageous manner, was the greatest that any pure creature could ever sustain, and nothing less than a miracle could have supported her or kept her alive under so dreadful a torture. Ah, Christians the whips, thorns, and nails that pierced his flesh pierced her heart with inexpressible pain and sorrow, which none surely could ever exceed, but those of her Son, ‘the man of sorrows.’ O take pity, my soul, on the sorrows of them both, and see thou never more concur to grieve them by sin.
Consider 3rdly, more in particular how the Blessed Virgin was affected when she first saw her Son in the morning in the hands of his enemies, all disfigured by their blows, with his hands tied behind him, his face covered with spittle, and his hair all rent and torn. O my soul, even so hard a heart as thine could scarce bear such a sight as this, much less her tender heart! But what was this in comparison with what she endured when he was so cruelly scourged at the pillar; when he was crowned with piercing thorns, and buffeted by a whole band of soldiers! O what pangs did she suffer when she saw him presented to the people with the ‘Ecce homo!’ Behold the man! How did she then feel in her soul all those wounds she there discovered in his head and body? Nor did she suffer less, but rather much more, when she followed him in his last journey to Mount Calvary, bearing his cross on his mangled shoulders, and marking the way with his sacred blood. But what was all this if compared with what she endured, when she heard the strokes of the hammer driving the nails into his hands and feet; when she saw him hoisted up into the air, and there hanging, extended as upon a rack, and supported by his wounds; when standing near the cross, she saw the extremity of the torture he there endured; contemplated the multitude and variety of his sufferings, heard his last dying words, and saw him give up the ghost? O how truly might she then cry out with the Prophet, ‘O all you that pass by the way, attend and see, if there be sorrow like to my sorrow!’ Lament. i. 12. Learn my soul, from this Queen of sorrows, with what eye thou oughtest to look upon the sufferings of the Son of God, and how to bewail those sins which have given cause to them.
Conclude to imitate the virtues of which this blessed Lady has given us an illustrious example in this martyrdom she endured under the cross of her Son - especially learn her courage and fortitude under such bitter suffering; her patience and perfect conformity to the will of God; her lively faith and hope. These must support thee also under all thy crosses.
Consider first, how the Jews perceiving that Pilate was bent upon releasing our Saviour, told him that if he released that man he could be no friend of Caesar, (the emperor,) for whosoever made himself a king opposed Caesar. (John xix. 12.) See here, my soul, what evils human respects are capable of producing, and how sad a thing it is, either to fear or to love any thing more than God. Pilate’s resolution in a moment falls to the ground, upon the apprehension of being accused before Caesar, and of losing his favour; rather than risk this, he is determined to make a sacrifice of his conscience in condemning the innocent. Alas! have we never had a share in the like guilt? Has not human fear, or the apprehension of what the world would say, too often influenced us to condemn, at least in fact, our Lord and his doctrine by mortal sin? Has not a much less consideration than the fear of losing the favour of an emperor, prevailed on these occasions over our best resolutions? O what hold do we give to the enemy by these human fears, and by our irregular affections to this cheating world! But see the vain excuses by which men seek to palliate the guilt of their sins, and to save their conscience. Pilate washes his hands and cries out, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just man - look you to it,’ Matt. xxvii. 24; as if this ceremony and verbal declaration could clear him, in the sight of the just judge, from the guilt of concurring in the death of the innocent. But see also into what dismal extremities unhappy souls cast themselves when they are once obstinately bent upon sin, in that dreadful sentence which the Jews pronounced against themselves on that occasion: ‘His blood be upon us and upon our children!’
Consider 2ndly, how Pilate proceeds to give judgment of death against the Lord of life, and sentences our Saviour to the cross in compliance with the cry of the whole people, who still call out in a tumultuous manner, ‘Crucify him, crucify him.’ But O! my soul, reflect that it was the voice of thy crying sins that far more effectually called for the death of the Son of God than the cry of the Jews; for that tumult could have had no power to bring on his crucifixion, had not he been determined to suffer this kind of death for the expiation of thy sins. But see with what loud huzzas, with what triumph and joy, this sentence is received by the enemies of our Lord - and with what sighs and tears, with what grief and anguish by his friends, and most especially by his blessed mother. But how does this Lamb of God behave on this occasion? In what manner does he receive this sentence of death? He receives it in silence and peace, with perfect submission and conformity to the will of his Father: he receives it even with joy out of his infinite charity for us, as the only means of our redemption and salvation. See, my soul, whether thou submittest to thy crosses with the like dispositions. Dost thou embrace them as the means of divine appointment to bring thee to heaven?
Consider 3rdly, that this sentence of death pronounced against our Lord was an act of the highest injustice on the part of Pilate; but highly just on the part of God in consideration of our sins, which his Son had taken upon himself. And therefore our Saviour, who is infinitely holy, could not indeed but abhor the crime of Pilate, though he suffered it; but as the judgment and sentence of his Father he embraced it as being most holy and just; he bowed down and adored it with all the powers of his soul; to teach us and all that desire to be his disciples to distinguish, on the like occasions when we have any thing to suffer from others, between man’s injustice and God’s justice, and to receive our sufferings, from what hand soever they come, and how unjustly soever, as highly just on the part of God, punishing us by those instruments for our sins.
Conclude with thanksgiving to the infinite charity of the Father, who, for the love of us, spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all, and sentenced him to die; and to the infinite charity of the Son, for embracing so cordially this sentence of death for the love of us. Make an oblation in return of thy whole self, both to the Father and to the Son, and desire henceforward to live only for him who has delivered himself up to death for the love of thee.
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