REFLECTIONS AND AFFECTIONS ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST
Pilate delivers over the innocent Lamb into the hands of those wolves, to do with Him what they will. But he delivered Jesus up to their will. (Luke xxiii. 25). These ministers of Satan seize hold of Him fiercely; they strip Him of the purple garment, as is suggested to them by the Jews, and put His own raiment again upon Him: They stripped him of the purple garment, and clothed him in his own raiment, and led him away to crucify him. (Matt. xxvii. 31). And this they did, says St. Ambrose, in order that Jesus might be recognised, at least, by His apparel; His beautiful Face being so much disfigured with Blood and Wounds, that in other apparel it would have been difficult for Him to have been recognised as the person He was: “They put on Him His own raiment, that He might the better be recognised by all; since, as His Face was all bloody and disfigured, it would not have been an easy matter for all to have recognised Him.” They then take two rough beams, and of them they quickly construct the Cross, the length of which was fifteen feet, as St. Bonaventure says, with St. Anselm, and they lay it upon the shoulders of the Redeemer.
But Jesus did not wait, says St. Thomas of Villanova, for the executioner to lay the Cross upon Him; of His own accord He stretched forth His hands, and eagerly laid hold of it, and placed it upon His own wounded shoulders: “He waited not till the soldier should lay it upon Him, but He laid hold of it joyfully.” Come, He then said, come, My beloved Cross; it is now three-and-thirty years that I am sighing and searching for thee. I embrace thee, I clasp thee to My Heart, for thou art the altar upon which it is My will to sacrifice My Life out of love for My flock.
Ah, my Lord, how couldst Thou do so much good to one who has done Thee so much evil? O God, when I think of Thy having gone so far as to die under torments to obtain for me the Divine friendship, and that I have so often voluntarily lost it afterwards through my own fault, I would that I could die of grief! How often hast Thou forgiven me, and I have gone back and offended Thee again! How could I ever have hoped for pardon, were it not that I knew that Thou didst die in order to pardon me? By this Thy death, then, I hope for pardon, and for perseverance in loving Thee. I repent, O my Redeemer, of having offended Thee. By Thy merits, pardon me, who promise never to displease Thee more. I prize and love Thy friendship more than all the good things of this world. Oh, let it not be my lot to go back and lose it! Inflict on me, O Lord, any punishment rather than this. O my Jesus, I am not willing to lose Thee any more; no, I would sooner be willing to lose my life: I wish to love Thee always.
The officers of justice come forth with the prisoners condemned; and in the midst of these also moves forward unto death the King of Heaven, the only-begotten Son of God, laden with His Cross: And bearing his own cross, he went forth to that place which is called Calvary. (Jo. xix. 17). Do ye, too, O Blessed Seraphim, sally forth from Heaven, and come and accompany your Lord, Who is going to Calvary, there to be executed, together with the malefactors, upon a gibbet of infamy.
O horrifying sight! A God executed! Behold that Messias Who but a few days before had been proclaimed the Saviour of the world, and received with acclamations and benedictions by the people, who cried out: Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord. (Matt. xxi. 9); and, after all, to see Him as, bound, ridiculed, and execrated by all, He moves along, laden with a Cross, to die the death of a villain! A God executed for men! And shall we find any man who loves not this God? O my Eternal Lover, late is it that I begin to love Thee: grant that during the remainder of my life I may make amends for the time that I have lost. I know, indeed, that all I can do is but little in comparison of the love which Thou hast borne me; but it is at least my wish to love Thee with my whole heart. Too great a wrong should I be doing Thee if, after so many kindnesses, I were to divide my heart in twain, and give part of it to some object other than Thyself. From this day forth I consecrate unto Thee all my life, my will, my liberty: dispose of me as Thou pleasest. I beg Paradise of Thee, that there I may love Thee with all my strength. I wish to love Thee exceedingly in this life, that I may love Thee exceedingly for all eternity. Aid me by Thy grace: this I beg of Thee, and hope for, through Thy merits.