+IHS PASSION OF OUR LORD: THE 31 MEDITATION of the carrying of the Cross
The 31 Meditation of the carrying of the Cross.And the Soldiers took Jesus & pulling off his scarlet garment, they clothed him in his own vestments, & brought him forth that they might crucify him.
Consider first, that thy Lord, whom Pilate seemed hitherto a little to favor, is now destitute of all human aid & delivered up to the executioners; least thou shouldest be forsaken of God, & delivered up to the Devil. Behold his tender body, wounded in every part, & rubbed with their cruel hands. Thou canst not endure to be touched upon any light hurt: what pain then doest thou think our Lord endured by the rude & barbarous pullings of the soldiers?
Consider secondly,how the soldiers pulled off his garment, making his most chaste heart ashamed to be seen naked afore all the people. Behold how his purple garment cleaving to the congealed blood, being violently pulled off, did renew the wounds, make them bleed afresh, & pluck away the torn skin together with the flesh. But Christ put off this garment that he might with more alacrity take up the wood of the cross. For even as workmen, when they go about any great labor, put off their clothes, that they may work the more nimbly; so it is written of Christ, that in his passion he did four times out off his clothes when he was to effect any great work. That thou shouldest not be ignorant with how great desire he wrought thy salvation, First, when by his whipping he was to shed his blood for thee over his whole body. Secondly, when he was to receive a crown of thorns upon his head, to prepare an assured Kingdom for thee in Heaven. Thirdly, when he was to lay this wood of the Cross upon his shoulders, as the Scepter, or Soverignity of the Kingdom, or as the Key of David, with which he should open heaven for thee. Fourthly when he was to ascend that tree of the Cross, as the throne of Salomon.
Consider thirdly, that his own clothes were given him again, that his face being all polluted, and as it were disfigured with spitting, blood, and filth, yet he might be known by his accustomed apparel. But our Lord put on those vestments, that he might both consecrate unto God his vestments, the Church, and every member thereof, with his Cross, and his fresh bleeding Wounds; and also that he might teach us to endure the Cross and all afflictions. It is not read, that the Crown of Thorns was taken from his head; that according to the old Prophecy of David, (which Saint Justine complaineth was razed out by the Jews) our Lord might reign from the wood.
Consider 4. That our Lord was brought forth out of the city, that as one unworthy to die in the holy City, he might be put to death amongst the wicked. But our Lord went forth, 1. To treach, that he offered this sacrifice for the whole world, and not for the Jews only, for whom the sacrifice was offered in the Temple; yea rather that this sacrifice should not be profitable to the Jews so long as they trusted in their ancient rites & ceremonies: according to that saying: we have an altar, of which they have no power to eat, who serve the Tabernacle. Therefore he went forth carrying his Cross; that he might as it were with his sheep hook enforce thee, a stray sheep, to come home unto his fold. 2. That thou shouldest not think that Christ is found amongst the cares of the City, and multitude of business. He is abroad in quiet of conscience, in contempt and nakedness, and want of all things. Let us then go forth unto him (saith the Apostle) without the Tents, carrying his reproach. Fly the world, that thou maist find Christ.
And carrying his Cross, he went forth into that place which is called Calvary, and in the Hebrew, Golgotha: There were also carried two wicked men with him, that they should be put to death.
Consider first, that in the whole City there was no man found to carry the Cross of our Lord to the place of punishment. The soldiers would not, & the Jews esteemed the very touching of it an execrable thing, because the Scripture saith, that accursed was every one, which should hang on the wood: therefore out Lord must needs take the wood of his punishment upon his own shoulders. Consider & weigh with thy self, whether thou dost not imitate them, when it is grievous unto thee to have one thought of the passion of our Lord, and a most hard thing, to suffer any little affliction for the love of thy spouse.
Consider secondly, with what insolence they lay that wood upon his tender shoulders, being wounded with many stripes. The world giveth this grievous and troublesome Cross, which thou must beare alone, without the help of any other but Christ: who imposeth a sweet yoke and a light burden, and he himself lifted it up with his grace, and exalteth it over the jaw bones. Pray our Lord to lay thy sins upon this Cross, carrying them from thee to his own body, and washing them away with his blood & death: For he is the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.
Consider thirdly, whither our Lord went: to wit to a hill near the city, called Golgotha, which is, Calvaria, either by reason of the sepulture of our first parent, Adam & of his scull there found, ( of which opinion St. Chrysostome, and St. Jerome report some to have been ) or else of the sculls of dead persons, which had suffered death in this hill, being the place of execution. The place was filthy and infamous: but Christ sanctified it by his death, and with his blood washed away the sin of Adam.
Consider fourthly, that 2 Thieves were carried to execution with ChristL that according to the prophet of Isaias, He might be reputed with the wicked, and a rumor be spread abroad, that 3. Thieves the same day were judged to die. For it is likely, that about the most famous Feasts, when the whole people use to assemble themselves together their custom was, to condemn and execute some guilty malefactors, for example to the rest: and now at the request of the Jews (whose will Pilate intended to satisfy) there were certain of the most notorious malefactors chosen, of whom thy Lord should be accounted the captain & leader. So great was the devise of the Jews to obscure the name of Christ. But our Lord chose to be crucified with those thieves and malefactors to another purpose and intent. First, that thou shouldest know that he died for sinners, & that there is no offense so great, but it may be purged by the death of Christ. Secondly, that by this his disgrace and ignominy he might obtain eternal glory for thee, make thee of a thief to be a judge in the world to come. Pray then thy Lord to draw thee to the hill with him, and to communicate unto thee the merits of his Cross.
And going forth they found a certain man of Cyrene, called Simon, coming from the country, the Father of Alexander and Rufus: him they compelled to take uo his Cross, and they enforced him to carry the Cross after Jesus.
Consider first, that the Jews perceiving the weakness of Christ, being spent with labors & pains, and with the loss of so much blood; and fearing, least he might die before he suffered the most grievous torments of the Cross; being moved, not with pity, but with cruelty, caused this Gentile to carry the Cross after Jesus. But God directed this act of theirs to another end. For he signified hereby; First, that the Cross, being consecrated with he blood of our Lord, was given to Christians, converted from Gentilism, who followed Christ going before them loaded with his Cross, being themselves also loaded with they crosses in sundry manners, as some by Martyrdom, some by fasting, some by watchings, and by other voluntary afflictions, some by conquering themselves, and subduing the wicked motions of the mind. Secondly that it is not enough that Christ carry his own Cross, and that we only behold it by faith and contemplation. But it behooveth us to set our hand to it, and in holy works to follow Christ, which saith: He which will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Consider secondly, who he is, which doth profitably carry the Cross of Christ. First. Simon, that is to say, obedient to the Commandments and suggestions of God. Secondly, Coming from the Country: who putting off the redness of sins, forsaketh his uncivil manners. Thirdly, of Cyrene of Pentapolis, that thou shouldest carry the Cross of Christ in thy five senses.
Consider 3. that this Simon, was constrained even against his will, to lay this cross upon his shoulders: to teach thee, First to offer violence to nature, which abhorreth such a crossing the change of manners, and mortifying of the senses, Secondly, not to thrust thyself rashly into perils, but patiently to suffer the evils, which others do unto thee. The Soldiers lay the Cross upon him; for wicked men by their vexations and torments give occasion to the just to suffer with Christ.
Consider fourthly the profit, which this Simon had, as a reward of his labor, though he carried the cross even against his will. First his name, but the divulging of the Gospel through the world, is consecrated to eternal memory. Secondly his City & Country is made know to all Christians. Thirdly his children were not only Christians, but also famous amongst Christians. Do not thou therefore fear the Cross, & troubles for Christ his name, for the Cross of Christ maketh men glorious, and bringeth many commodities with it. But thou must follow after, not run before Jesus; nor chose what cross thou likest but accept if that, which he sendeth and pray him to lighten thy burden with his grace, & to strengthen thy shoulders.
~ Fr. Francois Coster S.J.