+IHS PASSION OF OUR LORD: THE 35. MEDITATION OF THE First Word On The Cross
BICCI DI LORENZO
The 35. Meditation of the first word of Christ.
But Jesus said,
Consider first, what thy Lord in these great pains of the Cross did do, say or think, when as amongst all those torments he found no comfort, neither outwardly by men, nor inwardly in his own soul. If he moved his body, the wounds of the nails tormented him; if his head, the thorns ran in deeper and pricked him; if he stirred not at all, his torment was intolerable over his whole wearied body. Think thou upon these things in all thy labors and afflictions which thou sufferest for thy Lord. He reproved no man, although he were slandered divers ways. But because the mouth speaketh from the abundance of the heart, his words even upon the Cross were directed to thy profit and salvation, and do declare most manifestly, that he prayed to his Father incessantly for thee, when by reason of his torments he was not able to utter one word.
Consider secondly, his swan-like song, and note the last words of thy Lord, which he spake to thee at the point of death. For even as the voice of the Serpent, hissing out of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, instilled the poison of sin; so the last words of Christ from the Tree of the Cross were very effectual for our salvation, and full of burning fervor, as proceeding from the depth of infinite charity. He spake with a loud voice, and weeping tears; with great affection, and deep sighs; in few words, but with many tears, mixed with blood streaming down from his head. His tears watered his prayers, and his blood adorned them; his eyes pierced his Fathers ears, his sighs moved his heart. Do thou listen to these words, mark them diligently, and gather the fruit thereof. For by these seven words the words and forms of the seven Sacraments are sanctified, the seven gifts of the holy Ghost are obtained, and the seven deadly sins are driven away.
Consider thirdly, (but Jesus said) First whilst the Jews were busy in crucifying, tormenting, & mocking him, Jesus as if he had not marked these things, yea rather that he might render good for evil, said. Secondly, thee who hitherto in his own cause, to the admiration of all men held his peace, and could not be brought to speak, but being adjudged; and had also abstained from the most just defense of himself : now in the midst of his torments is not silent in thy most unjust cause, but being not entreated, entreateth, yea and entreateth with most effectual words. Jesus said: who? the Son of God. To whom? to God the Father. Where? upon the Cross. When? being ready to die, and his vital spirits being spent. How? not sitting, nor lying easily; but upright upon his feet, with his hands lift up and spread abroad, like Moses in former times, and all bleeding. For whom? for sinners, who were careless of their own salvation: for Christ and his friends pray for sinners, before sinners pray for themselves. What? he cravat mercy, offering his prayers and supplications, appealing from this cruel sentence of the Jews (his blood be upon us and upon our children) to a better sentence and full of mercy, and desiring, that this cruel sentence might be made frustrate. Before whom? openly, in the hearing of his enemies, to teach them mercy & sweetness; and in the presence of his Mother, and of his friends, both because they should be witness of his pardoning them, & also that they should never pray for the re edge of this sin, O excellent speech of highest merit, and worthy to be imitated by all men, full of labor, and charity, mercy, and piety. Have confidence then in Chris, and pray him, who by speaking first for sinner, before he spake for his Mother, left to us a tesitmony how much he esteemeth the salvation of sinners, that he will vouchsafe to have continual care of thee now in Heaven.
Father forgive them.
Pause upon every word. (Father) he doth not say Lord, which is a name of severity and justice, but Father, which is a name of mercy, and of the new Testament, given unto us in this place by the blood & merits of Christ: that even as he would be our Brother, so we should have all one father in Heaven. He saith therefore O Father, know me thy Son; the Father will deny nothing to his son: I came into the world to this end, that thou shouldest receive thine enemies for thy children. Hear me then praying for them. For even as the prayers of the Priest in the Church shall hereafter be very effectual, which shall conclude in my name in these words, through Christ our Lord: so I do now pray unto thy my Father, through me thy only begotten Son. Therefore as thou lovest me thy Son, so receive these my prayers. For I ascended this cross, & have suffered all these stripes that I might obtain mercy and pardon for them. If therefore thou doest reject the prayers of thy son, and not hear thy son, thou shalt impose a greater torment on me, then the Cross itself; which I suffer that I might take away a greater evil, that is, that I might turn away thy wrath from them. Spare therefore the great dolors of thy Son, least he seem to have endured them in vain. Thou livest reward to others labors; I desire only this reward for my pains, that thous wilt forgive these men.
(Forgive) here our Lord doth the office of a Priest: for he prayeth for the sins of the people, and he cryeth, not only as a Priest but as a sacrifice, desiring not a free pardon, but offering a full satisfaction. His wounds cry, his blood cryeth, his spitting, his pains, and all his members cry (Forgive;) accept of these torments for their sins; I have payed their debts; I give my blood for the price, my pains for the ransom, my life in satisfaction, my body & soul for a sacrifice Be thou therefore merciful: for this is copious redemption. A hard thing is required, twit, that the Father should forget the death of his only begotten Son, and of such, and so great a Son: but the Son begets, and he begets with his blood.
Secondly he asketh it not conditionally, as he prayed for himself in the Garden, If it be possible, if they wilt, if it may be done; but absolutely, (Forgive:) Both that thous mayest learn to pray to God for pardon of thy sins, and for his divine grace, without any condition,because that hath always relation to Gods honor: And also that this shouldest freely forgive thy neighbors faults without any condition.
Thirdly, he prayeth to have them forgiven presently, and not to be deferred till after his death. For he would not leave this life, till peace was made with God. Parents, when they are dying, do often leave unto their children small store of goods, and those entangled with many difficulties, charges, debts, and contentions: But Christ before his death paid all debts with his own blood; took away all difficulties, and charges, and made a peace and reconciliation with his Father. He sayeth therefore,O Father forgive, and that by and by: For the time of having mercy on him commeth, for the time cometh; to wit, the hour of sacrifice, the day of satisfaction, the time of forgiveness, the last instant of my life, in which being presently to yield up my breath, I now propound my last petition, and entreat only this; O Father forgive them.
Fourthly, he saith not forgive the sins already committed; but only (forgive,) even those evils, which they shall hereafter commit against me, their irrirsions their blasphemies, the bitterness of the vinegar, my death, the wound in my side: that thou also shouldest quickly forgive thy enemies, and remit all things, keeping no rancor at all in thy heart.
Fifthly, he sayeth not, I forgive; both because the offense against his Father grieved him more, then his own torments; and also because being intentive up on the happiness, which should redound to all the world by this his Passion, he seemed to esteem all the evils, which the Jews did unto him, rather as a benefit, then any hurt. Like as a man, having a grievous ulcer in his side,if his enemy, thinking to kill him, should would him in that place, whereby the ulcer should be opened, and the corruption let out. would be glad of that wound, which was the cause of his cure: So desirous was our Lord of thy salvation, that he rejoiced at those his pains, which were the cause of so great good unto thee.
(Them) Note first that he sayeth not, these wicked Crucifiers, these Hangmen, these adversaries and enemies, both because thou shouldest refrain from all evil words and reproaches; and also because thy Lord reputed no man his enemy, who paid the price of his death for all men, and offereth salvation to every one, loving dearly even these very Jews his executioners, not for their own evil works, but for their Father’s sakes, who were holy and just men: and therefore speaking of his stripes. (I was whipped (saith he) in the house of them, that loved me:) Not by them that loved me, but the Sons of them, that love me, that good might be done unto the Children for their holy Father’s sakes. Secondly, (them ) in the plural number; not only those, which conspire now against my death, but also to all those , who at any time by their sins have given cause of this my Passion. For thou shalt not be excluded from this prayer, whose sins have nee cause of our Lords death; and thou mayest have hope of pardon, if thou wilt join thy prayer with the prayer of Christ. For if the prayer of Christ did profit them, which never required it doubtless it will profit thee, requiring it of him, and praying together with him.
For they know not what they do.
Consider first, that Christ, to whom all judgment is given, and whom his enemies had offended, did not take upon him the office of a Judge, or an accuser, but rather of a defender & patron. The Jews sought how to accuse him, and found nothing worthy of accusation in him. Our innocent Lord, that was offended, seeketh how to excuse the offense; and the malice of the offenee was such, that nothing could be alleadged for the extenuating thereof, but only ignorance. And yet this ignorance, being voluntary, could no more excuse the Jews, then him, who wittingly and willingly hideth his eyes, because he will not see him, whom he striketh, or killeth. If Christ then in the midst of his torments mitigate the sins of his torturers, will he not now before his Father excuse their sins, who call upon his name with faith devotion, and sorrow for their sins?
Consider secondly, that the Father answered not his Son by word; and yet Christ was heard for his reverence. For God when he denied his Son request, answered in the garden by an Angel” but, when he granted it, he answered not in word, but in deed. For first he restrained all creatures from rising against his enemies in revenge of his death, all which would have fought for their creator, if this prayer of Christ had not stayed them. Secondly, he reduced one of the Thieves unto penance. Thirdly, at the death of his Son he changed the mind of the Centurion, and others. Fourthly, upon the solemnity of Pentecost he converted sometimes three, & sometimes five thousand of the same Jews unto his faith. Therefore God the Father not by outward words but by inward consent answered his Son in this manner: O my Son, I grant that, which thou requirest, & laying aside all wrath, I open the fountains of mercy, and I offer grace, and pardon of sins, Justice, and adoption of children, as well unto these, who have afflicted thee, as also unto all the Nations of the world for ever and ever, so as they will admit mercy offered unto them. For I will compel none against their will, but I give power to all to return into grace and favor with me, if they will, and to be made the Sons of God, and to come into my in hesitance in Heaven, so as they will be partakers of the merit of this my Passion through faith and the Sacraments. Do thou cry out now with great affliction: great are thy mercies; therefore we give thanks to thee our Lord God. And pray him to bestow the gift of wisdom upon thee, that thou mayest know and admire his bounty and goodness; and driving away all envy, to give unto thee the virtue of charity, that thou mayest bee inflamed with the love of thy neighbor.~ Fr. Francois Coster S.J.