On The Passion of Jesus Christ

St. Alphonsus de Ligouri








[Etext corrected, arranged and edited by Br Sean, a choir monk, 2008 from two text files at archive.org. HTML edited by Joseph Bolin]


The power of the Passion of Jesus Christ to enkindle the divine love in every heart 331

I. What the Passion of Jesus Christ has done for God and for us 331

II. What the Passion of Jesus Christ requires of us 335

III. A sweet entertainment for souls that love God, at the sight of Jesus crucified 338

1. Sufferings of Jesus on the cross 338 2. Death of Jesus 341 3. Fruits of the death of Jesus 344 4. Conclusion 346 5. Devout aspirations 349

HYMN The love which Jesus bears to the soul 351

I. What the Passion of Jesus Christ has Done for God and for Us

[331] Father Balthassar Alvarez, a great servant of God, used to say that we must not think we have made any progress in the way of God until we have come to keep Jesus crucified ever in our heart. And St. Francis de Sales said that "the love which is not the offspring of the Passion is feeble." Yes, because we cannot have a more powerful motive for loving God than the Passion of Jesus Christ, by which we know that the Eternal Father, to manifest to us his exceeding love for us, was pleased to send his only begotten Son upon earth to die for us sinners. Whence the Apostle says that God, through the excess of love wherewith he loved us, willed that the death of his Son should convey life to us: For His exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ.1 And this was precisely the expression used by Moses and Elias on Mount Tabor, in speaking of the Passion of Jesus Christ. They did not know how to give it any other appellation than an excess of love: And they spoke of His excess, which He should consummate in Jerusalem.2

When our Saviour came into the world, the shepherds

1 "Propter nimiam charitatem suam, qua dilexit nos, cum essemus mortui peccatis, convivificavit nos in Christo." Ephes. ii. 4. 2 "Et dicebant excessum ejus, quem completurus erat in Jerusalem." Luke, ix. 31. ["excessum'' also means "departure" or "death"]

[332] heard the angels singing, Glory to God in the highest.1 But the humiliation of the Son of God in becoming man, through his love for man, might have seemed rather to obscure than to manifest the divine glory; but no; there was no means by which the glory of God could have been better manifested to the world than by Jesus Christ dying for the salvation of mankind, since the Passion of Jesus Christ has made us know how great is the mercy of God, in that a God was willing to die to save sinners, and to die, moreover, by a death so painful and ignomini ous. St. John Chrysostom says that the Passion of Jesus Christ was not an ordinary suffering, nor his death a simple death like that of other men.2

It has made us know the divine wisdom. Had our Redeemer been merely God, he could not have made satisfaction for man; for God could not make satisfac- tion to himself in place of man; nor could God make satisfaction by means of suffering, being impassible. On the other hand, had he been merely man, man could not have made satisfaction for the grievous injury done by him to the divine majesty. What, then, did God do? He sent his own very Son, true God with the Father, to take human flesh, that so as man he might by his death pay the debt due to the divine justice, and as God might make to it full satisfaction.

It has, moreover, made us know how great is the divine justice. St. John Chrysostom says that God reveals to us the greatness of his justice, not so much by hell in which he punishes sinners, as by the sight of Jesus on the cross; since in hell creatures are punished for the sins of their own, but on the cross we behold a God cruelly treated in order to make satisfaction for the sins of men. What obligation had Jesus Christ to die for us? He was offered

1 "Gloria in altissimis Deo." Luke, ii. 14. 2 "Non passio communis, non mors simplex, morti similis." De Pass. s. 6.

[333] because it was His own will.1 He might have justly abandoned man to his perdition; but his love for us would not let him see us lost; wherefore he chose to give him self up to so painful a death in order to obtain for us salvation: He hath loved us, and delivered Himself up for us. 2 From all eternity he had loved man: I have loved thee with an everlasting love? But then, seeing that his justice obliged him to condemn him, and to keep him at a dis- tance separated from himself in hell, his mercy urged him to find out a way by which he might be able to save him. But how? By making satisfaction himself to the divine justice by his own death. And consequently he willed that there should be affixed to the cross whereon he died the sentence of condemnation to eternal death which man had merited, in order that it might remain there cancelled in his blood. Blotting out the writing of the decree that was against us, which was contrary to us, He hath taken the same out of the way, fastening it to the cross.4 And thus, through the merits of his own blood, he par- dons all our sins: Forgiving you all offences.5 And at the same time he spoiled the devils of the rights they had acquired over us, carrying along with him in triumph as well our enemies as ourselves, who were their prey. And despoiling the principalities and powers, He hath exposed them confidently in open show, triumphing over them in Himself.6 On which Theophylact comments, "As a conqueror in

1 "Oblatus est, quia ipse voluit." Isa. liii. 7. 2 "Dilexit nos, et tradidit semetipsum pro nobis." Eph. v. 2. 3 "In charitate perpetua dilexi te." Jer. xxxi. 3. 4 "Delens quod adversus nos erat chirographum decreti, quod erat contrarium nobis, et ipsum tulit de medio, affigens illud cruci." Col. ii. 14. 5 "Donans vobis omnia delicta." Col. ii. 13. 6 "Et expolians principatus et potestates, traduxit eos confidenter palam triumphans in semetipso." Col. ii. 15.

[334] triumph, carrying with him the booty and the enemy."1

Hence, when satisfying the divine justice on the cross, Jesus Christ speaks but of mercy. He prays his Father to have mercy on the very Jews who had contrived his death, ard on his murderers who were putting him to death: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.2 While lie was on the cross, instead of punishing the two thieves, who had just before reviled him, And they that were crucified with Him reviled Him,3 -- when he heard one asking for mercy, Lord, remember me when Thou shalt come into Thy kingdom,4 -- overflowing with mercy, he prom- ises him Paradise that very day: This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.5 Then, before he expired, he gave to us, in the person of John, his own mother to be our mother: He saith to the disciple, Behold thy mother.7 There upon the cross he declares himself content in having done everything to obtain salvation for us, and he makes perfect the sacrifice by his death: Afterwards Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, . . . said, It is consummated; and bowing His head, He gave up the ghost.7

And behold, by the death of Jesus Christ, man is set free from sin and from the power of the devil; and, more over, is raised to grace, and to a greater degree of grace, than Adam lost: And where sin abounded, says St. Paul,

1 Quasi victor ac triumphator circumvehens secum praedam et hostes in triumphum. 2 "Pater, dimitte illis; non enim sciunt quid faciunt." Luke, xxiii. 34. 3 "Et qui cum eo crucifixi erant, convitiabantur ei." Mark, xv. 32. 4 "Domine, memento mei, cum veneris in regnum tuum." Luke, xxiii. 42. 5 "Hodie mecum eris in paradise." Luke, xxiii. 43. 6 "Dixit discipulo : Ecce Mater tua." John, xix. 27. 7 "Postea, sciens Jesus quia omnia consummata sunt . . . dixit : Consummatum est. Et inclinato capite, tradidit spiritum." John, xix. 28.

[335] grace did more abound.1 It remains therefore for us, writes the Apostle, to have frequent recourse with all confidence to this throne of grace, which Jesus crucified exactly is, in order to receive from his mercy the grace of salvation, together with aid to overcome the temptations of the world and of hell! Let its go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid.2

Ah, my Jesus, I love Thee above all things, and whom would I wish to love if I love not thee, who art infinite goodness, and who hast died for me? Would that I could die of grief every time I think how I had driven Thee away from my soul by my sins, and separated my- self from Thee, who art my only good, and who hast loved me so much. Who shall separate us from the charity of Christ? 3 It is sin only that can separate me from Thee. But I hope, in the blood Thou hast shed for me, that Thou wilt never allow me to separate myself from Thy love, and to lose Thy grace, which I prize more than every other good. I give myself wholly to Thee. Do Thou accept me, and draw all my affections to Thy self, that so I may love none but Thee.

II. What the Passion of Jesus Christ Requires of Us

Does Jesus Christ, perhaps, claim too much in wish ing us to give ourselves wholly to him, after he has given to us all his blood and his life, in dying for us upon the cross? The charity of Christ presseth us. 4 Let

1 "Ubi autem abundavit delictum, superabundavit gratia." Rom. v. 20. 2 "Adeamus ergo cum fiducia ad thronum gratiae, ut misericordiam consequamur, et gratiam inveniamus in auxilio opportune." Heb. iv. 16. 3 "Quis enim nos separabit a charitate Christi?" Rom. viii. 35. 4 "Charitas enim Christi urget nos." 2 Cor. v. 14.

[336] us hear what St. Francis de Sales says upon these words: "To know that Jesus has loved us unto death, and that the death of the cross, is not this to feel our hearts con- strained by a violence which is the stronger in propor tion to its loveliness?" And then he adds, "My Jesus gives himself all to me, and I give myself all to him. On his bosom will I live and die. Neither death nor life shall ever separate me from him."1

It was for this end, says St. Paul, that Jesus Christ died, that each of us should no longer live to the world nor to himself, but to Him alone who has given himself wholly to us. And Christ died for all, that they who live may not now live to themselves, but unto Him who died for them. 2 He who lives to the world seeks to please the world; he who lives to himself seeks to please himself; but he who lives to Jesus Christ seeks only to please Jesus Christ, and fears only to displease him. His only joy is to see him loved; his only sorrow, to see him despised. This is to live to Jesus Christ; and this is what he claims from each one of us. I repeat, does he claim too much from us, after having given us his blood and his life?

Wherefore, then, O my God! do we employ our affec- tions in loving creatures, relatives, friends, the great ones of the world, who have never suffered for us scourges, thorns, or nails, nor shed one drop of blood for us; and not in loving a God, who for love of us came down from heaven and was made man, and has shed all his blood for us in the midst of torments, and finally died of grief upon a cross, in order to win to himself our hearts! Moreover, in order to unite himself more close- ly to us, he has left himself, after his death, upon our altars, where he makes himself one with us, that we

1 Love of God, book vii. ch. 8. 2 "Pro omnibus mortuus est Christus, ut et qui vivunt, jam non sibi vivant, sed ei qui pro ipsis mortuus est." 2 Cor. v. 15.

[337] might understand how burning is the love wherewith he loves us? "He hath mingled himself with us," exclaims St. John Chrysostom, "that we may be one and the same thing; for this is the desire of those who ardently love."1 And St. Francis de Sales, speaking of the Holy Com- munion, adds: "There is no action in which we can think of our Saviour as more tender or more loving than this, in which he, as it were, annihilates himself, and re- duces himself to food, in order to unite himself to the hearts of his faithful."

But how comes it, O Lord! that I, after having been loved by Thee to such an excess, have had the heart to despise Thee? According to Thy just reproach, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have despised me.2 I have dared to turn my back upon Thee, in order to gratify my senses. Thou hast cast me behind Thy back.3 I have dared to drive Thee from my soul, The wicked have said to God, Depart from us.4 I have dared to afflict that heart of Thine which has loved me so much. And what, then, am I now to do? Ought I to be distrustful of Thy mercy? I curse the days wherein I have dis- honored Thee. Oh, would that I had died a thousand times, O my Saviour, rather than that I had ever offended Thee! O Lamb of God! Thou hast bled to death upon the cross to wash away our sins in Thy blood. O sin- ners! what would you not pay on the day of judgment for one drop of the blood of this Lamb? O my Jesus! have pity on me, and pardon me; but Thou knowest my weakness; take, then, my will, that it may never more rebel against Thee. Expel from me all love that is not for Thee. I choose Thee alone for my treasure

1 "Semetipsum nobis immiscuit, ut unum quid simus; ardenter enim amantium hoc est." Ad pop. Ant. hom. 61. 2 "Filios enutrivi et exaltavi; ipsi autem spreverunt me." Is. i. 2. 3 "Projecisti me post corpus tuum." Ezek. xxiii. 35. 4 "Qui dixerunt Deo: Recede a nobis." Job, xxi. 14.

[338] and my only good. Thou art sufficient for me; and I desire no other good apart from Thee. The God of my heart, and God is my portion forever.1

little sheep, beloved of God (so used St. Teresa to call the Blessed Virgin), who art the Mother of the di - vine Lamb, recommend me to thy Son. Thou, after Jesus, art my hope; for thou art the hope of sinners. To thy hands I intrust my eternal salvation. Spes nos- tra, salve.

III. A Sweet Entertainment for Souls that Love God, at the Sight of Jesus Crucified


Jesus on the cross! O stupendous sight for heaven and earth of mercy and of love! To see the Son of God dying through pain upon a gibbet of infamy, con demned as a malefactor to so bitter and shameful a death, in order to save sinful men from the penalty that was due to them! This sight has ever been, and will always be, the subject of the contemplation of the saints, and has led them willingly to renounce all the goods of the earth, and to embrace with great courage sufferings and death, that they might make themselves more pleas- ing to a God who died for love of them. The sight of Jesus despised between two thieves has made them love contempt far more than worldings have loved the hon ors of the world. Beholding Jesus covered with wounds upon the cross, they hold in abhorrence the pleasures of sense, and have endeavored to afflict their flesh in order to unite their sufferings to the sufferings of the Cruci- fied. Beholding the patience of our Saviour in his death, they have joyfully accepted the most painful sick nesses, and even the most cruel torments that tyrants

1 "Deus cordis mei, et pars mea Deus in aeternum." Ps. Ixxii. 26.

[339] can inflict. Lastly, from beholding the love of Jesus Christ in being willing to sacrifice his life for us in a sea of sorrows, they have sought to sacrifice to him all that they had, possessions, children, and even light it self.

St. Paul, in speaking of the love which the Eternal Father has borne towards us, in that, when he saw us dead by reason of sin, he willed to restore life to us by sending his Son to die for us, calls it too great a love. But God, who is rich in mercy for his exceeding charity where with He loved us, hath quickened us together in Christ.1 And in the same way ought we to call the love wherewith Jesus Christ has willed to die for us too great a love. Hence the same apostle says, We preach Jesus Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling-block, and unto the Gentiles, foolishness.2 St. Paul says that the death of Jesus Christ appeared to the Jews a stumbling-block, because they thought that he should have appeared on earth full of worldly majesty, and not indeed as one condemned to die like a criminal upon a cross. On the other hand, to the Gentiles it seemed a folly that a God should be will ing to die, and by such a death too, for his creatures. On this subject St. Laurence Justinian remarks: "We have seen Him who is wise infatuated through an excess of love."3 We have beheld Him who is the eternal wis- dom itself, the Son of God, become a fool for us, by reason of the too great love which he bore towards us.

And does it not seem a folly for a God, almighty and supremely happy in himself, to be willing of his own

1 "Deus autem, qui dives est in misericordia, propter nimiam charitatem suam qua dilexit nos, et cum essemus mortui peccatis, convivificavit nos in Christo." Eph. ii. 4. 2 "Praedicamus Christum crucifixum, Judaeis quidem scandalum, Gentibus autem stultitiam." 1 Cor, i. 23. 3 "Vidimus sapientiam amoris nimietate infatuatam." Serm. de Nat. Dom.

[340] accord to subject himself to be scourged, treated as a mock king, buffeted, spit upon in the face, condemned to die as a malefactor, abandoned by all upon a cross of shame, and this to save the miserable worms he himself had created? The loving St. Francis, when he thought of this, went about the country exclaiming with tears, "Love is not loved! Love is not loved!" And hence St. Bonaventure says that he who wishes to keep his love for Jesus Christ ought always to represent him to himself hanging on the cross and dying there for us. "Let him ever have before the eyes of his heart Christ dying upon the cross."1

Oh, happy is that soul which frequently sets before its eyes Jesus dying on the cross, and stops to contem- plate with tenderness the pains which Jesus has suffered, and the love wherewith he offered himself to the Father, while he lay agonizing on that bed of sorrow. Souls that love God, when they find themselves more than usually harassed by temptations of the devil and by fears about their eternal salvation, derive great comfort by considering in silence and alone Jesus hanging on the cross, and shedding blood from all his wounds. At the sight of the crucifix, all desires for the goods of this world flee utterly away. From that cross exhales a heavenly breath, which causes us to forget all earthly objects, and enkindles within us a holy desire of quitting all things, in order to employ all our affections in loving that Lord who has pleased to die through love for us.

Isaias foretold that our Redeemer would be a man of sorrows. And we have seen him . . . despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows.2 Now let him who wishes to behold this man of sorrows, foretold by Isaias, look on Jesus Christ dying on the cross. There, nailed by his

1 De perf. vit. c. 6. 2 "Vidimus eum . . . despectum, et novissimum virorum, virum dolorum." Isa. liii. 2.

[341] hands and feet, he hangs, the whole weight of his body pressing on his wounds in all his members, which are every one of them torn and bruised. He suffers con- tinual and excruciating pains; whichever way he turns, so far from finding relief, his pain but increases more and more, until it deprives him of life; and thus this man of sorrows is condemned by the Father to die of sheer sufferings on account of our sins.

What Christian, then, O my Jesus! knowing by faith that Thou hast died upon the cross for love of him, can live without loving Thee! Pardon me, then, O Lord! first of all, this great sin of having lived so many years in the world without loving Thee. My beloved Saviour, the thought of death fills me with dread, as being the moment when I shall give an account to Thee of all the sins that I have committed against Thee; but that blood that I see flowing from Thy wounds causes me to hope for pardon from Thee, and at the same time the grace of loving Thee for the future with my whole heart, by virtue of those merits Thou hast earned by so many pains. I give myself wholly to Thee; I will no longer be my own; I desire to do all; I desire to suffer in order to please Thee. I will die for Thee who hast died for me: I will say to Thee, with St. Francis, "May I die for love of the love of Thee, who didst vouchsafe to die for love of the love of me."1


Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.2 These words, uttered by Jesus Christ upon the cross when he was on the point of death, bring great comfort to the

1 Moriar amore amoris tui, qui amore amoris mei dignatus es mori. 2 "Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum." Luke. xxiii. 46.

[342] dying, who find themselves engaged in that last combat with hell, and are about to pass into eternity.

My beloved Jesus, I will not wait for the moment of my death to recommend my soul to Thee. From this moment I recommend it to Thee. By that blood shed for me, permit it not to be separated from Thee. Hence forth I will be Thine, and all Thine without reserve. If Thou seest that I should ever turn my back upon Thee, as I have in times past, I beseech Thee, let me die in this moment in which I hope to be in Thy grace.

In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped; I shall not be confounded forever.1 O faithful soul! lift up thine eyes, and look at the cross of thy Redeemer, now dead for the love of thee. Say to him:

O my Jesus! in Thy flesh lacerated and torn by the scourges, the thorns, the nails, I behold the burning love Thou hast borne me, and the ingratitude I have shown Thee; but Thy blood is my hope. Wretch that I am, how often have I renounced Thy grace, and have myself willed to condemn myself to hell. What would become of me if Thou hadst not chosen to die for me? I could die of grief every time I think of having despised Thine infinite goodness, and of having of my own accord ban- ished and separated Thee from my soul. But no; hence forth, with the help of Thy grace, I will leave all. Enough for me to be united with Thee, my God and my all!

O men, O men! how can you show such contempt for a God who has suffered so much for you? Behold him on that cross, how he sacrifices himself by death to pay for your sins, and to gain your affections. My Jesus, I will live no longer ungrateful for such good- ness.

wounds of Jesus, wound me with love! O blood of

1 "In te, Domine, speravi; non confundar in aeternum." Ps. xxx. 2

[343] Jesus, inebriate me with love! O death of Jesus, make me die to every affection which is not for Jesus! I love Thee more than myself, O my Jesus! and there is no pain that causes me more sorrow than the thought of having so often despised Thy love. Accept me; in Thy mercy reject me not, now that I give myself to Thee without reserve.

Behold, lastly, how our Saviour, overwhelmed with sufferings upon the cross, bows his head, and breathes forth his soul: And bowing His head, He gave up the ghost.1 Eternal God, I, a wretched sinner, have dishonored Thee by my evil life; but Jesus Christ, in making satisfaction for me by his death, has abundantly restored Thy honor. By the merits of Thy Son, who hast died for me, have pity on me.

O Jesus, my Saviour! I see Thee now dead on this cross. Thou speakest no more; Thou breathest no more; because Thou hast life no longer, having willed to lose it to give life to our souls. Thou hast no longer any blood; for Thou hast shed it all, by dint of tor- ments, to wash away our sins. In one word, Thou hast abandoned Thyself to death through Thy love for us. He hath loved us, and delivered Himself for us.2 "Let us consider," writes St. Francis de Sales, "this divine Saviour stretched upon the cross, as upon his altar of honor, where he is dying of love for us; but a love more painful than that very death. Ah, why, then, do we not in spirit throw ourselves upon him to die upon the cross with him, who has willed to die there for love of us? I will hold him, we ought to say, and will never let him go. I will die with him, and be burned up in the flames of his love. One and the same fire shall consume this divine Creator and his miserable creature. My Jesus is all mine, and I am all his. I will live and die upon his

1 "Et inclinato capite, tradidit spiritum." John, xix. 30 2 "Dilexit nos, et tradidit semetipsum pro nobis." Eph. v. 2.

[344] breast; neither death nor life shall ever separate him from me."1

Yes, my sweet Redeemer, I embrace with tenderness Thy pierced feet; and, filled with confidence in behold ing Thee dead for love of me, I repent of having de- spised Thee, and I love Thee with my whole soul. At the foot of Thy cross I leave Thee my heart and my will. Do Thou Thyself nail it to this cross, so that it may never be separated from Thee, and henceforth may have no other desire than to please Thee alone.


St. John writes that our Saviour, in order to make his disciples understand the death he was to suffer upon the cross, said, And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself. Now this he said, signifying what death he should die.2

And, in fact, by exhibiting himself crucified and dead, how many souls has Jesus drawn to himself, so that they have left all to give themselves up entirely to his divine love. Ah, my Jesus! draw my soul to Thyself, which was one time lost; draw it by the chains of Thy love, so that it may forget the world to think of nothing else but of loving and pleasing Thee. Draw me after Thee by the odor of Thine ointments.3

my Lord, Thou knowest my weakness and the offences that I have committed against Thee. Draw me out of the mire of my passions; draw all my affections to Thyself, so that I may attend to nothing but Thy pleasure only, O my God, most lovely! Hear me, O Lord! by the merits of Thy death, and make me wholly Thine.

1 Love of God, book vii. ch. 8. 2 "Et ego si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum." John, xii. 32. 3 Trahe me post te in odorem unguentorum tuorum.

[345] St. Leo tells us that he who looks with confidence upon Jesus dead upon the cross is healed of the wounds caused by his sins. "They who with faith behold the death of Christ are healed from the wounds of sin."1 Every Christian, therefore, should keep Jesus crucified always before his eyes, and say with St. Paul, I judged not myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.2 In short, the Apostle says, that he did not desire any other knowledge in this world than that of knowing how to love Jesus Christ crucified. My beloved Saviour, to obtain for me a good death Thou hast chosen a death so full of pain and desolation! I cast myself into the arms of Thy mercy. I see that many years ago I ought to have been in hell, separated from Thee forever, for having at one time de- spised Thy grace; but Thou hast called me to penance, and I hope hast pardoned me; but if through my fault Thou hast not yet pardoned me, pardon me at this moment. I repent, O my Jesus! with my heart, for having turned my back upon Thee, and driven Thee from my soul. Restore me to Thy grace. But that is not enough: give me strength to love Thee with all my soul during my whole life. And when I come to the hour of my death, let me expire burning with love for Thee, and saying, my Jesus, I love Thee, I love Thee, and thus con- tinue to love Thee for all eternity. From this moment I unite my death to Thy holy death, through which I hope for my salvation. In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped; I shall not be confounded forever.3 O great mother of God, thou after Jesus art my hope. In thee, O Lady, have I hoped;

1 "Qui intuentur fide mortem Christi, sanantur a morsibus pecca- torum." In Jo. tr. 12. 2 "Non enim judicavi me scire aliquid inter vos, nisi Jesum Chris- tum, et hunc crucifixum." 1 Cor. ii. 2. 3 "In te, Domine, speravi; non confundar in aeternum." Ps. XXX. 2.

[346] I shall not be confounded forever. O devout souls, when the devil wishes to make us distrustful about our salva- tion by the remembrance of our pasc sins, let us lift up our eyes to Jesus dead upon the cross, in order to deliver us from eternal death. After a God has made us know by means of the holy faith the desires he has of our sal- vation, having even sacrificed his life for us, if we are resolved really to love him for the remainder of our lives, cost what it may, we should be on our guard against any weakness of confidence in his mercy. After he has given us so many signs of his love for us, and of his desire for our salvation, it is a kind of sin against him not to put our whole confidence and hope in his good ness.

Full, then, of holy confidence, let us hope for every good from the hands of a God so liberal and so loving; and at the same time let us give ourselves to him with- out reserve, and thus pray to him: O eternal God, we are sinners, but Thou who art Almighty canst make us saints; grant that henceforth we may neglect nothing that we know to be for Thy glory, and may do all to please Thee. Blessed shall we be if we lose all to gain Thee, the infinite good. Grant that we may spend the remainder of our lives in pleasing Thee alone. Punish us as Thou wilt for our past sins, but deliver us from the chastisement of not being able to love Thee; deprive us of all things save Thyself. Thou hast loved us without reserve; we also will love Thee without reserve, O infinite Love, O infinite Good. O Virgin Mary, draw us wholly to God; thou canst do so; do so for the love that thou hast for Jesus Christ.


Let us finish this little treatise with the prayer of St. Francis de Sales, saying: "O Eternal Love, my soul seeks Thee and chooses Thee for all eternity. Come, O [347] Holy Spirit! and kindle in our hearts the fire of Thy love. To die and to love; to die to everything, in order to live eternally for the love of Jesus. O Saviour of our souls, grant that we may sing forever and ever, Live, Jesus! I love Jesus. Live, Jesus, whom I love! I love Jesus, who liveth and reigneth forever and ever. Amen!"1

1 Love of God, book 12, ch. 13.


1. First scene: The garden of Olives 2. Second scene: The Pretorium 3. Third scene: Calvary

ALAS, what melancholy signs strike me in this tem- ple! I see the dark appearance, I notice the despoiled altars; I hear the melancholy chant! Ah! I under- stand: these are signs of the grief that the Church feels, lamenting the death of Jesus her Spouse. It is there- fore just that on this day we unite our tears to those of the Church, who is our Mother, and that we devote our- selves to the consideration of the death of our God, who after a life of pain wished to die for us on an infamous gibbet, in an abyss of shame and suffering.

Come, O holy cross! come and show thyself to this people; thou art the fortunate Ark in which one can find salvation in the midst of the shipwreck of this world; thou art the wonderful Rod that gives to men the strength to be able to become from monsters of ini- quity flourishing rods of holy virtues; thou art the brazen Serpent at the sight of which sinners, poisoned by sin, may recover health; thou art the predestined and resplendent Tree chosen among thousands to sus- tain the members of the Redeemer; and thou art, finally, the sorrowful Altar on which the Saviour of the world wished to be immolated for our salvation. Give me the strength and all the help that I need to represent to these faithful souls the ignominies, the sufferings, and the anguish which Jesus Christ endured when upon thee he left this world.

The whole life of Jesus Christ was full of sufferings and ignominies; but there are especially three sad scenes of his pains in which he gave us the greatest marks of

* It is not known at what time St. Alphonsus composed this sermon; we think it belongs to the first period of his sacerdotal life. Nearly all that it contains is found in Volume V. Ed.

[299] his love for us: the first is the GARDEN OF OLIVES; the second, the PRETORIUM; the third, CALVARY.

The first of these scenes in which the Passion of our Redeemer began was hidden from the eyes of men, but not from the eyes of God and of the angels.

First Scene : The Garden of Olives

Having on Thursday evening washed the feet of his disciples after giving himself to us in the sacrament of the altar as a pledge of his tender love for us, our ami - able Saviour arrived at the garden about midnight, and prostrating himself on the ground, he began to pray. Then he was assailed by great fear, great repugnance, and great sadness.

He began then to feel great fear of the death and of the pains which he was to suffer: He began to fear.1 But how? did he not offer himself voluntarily to undergo these torments? He was offered because it was His own will.2 Did he not ardently desire this time of his Pas- sion according to what he had said to his disciples a little while before: With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you before I suffer.3 How, after this, was he seized with so great a fear of death that he went so far as to ask his Father to be delivered from it: My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me.4 Ah! certainly our good Lord wished to die for us, and thus to show us the love that he bore us; but in order that the men might understand what cruel anguish and what deluge of evils he was going to undergo in his Passion, he allowed so horrible a fear to come over him: He began to fear.

1 "Coepit pavere." Mark, xiv. 33. 2 "Oblatus est, quia ipse voluit." Is. liii. 7. 3 "Desiderio desideravi hoc pascha manducare vobiscum, antequam patiar." Luke, xxii. 15. 4 "Pater mi, si possibile est, transeat a me calix iste." Matt. xxvi. 39.

[300] And to be heavy : He also began to feel great repug- nance at the sight of the pains that had been prepared for him. When one feels repugnance, even delightful things become painful. Hence with such a repugnance what punishment for the heart of Jesus, what horrible sight then presented itself to his mind of all the inte - rior and exterior torments which were to deprive him of life by afflicting so cruelly his body and his blessed soul! He distinctly saw all the sufferings that awaited him, the mockeries, the outrages, the injuries, the buffets, the thorns, the cross, and above all that ignominious and desolate death which he was to suffer on an infamous gibbet, abandoned by every one, by men and by God, in an abyss of sorrows and opprobrium. This is what caused him so bitter a repugnance that he was obliged to ask his eternal Father for strength: He began to fear and to be heavy.

With this fear and repugnance Jesus felt at the same time great sadness and great affliction of mind: he began to grow sorrowful and to be sad.1 But, O Lord! is it not Thou that hast given to Thy martyrs such a force in suf- ferings that they went so far as to despise torments and death and to submit to them with joy? How then does it happen that for Thyself, O Jesus! Thou hast re- served Thyself to suffer by dying in so great sadness? Ah! I know the reason ; for at this moment there were pre- sented to his mind all the sins of the world, the blasphe- mies, the sacrileges, the impurities, and all the other sins that men were going to commit after his death. Each one of these sins came then as a cruel monster to tear his heart by its own malice. It seems that then in his agony our afflicted Saviour was obliged to say: O men! is it thus that you respond to the immense love that I have borne towards you? Alas! after so many suffer ings endured for you, to see so many sins! after so many 1 "Coepit contristari et moestus esse." Matt. xxvi. 37.

[301] proofs of my love, to see so much ingratitude! It is that which afflicts me, makes me sad even unto death, and makes me sweat blood: And his sweat became as drops of blood trickling down upon the ground.1

O my tender Jesus! I do not notice in this garden scourges, thorns, nails, which wound Thee; yet I see Thee bathed in blood from head to foot. My sins there fore were the cruel pressure which, by the violence of the affliction and of sadness, forced so much blood from Thy heart. I have myself been one of Thy most cruel exe- cutioners.

But should we stop here in conversing with Jesus when he is already hurrying to meet his Passion which he so much desires? In fact, there is Judas, who is ac- companied by a troop of Jews and soldiers, and who is coming to seize Jesus in the garden. Jesus sees him coming, and what does he do? Yet bathed in blood, with his heart all inflamed with love of us, he rises, and says to the three disciples who were with him: Rise up, let us go. Behold, he that will betray me is at hand.2 Come let us meet the enemies who are coming to arrest me.

When Jesus was in their presence, Judas advanced, ex- tended his arms and gave him a kiss. This kiss was the sign of treason: on this account Jesus addressed this word of reproach to the traitor: Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?3 O Judas! is it by a kiss that thou betrayest the Son of man? He afterwards asked the Jews whom they were seeking: Whom do you seek?4 They answered: Jesus of Nazareth. After this they brutally seized him, and bound him like a criminal: They

1 "Et factus est sudor ejus, sicut guttae sanguinis decurrentis in ter- ram." Luke, xxii. 44. 2 "Surgite, eamus: ecce, qui me tradet, prope est." Mark, xiv. 3 "Juda, osculo Filium hominis tradis?" Luke, xxiv. 48. 4 "Quem quaeritis?" John, xviii. 4.

[302] took Jesus and bound him.1 Alas! a God bound like a criminal! "O King of kings!" cries out St. Bernard, weeping, "what hast Thou to do with chains?"2 Chains are for malefactors, and not for Thee who are innocent, the Saint of saints. "Look, O man!" says St. Bonaven- ture, "at these dogs dragging him along."3

Jesus then bound, in the midst of this vile soldiery, is pushed out of the garden, and led to Jerusalem before the Prince of priests. And where are his disciples? do not at least they accompany their Master in order to de- fend him? No, all left him: Then his disciples, leaving him, all fled away.4

He then enters Jerusalem during the night. At the noise that so many people make in their march, those that are in the houses awaken and, approaching the win- dows, ask what prisoner they are leading away. They answer that it is Jesus of Nazareth, who has been found out to be an impostor, a seducer.

He is presented to Caiphas, who was expecting him; this proud high-priest is sitting, and Jesus is standing before him, having his hands tied like a criminal, hold ing his eyes cast down, all humility and meekness. The high-priest interrogates him on the doctrine that he taught; Jesus answered that he had spoken publicly be fore every one, and that the witnesses present who had heard him knew what he had said: I have spoken to the world; . . . Behold, they know what things I have said.5 After an answer so just and so moderate, an executioner advances and gives him a severe blow on the cheek, say-

1 "Comprehenderunt Jesum, et ligaverunt eum." John, xviii. 12. 2 "O Rex regum! quid tibi et vinculis?" De Pass. c. 4. 3 "Intuere, homo, canes istos trahentes eum." De vita Christi c. 75. 4 "Tunc discipuli ejus relinquentes eum, omnes fugerunt." Mark xiv. 50. 5 Ego palam locutus sum mundo; . . . ecce hi sciunt quae dixerim ego." John, xviii. 20.

[303] ing in his fury: Answerest thou the high-priest so? How could an answer so humble merit so gross an insult in the presence of this assembly? The high-priest, how ever, instead of rebuking his insolent servant, remains silent, and by his silence approves of his conduct. But then Jesus said to the servant: If I have spoken evil, give testimony of the evil; but if well, why strikest thou me?2

Then Caiphas commanded Jesus in the name of God to say whether he was the Son of God: I adjure Thee, by the living God, that thou tell us if Thou be the Christ the Son of God.3 Our Lord then, asked in the name of God, confessed the truth, saying: I am;4 and one day you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the Father, and coming on the clouds of heaven to judge the world. At these words, Caiphas, instead of falling pros- trate on his face to adore the Son of God, rends his gar- ments and exclaims: He hath blasphemed!5 Then ad- dressing the other priests, he asked their counsel and said: Now you have heard the blasphemy. What think you? And all answered: He is guilty of death.6 Yes, my Jesus, Thou deservest death, since Thou hast wished to make satisfaction for the sins of men.

Then the executioners seized him, and treating him as a man already condemned to death, they began to spit in his face and to buffet him: Then did they spit in his face, and others struck his face with the palms of their hands.7 Then having bandaged his eyes, and mocking him as a

1 "Sic respondes Pontifici?" Ibid. 22. 2 "Si male locutus sum, testimonium perhibe de malo; si autem bene quid me caedis?" Ibid. 23. 3 Adjuro te per Deum vivum, ut dicas nobis, si tu es Christus Filius Dei." Matt. xxvi. 63. 4 "Ego sum." . . . . 5 "Blasphemavit!". . . . 6 "Reus est mortis" 7 Tunc exspuerunt in faciem ejus, et colaphis eum ceciderunt; alii autem palmas in faciem ejus dederunt." Matt. xxvi. 67.

[304] false prophet, they said: Prophesy unto us, O Christ, who is he that struck Thee.1

When the morning was come, they conducted Jesus to Pilate in order to have him condemned to death. Pi- late, finding no reason to condemn him, declared him innocent: I find no fault in him.2 However, as the Jews insisted, he sent him to Herod to be judged by him. Herod was delighted to see Jesus in his court, because he hoped that our Lord would perform some miracles about which he had heard others speak. He then pro- posed many questions to him, but Jesus remained silent. Then this proud tyrant ordered him to be clothed with a white garment as if he were a fool, and he sent him back to Pilate after having exposed him to the mockery and contempt of his entire court: And Herod with his army, set Him at nought; and mocked Him, putting on Him a white garment, and sent Him back to Pilate.3 O Son of God! O Eternal Wisdom! Thou wouldst submit even to the ignominy of being treated as a fool!

Pilate, in order to avoid condemning an innocent man, seeing that he was not successful in sending Jesus to Herod, devised another means. As the people had a right of asking the Roman governor for the liberation of a prisoner at the Paschal solemnity, Pilate proposed to them to choose between Jesus Christ and Barabbas, who was a wicked man, a homicide; but the people, in- stigated by the hatred of the priests, who wished the death of Jesus Christ, began to cry out that they pre- ferred Barabbas: Not this man, but Barabbas.4 This is what he does that commits a mortal sin: it is then pro-

1 "Prophetiza nobis, Christe, quis est, quite percussit." Matt. xxvi. 68. 2 "Ego nullam invenio in eo causam." Luke, xxiii. 4. 3 "Sprevit autem illum Herodes cum exercitu suo, et illusit indu- tum veste alba; et remisit ad Pilatum." Luke, xxiii. 11. 4 "Non hunc, sed Barabbam."

[305] posed to him to choose between Jesus Christ and the sin that he wishes to commit, as the sin of revenge, of a certain pleasure, etc.: when he gives his consent, it is as if he said: Not this man, but Barabbas; I prefer Barab- bas to Jesus Christ.

After having proposed Jesus Christ and Barabbas to the choice of the people, and seeing that this means was unsuccessful, Pilate thought of having him scourged and then set at liberty: I will chastise Him, therefore, and release Him.1 Here we are then at the second scene of the sufferings of Jesus Christ: Then, therefore, Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.2 O how much less would he have suffered if Pilate had had less compassion for him, and if he had without delay condemned him to the death of the cross! All this served but to increase the sufferings and humiliations of our Saviour.

Second Scene : The Pretorium

Having arrived at the pretorium, our loving Jesus, obedient to the executioners, strips himself of his garments, embraces the column, and then lays on it his hands to have them bound. My God, already is begun the cruel torture! O angels of heaven! come and look on this sorrowful spectacle, and if it be not permitted you to deliver your king from this barbarous slaughter which men have prepared for him, at least come and weep for compassion. And ye, Christian souls, imagine yourselves to be present at this horrible tearing of the flesh of your beloved Redeemer; look on him how he stands, your afflicted Jesus with his head bowed, looking on the ground, blushing all over for shame, he awaits this great torture. Behold these barbarians, like so many ravenous dogs, are already with the scourges attacking this innocent Lamb. See how one

1 "Emendatum ergo illum dimittam." Luke, xxiii. 16. 2 "Tunc ergo apprehendit Pilatus Jesum, et flagellavit." John, xix. i.

[306] beats him on the breast, another strikes his shoulders, another smites his loins and his legs; even his sacred head and beautiful countenance cannot escape the blows. Ah me! already flows that divine blood from every part; already with that blood are saturated the scourges, the hands of the executioners, the column and the ground. "He is wounded," mourns St. Laurence Justinian, "over his whole body, torn with the scourges; now they twine round his shoulders, now round his legs streaks upon streaks, wounds added to fresh wounds."1

Ah, cruel men, with whom are you dealing thus? Stay stay; know that you are making a mistake. This man whom you are torturing is innocent and holy; it is we who are the culprits; to us, to us, who have sinned, are these stripes and torments due. O eternal Father! how canst Thou behold Thy beloved Son suffering thus, and not interfere in his behalf? What is the crime that he has ever committed, to deserve so shameful and so severe a punishment? For the wickedness of My people have I struck Him.2 I well know, says the eternal Father, that this my Son is innocent; but inasmuch as he has offered himself as a satisfaction to my justice for all the sins of mankind, it is fitting that I should abandon him to the rage of his most cruel enemies.

Ye barbarians, are you not yet satisfied? No; they are not yet satisfied. After having thus scourged him, these executioners wish to treat him as a mock king. What do they do? They make him sit upon a stone, put upon his shoulders a scarlet cloak in imitation of the purple, and into his hand a reed for a sceptre, and upon his head for a crown a bundle of thorns which covers it entirely from the forehead to the neck; and in

1 "Caeditur, totoque flagris corpore dissipatur ; nunc scapulas, nunc crura cingunt ; vulnera vulneribus et plagas plagis recentibus addunt." De Tr. Chr. Ag. c. ii. 2 "Propter scelus populi mei percussi eum." Matt, xxvii. 30.

[307] order that the thorns might sufficiently enter the head, they took a reed and beat with all their might the cruel crown into the head of Jesus: They took the reed and struck His head.1

It is not yet enough: bending the knee before him, they mocked him, saying: We salute thee, O king of the Jews! Then rising, they laugh at him, mock him, and buffet him: And bowing the knee before Him, they derided Him, saying, Hail King of the Jews;2 and they gave Him blows.3

Approach, devout souls, and acknowledge him as your Saviour, while his enemies are maltreating and mocking him. Yes, he is a king; but at this moment he is the king of sorrows: he is, however, a king of love, since for the love of you he suffers all these pains.

After having thus scourged him and crowned him with thorns, they seized him as he was, all covered with wounds and blood, and led him to Pilate. The latter, seeing him reduced to a state so worthy of compassion, thought it would be sufficient, in order to pacify the Jews, to show them such as he was. He therefore led him forth before them, and exhibiting him to the people, said to them: Behold the man. Pilate went forth again to them, . . . and saith unto them, Behold the man;4 as though he would have said: Behold the man whom you feared wished to make himself your king; see him re- duced to such a state that he cannot live any longer. Let him go and die in his own house; he has but a short time to live; see him reduced to such a state that he has scarcely the appearance of a man. Permit him,

1 "Acceperunt arundinem, et percutiebant caput ejus." Matt. xxvii. 30. 2 "Et genu flexo ante eum, illudebant ei, dicentes : Ave Rex Judae- orum!" Matt, xxvii. 29. 3 "Et dabant ei alapas." John, xix. 3. 4 "Exivit ergo iterum Pilatus foras, . . . et dicit eis : Ecce Homo."

[308] therefore, to be set at liberty, your anger against him being sufficiently appeased. If, notwithstanding, you ask that I should condemn him to death, I declare to you that I cannot do so, because I find no reason to condemn him: I find no fault in Him.1

As Pilate from the balcony showed Jesus to the peo- ple, so at the time the same eternal Father from heaven showed us his well-beloved Son, by saying, Behold the man: Behold this man, who is my only begotten Son, whom I love with the same love wherewith I love my- self! This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.2 Behold the Man, your Saviour, him whom I have prom- ised, and for whom you were anxiously waiting. He has become a man of sorrows. Behold him, and see to what a pitiable condition he has reduced himself through the love that he has borne towards you. Oh, look at him, and love him! and if his divine qualities move you not, at least let these sorrows and ignominies which he suffers for you move you to love him.

But did the words of Pilate satisfy the cruelty of the enemies of Jesus Christ? On the contrary, the chief priests raised their voices, and cried out: Away with Him! away with Him! crucify Him!3 Pilate, however, still resisted, and refused to condemn Jesus. Then they threatened to accuse him as an enemy of Caesar if he re- fused to pronounce sentence: If thou lettest this Man go, thou art no friend of Caesar's.4 They thus succeeded in obtaining the desired condemnation; but before pro- nouncing it, Pilate washed his hands, declaring himself innocent of the death of this just man: I am innocent of

1 "Ego enim non invenio in eo causam." John, xix. 6. 2 "Hic est Filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi bene complacui." Matt. xvii. 5. 3 "Tolle, tolle ; crucifige eum." John, xix. 6. 4 "Si hunc dimittis, non es amicus Caesaris." Ibid. 12.

[309] the blood of this just Man; look you to it.1 O injustice unheard of in this world: the judge declares the accused to be innocent, and at the same time he condemns him to death!

Unhappy Jews, you then said: His blood be upon us, and upon our children.2 You have prayed for the chastise- ment; it has already come; your children bear to the end of the world the punishment due to the shedding of that innocent blood.

The unjust sentence is read: Jesus accepts it in ex- piation of our sins: He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.3

After the publication of the sentence Jesus is again clothed in his garments that he might be recognized, disfigured as he is by such bad treatment. The cross is presented to him; Jesus embraces it, it is placed upon his shoulders, and he begins to walk towards Calvary: And bearing His own cross, He went forth to that place which is called Calvary.4 The condemned criminals now come forth from Pilate's residence, and in the midst of them there goes also our condemned Lord, carrying him self the wood upon which he is to die. O heavens! this Messias, whoa few days before, on Palm Sunday, was received with the acclamations and benedictions of the people: Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord!5 See him now in the same streets, bound, execrated by all, moving along to die the death of a criminal. What a spectacle to see a God led to execution! The appearance

1 "Innocens ego sum a sanguine justi hujus ; vos videritis." Matt, xxvii. 24. 2 "Sanguis ejus super nos et super filios nostros." 3 "Humiliavit semetipsum, factus obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis." John, xix. 15. 4 "Et bajulans sibi crucem, exivit in eum, qui dicitur Calvarias, locum." Matt. xxi. 9. 5 "Benedictus, qui venit in nomine Domini!" John, xix. 17.

[310] of Jesus in this journey was so pitiable that it made all those shed tears that saw him: And there followed Him a great multitude of people, and of women who bewailed and lamented Him.1 Ah! look at him also, you who love Jesus Christ; see his torn flesh, his dripping blood, the crown of thorns upon his head, the heavy cross upon his shoulders; and while one of the executioners drags him violently along by a rope, see how painful is his walk, see his body bent double, his trembling knees, so that it seems as if he would expire at every step.

O divine Lamb! hast Thou not yet Thy fill of suffer- ings? How dear did it cost Thee to make me compre- hend the love which Thou hast for me! Oh, grant me those aids to love Thee which Thou hast merited for me by so many sufferings! Bestow upon me that sacred fire which Thou didst come to enkindle upon earth by dying for us. Be ever reminding me of Thy death that I may never forget to love Thee.

Isaias predicted that our Lord would carry the cross upon his shoulders as a mark of his reign: His govern- ment was upon His shoulder.2 The cross, says Tertullian, was precisely the noble instrument whereby Jesus Christ made acquisition of so many souls; since by dying thereon he paid the penalty due to our sins, and thus rescued us from hell, and made us his own: Who His own Self bore our sins in His body upon the tree.3

Thus, O my Jesus! if the eternal Father burdened Thee with all the sins of men, The Lord laid upon Him the iniquities of us all.4 I with my own sins added to the weight of the cross that Thou didst bear to Calvary.

1 "Sequebatur autem ilium multa turba populi et mulierum, quae plangebant et lamentabantur eum." Luke, xxiii. 27. 2 "Factus est principatus super humerum ejus." Is. ix. 6. 3 Qui peccata nostra ipse pertulit in corpore suo super lignum." 1 Pet. ii. 24. 4 "Posuit Dominus in eo iniquitatem omnium nostrum." Is. liii. 6.

[311] my sweetest Saviour, Thou didst even then foresee all the wrongs that I should do to Thee; yet, notwith- standing, Thou didst not cease to love me, or to prepare for me all the merits that Thou hast since employed towards me. If then to Thee I have been dear, most vile and ungrateful sinner as I am, who have so much offended Thee, good reason is there why Thou shouldst be dear to me. Ah, would that I had never displeased Thee! Now, my Jesus, do I know the wrong that I have done Thee. O ye accursed sins of mine, what have you done? You have caused me to sadden the loving heart of my Redeemer, that heart which has loved me so much. O my Jesus! forgive me, repenting, as I do, of having done despite unto Thee. Henceforth it is Thou who art to be the only object of my love. I love Thee, O infinite loveliness, with all my heart; and I re- solve to love none else but Thee. O Lord! pardon me; I say unto Thee with St. Ignatius: "Give me Thy love only together with Thy grace, and I am rich enough."1

Third Scene : Calvary

Here we are at the third and last scene of the tor- tures that of Calvary, which brought death to Jesus Christ. They immediately tear off his garments, stick- ing to his wounded flesh, and throw him down upon the cross. The divine Lamb reaches forth to the execu- tioners his hands and his feet to be nailed, and offers up to his eternal Father the great sacrifice of his life for the salvation of men. After the nailing of one of his hands, the nerves shrink so that they had need of main force and ropes to draw the other hand and feet up to the places where they were to be nailed; and this occasioned so great a tension of the nerves and veins, that they broke asunder with a violent convulsion, as

1 "Amorem tui solum cum gratia tua mihi dones, et dives sum satis."

[312] was revealed to St. Bridget: "They drew my hands and feet with a rope to the places of the nails, so that the nerves and veins were stretched out to the full and broke asunder;"1 insomuch that all his bones might have been numbered, as David had already predicted: They pierced My hands and My feet, they numbered all My bones.2

St. Augustine says that there is no death more bitter than that of the cross. "Among all the different kinds of death, there was none worse."3; Because, as St. Thomas4 observes, those who are crucified have their hands and their feet pierced through, parts which being entirely composed of nerves, muscles, and veins, are the most sensitive to pain, and the very weight of the body itself, which is suspended from them, causes the pain to be continuous and ever increasing in its intensity up to the moment of death.

But the pains of Jesus were far beyond all other pains; for, as the Angelic Doctor says, the body of Jesus Christ, being perfectly constituted, was more quick and sensitive to pain that body which was fashioned for him by the Holy Spirit, expressly with a view to his suf- fering, as he had foretold, as the Apostle testifies: A body Thou hast fitted to Me." Moreover, St. Thomas says that Jesus Christ took upon himself an amount of suffering so great as to be sufficient to satisfy for the temporal punishment merited by the sins of all mankind.

my soul, behold thy Lord, behold thy life hanging upon that tree: And thy life shall be, as it were, hanging be-

1 "Manus et pedes cum tunc trahebant ad loca clavorum, ita ut nervi et venae extenderentur et rumperentur." Rev. 1. I, c. 10. 2 "Foderunt manus meas et pedes meos, dinumeraverunt omnia ossa mea." Ps. xxi. 17. 3 "Pejus nihil fuit inter omnia genera mortium." In Jo. tr. 36. 4 S.T. p. 3. q. 46. a. 6. 5 "Corpus autem aptasti mihi." Heb. x. 5.

[313] fore thee.1 Behold how on that gibbet of pain, fastened by those cruel nails, he finds no place of rest. Now he leans his weight upon his hands, now upon his feet; but on what part soever he leans, the anguish increases. He turns his afflicted head now on one side, now on the other; if he lets it fall towards his breast, the hands, by the additional weight, are rent the more; if he lowers it towards his shoulders, the shoulders are pierced with thorns; if he leans it back upon the cross, the thorns enter the more deeply into his head.

Ah, my Jesus, what a death of bitterness is this that Thou art enduring! O my crucified Redeemer, I adore Thee on this throne of ignominy and pain. Upon this cross I read it written that Thou art a King: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.2 But apart from this title of scorn, what is the evidence that Thou dost give of being a king? Ah, these hands transfixed with nails, this head pierced with thorns, this throne of sorrow, this lacerated flesh, make me well know that Thou art a king, but a king of love. With humility, then, and tenderness do I draw near to kiss Thy sacred feet, transfixed for love of me. I clasp in my arms this cross, on which Thou, be- ing made a victim of love, wast willing to offer Thyself in sacrifice for me to the divine justice: being made obe- dient unto death, the death of the cross.3 O blessed obe- dience, that obtained for us the pardon of our sins! And what would have become of me, O my Saviour, hadst Thou not paid the penalty for me?

Contemplating one day the love of Jesus in dying for us, St. Francis of Paula, rapt in ecstasy and raised in the air, exclaimed three times in a loud voice: "O God, charity! O God, charity! O God, charity!" You

1 "Et erit vita tua quasi pendens ante te." Deut, xxviii. 66. 2 "Jesu Nazarenus, Rex Judaeorum. "John, xix. 19. 3 "Factus obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis." Phil. ii. 8.

[314] also, devout souls, look on your divine Saviour on this painful cross; see how he remains fastened by those three nails, so that the pierced hands and feet had to sustain the weight of the entire body; on whichever side he wishes to rest his pains are increased. Alas! our af- flicted Saviour finds no place of rest.

Behold the King of heaven, who, hanging on that gib- bet, is now on the point of giving up the ghost. Let us, too, ask of him with the prophet: What are those wounds in the middle of Thy hands? Tell me, O my Jesus, what are these wounds in the middle of Thy hands?1 The Abbot Rupert makes answer for Jesus: "They are the memorials of charity, the price of redemption."2 They are tokens, says the Redeemer, of the great love which I bear toward you; they are the payment by which I set you free from the hands of your enemies, and from eter- nal death.

Do you, then, O faithful souls, love your God, who has had such love for you; and if you do at any time feel doubtful of his love, turn your eyes, says St. Thomas of Villanova, to behold that cross, those pains, and that bitter death which he has suffered for you; for such proofs will assuredly make you know how much your Saviour loves you: "The cross testifies, the pains testify, the bitter death that he had endured for you testifies this."3 And St. Bernard adds that the cross cries out, every wound of Jesus cries out, that he loves us with a true love: "The cross proclaims, the wounds proclaim, that he truly loves."4

While hanging on the cross Jesus looked in vain for some one to console him: I looked for one that would grieve

1 "Quid sunt plagae istae in medio manuum tuarum?" 2 "Sunt monumenta charitatis, pretia redemptionis." 3 "Testis crux, testes dolores, testis amara mors, quam pro te sus- tinuit." Dom. 17. I. Pent. cone. 3. 4 "Clamat crux, clamat vulnus, quod ipse vere dilexit."

[315] together with me, but there was none.1 On the contrary, he heard those around him uttering blasphemies: If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.2 Vah! thou that destroyest the temple of God, and in three days dost re- build it, save thy own self.3 He saved others, himself he can- not save.4 Why should they care to afflict by insults and derision one that is already expiring on the gibbet?

And Jesus, while these are outraging him, what is he doing upon the cross? Is he perhaps praying to the eternal Father to punish them? No, he is praying to him to pardon them: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.5 Yes, says St. Thomas; to show forth the immense love which he had for men, the Redeemer asked pardon of God for his crucifiers: "To show forth the abundance of his charity, he asked pardon for his persecutors."6 He asked it, and obtained it; for, when they had seen him die they repented of their sin: They returned smiting their breasts.7

Ah, my dear Saviour, behold me at Thy feet; I have been one of the most ungrateful of Thy persecutors; do Thou pray likewise for me to Thy Father to pardon me. True it is that the Jews and the executioners knew not what they were doing when they crucified Thee; but I well knew that in sinning I was offending a God who had been crucified, and had died for me. But Thy blood and Thy death have merited even for

1 "Et sustinui . . . qui consolaretur, et non inveni." Ps. lxviii. 21. 2 "Si Filius Dei es, descende de cruce." 3 "Vale, qui destruis templum Dei, et in triduo reaedificas; salva temetipsum." 4 "Alios salvos fecit, seipsum non potest salvum facere." Matt. xxvii. 40-42. 5 "Pater! dimitte illis; non enim sciunt quid faciunt." Luke, xxiii. 34. 6 "Ad ostendendam charitatis suse, veniam pro persecutoribus postulavit." S.T. p. 3. q. 47. a. 4. 7 "Percutientes pectora sua, revertebantur." Luke, xxiii. 48.

[316] me the divine mercy. I cannot feel doubtful of being pardoned after seeing Thee die to obtain pardon for me.

The sorrowful Mother stood at the foot of the cross with some pious women: There stood by the cross of Jesus His mother.1 O God! who would not pity a mother standing beside the gibbet on which a son dies before her eyes? Consider Mary, standing beneath the cross, contemplating the pains in the midst of which her well- beloved Son was expiring: She desired to give him some alleviation, and she saw, on the other hand, that her presence increased the grief of this same Son, who was full of compassion for his tender Mother. This was a terrible affliction for Mary, a torture that made her the Queen of Martyrs.

Seeing himself, then, abandoned by every one, all men trying to make his death more painful, Jesus raised his eyes to his eternal Father to obtain some consola- tion. But seeing him laden with all our sins, for which he wished to satisfy the divine justice, his Father also abandoned him. Then it was that our Saviour, crying out with a loud voice, said: My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?2

But our Saviour, so full of love, is on the point of expiring. Christians, look at the cross. Behold those dying eyes, that face so pale, the sacred body which is abandoned to death. Before expiring, Jesus uttered these words: It is consummated.3 It is as if he had said: O men, love me; I have done all that I can do in order to save your souls and gain your love. See the painful life that I have led during thirty-three years for love of you. I wished then on your account to be scourged, to

1 "Stabant autem juxta crucem Jesu Mater ejus. . . ." John, xix. 25. 2 "Deus meus! Deus meus! ut quid dereliquisti me?" Matth. xxvii. 46. 3 "Consummatum est." John, xix. 30.

[317] be crowned with thorns, to be buffeted, to be covered with wounds from head to foot. What more was needed? Should I die for love of you? Well, then! I wish to die. Come, O death! I permit thee to come; take away my life, in order that my sheep may live. And Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.1 My Father, he then said, I die for Thy glory and for the salvation of men; I commend my soul into Thy hands. Behold, then, Jesus dies. O angels of heaven, come, come to be present at the death of your God. And thou, O sorrowful Mother! approach nearer to the cross; look at him more steadfastly, for he is about to expire.

And ye Christians, behold him in his agony; see him amid the last respirations of life. Behold his dying eyes, that face so pale, that feebly palpitating heart, that body already wrapped in the arms of death, and that beautiful soul now on the point of leaving that wounded body.

The sky shrouds itself in darkness; the earth quakes; the graves open. Alas, what portentous signs are these! They are signs that the Maker of the world is now dying.

Behold, in the last place, how our Lord, after having commended his blessed soul to his eternal Father, first breathing forth from his afflicted heart a deep sigh, and then bowing down his head in token of his obedience, and offering up his death for the salvation of men, at last through the violence of the pain expires, and de- livers up his spirit into the hands of his beloved Father: And crying out with a loud voice, He said Father into Thy hands I commend My spirit;1 and saying this He gave up the ghost.2

1 "Et clamans voce magna, Jesus ait : Pater! in manus tuas com- mendo spiritum meum." Luke, xxiii. 46. 2 "Et haec dicens, exspiravit." Ibid.

[318] All those that were present looking at him with at- tention see him expire, and observing that he is motion- less, they exclaim, He is dead he is dead! Mary hears this from all the bystanders, and she also says, Ah, my Son, Thou art dead! He is dead! Ah, who is dead? It is the King of heaven; the Creator of the world, a God, who wished to die for us poor sinners.

Act of Contrition while showing the Crucifix

Come sinners; here is Jesus Christ who has stretched forth his arms to embrace you. Can you fear that he will not pardon you, when he gave himself up to death in order to pardon you?

Do you perhaps fear that you will not obtain pardon because you find yourselves unable to perform the pen- ance that your sins deserve? Console yourselves; for you here see the penance that Jesus Christ has himself performed for you on the cross; it is sufficient if you sincerely repent of having offended him.

Look at him; see where you can find any one that has loved you more than Jesus Christ has loved you. Love him then, since he died in order to be loved by you. Say to him: Ah, my sweet Saviour! whom should I love if I do not love a God who has died for me?

O sorrowful Mother! through the sorrow that thou didst experience in seeing thy divine Son expire, obtain for me holy perseverance and a true love of my divine Redeemer.

Works of St. Alphonsus de Liguori