IT has been said that the first part of the Sacred Passion, as regards our Blessed Lady's part therein, was that which she must have passed at a distance from our Lord, in some lonely and quiet room in the house in which the Last Supper had taken place. This part of the Passion would embrace, in the first instance, the Prayer and Agony in the Garden, in which altogether an hour or two must have been spent, counting from the time when our Lord and the Apostles left the Cenacle. Then followed the approach of the armed band under the guidance of Judas, and all that occurred before our Lord's apprehension, the apprehension itself, and the flight of the Apostles, the first part of the "Way of Captivity" over the brook Kidron up into the city, until our Lord was placed as a prisoner before the old Pontiff Annas. The tribunal of Annas, where He did not remain long, is the first of the four tribunals before which the Judge of the living and the dead stood as a criminal. From that He was removed, as it seems in chains or bonds, to the palace of Caiphas, which was probably close at hand, and there took place the more formal trial before the assembled members of the Sanhedrin, the production of the false witnesses, and then the solemn adjuration of Caiphas, to which our Lord, Who had up to that time remained silent before the assembly, replied by declaring that He was the Son of God, and warning them that He was to come hereafter as their Judge. After His condemnation, our Lord was left by His judges, as it \vas not yet day, to be the prisoner and the sport of the servants and menials, who vented upon him their low spite and insults, as the Evangelists tell us. It may have been just before these began that St. Peter denied Him for the third time, and was converted by the gentle loving glance which our Lord cast upon him. Then followed the second still more formal interrogation and condemnation by the assembled elders, as it was not the rule to condemn by night, the leading of our Lord to Pilate, the dialogues between Pilate and the priests, and Pilate and our Lord, the resolution of the Governor to release Him, then his first sudden thought of making Him the prisoner to be set free by the people on the feast day, the mention of Galilee, and his consequent device to get rid of the matter by sending Him to Herod.
In Herod's palace our Lord was still silent. He was mocked by the guards of the King, and then taken back through the streets in a white robe of scorn to the Roman Governor, with a message from Herod which implied that He was a harmless idiot. This may be considered as the first part of the Passion, during which it does not seem probable that our. Blessed Lady was present at what happened to our Lord. We are not certain at what point of the history she left her place of retirement and anxious prayer, and she may have been near the Praetorium when our Lord passed back from the tribunal of Herod, and have followed Him to the tribunal of Pilate, so as to be present at His rejection by the people, who preferred to Him Barabbas, and who then raised for the first time the terrible cry, "Crucify Him, crucify Him ! "
We may pause here in the history, for the purpose of endeavouring to follow our Blessed Lady in the thoughts and affections to which this first part of the Passion might give birth. It has already been said that she must be considered as having a most perfect intelligence of the great act which was being performed in the Passion, of its necessity for the redemption of mankind and the restoration of the glory of God, of all its effects and consequences in time and in eternity. She saw in it no accidental outbreak of human cruelty or diabolical malice, but the execution of a severe sentence of the justice of God, prompted by infinite mercy and carried out with infinite wisdom. This includes the fundamental idea of the expiation of the sins of the world by our Lord's sufferings, and Mary would not fail to see that as sin is engendered and born in the heart first of all, it must be in the heart that the expiation and punishment for sin must also have their first workings. Thus our Blessed Lady would be able to follow, as far as any created heart and mind could follow, the interior sufferings of our Lord which began in the Garden of Gethsemane.
No one of the beautiful examples of charity and humility which were then displayed by Him would be lost upon her, and when He gave Himself, so to say, to the anguish which was to be so great a part of the Passion, she would understand with what loving obedience to God and what intense charity to men there was done by Him. For it was then that He opened His Soul and Heart to be fully flooded by the immense pains which w r ere the fruits of His contrition for all the sins which He took upon Himself without reserve, which the Eternal Father regarded as His. No soul can fathom the depths of that sorrow, for it was the child of His own intense and unparalleled love for God and for His honour, and of His perfect penetration and intelligence of the rights of God, and so of the outrage and insult to His Infinite Majesty which are involved in every single sin. But our Lady's Heart was as like His own as it was possible for it to be, and so she could measure, better than all angels and saints, the pain which pierced Him at the sight of the honour and law and will and goodness and bountifulness of that most beloved Father outraged and trampled in the dust and rewarded with the blackest ingratitude, and at the consciousness that on Himself was now laid, by the justice of God, the iniquity of all, as Isaias says. The thought of guiltiness before God was a pang to the Sacred Heart which nothing could assuage, and He had present to Himself every single sin of all those He was to atone for as fully and perfectly as a cause of His sorrow as if there had been but that one to be expiated. The measure less multitude of all our sins, each one seen in its intrinsic foulness and degradation and mischief to God and man, did not dull, in our Lord's Heart, the sense of shame and sorrow and indignation for each one in particular.
But we must not be led into the consideration of the interior agony of our Lord in itself, which be longs more to His Passion than to the Compassion of Mary. It is enough that she felt all this weight of our Lord's most intense anguish, and that not only for the guilt of all our sins and of each in particular, but also for those other reasons which belong to the Agony, namely, the fear and dread, which He now allowed Himself to feel most sensitively, of all the torments and exterior pains which were to be inflicted on Him, whether in the house of Caiphas, or in the Praetorium of Pilate, or in Herod's palace, or on the way to Calvary, or on the Cross itself. And above all, He let Himself anticipate all the pangs of death itself, the slow lingering and ever increasing torture of execution of the Divine sentence, of the terrible tearing up of the natural union between Soul and Body.
Beyond these subjects of the deep penetrating compassion of our Blessed Lady there was also that third element in the agony for her to feel, the element which was in one sense the most powerful of all, because it implied a woe and a grief which could never be cancelled. For our Lord foresaw— and it was this part of the chalice from which we may well suppose that He was thinking when He prayed that it might, if possible, pass from Him— that for so many millions of sins and sinners all His sufferings would be of no avail, at least of no avail as far as that salvation of their souls was concerned which He had in His Heart. No—the merits of His sufferings would be by some rejected through their own perversity and malice, by others neglected
on account of their carelessness and dullness to their danger. And besides all those who would thus be lost to Him through their own fault, there would be others who would be deprived of the means of grace and reconciliation by external circumstances, caused by the unfaithfulness of those through whom they ought to receive guidance and help, as is the case with children who are allowed to die un-baptized. And then, still further, there would be but comparatively few who would reap the full benefit of all the grace which He had won and prepared for them. Each one of these various degrees of failure in His work would be an exquisite pang to our Lord's Heart, but most especially the case of those who would even be worse than they might have been if He had not died for them, because He thereby gave their malice the occasion of fresh outrages, by which they would trample His Blood under their feet, "crucifying again to themselves the Son of God, and making a mockery of Him." 1
As the Agony in the Garden was the most in tensely painful part of our Lord's sufferings, being interior and not only external, and lasting on in its bitterness throughout the whole of the subsequent Passion, it called, more than any other of His torments, on the compassion of the one heart which could understand it, and which, being so full of the love of God for men, of the tenderest love for our Lord's Person and His Sacred Humanity, could | share His pain to the very utmost. So that, if it be true that our Lord's own Heart broke under that interior strain, it may also be supposed that His Mother's heart required some supernatural aid to keep it in life. It was now that she became to Him more than she was ever before by her sympathy and grief for Him, for it is in the time of sorrow that love is most loving, and compassion most tender and touching. Alas ! the disciples were sleeping while our Lord was in all this tempest of woe, and as the Church makes Him say in her sacred services, Judas did not sleep, nor His enemies. Only Mary watched with Him during that hour of which He spoke, and her faithful heart was to Him at once a comfort, like the consolation which the Angel brought Him, and the cause of a fresh pang also, because she suffered so much for and with Him. When the time of prayer was over, and the armed band drew near, she would follow Him in heart as He roused His disciples, and went forth calmly to meet His enemies. She understood the power of His voice, pronouncing the Sacred Name of God, " I am He," which cast them to the ground. She followed His mercy to Malchus, His warning to St. Peter, His command to the crowd not to molest His disciples, and His remonstrance to the Scribes and Pharisees that they had come out against Him as if He were a thief, while they had never touched Him when He taught in the Temple in their midst. And then she felt with Him the pang when the disciples forsook Him and fled. There was no anger in His Heart, or in hers, but she prayed most earnestly for these poor frightened sheep, leaving their Shepherd in the hands of foes, and exposing themselves to a thousand unknown dangers by their abandonment of Him.
There are two things especially to be noted with regard to our Blessed Lady at this stage of the Passion. First, she had during the whole life of our Lord, frequently suffered great alarm and apprehension on account of the dangers which had beset His life from His enemies in various ways. The Infancy had given her many experiences of this kind, and during the Public Life there had been many occasions on which there had been great danger, as when the Nazarenes attempted to cast Him from the brow of the hill, or when the Herodians and Pharisees plotted together against His life, or when Herod himself imagined that He was St. John Baptist risen from the dead, or when the Priests in Jerusalem had sent their officers to apprehend Him, or taken up stones to cast at Him. On all these occasions, and perhaps on many more which have not been recorded for us, our Blessed Lady must have felt very great alarm and anguish at the dangers to His life. But now that the Passion had begun, "their hour," as our Lord said to them, "and the power of darkness," there was suffering of quite a new kind for the tender heart of Mary. For now for the first time, as far as we know, our Lord's Sacred Person was exposed to insult, outrage, contumely, ill-treatment of every kind. He was put in bonds, and dragged along by His captors, as if He had been some dangerous and hateful wild beast whom the hunters had mastered. In this treatment of Him by these savage soldiers she could see two things. It was not only pain and suffering and insult to which He was exposed. It was profanation and sacrilege. She felt as we should feel if we saw the Blessed Sacrament trampled under foot, or profaned and outraged in some of those shocking ways in which there is but too good reason for thinking It has often been treated, even in our own day. This would be the cause of intense anguish to our Blessed Lady, and yet this suffering, which began now in the Garden of Gethsemane, was to constitute a very large part of the Cross which she was now to bear till the very moment when our Lord breathed out His Soul. Indeed, after that this Cross endured, for there was danger of this kind of profanation when the soldiers came pre pared to break the legs of the crucified, when Longinus pierced the Sacred Side with his lance, and up to the very last, and until the Sacred Body was laid in honour in the Sepulchre. We may see in this intense suffering of our Blessed Lady a germ which was to increase to a mighty growth in her heart, and to spread from thence as the origin of many most noble sacrifices in the Church. This was the instinct and desire for repairing to our Lord, for the insults lavished upon Him by His enemies, by a more exact and faithful homage and worship than ever.
Another feature which now begins to make itself seen in the position of our Blessed Lady is that, as others fell away in various degrees and ways, from the desertion of Judas by his malignant betrayal to the weakness and cowardice of the Apostles which made them take to flight, our Lady remains more and more alone, the one instance of incomparable faithfulness and loyalty, of devotion and hope which nothing can shake. We do not know that the flight of the Apostles involved more than this cowardice, the result of weakness in faith. The fault of Peter afterwards was soon repaired, perhaps after a few words of encouragement from our Blessed Lady herself. St. John was at all events able to take his stand at the foot of the Cross with our Lady and blessed Magdalene. There w r as no absolute failure, therefore, or none that was not soon repaired, among the Apostles, except in the case of the poor traitor Judas. But there was one whose heart was more grievously afflicted than the hearts of all others taken together, and yet she is the one whose faith and hope never failed at all, but were brightened and intensified by the whole series of woes of which the Passion consisted. She was in the Passion in the place of the whole Church, or rather the whole Church had taken refuge in her bosom. She was thus to give our Lord the homage and honour which she had always rendered to Him, and to give them now with a greater intensity of love than ever before because there was no other who could aid her in the discharge of this duty. She has kept in the back ground during the triumphs and conflicts of His Public Life, and now that the Passion is on Him, she comes forward most prominently in the eyes of the whole world to stand by His Cross when so few others are found by her side.
In this earliest stage of the Passion the friends of our Lord, if they did not understand, as His Mother did, the Divine and judicial character of the process which was to issue on Calvary, may have been continually feeding their hopes on some one or other of the many elements in the case which might seem to make His murder impossible. It was, in deed, manifest that His judges had determined His ruin. This was proved, at once, in the house of Annas, when that veteran judge had shown the in conceivable unfairness of permitting our Lord to be violently cuffed in his presence by one of the attendants without punishing the offender. It was shown in the open attempts to convict our Lord by the subornation of false witnesses. But this device failed, and though our Lord made no answer to the charges against Him, because He came thus to be condemned, not because He was guilty of the charges, but because He had on Him the guilt of the whole world's sin, still there was no pretence for judgment against Him. He answered at last the adjuration of Caiphas, and this was made the ground of a new charge of blasphemy. But if the priests had condemned Him, there was still the Roman Governor, and the people themselves would have to be reckoned with, who were or had been devoted to Him. Pilate was averse to His condemnation. He got rid of the matter, as he thought, by a reference to Herod, and Herod found no cause of death in Him. Then the people had the right of freeing a prisoner at the feast, and why might they not free Him? All was in vain, for the cause which was being tried did not depend on human evidence, on the scruples of a judge, or on the favour of a mob. It depended on the justice of God, to which our Lord had surrendered Himself.
His Mother must have known this, and therefore she listened to no suggestion that might occur to her as to the possible issues of the matter on human grounds. He was to suffer to the utmost, and she was to suffer with Him. She was not even to hear of what was passing from others, she was to witness the most atrocious and terrible of the chastisements, which He was to undergo, the one of which the Evangelists seem almost afraid to speak, except in the fewest words. The terrible cry of " Crucify Him !" had appalled the Roman Governor, and made him think if he could contrive to release our Lord by making Him an object of pity to His enemies. Pilate's half-measure of compassion for the Immaculate Lamb of God was nothing less than the Flagellation.
1 Heb. vi. 6.