MARY ON CALVARY. PART 2.
The next day, the chief priests and Pharisees dragged Jesus before Pontius Pilate, who was supremely odious to them since the affair of the imperial standards, which he had introduced by night into Jerusalem; 1 but as they hated the Son of God much mere, and as the Romans alone could condemn him to death, 2 they were resigned to appear at the pretorium of this idolater, after taking the most minute precautions to avoid exposing themselves to any unclean contact with his garments, his standards, and even his tribunal, which would have rendered them impure for the whole day. After doing everything, therefore, to avoid so serious an inconvenience, these scrupulous men accused Jesus of having perverted the people by his doctrine, of having opposed their paying tribute to Caesar, and, finally, of having taken the seditious title of the King of the Jews.—As many falsehoods as words.
Jesus met these false accusations only with silence. Pilate, convinced of the profound wickedness of the accusers, and the perfect innocence of the accused, would have saved Jesus: he did not succeed. The Pharisees, skilful in raising popular tumults, worked up the people, who seditiously demanded the death of the descendant of their ancient kings; and the governor, who knew well how to appease the clamours of the Jews, in a way perfectly oriental, when he chose to do so, was content tamely to defend against the madmen who wanted to force from him an unjust judgment, the innocent man whom he ought to have protected with firmness. Wearied with their clamours, overcome by their persistence, the Roman washed his hands, of the sentence which he pronounced. 3 After which,—no doubt with a view to excuse himself for his show of clemency towards Jesus Christ, and to win back the hearts of the populace of Jerusalem, whom he had recently had beaten by his lictors in a commotion, 4 on occasion of the sacred treasure, which he wanted to grasp largely, under pretence of building an aqueduct which they did not want,—he had the Son of David and Solomon scourged with rods, while the deicidal people applauded, who had dared to take upon their own heads, and those of their children, the terrible responsibility of his death. This done, he delivered him up, at the same time admiring and lamenting over him, 5 to the insults of a soldiery whom the princes of the synagogue, who had a positive horror of them, had condescended to corrupt, that their own hatred might be the better served; 6 for they knew how to hate strongly, these zealots for the law of Moses, who would kill and divide Christ " for the love of God! "
When Jesus had arrived at the court of the pretorium, they made him sit down on a broken column, 7 and the whole cohort did their utmost to disport themselves with him in the most atrocious and insolent manner. It was the season when the dangerous rhamnus 8—which long before had entangled in its thorny thickets the symbolical Jamb for the sacrifice of Abraham 9—was in fall flower ; one of the soldiers ran to gather a branch of it, and made a mock crown, the flowers of which were soon tinged with his blood, and every thorn gave him a deep and insupportable wound. After stripping him like a slave, they threw over his shoulders a purple rag, they put a reed in his hand for a sceptre, and they saluted, with bitter sarcasms and derisive genuflexions, that mockery of royalty. His whole body was but one wound, for the scourges with sharp points had made red pieces of his flesh fly off a long way in the hall of executions ; spittle disfigured his face, where clots of dark blood settled down here and there from his wounded forehead, which his fettered hands could not reach I The chief priests, the doctors, and Pharisees, looked upon this scene with secret satisfaction ; these honourable men regarded compassion as baseness of soul! 10
When the Pharisees thought that the idolatrous soldiers had degraded Jesus in the eyes of the people enough to destroy the idea of his divinity, the approach of the Sabbath obliging them to hurry, they took their victim, whom the Roman governor gave up to them with reluctance, and, after loading his bleeding and mangled shoulders with the enormous weight of the cross, they urged on, with the staves of their lances, his painful and slow march toward Calvary, where they were going to crucify him.
Crowds of spectators lined the streets and stopped up the ways: some openly showed a savage joy, and cried anathema upon the son of David ; others pitied the fate of that youthful prophet, who had done nothing but good to men, and whom men had forsaken and betrayed. But these signs of barren sympathy made hardly any impression; the good wept in silence ; all those whom he had fed with five loaves in the desert, those whom he had healed, those whom he had loved were there, lost in the crowd, and no voice protested against his punishment ; 11 that one among the apostles who loved him most had cowardly denied him! the rest, with only one exception, had fled away and left him !
As he painfully passed down the long street which leads to the Judiciary Gate, a woman made her way through the crowd: this woman, remarkably beautiful, and bearing in her mild and sweet countenance the image of virtue, seemed wholly absorbed in unutterable grief; she suffered so much; she was so pale; her eyes, which had shed all their tears, cast a look so dead—a look of sorrow so holy upon the frightful wounds of our Saviour—that, when they beheld her, the daughters of Jerusalem muttered with compassion, " Poor Mother !
1 Josephus, Ant. Jud., liv. xviii. c. 4.
2 Before Judea had become subject to the .Romans, the sanhedrim possessed the right of life and death; but those conquerors deprived them of that privilege. It was the custom of the Romans to leave the conquered nations their temples and their gods; but in civil matters they were obliged to follow the laws and orders of the republic. At the time when Jesus Christ was condemned, the Romans were absolutely masters of temporal jurisdiction, and the authority of the Jewish senate was limited to affairs purely ecclesiastical. The Talmudists recognised it, for they acknowledged that the power of judging was taken away from the senate forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem, that is, three years before the death of Jesus Christ —(Basn., liv. vii. c. 4.)
3 The decree pronounced by Pilate against our Lord is preserved at Jerusalem. We give it here, not as an authentic document, but as a local tradition:—Jesum Nazarenum, subversorem gentis, contemptorem Casaris, it falsum Messiam, ut majorum susb gentis lestimonio probatum est, ducite ad communis supplicii locum, et cum ludibrio regiæ magistatis in medio duorum latronum affigite. I, lictor, expedi cruces. "Jesus of Nazareth, the subverter of the people, the despiser of Cæsar, and the false Messias, as it has been proved by the testimony of the ancients of this nation, take ye to the common place of punishment, and crucify him in derision of his royal majesty between two thieves. Go, lictor, prepare the crosses."—(Adricom., In descript. Jesu.)
4 Pilate undertook to build an aqueduct with the money of the sacred treasure, to bring water to Jerusalem from a distance of two hundred furlongs. The people, violently irritated against the Roman governor, whose intentions they discovered, assembled in large bodies of several thousand men in the streets and the public squares of Jerusalem, which they made ring with vociferations against Pilate, and there were some even, says Josephus, who exasperated the governor by gross insults; as it always happens with people in commotion. Pilate, who was not alarmed at a little, made his own people take great bludgeons under their garments, and surround the populace; when the seditious, after taking breath, recommenced their clamours and insults, Pilate gave the signal to his men to lay on them, and they began to strike more than they were ordered to do, and without any distinction gave great blows with their cudgels as well to those who were silent as to those who made a noise. These poor people, who were unarmed, were thus inhumanly treated, adds Josephus, with compassionate sympathy for the Jewish outbreak; some were killed, others wounded, and by this means was the tumult appeased.—(Joseph. Ant. Jud., lib. xviii. c. 4.)
5 Tiberias, in consequence of the accounts which came to him from Pontius Pilate, proposed to the senate to grant divine honours to Jesus Christ; Tertullian relates it as a well-known met in his Apology, which he presented to the senate in the name of the Church, and he would not have been willing to weaken a cause so good as his by things where it would have been so easy to confound him.— (Tertull. Apolog. 6; Euseb., Hist. Eccl. ii. 2.)
6 M. Salvador would fain exculpate his co-religionists, by imputing to the Roman soldiers the unheard-of outrages which Jesus received in the pretorium; but it is clear that the Romans acted only by the instigation of the enemies of Jesus Christ. The following is the opinion of St John Chrysostom on this subject:—"It is the Jews themselves who condemn Jesus to death, although they shelter themselves under the name of Pilate. ' They desire that his blood should fall upon themselves and upon their children.' It is they alone who direct all these insults against him, who bind nim, who lead him away to Pilate, and who cause him to be dragged along so cruelly by the soldiers. Pilate had not ordered any of these things.*' —(Serin. 77, in Matt)
7 This pillar, of grey marble, being only two feet high, is at Rome, in the church of St. Praxedes.
8 Some separate thorns of this crown, in the possession of individuals, are now recognised as the rhamnus spina Christi of Linnæus.
9 St. Jerom (in Philem.) says that the ram which Abraham saw in the thorn-bush was the figure of Jesus Christ crowned with thorns.
10 Basn., liv. vi. c. 17. The punishment of the whip was of very ancient usage among the Jews, and was not considered disgraceful. According to the Talmud, kings themselves were subjected to it on certain occasions. "Tradition informs us,' says Maimonides, "that the king may not have more than eighteen wives; if he marries one above that number, let him be whipped. If he has more horses than he has need of for the service of his chariot, let him be whipped. If he amasses more gold and silver than he wants for the payment of his ministers, let him be whipped."—(Maimonid., Halach., Malach., c. 3.)
11 We read in the Misnah that, in the time when the Jews were governed by their own laws, when a condemned person was conducted to the place of punishment, a herald of arms went before him, on horseback, making this proclamation,—" Such a one is condemned for such a crime; if any one can bring forward anything in his defence let him speak." If any one came forward, the criminal was taken back, and two judges, who walked one on each side of him, examined the validity of the reasons which it was attempted to substantiate; the prisoner might he led back in this manner as far as five times.—(Misnah, Tract, de Syned., c. vi. p. 233.) Jesus Christ being condemned by the Romans, could not avail himself of this national custom.