The Lily Of Israel By The Abbe Gerbet. Part 39.


Jesus Is Led from Caiaphas to Pilate by James Tissot

IN the morning all the chief Priests and Ancients of the people again assembled. Although they had judged Jesus worthy of death they could not arrogate to themselves the authority of pronouncing the sentence. For this the ratification of Pilate was necessary—since without the approval of the Roman Procurator who governed them, they had no power to carry out an edict of death.

This approval they hoped to wrest from the weak Pilate, and in consequence they hurriedly led Our Lord to the fortress Antonia, where the Roman official resided.

The Blessed Mother was still concealed from view in the place where she had watched and prayed during the whole of this terrible night. She saw her dear Jesus come forth, surrounded by those who were conducting Him to the Procurator. Soldiers and servants crowded after Him and formed a mock cortege.

"Oh, how changed, how changed He is!" whispered Magdalen, in an accent of deepest woe.

"Truly this is the Man of sorrows," said the other Mary, in as low a tone.

And so indeed He appeared, His adorable features covered with bruises, His garments rent and soiled with mud. The Virgin raised her veil, so that her loving glance might clothe Him, as it were, might linger upon Him, might prove, if proof were ever necessary, that she suffered with Him! Mothers will know what sentiments filled the heart of the Mother of God at this moment.

Her companions noted that she, too, had changed. Ah, yes! In spirit she had participated in His sufferings. She beheld that chaste body, fashioned by the Holy Ghost, bleeding with wounds—there, under her very eyes, besmeared with mud and clay; and God Himself the jest and byword of all the vile rabble!

What a price was paid for your soul and for mine!

And now Magdalen, looking upon Him who had shone with divine splendor before her, at last realized that danger of death was threatening.

"Where are those who yesterday kissed the print of His feet? Where those who followed Him with cries of joy and transport of love? All have vanished! Vanished!" She clasped her hands in agony. "Cowards! They have abandoned Him to a few madmen thirsting for blood and drunk with wine, whom a little boldness would scatter to their holes! Shall we allow Him to perish ? Oh, no, no!"

For she saw the weakness of the guard. His friends were many. A determined attack, and He might be rescued and carried to safety. With mouth firmly set, and despairing eyes, she whispered to the Virgin that she must go and see what might be done. Hurriedly drawing her veil about her, she turned swiftly toward the more secluded streets of the city, where many lived who had followed in the train of our blessed Lord, and who had received favors from Him. They had been friends and partisans of the Saviour, and to them she addressed herself.

"Come!" she cried. "He whom you love is about to perish; arm yourselves. Come, and defend Him! He will be put to death if you do not hasten! Come, come!"

She called each by his name. She called the lepers that had been healed, the sick that had been cured, the guilty who had been pardoned, the blind restored to sight, the deaf restored to sound, the lame made whole!

But those who heard her did not respond. They withdrew into their homes. She beat at the door of that house in which dwelt Joseph of Arimathea, but he Was already forth in the streets—whither she could not discover. She went to the disciples, but they anticipated all manner of evil, and would not show themselves. These men, one day to be the intrepid supporters of the Church, yes, martyrs of the new Faith, were now too timid even to appear.

Passing through one of the narrow streets she remembered that a paralytic who had been cured only three days before now lived within it. She ran to him, just opening the door of his house, that the sweetness of the morning might enter.

"Come and help Him who healed thee! He is being dragged through the streets like a criminal. The Priests would put Him to death. Come! You have many of the goods of this world! Use them now for His sake!"

But the Pharisees had already spoken with this man, and he coldly turned away from her appeal.

"I know that He cured me. But they say that He is wicked, the servant of Beelzebub. What can I do to help Him? If He is condemned justly, He must suffer."

"Oh, vile one!" said Magdalen. "Is it thus you repay His goodness? Thus?"

And tears rose to her eyes. Never, in all her life, had she thought hearts could be so hard. She was turning back in despair, when the name of Servilius suggested itself to her. He was rich and powerful, and could command the services of many friends. Alas! Magdalen the penitent could now but plead where Magdalen the sinner had only to wish to be obeyed! Servilius told her frankly that he would do nothing. He had just been named Procurator of the Gauls, and he did not propose to endanger his rising honors by any such futile attempt.

Magdalen left him abruptly. Time was flying. If Jesus was not rescued ere He reached the palace of Pilate, all would be lost. The guards would be increased. And now she understood how hopeless had been her quest, how useless her seeking of help.

Sobs broke from her. She pulled her veil across her face that none might observe her grief. As she went she could not control herself. Presently she knew that others had joined her—three of the disciples, James, Philip, and John. A sorrowful band, indeed! At the corner of the street a youth and maiden were passing. The face of the girl was stained with tears. As she approached with the three disciples, the young man addressed her.

"Can you tell me whither they have taken Jesus?" he asked.

"To the fortress Antonia," said Magdalen.

"Let us follow," said the young girl, nervously. "Let us die with Him if we can not save Him!"

"Poor children!" said Magdalen, in a broken tone. "All those who might have saved Him have abandoned Him. He is alone, in the hands of a furious mob. But we will join Him, and when He stands before Pilate, we will cry out for mercy and justice. Perhaps our voices may be heard."

Jezel and Melkam—faithful ones!—joined her, and soon a few other women—Melkam's mother and some of their relatives—followed. They hastened on, and finally located the cortege by the clamor which accompanied it. In traversing the lower part of the city the escort had been augmented by the meanest of the populace, who pushed and rolled like the waves of a roaring torrent.

Magdalen and the disciples looked at one another in sorrow. They felt their weakness. The only thing they could do was to reach the Virgin Mother's side, and keep a passage for her near her Son. It took them some moments to shove their way through the jostling crowd, but at last they did so.

The Mother of the Redeemer followed Him hopelessly.

"O God," she was crying out, in her pure heart, "must this dreadful sacrifice really be accomplished? Is not this enough? Are not these dread insults sufficient? Hear me, Father in heaven! Let humanity redeem humanity. I will search this earth for hearts pure enough to expiate the faults of their fathers. Young maidens, wise matrons. I will gather them together, and we shall go to the mountain and there pray to Thee day and night. But now save my dear Son, Thine only Son, in whom Thou art well-pleased."

But then she seemed to see Sin spread upon this earth through all the ages. She saw Sin soiling the creature. She heard a voice rising mournfully from the whole world. She understood that only the blood of a God could wash away so many iniquities.

The cortege arrived at the foot of the marble steps that led to the house of Pilate. The Doctors of the Law and the members of the Council ascended them. They could not enter this heathen domicile lest they should incur a legal Defilement which would prevent them from eating the Pasch, as they were expected to do that very day.