The bitter Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ – Part 1

Preparations for the Pasch

Holy Thursday, the 13th Nisan (29th of March).
Yesterday evening it was that the last great public repast of our Lord and his friends took
place in the house of Simon the Leper, at Bethania, and Mary Magdalen for the last time
anointed the feet of Jesus with precious ointment. Judas was scandalised upon this
occasion, and hastened forthwith to Jerusalem again to conspire with the high-priests for the
betrayal of Jesus into their hands. After the repast, Jesus returned to the house of Lazarus,
and some of the Apostles went to the inn situated beyond Bethania. During the night
Nicodemus again came to Lazarus’ house, had a long conversation with our Lord, and
returned before daylight to Jerusalem, being accompanied part of the way by Lazarus.
The disciples had already asked Jesus where he would eat the Pasch. To-day, before
dawn, our Lord sent for Peter, James, and John, spoke to them at some length concerning
all they had to prepare and order at Jerusalem, and told them that when ascending Mount
Sion, they would meet the man carrying a pitcher of water. They were already well
acquainted with this man, for at the last Pasch, at Bethania, it had been he who prepared the
meal for Jesus, and this is why St. Matthew says: a certain man. They were to follow him
home, and say to him: the Master saith, My time is near at hand, with thee I make the Pasch with
my disciples (Matt. 26:18). They were than to be shown the supper-room, and make all
necessary preparations.
I saw the Apostles ascending towards Jerusalem, along a ravine, to the south of the
Temple, and in the direction of the north side of Sion. On the southern side of the mountain
on which the Temple stood, there were some rows of houses; and they walked opposite
these houses, following the stream of an intervening torrent. When they had reached the
summit of Mount Sion, which is higher than the mountain of the Temple, they turned their
steps towards the south, and, just at the beginning of a small ascent, met the man who had
been named to them; they followed and spoke to him as Jesus had commanded. He was
much gratified by their words, and answered, that a supper had already been ordered to be
prepared at his house (probably by Nicodemus), but that he had not been aware for whom,
and was delighted to learn hat it was for Jesus. This man’s name was Heli, and he was the
brother-in-law of Zachary of Hebron, in whose house Jesus had in the preceding year
announced the death of John the Baptist. He had only one son, who was a Levite, and a
friend of St. Luke, before the latter was called by our Lord, and five daughters, all of whom
were unmarried. He went up every year with his servants for the festival of the Pasch, hired
a room and prepared the Pasch for persons who had no friend in the town to lodge with.
This year he had hired a supper-room which belonged to Nicodemus and Joseph of
Arimathea. He showed the two Apostles its position and interior arrangement.

The Supper-Room.

On the southern side of Mount Sion, not far from the ruined Castle of David, and the
market held on the ascent leading to that Castle, there stood, towards the east, an ancient
and solid building, between rows of thick trees, in the midst of a spacious court surrounded
by strong walls. To the right and left of the entrance, other buildings were to be seen
adjoining the wall, particularly to the right, where stood the dwelling of the major-domo,
and close to it the house in which the Blessed Virgin and the holy women spent most of
their time after the death of Jesus. The supper-room, which was originally larger, had
formerly been inhabited by David’s brave captains, who had there learned the use of arms.
Previous to the building of the Temple, the Ark of the Covenant had been deposited there
for a considerable length of time, and traces of its presence were still to be found in an
underground room. I have also seen the Prophet Malachy hidden beneath this same roof: he
there wrote his prophecies concerning the Blessed Sacrament and the Sacrifice of the New
Law. Solomon held this house in honour, and performed within its walls some figurative
and symbolical action, which I have forgotten. When a great part of Jerusalem was
destroyed by the Babylonians, this house was spared. I have seen many other things
concerning this same house, but I only remember what I have now told.
This building was in a very dilapidated state when it became the property of Nicodemus
and Joseph of Arimathea, who arranged the principal building in a very suitable manner,
and let it as a supper-room to strangers coming to Jerusalem for the purpose of celebrating
the festival of the Pasch. Thus it was that our Lord had made use of it the previous year.
Moreover, the house and surrounding buildings served as warehouses for monuments and
other stones, and as workshops for the labourers; for Joseph of Arimathea possessed
valuable quarries in his own country, from which he had large blocks of stone brought, that
his workmen might fashion them, under his own eye, into tombs, architectural ornaments,
and columns, for sale. Nicodemus had a share in this business, and used to spend many
leisure hours himself in sculpturing. He worked in the room, or in a subterraneous
apartment which saw beneath it, excepting at the times of the festivals; and this occupation
having brought him into connection with Joseph of Arimathea, they had become friends,
and often joined together in various transactions.
This morning, whilst Peter and John were conversing with the man who had hired the
supper-room, I saw Nicodemus in the buildings to the left of the court, where a great many
stones which filled up the passages leading to the supper-room had been placed. A week
before, I had seen several persons engaged in putting the stones on one side, cleaning the
court, and preparing the supper-room for the celebration of the Pasch; it even appears to me
that there were among them some disciples of our Lord, perhaps Aram and Themein, the
cousins of Joseph of Arimathea.
The supper-room, properly so called, was nearly in the centre of the court; its length was
greater than its width; it was surrounded by a row of low pillars, and if the spaces between
the pillars had been cleared, would have formed a part of the large inner room, for the
whole edifice was, as it were, transparent; only it was usual, except on special occasions, for
the passages to be closed up. The room was lighted by apertures at the top of the walls. In
front, there was first a vestibule, into which three doors gave entrance; next, the large inner
room, where several lamps hung from the platform; the walls were ornamented for the
festival, half way up, with beautiful matting or tapestry, and an aperture had been made in
the roof, and covered over with transparent blue gauze.
The back part of this room was separated from the rest by a curtain, also of blue
transparent gauze. This division of the supper-room into three parts gave a resemblance to
the Temple—thus forming the outer Court, the Holy, and the Holy of Holies. In the last of
these divisions, on both sides, the dresses and other things necessary for the celebration of
the feast were placed. In the centre there was a species of altar. A stone bench raised on
three steps, and of a rectangular triangular shape, came out of the wall; it must have
constituted the upper part of the oven used for roasting the Paschal Lamb, for to-day the
steps were quite heated during the repast. I cannot describe in detail all that there was in this
part of the room, but all kinds of arrangements were being made there for preparing the
Paschal Supper. Above this hearth of altar, there was a species of niche in the wall, in front
of which I saw an image of the Paschal Lamb, with a knife in its throat, and the blood
appearing to flow drop by drop upon the altar; but I do not remember distinctly how that
was done. In a niche in the wall there were three cupboards of various colours, which
turned like our tabernacles, for opening or closing. A number of vessels used in the
celebration of the Pasch were kept in them; later, the Blessed Sacrament was placed there.
In the rooms at the sides of the supper-room, there were some couches, on which thick
coverlids rolled up were placed, and which could be used as beds. There were spacious
cellars beneath the whole of this building. The Ark of the Covenant was formerly deposited
under the very spot where the hearth was afterwards built. Five gutters, under the house,
served to convey the refuse to the slope of the hill, on the upper part of which the house was
built. I had preciously seen Jesus preach and perform miraculous cures there, and the
disciples frequently passed the night in the side rooms.

Arrangements for eating the Paschal Lamb.

When the disciples had spoken to Heli of Hebron, the latter went back into the house by
the court, but they turned to the right, and hastened down the north side of the hill, through
Sion. They passed over a bridge, and walking along a road covered with brambles, reached
the other side of the ravine, which was in front of the Temple, and of the row of houses
which were to the south of that building. There stood the house of the aged Simeon, who
died in the Temple after the presentation of our Lord; and his sons, some of whom were
disciples of Jesus in secret, were actually living there. The Apostles spoke to one of them, a
tall dark-complexioned man, who held some office in the Temple. They went with him to
the eastern side of the Temple, through that part of Ophel by which Jesus made his entry
into Jerusalem on Palm-Sunday, and thence to the cattle-market, which stood in the town,
to the north of the Temple. In the southern part of this market I saw little enclosures in
which some beautiful lambs were gambolling about. Here it was that lambs for the Pasch
were bought. I saw the son of Simeon enter one of these enclosures; and the lambs
gambolled round him as if they knew him. He chose out four, which were carried to the
supper-room, engaged in preparing the Paschal Lamb.
I saw Peter and John go to several different parts of the town, and order various things. I
saw them also standing opposite the door of a house situated to the north of Mount Calvary,
where the disciples of Jesus lodged the greatest part of the time, and which belonged to
Seraphia (afterwards called Veronica). Peter and John sent some disciples from thence to
the supper-room, giving them several commissions, which I have forgotten.
They also went into Seraphia’s house, where they had several arrangements to make. Her
husband, who was a member of the council, was usually absent and engaged in business;
but even when he was at home she saw little of him. She was a woman of about the age of
the Blessed Virgin, and had long been connected with the Holy Family; for when the Child
Jesus remained the three days in Jerusalem after the feast, she it was who supplied him with
The two Apostles took from thence, among other things, the chalice of which our Lord
made use in the institution of the Holy Eucharist.

The Chalice used at the Last Supper

The chalice which the Apostles brought from Veronica’s house was wonderful and
mysterious in its appearance. It had been kept a long time in the Temple among other
precious objects of great antiquity, the use and origin of which had been forgotten. The
same has been in some degree the case in the Christian Church, where many consecrated
jewels have been forgotten and fallen into disuse with time. Ancient vases and jewels, buried
beneath the Temple, had often been dug up, sold, or reset. Thus it was that, by God’s
permission, this holy vessel, which none had ever been able to melt down on account of its
being made of some unknown material, and which had been found by the priests in the
treasury of the Temple among other objects no longer made use of, had been sold to some
antiquaries. It was bought by Seraphia, was several times made use of by Jesus in the
celebration of festivals, and, from the day of the Last Supper, became the exclusive property
of the holy Christian community. This vessel was not always the same as when used by our
Lord at his Last Supper, and perhaps it was upon that occasion that the various pieces
which composed it were first put together. The great chalice stood upon a plate, out of
which a species of tablet could also be drawn, and around it there were six little glasses. The
great chalice contained another smaller vase; above it there was a small plate, and then
came a round cover. A spoon was inserted in the foot of the chalice, and could be easily
drawn out for use. All these different vessels were covered with fine linen, and, if I am not
mistaken, were wrapped up in a case made of leather. The great chalice was composed of
the cup and of the foot, which last must have been joined on to it at a later period, for it was
of a different material. The cup was pear-shaped, massive, dark-coloured, and highly
polished, with gold ornaments, and two small handles by which it could be lifted. The foot
was of virgin gold, elaborately worked, ornamented with a serpent and a small bunch of
grapes, and enriched with precious stones.
The chalice was left in the Church of Jerusalem, in the hand of St. James the Less; and I
see that it is still preserved in that town—it will reappear some day, in the same manner as
before. Other Churches took the little cups which surrounded it; one was taken to Antioch,
and another to Ephesus. They belonged to the patriarchs, who drank some mysterious
beverage out of them when they received or gave a Benediction, as I have seen many times.
The great chalice had formerly been in the possession of Abraham; Melchisedech
brought it with him from the land of Semiramis to the land of Canaan, when he was
beginning to found some settlements on the spot where Jerusalem was afterwards built; he
made use of it then for offering sacrifice, when he offered bread and wine in the presence of
Abraham, and he left it in the possession of that holy patriarch. This same chalice had also
been preserved in Noah’s Ark.

Jesus goes up to Jerusalem.

In the morning, while the Apostles were engaged at Jerusalem in preparing for the Pasch,
Jesus, who had remained at Bethania, took an affecting leave of the holy women, of
Lazarus, and of his Blessed Mother, and gave them some final instructions. I saw our Lord
conversing apart with his Mother, and he told her, among other things, that he had sent
Peter, the apostle of faith, and John, the apostle of love, to prepare for the Pasch at
Jerusalem. He said, in speaking of Magdalen, whose grief was excessive, that her love was
great, but still somewhat human, and that on this account her sorrow made her beside
herself. He spoke also of the schemes of the traitor Judas, and the Blessed Virgin prayed for
him. Judas had again left Bethania to go to Jerusalem, under pretence of paying some debts
that were due. He spent his whole day in hurrying backwards and forwards from one
Pharisee to another, and making his final agreements with them. He was shown the soldiers
who had been engaged to seize the person of our Divine Saviour, and he so arranged his
journeys to and fro as to be able to account for his absence. I beheld all his wicked schemes
and all his thoughts. He was naturally active and obliging, but these good qualities were
choked by avarice, ambition, and envy, which passions he made no effort to control. In our
Lord’s absence he had even performed miracles and healed the sick.
When our Lord announced to his Blessed Mother what was going to take place, she
besought him, in the most touching terms, to let her die with him. But he exhorted her to
show more calmness in her sorrow than the other women, told her that he should rise again,
and named the very spot where he should appear to her. She did not weep much, but her
grief was indescribable, and there was something almost awful in her look of deep
recollection. Our Divine Lord returned thanks, as a loving Son, for all the love she had
borne him, and pressed her to his heart. He also told her that he would make the Last
Supper with her, spiritually, and named the hour at which she would receive his precious
Body and Blood. Then once more he, in touching language, bade farewell to all, and gave
them different instructions.
About twelve o’clock in the day, Jesus and the nine Apostles went from Bethania up to
Jerusalem, followed by seven disciples, who, with the exception of Nathaniel and Silas,
came from Jerusalem and the neighbourhood. Among these were John, Mark, and the son
of the poor widow who, the Thursday previous, had offered her mite in the Temple, whilst
Jesus was preaching there. Jesus had taken him into his company a few days before. The
holy women set off later.
Jesus and his companions walked around Mount Olivet, about the valley of Josaphat,
and even as far as Mount Calvary. During the whole of this walk, he continued giving them
instructions. He told the Apostles, among other things, that until then he had given them his
bread and his wine, but that this day he was going to give them his Body and Blood, his
whole self—all that he had and all that he was. The countenance of our Lord bore so
touching an expression whilst he was speaking, that his whole soul seemed to breathe forth
from his lips, and he appeared to be languishing with love and desire for the moment when
he should give himself to man. His disciples did not understand him, but thought that he
was speaking of the Paschal Lamb. No words can give an adequate idea of the love and
resignation which were expressed in these last discourses of our Lord at Bethania, and on
his way to Jerusalem.
The seven disciples who had followed our Lord to Jerusalem did not go there in his
company, but carried the ceremonial habits for the Pasch to the supper-room, and then
returned to the house of Mary, the mother of Mark. When Peter and John came to the
supper-room with the chalice, all the ceremonial habits were already in the vestibule,
whither they had been brought by his disciples and some companions. They had also hung
the walls with drapery, cleared the higher openings in the sides, and put up three lamps.
Peter and John then went to the Valley of Josaphat, and summoned our Lord and the
twelve Apostles. The disciples and friends who were also to make their Pasch in the supperroom,
came later.