The bitter Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ – Part 10

Jesus on Mount Golgotha.

Sixth and Seventh Falls of Jesus.
The procession again moved on; the road was very steep and rough between the walls of
the town and Calvary, and Jesus had the greatest difficulty in walking with his heavy burden
on his shoulders; but his cruel enemies, far from feeling the slightest compassion, or giving
the least assistance, continued to urge him on by the infliction of hard blows, and the
utterance of dreadful curses. At last they reached a spot where the pathway turned suddenly
to the south; here he stumbled and fell for the sixth time. The fall was a dreadful one, but
the guards only struck him the harder to force him to get up, and no sooner did he reach
Calvary that he sank down again for the seventh time.
Simon of Cyrene was filled with indignation and pity; notwithstanding his fatigue, he
wished to remain that he might assist Jesus, but the archers first reviled, and then drove him
away, and he soon after joined the body of disciples. The executioners then ordered the
workmen and the boys who had carried the instruments of the execution to depart, and the
Pharisees soon arrived, for they were on horseback, and had taken the smooth and easy
road which ran to the east of Calvary. There was a fine view of the whole town of Jerusalem
from the top of Calvary. This top was circular, and about the size of an ordinary ridingschool,
surrounded by a low wall, and with five separate entrances. This appeared to be the
usual number in those parts, for there were five roads at the baths, at the place where they
baptised, at the pool of Bethsaida, and there were likewise many towns with five gates. In
this, as in many other peculiarities of the Holy Land, there was a deep prophetic
signification; that number five, which so often occurred, was a type of those five sacred
wound of our Blessed Saviour, which were to open to us the gates of Heaven.
The horsemen stopped on the west side of the mount, where the declivity was not so
steep; for the side up which the criminals were brought was both rough and steep. About a
hundred soldiers were stationed on different parts of the mountain, and as space was
required, the thieves were not brought to the top, but ordered to halt before they reached it,
and to lie on the ground with their arms fastened to their crosses. Soldiers stood around and
guarded them, while crowds of persons who did not fear defiling themselves, stood near the
platform or on the neighbouring heights; these were mostly of the lower classes—strangers,
slaves, and pagans, and a number of them were women.
It wanted about a quarter to twelve when Jesus, loaded with his cross, sank down at the
precise spot where he was to be crucified. The barbarous executioners dragged him up by
the cords which they had fastened round his waist, and then untied the arms of the cross,
and threw them on the ground. The sight of our Blessed Lord at this moment was, indeed,
calculated to move the hardest heart to compassion; he stood or rather bent over the cross,
being scarcely able to support himself; his heavenly countenance was pale and was as that of
a person on the verge of death, although wounds and blood disfigured it to a frightful
degree; but the hearts of these cruel men were, alas! harder than iron itself, and far from
showing the slightest commiseration, they threw him brutally down, exclaiming in a jeering
tone, ‘Most powerful king, we are about to prepare thy throne.’ Jesus immediately placed
himself upon the cross, and they measured him and marked the places for his feet and
hands; whilst the Pharisees continued to insult their unresisting Victim. When the
measurement was finished, they led him to a cave cut in the rock, which had been used
formerly as a cellar, opened the door, and pushed him in so roughly that had it not been for
the support of angels, his legs must have been broken by so hard a fall on the rough stone
floor. I most distinctly heard his groans of pain, but they closed the door quickly, and placed
guards before it, and the archers continued their preparations for the crucifixion. The centre
of the platform mentioned above was the most elevated part of Calvary,—it was a round
eminence, about two feet high, and persons were obliged to ascend two of three steps to
reach its top. The executioners dug the holes for the three crosses at the top of this
eminence, and placed those intended for the thieves one on the right and the other on the
left of our Lord’s; both were lower and more roughly made than his. They then carried the
cross of our Saviour to the spot where they intended to crucify him, and placed it in such a
position that it would easily fall into the hole prepared for it. They fastened the two arms
strongly on to the body of the cross, nailed the board at the bottom which was to support the
feet, bored the holes for the nails, and cut different hollows in the wood in the parts which
would receive the head and back of our Lord, in order that his body might rest against the
cross, instead of being suspended from it. Their aim in this was the prolongation of his
tortures, for if the whole weight of this body was allowed to fall upon the hands the holes
might be quite torn open, and death ensue more speedily than they desired. The
executioners then drove into the ground the pieces of wood which were intended to keep the
cross upright, and made a few other similar preparations.

The Departure of Mary and the holy Women of Calvary.

Although the Blessed Virgin was carried away fainting after the sad meeting with her Son
loaded with his cross, yet she soon recovered consciousness; for love, and the ardent desire
of seeing him once more, imparted to her a supernatural feeling of strength. Accompanied
by her companions she went to the house of Lazarus, which was at the bottom of the town,
and where Martha, Magdalen, and many holy women were already assembled. All were sad
and depressed, but Magdalen could not restrain her tears and lamentations. They started
from this house, about seventeen in number, to make the way of the cross, that is to say, to
follow every step Jesus had taken in this most painful journey. Mary counted each footstep,
and being interiorly enlightened, pointed out to her companions those places which had
been consecrated by peculiar sufferings. Then did the sharp sword predicted by aged Simeon
impress for the first time in the heart of Mary that touching devotion which has since been
so constantly practised in the Church. Mary imparted it to her companions, and they in
their turn left it to future generations,—a most precious gift indeed, bestowed by our Lord
on his beloved Mother, and which passed from her heart to the hearts of her children
through the revered voice of tradition.
When these holy women reached the house of Veronica they entered it, because Pilate
and his officers were at that moment passing through the street, on their way home. They
burst forth into unrestrained tears when they beheld the countenance of Jesus imprinted on
the veil, and they returned thanks to God for the favour he had bestowed on his faithful
servant. They took the jar of aromatic wine which the Jews had prevented Jesus from
drinking, and set off together towards Golgotha. Their number was considerably increased,
for many pious men and women whom the sufferings of our Lord had filled with pity had
joined them, and they ascended the west side of Calvary, as the declivity there was not so
great. The Mother of Jesus, accompanied by her niece, Mary (the daughter of Cleophas),
John, and Salome went quite up to the round platform; but Martha, Mary of Heli, Veronica,
Johanna Chusa, Susanna, and Mary, the mother of Mark, remained below with Magdalen,
who could hardly support herself. Lower down on the mountain there was a third group of
holy women, and there were a few scattered individuals between the three groups, who
carried messages from one to the other. The Pharisees on horseback rode to and fro among
the people, and the five entrances were guarded by Roman soldiers. Mary kept her eyes
fixed on the fatal spot, and stood as if entranced,—it was indeed a sight calculated to appal
and rend the heart of a mother. There lay the terrible cross, the hammers, the ropes, the
nails, and alongside of these frightful instruments to torture stood the brutal executioners,
half drunk, and almost without clothing, swearing and blaspheming, whilst making their
preparations. The sufferings of the Blessed Virgin were greatly increased by her not being
able to see her Son; she knew that he was still alive, and she felt the most ardent desire once
more to behold him, while the thought of the torments he still had to endure made her heart
ready to burst with grief.
A little hail had been falling at times during the morning, but the sun came out again
after ten o’clock, and a thick red fog began to obscure it towards twelve.

The Nailing of Jesus to the Cross.

The preparations for the crucifixion being finished four archers went to the cave where
they had confined our Lord and dragged him out with their usual brutality, while the mob
looked on and made use of insulting language, and the Roman soldiers regarded all with
indifference, and thought of nothing but maintaining order. When Jesus was again brought
forth, the holy women gave a man some money, and begged him to pay the archer anything
they might demand if they would allow Jesus to drink the wine which Veronica had
prepared; but the cruel executioners, instead of giving it to Jesus, drank it themselves. They
had brought two vases with them, one of which contained vinegar and gall, and the other a
mixture which looked like wine mixed with myrrh and absinthe; they offered a glass of the
latter to our Lord, which he tasted, but would not drink.
There were eighteen archers on the platform; the six who had scourged Jesus, the four
who had conducted him to Calvary, the two who held the ropes which supported the cross,
and six others who came for the purpose of crucifying him. They were strangers in the pay
of either the Jews or the Romans, and were short thick-set men, with most ferocious
countenances, rather resembling wild beasts than human beings, and employing themselves
alternately in drinking and in making preparations for the crucifixion.
This scene was rendered the more frightful to me by the sight of demons, who were
invisible to others, and I saw large bodies of evil spirits under the forms of toads, serpents,
sharp-clawed dragons, and venomous insects, urging these wicked men to still greater
cruelty, and perfectly darkening the air. They crept into the mouths and into the hearts of
the assistants, sat upon their shoulders, filled their minds with wicked images, and incited
them to revile and insult our Lord with still greater brutality. Weeping angels, however,
stood around Jesus, and the sight of their tears consoled me not a little, and they were
accompanied by little angels of glory, whose heads alone I saw. There were likewise angels
of pity and angels of consolation among them; the latter frequently approached the Blessed
Virgin and the rest of the pious persons who were assembled there, and whispered words of
comfort which enabled them to bear up with firmness.
The executioners soon pulled off our Lord’s cloak, the belt to which the ropes were
fastened, and his own belt, when they found it was impossible to drag the woollen garment
which his Mother had woven for him over his head, on account of the crown of thorns; they
tore off this most painful crown, thus reopening every wound, and seizing the garment, tore
it mercilessly over his bleeding and wounded head. Our dear Lord and Saviour then stood
before his cruel enemies, stripped of all save the short scapular which was on his shoulders,
and the linen which girded his loins. His scapular was of wool; the wool had stuck to the
wounds, and indescribable was the agony of pain he suffered when they pulled it roughly
off. He shook like the aspen as he stood before them, for he was so weakened from suffering
and loss of blood that he could not support himself for more than a few moments; he was
covered with open wounds, and his shoulders and back were torn to the bone by the
dreadful scourging he had endured. He was about to fall when the executioners, fearing that
he might die, and thus deprive them of the barbarous pleasure of crucifying him, led him to
a large stone and placed him roughly down upon it, but no sooner was he seated than they
aggravated his sufferings by putting the crown of thorns again upon his head. They then
offered him some vinegar and gall, from which, however, he turned away in silence. The
executioners did not allow him to rest long, but bade him rise and place himself on the cross
that they might nail him to it. Then seizing his right arm they dragged it to the hole prepared
for the nail, and having tied it tightly down with a cord, one of them knelt upon his sacred
chest, a second held his hand flat, and a third taking a long thick nail, pressed it on the open
palm of that adorable hand, which had ever been open to bestow blessings and favours on
the ungrateful Jews, and with a great iron hammer drove it through the flesh, and far into
the wood of the cross. Our Lord uttered one deep but suppressed groan, and his blood
gushed forth and sprinkled the arms of the archers. I counted the blows of the hammer, but
my extreme grief made me forget their number. The nails were very large, the heads about
the size of a crown piece, and the thickness that of a man’s thumb, while the points came
through at the back of the cross. The Blessed Virgin stood motionless; from time to time you
might distinguish her plaintive moans; she appeared as if almost fainting from grief, and
Magdalen was quite beside herself. When the executioners had nailed the right hand of our
Lord, they perceived that his left hand did not reach the hole they had bored to receive the
nail, therefore they tied ropes to his left arm, and having steadied their feet against the cross,
pulled the left hand violently until it reached the place prepared for it. This dreadful process
caused our Lord indescribable agony, his breast heaved, and his legs were quite contracted.
They again knelt upon him, tied down his arms, and drove the second nail into his left
hand; his blood flowed afresh, and his feeble groans were once more heard between the
blows of the hammer, but nothing could move the hard-hearted executioners to the slightest
pity. The arms of Jesus, thus unnaturally stretched out, no longer covered the arms of the
cross, which were sloped; there was a wide space between them and his armpits. Each
additional torture and insult inflicted on our Lord caused a fresh pang in the heart of his
Blessed Mother; she became white as a corpse, but as the Pharisees endeavoured to increase
her pain by insulting words and gestures, the disciples led her to a group of pious women
who were standing a little farther off.
The executioners had fastened a piece of wood at the lower part of the cross under where
the feet of Jesus would be nailed, that thus the weight of his body might not rest upon the
wounds of his hands, as also to prevent the bones of his feet from being broken when nailed
to the cross. A hole had been pierced in this wood to receive the nail when driven through
his feet, and there was likewise a little hollow place for his heels. These precautions were
taken lest his wounds should be torn open by the weight of this body, and death ensue
before he had suffered all the tortures which they hoped to see him endure. The whole body
of our Lord had been dragged upward, and contracted by the violent manner with which the
executioners had stretched out his arms, and his knees were bent up; they therefore flattened
and tied them down tightly with cords; but soon perceiving that his feet did not reach the bit
of wood which was placed for them to rest upon, they became infuriated. Some of their
number proposed making fresh holes for the nails which pierced his hands, as there would
be considerable difficulty in removing the bit of wood, but the others would do nothing of
the sort, and continued to vociferate, ‘He will not stretch himself out, but we will help him;’
they accompanied these words with the most fearful oaths and imprecations, and having
fastened a rope to his right leg, dragged it violently until it reached the wood, and then tied
it down as tightly as possible. The agony which Jesus suffered from this violent tension was
indescribable; the words ‘My God, my God,’ escaped his lips, and the executioners increased
his pain by tying his chest and arms to the cross, lest the hands should be torn from the
nails. They then fastened his left foot on to his right foot, having first bored a hole through
them with a species of piercer, because they could not be placed in such a position as to be
nailed together at once. Next they took a very long nail and drove it completely through
both feet into the cross below, which operation was more than usually painful, on account
of his body being so unnaturally stretched out; I counted at least six and thirty blows of the
hammer. During the whole time of the crucifixion our Lord never ceased praying, and
repeating those passages in the Psalms which he was then accompanying, although from
time to time a feeble moan caused by excess of suffering might be heard. In this manner he
had prayed when carrying his cross, and thus he continued to pray until his death. I heard
him repeat all these prophecies; I repeated them after him, and I have often since noted the
different passages when reading the Psalms, but I now feel so exhausted with grief that I
cannot at all connect them.
When the crucifixion of Jesus was finished, the commander of the Roman soldiers
ordered Pilate’s inscription to be nailed on the top of the cross. The Pharisees were much
incensed at this, and their anger was increased by the jeers of the Roman soldiers, who
pointed at their crucified king; they therefore hastened back to Jerusalem, determined to use
their best endeavours to persuade the governor to allow them to substitute another
It was about a quarter past twelve when Jesus was crucified, and at the moment the cross
was lifted up, the Temple resounded with the blast of trumpets, which were always blown to
announce the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb.

Raising of the Cross.

When the executioners had finished the crucifixion of our Lord, they tied ropes to the
trunk of the cross, and fastened the ends of these ropes round a long beam which was fixed
firmly in the ground at a little distance, and by means of these ropes they raised the cross.
Some of their number supported it while others shoved its foot towards the hole prepared
for its reception—the heavy cross fell into this hole with a frightful shock—Jesus uttered a
faint cry, and his wounds were torn open in the most fearful manner, his blood again burst
forth, and his half dislocated bones knocked one against the other. The archers pushed the
cross to get it thoroughly into the hole, and caused it to vibrate still more by planting five
stakes around to support it.
A terrible, but at the same time a touching sight it was to behold the cross raised up in the
midst of the vast concourse of persons who were assembled all around; not only insulting
soldiers, proud Pharisees, and the brutal Jewish mob were there, but likewise strangers from
all parts. The air resounded with acclamations and derisive cries when they beheld it
towering on high, and after vibrating for a moment in the air, fall with a heavy crash into
the hole cut for it in the rock. But words of love and compassion resounded through the air
at the same moment; and need we say that these words, these sounds, were emitted by the
most saintly of human beings—Mary—John—the holy women, and all who were pure of
heart? They bowed down and adored the ‘Word made flesh,’ nailed to the cross; they
stretched forth their hands as if desirous of giving assistance to the Holy of Holies, whom
they beheld nailed to a cross and in the power of his furious enemies. But when the solemn
sound of the fall of the cross into the hole prepared for it in the rock was heard, a dead
silence ensued, every heart was filled with an indefinable feeling of awe—a feeling never
before experienced, and for which no one could account, even to himself; all the inmates of
hell shook with terror, and vented their rage by endeavouring to stimulate the enemies of
Jesus to still greater fury and brutality; the souls in Limbo were filled with joy and hope, for
the sound was to them a harbinger of happiness, the prelude to the appearance of their
Deliverer. Thus was the blessed cross of our Lord planted for the first time on the earth; and
well might it be compared to the tree of life in Paradise, for the wounds of Jesus were as
sacred fountains, from which flowed four rivers destined both to purify the world from the
curse of sin, and to give it fertility, so as to produce fruit unto salvation.
The eminence on which the cross was planted was about two feet higher than the
surrounding parts; the feet of Jesus were sufficiently near the ground for his friends to be
able to reach to kiss them, and his face was turned to the north-west.

Crucifixion of the Thieves.

During the time of the crucifixion of Jesus, the two thieves were left lying on the ground
at some distance off; their arms were fastened to the crosses on which they were to be
executed, and a few soldiers stood near on guard. The accusation which had been proved
against them was that of having assassinated a Jewish woman who, with her children, was
travelling from Jerusalem to Joppa. They were arrested, under the disguise of rich
merchants, at a castle in which Pilate resided occasionally, when employed in exercising his
troops, and they had been imprisoned for a long time before being brought to trial. The thief
placed on the left-hand side was much older than the other; a regular miscreant, who had
corrupted the younger. They were commonly called Dismas and Gesmas, and as I forget
their real names I shall distinguish them by these terms, calling the good one Dismas, and
the wicked one Gesmas. Both the one and the other belonged to a band of robbers who
infested the frontiers of Egypt; and it was in a cave inhabited by these robbers that the Holy
Family took refuge when flying into Egypt, at the time of the massacre of the Innocents.
The poor leprous child, who was instantly cleansed by being dipped in the water which had
been used for washing the infant Jesus, was no other than this Dismas, and the charity of his
mother, in receiving and granting hospitality to the Holy Family, had been rewarded by the
cure of her child; while this outward purification was an emblem of the inward purification
which was afterwards accomplished in the soul of Dismas on Mount Calvary, through that
Sacred Blood which was then shed on the cross for our redemption. Dismas knew nothing
at all about Jesus, but as his heart was not hardened, the sight of the extreme patience of our
Lord moved him much. When the executioners had finished putting up the cross of Jesus,
they ordered the thieves to rise without delay, and they loosened their fetters in order to
crucify them at once, as the sky was becoming very cloudy and bore every appearance of an
approaching storm. After giving them some myrrh and vinegar, they stripped off their
ragged clothing, tied ropes round their arms, and by the help of small ladders dragged them
up to their places on the cross. The executioners then bound the arms of the thieves to the
cross, with cords made of the bark of trees, and fastened their wrists, elbows, knees, and feet
in like manner, drawing the cords so tight that their joints cracked, and the blood burst out.
They uttered piercing cries, and the good thief exclaimed as they were drawing him up,
‘This torture is dreadful, but if they had treated us as they treated the poor Galilean, we
should have been dead long ago.’
The executioners had divided the garments of Jesus, in order to draw lots for them; his
mantle, which was narrow at the top, was very wide at the bottom, and lined over the chest,
thus forming a pocket between the lining and the material itself; the lining they pulled out,
tore into bands, and divided. They did the same with his long white robe, belt, scapular, and
under-garment, which was completely saturated with his Sacred Blood. Not being able to
agree as to who was to be the possessor of the seamless robe woven by his Mother, which
could not be cut up and divided, they brought out a species of chessboard marked with
figures, and were about to decide the point by lots, when a messenger, sent by Nicodemus
and Joseph of Arimathea, informed them that there were persons ready to purchase all the
clothes of Jesus; they therefore gathered them together and sold them in a bundle. Thus did
the Christians get possession of these precious relics.