The bitter Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ – Part 11

Jesus hanging on the Cross between two Thieves.

The tremendous concussion caused by the fall of the cross into the hole prepared for it
drove the sharp points of the crown of thorns, which was still upon the head of our dear
Saviour, still deeper into his sacred flesh, and blood ran down again in streams, both from it
and from his hands and feet. The archers then placed ladders against the sides of the cross,
mounted them and unfastened the ropes with which they had bound our Lord to the cross,
previous to lifting it up, fearing that the shock might tear open the wounds in his hands and
feet, and that then the nails would no longer support his body. His blood had become, in a
certain degree, stagnated by his horizontal position and the pressure of the cords, but when
these were withdrawn, it resumed its usual course, and caused such agonising sensations
throughout his countless wounds, that he bowed his head, and remained as if dead for more
than seven minutes. A pause ensued; the executioners were occupied with the division of his
garments; the trumpets in the Temple no longer resounded; and all the actors in this fearful
tragedy appeared to be exhausted, some by grief, and others by the efforts they had made to
compass their wicked ends, and by the joy which they felt now at having at last succeeded in
bringing about the death of him whom they had so long envied. With mixed feelings of fear
and compassion I cast my eyes upon Jesus,—Jesus my Redeemer,—the Redeemer of the
world. I beheld him motionless, and almost lifeless. I felt as if I myself must expire; my
heart was overwhelmed between grief, love, and horror; my mind was half wandering, my
hands and feet burning with a feverish heat; each vein, nerve, and limb was racked with
inexpressible pain; I saw nothing distinctly, excepting my beloved Spouse hanging on the
cross. I contemplated his disfigured countenance, his head encircled with that terrible crown
of thorns, which prevented his raising it even for a moment without the most intense
suffering, his mouth parched and half open from exhaustion, and his hair and beard clotted
with blood. His chest was torn with stripes and wounds, and his elbows, wrists, and
shoulders so violently distended as to be almost dislocated; blood constantly trickled down
from the gaping wounds in his hands, and the flesh was so torn from his ribs that you might
almost count them. His legs and thighs, as also his arms, were stretched out almost to
dislocation, the flesh and muscles so completely laid bare that every bone was visible, and
his whole body covered with black, green, and reeking wounds. The blood which flowed
from his wounds was at first red, but it became by degrees light and watery, and the whole
appearance of his body was that of a corpse ready for interment. And yet, notwithstanding
the horrible wounds with which he was covered, notwithstanding the state of ignominy to
which he was reduced, there still remained that inexpressible look of dignity and goodness
which had ever filled all beholders with awe.
The complexion of our Lord was fair, like that of Mary, and slightly tinted with red; but
his exposure to the weather during the last three years had tanned him considerably. His
chest was wide, but not hairy like that of St. John Baptist; his shoulders broad, and his arms
and thighs sinewy; his knees were strong and hardened, as is usually the case with those
who have either walked or knelt much, and his legs long, with very strong muscles; his feet
were well formed, and his hands beautiful, the fingers being long and tapering, and although
not delicate like those of a woman, still not resembling those of a man who had laboured
hard. His neck was rather long, with a well-set and finely proportioned head; his forehead
large and high; his face oval; his hair, which was far from thick, was of a golden brown
colour, parted in the middle and falling over his shoulders; his beard was not any great
length, but pointed and divided under the chin. When I contemplated him on the cross, his
hair was almost all torn off, and what remained was matted and clotted with blood; his
body was one wound, and every limb seemed as if dislocated.
The crosses of the two thieves were placed, the one to the right and the other to the left of
Jesus; there was sufficient space left for a horseman to ride between them. Nothing can be
imagined more distressing than the appearance of the thieves on their crosses; they suffered
terribly, and the one on the left-hand side never ceased cursing and swearing. The cords
with which they were tied were very tight, and caused great pain; their countenances were
livid, and their eyes enflamed and ready to start from the sockets. The height of the crosses
of the two thieves was much less than that of our Lord.

First Word of Jesus on the Cross.

As soon as the executioners had crucified the two thieves and divided the garment of
Jesus between them, they gathered up their tools, addressed a few more insulting words to
our Lord, and went away. The Pharisees, likewise, rode up to Jesus, looked at him
scornfully, made use of some opprobrious expression, and then left the place. The Roman
soldiers, of whom a hundred had been posted round Calvary, were marched away, and their
places filled by fifty others, the command of whom was given to Abenadar, an Arab by
birth, who afterwards took the name of Ctesiphon in baptism; and the second in command
was Cassius, who, when he became a Christian, was known by the name of Longinus:
Pilate frequently made use of him as a messenger. Twelve Pharisees, twelve Sadducees, as
many scribes, and a few ancients, accompanied by those Jews who had been endeavouring
to persuade Pilate to change the inscription on the Cross of Jesus, then came up: they were
furious, as the Roman governor had given them a direct refusal. They rode round the
platform, and drove away the Blessed Virgin, whom St. John led to the holy women. When
they passed the Cross of Jesus, they shook their heads disdainfully at him, exclaiming at the
same time, ‘Vah! thou that destroyest the temple of God, and in three days buildest it up again, save
thyself, coming down from the Cross. Let Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the Cross,
that we may see and believe.’ The soldiers, likewise, made use of deriding language.
The countenance and whole body of Jesus became even more colourless: he appeared to
be on the point of fainting, and Gesmas (the wicked thief) exclaimed, ‘The demon by whom
he is possessed is about to leave him.’ A soldier then took a sponge, filled it with vinegar,
put it on a reed, and presented it to Jesus, who appeared to drink. ‘If thou art the King of the
Jews,’ said the soldier, ‘save thyself, coming down from the Cross.’ These things took place
during the time that the first band of soldiers was being relieved by that of Abenadar. Jesus
raised his head a little, and said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ And
Gesmas cried out, ‘If thou art the Christ, save thyself and us.’ Dismas (the good thief) was
silent, but he was deeply moved at the prayer of Jesus for his enemies. When Mary heard
the voice of her Son, unable to restrain herself, she rushed forward, followed by John,
Salome, and Mary of Cleophas, and approached the Cross, which the kind-hearted
centurion did not prevent. The prayers of Jesus obtained for the good thief a moist powerful
grace; he suddenly remembered that it was Jesus and Mary who had cured him of leprosy in
his childhood, and he exclaimed in a loud and clear voice, ‘How can you insult him when
he prays for you? He has been silent, and suffered all your outrages with patience; he is truly
a Prophet—he is our King—he is the Son of God.’ This unexpected reproof from the lips of
a miserable malefactor who was dying on a cross caused a tremendous commotion among
the spectators; they gathered up stones, and wished to throw them at him; but the centurion
Abenadar would not allow it.
The Blessed Virgin was much comforted and strengthened by the prayer of Jesus, and
Dismas said to Gesmas, who was still blaspheming Jesus, ‘Neither dost thou fear God, seeing
thou art under the same condemnation. And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our
deeds; but this man hath done no evil. Remember thou art now at the point of death, and
repent.’ He was enlightened and touched: he confessed his sins to Jesus, and said: ‘Lord, if
thou condemnest me it will be with justice.’ And Jesus replied, ‘Thou shalt experience my
mercy.’ Dismas, filled with the most perfect contrition, began instantly to thank God for the
great graces he had received, and to reflect over the manifold sins of his past life. All these
events took place between twelve and the half-hour shortly after the crucifixion; but such a
surprising change had taken place in the appearance of nature during that time as to
astonish the beholders and fill their minds with awe and terror.

Eclipse of the Sun.

Second and Third Word of Jesus on the Cross.
A little hail had fallen at about ten o’clock,—when Pilate was passing sentence,—and
after that the weather cleared up, until towards twelve, when the thick red-looking fog began
to obscure the sun. Towards the sixth hour, according to the manner of counting of the
Jews, the sun was suddenly darkened. I was shown the exact cause of this wonderful
phenomenon; but I have unfortunately partly forgotten it, and what I have not forgotten I
cannot find words to express; but I was lifted up from the earth, and beheld the stars and the
planets moving about out of their proper spheres. I saw the moon like an immense ball of
fire rolling along as if flying from the earth. I was then suddenly taken back to Jerusalem,
and I beheld the moon reappear behind the Mountain of Olives, looking pale and full, and
advancing rapidly towards the sun, which was dim and over-shrouded by a fog. I saw to the
east of the sun a large dark body which had the appearance of a mountain, and which soon
entirely hid the sun. The centre of this body was dark yellow, and a red circle like a ring of
fire was round it. The sky grew darker and the stars appeared to cast a red and lurid light.
Both men and beasts were struck with terror; the enemies of Jesus ceased reviling him,
while the Pharisees endeavoured to give philosophical reasons for what was taking place,
but they failed in their attempt, and were reduced to silence. Many were seized with
remorse, struck their breasts, and cried out, ‘May his blood fall upon his murderers!’
Numbers of others, whether near the Cross or at a distance, fell on their knees and entreated
forgiveness of Jesus, who turned his eyes compassionately upon them in the midst of his
sufferings. However, the darkness continued to increase, and everyone excepting Mary and
the most faithful among the friends of Jesus left the Cross. Dismas then raised his head, and
in a tone of humility and hope said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy
kingdom.’ And Jesus made answer, ‘Amen, I say to thee, This day thou shalt be with me in
Paradise.’ Magdalen, Mary of Cleophas, and John stood near the Cross of our Lord and
looked at him, while the Blessed Virgin, filled with intense feelings of motherly love,
entreated her Son to permit her to die with him; but he, casting a look of ineffable
tenderness upon her, turned to John and said, ‘Woman, behold thy son;’ then he said to John,
‘Behold thy mother.’ John looked at his dying Redeemer, and saluted this beloved mother
(whom he henceforth considered as his own) in the most respectful manner. The Blessed
Virgin was so overcome by grief at these words of Jesus that she almost fainted, and was
carried to a short distance from the Cross by the holy women.
I do not know whether Jesus really pronounced these words, but I felt interiorly that he
gave Mary to John as a mother, and John to Mary as a son. In similar visions a person is
often conscious of things which are not written, and words can only express a portion of
them, although to the individual to whom they are shown they are so clear as not to require
explanation. For this reason it did not appear to me in the least surprising that Jesus should
call the Blessed Virgin ‘Woman,’ instead of ‘Mother.’ I felt that he intended to demonstrate
that she was that woman spoken of in Scripture who was to crush the head of the serpent,
and that then was the moment in which that promise was accomplished in the death of her
Son. I knew that Jesus, by giving her as a mother to John, gave her also as a mother to all
who believe in him, who become children of God, and are not born of flesh and blood, or of the will of
man, but of God. Neither did it appear to me surprising that the most pure, the most humble,
and the most obedient among women, who, when saluted by the angel as ‘full of grace,’
immediately replied, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word,’
and in whose sacred womb the Word was instantly made flesh,—that she, when informed by
her dying Son that she was to become the spiritual mother of another son, should repeat the
same words with humble obedience, and immediately adopt as her children all the children
of God, the brothers of Jesus Christ. These things are much easier to feel by the grace of
God than to be expressed in words. I remember my celestial Spouse once saying to me,
‘Everything is imprinted in the hearts of those children of the Church who believe, hope,
and love.’

The Fear felt by the Inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Fourth Word of Jesus on the Cross.
It was about half-past one o’clock when I was taken into Jerusalem to see what was going
on there. The inhabitants were perfectly overcome with terror and anxiety; the streets dark
and gloomy, and some persons were feeling their way about, while others, seated on the
ground with their heads veiled, struck their breasts, or went up to the roofs of their houses,
looked at the sky, and burst forth in bitter lamentations. Even the animals uttered mournful
cries, and hid themselves; the birds flew low, and fell to the ground. I saw Pilate conferring
with Herod on the alarming state of things: they were both extremely agitated, and
contemplated the appearance of the sky from that terrace upon which Herod was standing
when he delivered up Jesus to be insulted by the infuriated rabble. ‘These events are not in
the common course of nature,’ they both exclaimed: ‘they must be caused by the anger of
the gods, who are displeased at the cruelty which has been exercised towards Jesus of
Nazareth.’ Pilate and Herod, surrounded by guards, then directed their hasty trembling
steps through the forum to Herod’s palace. Pilate turned away his head when he passed
Gabbatha, from whence he had condemned Jesus to be crucified. The square was almost
empty; a few persons might be seen re-entering their houses as quickly as possible, and a few
others running about and weeping, while two or three small groups might be distinguished
in the distance. Pilate sent for some of the ancients and asked them what they thought the
astounding darkness could possible portend, and said that he himself considered it a terrific
proof of the anger of their God at the crucifixion of the Galilean, who was most certainly
their prophet and their king: he added that he had nothing to reproach himself with on that
head, for he had washed his hands of the whole affair, and was, therefore, quite innocent.
The ancients were as hardened as ever, and replied, in a sullen tone, that there was nothing
unnatural in the course of events, that they might be easily accounted for by philosophers,
and that they did not repent of anything they had done. However, many persons were
converted, and among others those soldiers who fell to the ground at the words of our Lord
when they were sent to arrest him in the Garden of Olives.
The rabble assembled before Pilate’s house, and instead of the cry of ‘Crucify him, crucify
him!’ which had resounded in the morning, you might have heard vociferations of ‘Down
with the iniquitous judge!’ ‘May the blood of the just man fall upon his murderers!’ Pilate
was much alarmed; he sent for additional guards, and endeavoured to cast all the blame
upon the Jews. He again declared that the crime was not his; that he was no subject of this
Jesus, whom they had put to death unjustly, and who was their king, their prophet, their
Holy One; that they alone were guilty, as it must be evident to all that he condemned Jesus
solely from compulsion.
The Temple was thronged with Jews, who were intent on the immolation of the Paschal
lamb; but when the darkness increased to such a degree that it was impossible to distinguish
the countenance of one from that of the other, they were seized with fear, horror, and dread,
which they expressed by mournful cries and lamentations. The High Priests endeavoured to
maintain order and quiet. All the lamps were lighted; but the confusion became greater
every moment, and Annas appeared perfectly paralysed with terror. I saw him endeavouring
to hide first in one place, and then in another. When I left the Temple, and walked through
the streets, I remarked that, although not a breath of wind was stirring, yet both the doors
and windows of the houses were shaking as if in a storm, and the darkness was becoming
every moment more dense.
The consternation produced by the sudden darkness at Mount Calvary was indescribable.
When it first commenced, the confusion of the noise of the hammers, the vociferations of
the rabble, the cries of the two thieves on being fastened to their crosses, the insulting
speeches of the Pharisees, the evolutions of the soldiers, and the drunken shouts of the
executioners, had so completely engrossed the attention of everyone, that the change which
was gradually coming over the face of nature was not remarked; but as the darkness
increased, every sound ceased, each voice was hushed, and remorse and terror took
possession of every heart, while the bystanders retired one by one to a distance from the
Cross. Then it was that Jesus gave his Mother to St. John, and that she, overcome by grief,
was carried away to a short distance. As the darkness continued to grow more and more
dense, the silence became perfectly astounding; everyone appeared terror struck; some
looked at the sky, while others, filled with remorse, turned towards the Cross, smote their
breasts, and were converted. Although the Pharisees were in reality quite as much alarmed
as other persons, yet they endeavoured at first to put a bold face on the matter, and declared
that they could see nothing unaccountable in these events; but at last even they lost
assurance, and were reduced to silence. The disc of the sun was of a dark-yellow tint, rather
resembling a mountain when viewed by moonlight, and it was surrounded by a bright fiery
ring; the stars appeared, but the light they cast was red and lurid; the birds were so terrified
as to drop to the ground; the beasts trembled and moaned; the horses and the asses of the
Pharisees crept as close as possible to one another, and put their heads between their legs.
The thick fog penetrated everything.
Stillness reigned around the Cross. Jesus hung upon it alone; forsaken by all,—disciples,
followers, friends, his Mother even was removed from his side; not one person of the
thousands upon whom he had lavished benefits was near to offer him the slightest
alleviation in his bitter agony,—his soul was overspread with an indescribable feeling of
bitterness and grief,—all within him was dark, gloomy, and wretched. The darkness which
reigned around was but symbolical of that which overspread his interior; he turned,
nevertheless, to his Heavenly Father, he prayed for his enemies, he offered the chalice of his
sufferings for their redemption, he continued to pray as he had done during the whole of his
Passion, and repeated portions of those Psalms the prophecies of which were then receiving
their accomplishment in him. I saw angels standing around. Again I looked at Jesus—my
beloved Spouse—on his Cross, agonising and dying, yet still in dreary solitude. He at that
moment endured anguish which no mortal pen can describe,—he felt that suffering which
would overwhelm a poor weak mortal if deprived at once of all consolation, both divine and
human, and then compelled, without refreshment, assistance, or light, to traverse the stormy
desert of tribulation upheld by faith, hope, and charity alone.
His sufferings were inexpressible; but it was by them that he merited for us the grace
necessary to resist those temptations to despair which will assail us at the hour of death,—
that tremendous hour when we shall feel that we are about to leave all that is dear to us here
below. When our minds, weakened by disease, have lost the power of reasoning, and even
our hopes of mercy and forgiveness are become, as it were, enveloped in mist and
uncertainty,—then it is that we must fly to Jesus, unite our feelings of desolation with that
indescribable dereliction which he endured upon the Cross, and be certain of obtaining a
glorious victory over our infernal enemies. Jesus then offered to his Eternal Father his
poverty, his dereliction, his labours, and, above all, the bitter sufferings which our
ingratitude had caused him to endure in expiation for our sins and weakness; no one,
therefore, who is united to Jesus in the bosom of his Church must despair at the awful
moment preceding his exit from this life, even if he be deprived of all sensible light and
comfort; for he must then remember that the Christian is no longer obliged to enter this dark
desert alone and unprotected, as Jesus has cast his own interior and exterior dereliction on
the Cross into this gulf of desolation, consequently he will not be left to cope alone with
death, or be suffered to leave this world in desolation of spirit, deprived of heavenly
consolation. All fear of loneliness and despair in death must therefore be cast away; for
Jesus, who is our true light, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, has preceded us on that dreary
road, has overspread it with blessings, and raised his Cross upon it, one glance at which will
calm our every fear. Jesus then (if we may so express ourselves) made his last testament in
the presence of his Father, and bequeathed the merits of his Death and Passion to the
Church and to sinners. Not one erring soul was forgotten; he thought of each and everyone;
praying, likewise, even for those heretics who have endeavoured to prove that, being God,
he did not suffer as a man would have suffered in his place. The cry which he allowed to
pass his lips in the height of his agony was intended not only to show the excess of the
sufferings he was then enduring, but likewise to encourage all afflicted souls who
acknowledge God as their Father to lay their sorrows with filial confidence at his feet. It was
towards three o’clock when he cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabacthani?’ ‘My
God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ These words of our Lord interrupted the dead
silence which had continued so long; the Pharisees turned towards him, and one of them
said, ‘Behold, he calleth Elias;’ and another, ‘Let us see whether Elias will come to deliver him.’
When Mary heard the voice of her divine Son, she was unable to restrain herself any longer,
but rushed forwards, and returned to the foot of the Cross, followed by John, Mary the
daughter of Cleophas, Mary Magdalen, and Salome. A troop of about thirty horsemen from
Judea and the environs of Joppa, who were on their way to Jerusalem for the festival,
passed by just at the time when all was silent round the Cross, both assistants and spectators
being transfixed with terror and apprehensions. When they beheld Jesus hanging on the
Cross, saw the cruelty with which he had been treated, and remarked the extraordinary
signs of God’s wrath which overspread the face of nature, they were filled with horror, and
exclaimed, ‘If the Temple of God were not in Jerusalem, the city should be burned to the
ground for having taken upon itself so fearful a crime.’ These words from the lips of
strangers—strangers too who bore the appearance of persons of rank—made a great
impression on the bystanders, and loud murmurs and exclamations of grief were heard on
all sides; some individuals gathered together in groups, more freely to indulge their sorrow,
although a certain portion of the crowd continued to blaspheme and revile all around them.
The Pharisees were compelled to assume a more humble tone, for they feared great existing
excitement among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They therefore held a consultation with
Abenadar, the centurion, and agreed with him that the gate of the city, which was in the
vicinity, should be closed, in order to prevent farther communication, and that they should
send to Pilate and Herod for 500 men to guard against the chance of an insurrection, the
centurion, in the mean time, doing all in his power to maintain order, and preventing the
Pharisees from insulting Jesus, lest it should exasperate the people still more.
Shortly after three o’clock the light reappeared in a degree, the moon began to pass away
from the disc of the sun, while the sun again shone forth, although its appearance was dim,
being surrounded by a species of red mist; by degrees it became more bright, and the stars
vanished, but the sky was still gloomy. The enemies of Jesus soon recovered their arrogant
spirit when they saw the light returning; and it was then that they exclaimed, ‘Behold, he
calleth Elias.’

Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Words of Jesus on the Cross.
His Death
The light continued to return by degrees, and the livid exhausted countenance of our
Lord again became visible. His body was become much more white from the quantity of
blood he had lost; and I heard him exclaim, ‘I am pressed as the grape, which is trodden in the
winepress. My blood shall be poured out until water cometh, but wine shall here be made no more.’ I
cannot be sure whether he really pronounced these words, so as to be heard by others, or
whether they were only an answer given to my interior prayer. I afterwards had a vision
relating to these words, and in it I saw Japhet making wine in this place.
Jesus was almost fainting; his tongue was parched, and he said: ‘I thirst.’ The disciples
who were standing round the Cross looked at him with the deepest expression of sorrow,
and he added, ‘Could you not have given me a little water?’ By these words he gave them to
understand that no one would have prevented them from doing so during the darkness.
John was filled with remorse, and replied: ‘We did not think of doing so, O Lord.’ Jesus
pronounced a few more words, the import of which was: ‘My friends and my neighbours
were also to forget me, and not give me to drink, that so what was written concerning me
might be fulfilled.’ This omission had afflicted him very much. The disciples then offered
money to the soldiers to obtain permission to give him a little water: they refused to give it,
but dipped a sponge in vinegar and gall, and were about to offer it to Jesus, when the
centurion Abenadar, whose heart was touched with compassion, took it from them,
squeezed out the gal, poured some fresh vinegar upon it, and fastening it to a reed, put the
reed at the end of a lance, and presented it for Jesus to drink. I heard our Lord say several
other things, but I only remember these words: ‘When my voice shall be silent, the mouths of the
dead shall be opened.’ Some of the bystanders cried out: ‘He blasphemeth again.’ But
Abenadar compelled them to be silent.
The hour of our Lord was at last come; his death-struggle had commenced; a cold sweat
overspread every limb. John stood at the foot of the Cross, and wiped the feet of Jesus with
his scapular. Magdalen was crouched to the ground in a perfect frenzy of grief behind the
Cross. The Blessed Virgin stood between Jesus and the good thief, supported by Salome and
Mary of Cleophas, with her eyes rivetted on the countenance of her dying Son. Jesus then
said: ‘It is consummated;’ and, raising his head, cried out in a loud voice, ‘Father, into thy hands
I commend my spirit.’ These words, which he uttered in a clear and thrilling tone, resounded
through heaven and earth; and a moment after, he bowed down his head and gave up the
ghost. I saw his soul, under the appearance of a bright meteor, penetrate the earth at the foot
of the Cross. John and the holy women fell prostrate on the ground. The centurion
Abenadar had kept his eyes steadfastly fixed on the disfigured countenance of our Lord, and
was perfectly overwhelmed by all that had taken place. When our Lord pronounced his last
words, before expiring, in a loud tone, the earth trembled, and the rock of Calvary burst
asunder, forming a deep chasm between the Cross of our Lord and that of Gesmas. The
voice of God—that solemn and terrible voice—had re-echoed through the whole universe; it
had broken the solemn silence which then pervaded all nature. All was accomplished. The
soul of our Lord had left his body: his last cry had filled every breast with terror. The
convulsed earth had paid homage to its Creator: the sword of grief had pierced the hearts of
those who loved him. This moment was the moment of grace for Abenadar: his horse
trembled under him; his heart was touched; it was rent like the hard rock; he threw his lance
to a distance, struck his breast, and cried out: ‘Blessed be the Most High God, the God of
Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; indeed this Man was the Son of God!’ His words convinced
many among the soldiers, who followed his example, and were likewise converted.
Abenadar became from this moment a new man; he adored the true God, and would no
longer serve his enemies. He gave both his horse and his lance to a subaltern of the name of
Longinus, who, having addressed a few words to the soldiers, mounted his horse, and took
the command upon himself. Abenadar then left Calvary, and went through the Valley of
Gihon to the caves in the Valley of Hinnom, where the disciples were hidden, announced
the death of our Lord to them, and then went to the town, in order to see Pilate. No sooner
had Abenadar rendered public testimony of his belief in the divinity of Jesus, than a large
number of soldiers followed his example, as did also some of the bystanders, and even a few
Pharisees. Many struck their breasts, wept, and returned home, while others rent their
garments, and cast dust on their heads, and all were filled with horror and fear. John arose;
and some of the holy women who were at a short distance came up to the Blessed Virgin,
and led her away from the foot of the Cross.
When Jesus, the Lord of life and death, gave up his soul into the hands of his Father, and
allowed death to take possession of his body, this sacred body trembled and turned lividly
white; the countless wounds which were covered with congealed blood appeared like dark
marks; his cheeks became more sunken, his nose more pointed, and his eyes, which were
obscured with blood, remained but half open. He raised his weary head, which was still
crowned with thorns, for a moment, and then dropped it again in agony of pain; while his
parched and torn lips, only partially closed, showed his bloody and swollen tongue. At the
moment of death his hands, which were at one time contracted round the nails, opened and
returned to their natural size, as did also his arms; his body became stiff, and the whole
weight was thrown upon the feet, his knees bent, and his feet twisted a little on one side.
What words can, alas, express the deep grief of the Blessed Virgin? Her eyes closed, a
death-like tint overspread her countenance; unable to stand, she fell to the ground, but was
soon lifted up, and supported by John, Magdalen, and the others. She looked once more
upon her beloved Son—that Son whom she had conceived by the Holy Ghost, the flesh of
her flesh, the bone of her bone, the heart of her heart—hanging on a cross between two
thieves; crucified, dishonoured, contemned by those whom he came on earth to save; and
well might she at this moment be termed ‘the queen of martyrs.’
The sun still looked dim and suffused with mist; and during the time of the earthquake
the air was close and oppressive, but by degrees it became more clear and fresh.
It was about three o’clock when Jesus expired. The Pharisees were at first much alarmed
at the earthquake; but when the first shock was over they recovered themselves, began to
throw stones into the chasm, and tried to measure its depth with ropes. Finding, however,
that they could not fathom its bottom, they became thoughtful, listened anxiously to the
groans of the penitents, who were lamenting and striking their breasts, and then left
Calvary. Many among the spectators were really converted, and the greatest part returned to
Jerusalem perfectly overcome with fear. Roman soldiers were placed at the gates, and in
other principal parts of the city, to prevent the possibility of an insurrection. Cassius
remained on Calvary with about fifty soldiers. The friends of Jesus stood round the Cross,
contemplated our Lord, and wept; many among the holy women had returned to their
homes, and all were silent and overcome with grief.