The bitter Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ – Part 9

The First Fall of Jesus.

The street of which we have just spoken, after turning a little to the left, became rather
steep, as also wider, a subterranean aqueduct proceeding from Mount Sion passed under it,
and in its vicinity was a hollow which was often filled with water and mud after rain, and a
large stone was placed in its centre to enable persons to pass over more easily. When Jesus
reached this spot, his strength was perfectly exhausted; he was quite unable to move; and as
the archers dragged and pushed him without showing the slightest compassion, he fell quite
down against this stone, and the cross fell by his side. The cruel executioners were obliged
to stop, they abused and struck him unmercifully, but the whole procession came to a
standstill, which caused a degree of confusion. Vainly did he hold out his hand for someone
to assist him to rise: ‘Ah!’ he exclaimed, ‘all will soon be over;’ and he prayed for his
enemies. Lift him up,’ said the Pharisees, ‘otherwise he will die in our hands.’ There were
many women and children following the procession; the former wept, and the latter were
frightened. Jesus, however, received support from above, and raised his head; but these
cruel men, far from endeavouring to alleviate his sufferings, put the crown of thorns again
on his head before they pulled him out of the mud, and no sooner was he once more on his
feet than they replaced the cross on his back. The crown of thorns which encircled his head
increased his pain inexpressibly, and obliged him to bend on one side to give room for the
cross, which lay heavily on his shoulders.

The Second Fall of Jesus.

The afflicted Mother of Jesus had left the forum, accompanied by John and some other
women, immediately after the unjust sentence was pronounced. She had employed herself
in walking to many of the spots sanctified by our Lord and watering them with her tears; but
when the sound of the trumpet, the rush of people, and the clang of the horsemen
announced that the procession was about to start for Calvary, she could not resist her
longing desire to behold her beloved Son once more, and she begged John to take her to
some place through which he must pass. John conducted her to a palace, which had an
entrance in that street which Jesus traversed after his first fall; it was, I believe, the residence
of the high priest Caiphas, whose tribunal was in the division called Sion. John asked and
obtained leave from a kind-hearted servant to stand at the entrance mentioned above, with
Mary and her companions. The Mother of God was pale, her eyes were red with weeping,
and she was closely wrapped in a cloak of a bluish-grey colour. The clamour and insulting
speeches of the enraged multitude might be plainly heard; and a herald at that moment
proclaimed in a loud voice, that three criminals were about to be crucified. The servant
opened the door; the dreadful sounds became more distinct every moment; and Mary threw
herself on her knees. After praying fervently, she turned to John and said, ‘Shall I remain?
Ought I to go away? Shall I have strength to support such a sight?’ John made answer, ‘If
you do not remain to see him pass, you will grieve afterwards.’ They remained therefore
near the door, with their eyes fixed on the procession, which was still distant, but advancing
by slow degrees. When those who were carrying the instruments for the execution
approached, and the Mother of Jesus saw their insolent and triumphant looks, she could not
control her feelings, but joined her hands as if to implore the help of heaven; upon which
one among them said to his companions: ‘What woman is that who is uttering such
lamentations?’ Another answered: ‘She is the Mother of the Galilean.’ When the cruel men
heard this, far from being moved to compassion, they began to make game of the grief of
this most afflicted Mother: they pointed at her, and one of them took the nails which were
to be used for fastening Jesus to the cross, and presented them to her in an insulting manner;
but she turned away, fixed her eyes upon Jesus, who was drawing near, and leant against
the pillar for support, lest she should again faint from grief, for her cheeks were as pale as
death, and her lips almost blue. The Pharisees on horseback passed by first, followed by the
boy who carried the inscription. Then came her beloved Son. He was almost sinking under
the heavy weight of his cross, and his head, still crowned with thorns, was drooping in
agony on his shoulder. He cast a look of compassion and sorrow upon his Mother,
staggered, and fell for the second time upon his hands and knees. Mary was perfectly
agonised at this sight; she forgot all else; she saw neither soldiers nor executioners; she saw
nothing but her dearly-loved Son; and, springing from the doorway into the midst of the
group who were insulting and abusing him, she threw herself on her knees by his side and
embraced him. The only words I heard were, ‘Beloved Son!’ and ‘Mother!’ but I do not
know whether these words were really uttered, or whether they were only in my own mind.
A momentary confusion ensued. John and the holy women endeavoured to raise Mary
from the ground, and the archers reproached her, one of them saying, ‘What hast thou to do
her, woman? He would not have been in our hands if he had been better brought up.’
A few of the soldiers looked touched; and, although they obliged the Blessed Virgin to
retire to the doorway, not one laid hands upon her. John and the women surrounded her as
she fell half fainting against a stone, which was near the doorway, and upon which the
impression of her hands remained. This stone was very hard, and was afterwards removed
to the first Catholic church built in Jerusalem, near the Pool of Bethsaida, during the time
that St. James the Less was Bishop of that city. The two disciples who were with the Mother
of Jesus carried her into the house, and the door was shut. In the mean time the archers had
raised Jesus, and obliged him to carry the cross in a different manner. Its arm being
unfastened from the centre, and entangled in the ropes with which he was bound, he
supported them on his arm, and by this means the weight of the body of the cross was a
little taken off, as it dragged more on the ground. I saw numbers of persons standing about
in groups, the greatest part amusing themselves by insulting our Lord in different ways, but
a few veiled females were weeping.

Simon of Cyrene. Third Fall of Jesus.

The procession had reached an arch formed in an old wall belonging to the town,
opposite to a square, in which three streets terminated, when Jesus stumbled against a large
stone which was placed in the middle of the archway, the cross slipped from his shoulder,
he fell upon the stone, and was totally unable to rise. Many respectable-looking persons who
were on their way to the Temple stopped, and exclaimed compassionately: ‘Look at that
poor man, he is certainly dying!’ but his enemies showed no compassion. This fall caused a
fresh delay, as our Lord could not stand up again, and the Pharisees said to the soldiers:
‘We shall never get him to the place of execution alive, if you do not find someone to carry
his cross.’ At this moment Simon of Cyrene, a pagan, happened to pass by, accompanied by
his three children. He was a gardener, just returning home after working in a garden near
the eastern wall of the city, and carrying a bundle of lopped branches. The soldiers
perceiving by his dress that he was a pagan, seized him, and ordered him to assist Jesus in
carrying his cross. He refused at first, but was soon compelled to obey, although his
children, being frightened, cried and made a great noise, upon which some women quieted
and took charge of them. Simon was much annoyed, and expressed the greatest vexation at
being obliged to walk with a man in so deplorable a condition of dirt and misery; but Jesus
wept, and cast such a mild and heavenly look upon him that he was touched, and instead of
continuing to show reluctance, helped him to rise, while the executioners fastened one arm
of the cross on his shoulders, and he walked behind our Lord, thus relieving him in a great
measure from its weight; and when all was arranged, the procession moved forward. Simon
was a stout-looking man, apparently about forty years of age. His children were dressed in
tunics made of a variegated material; the two eldest, named Rufus and Alexander,
afterwards joined the disciples; the third was much younger, but a few years later went to
live with St. Stephen. Simon had not carried the cross after Jesus any length of time before
he felt his heart deeply touched by grace.

The Veil of Veronica.

While the procession was passing through a long street, an incident took place which
made a strong impression upon Simon. Numbers of respectable persons were hurrying
towards the Temple, of whom many got out of the way when they saw Jesus, from a
Pharisaical fear of defilement, while others, on the contrary, stopped and expressed pity for
his sufferings. But when the procession had advanced about two hundred steps from the
spot where Simon began to assist our Lord in carrying his cross, the door of a beautiful
house on the left opened, and a woman of majestic appearance, holding a young girl by the
hand, came out, and walked up to the very head of the procession. Seraphia was the name
of the brave woman who thus dared to confront the enraged multitude; she was the wife of
Sirach, one of the councillors belonging to the Temple, and was afterwards known by the
name of Veronica, which name was given from the words vera icon (true portrait), to
commemorate her brave conduct on this day.
Seraphia had prepared some excellent aromatic wine, which she piously intended to
present to our Lord to refresh him on his dolorous way to Calvary. She had been standing in
the street for some time, and at last went back into the house to wait. She was, when I first
saw her, enveloped in a long veil, and holding a little girl of nine years of age, whom she
had adopted, by the hand; a large veil was likewise hanging on her arm, and the little girl
endeavoured to hide the jar of wine when the procession approached. Those who were
marching at the head of the procession tried to push her back; but she made her way
through the mob, the soldiers, and the archers, reached Jesus, fell on her knees before him,
and presented the veil, saying at the same time, ‘Permit me to wipe the face of my Lord.’
Jesus took the veil in his left hand, wiped his bleeding face, and returned it with thanks.
Seraphia kissed it, and put it under her cloak. The girl then timidly offered the wine, but the
brutal soldiers would not allow Jesus to drink it. The suddenness of this courageous act of
Seraphia had surprised the guards, and caused a momentary although unintentional halt, of
which she had taken advantage to present the veil to her Divine Master. Both the Pharisees
and the guards were greatly exasperated, not only by the sudden halt, but much more by the
public testimony of veneration which was thus paid to Jesus, and they revenged themselves
by striking and abusing him, while Seraphia returned in haste to her house.
No sooner did she reach her room than she placed the woollen veil on a table, and fell
almost senseless on her knees. A friend who entered the room a short time after, found her
thus kneeling, with the child weeping by her side, and saw, to his astonishment, the bloody
countenance of our Lord imprinted upon the veil, a perfect likeness, although heartrending
and painful to look upon. He roused Seraphia, and pointed to the veil. She again knelt down
before it, and exclaimed through her tears, ‘Now I shall indeed leave all with a happy heart,
for my Lord has given me a remembrance of himself.’ The texture of this veil was a species
of very fine wool; it was three times the length of its width, and was generally worn on the
shoulders. It was customary to present these veil to persons who were in affliction, or overfatigued,
or ill, that they might wipe their faces with them, and it was done in order to
express sympathy or compassion. Veronica kept this veil until her death, and hung it at the
head of her bed; it was then given to the Blessed Virgin, who left it to the Apostles and they
afterwards passed it on to the Church.
Seraphis and John the Baptist were cousins, her father and Zacharias being brothers.
When Joachim and Anna brought the Blessed Virgin, who was then only four years old, up
to Jerusalem, to place her among the virgins in the Temple, they lodged in the house of
Zacharias, which was situated near the fish-market. Seraphia was at least five years older
than the Blessed Virgin, was present at her marriage with St. Joseph, and was likewise
related to the aged Simeon, who prophesied when the Child Jesus was put into his arms.
She was brought up with his sons, both of whom, as well as Seraphia, he imbued with his
ardent desire of seeing our Lord. When Jesus was twelve years old, and remained teaching
in the Temple, Seraphia, who was not then married, sent food for him every day to a little
inn, a quarter of a mile from Jerusalem, where he dwelt when he was not in the Temple.
Mary wet there for two days, when on her way from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to offer her
Child in the Temple. The two old men who kept this inn were Essenians, and well
acquainted with the Holy Family; it contained a kind of foundation for the poor, and Jesus
and his disciples often went there for a night’s lodging.
Seraphia married rather late in life; her husband, Sirach, was descended from the chaste
Susannah, and was a member of the Sanhedrin. He was at first greatly opposed to our Lord,
and his wife suffered much on account of her attachment to Jesus, and to the holy women,
but Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus brought him to a better state of feeling, and he
allowed Seraphia to follow our Lord. When Jesus was unjustly accused in the court of
Caiphas, the husband of Seraphia joined with Joseph and Nicodemus in attempts to obtain
the liberation of our Lord, and all three resigned their seats in the Council.
Seraphia was about fifty at the time of the triumphant procession of our Lord when he
entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and I then saw her take off her veil and spread it
on the ground for him to walk upon. It was this same veil, which she presented to Jesus, at
this his second procession, a procession which outwardly appeared to be far less glorious,
but was in fact much more so. This veil obtained for her the name of Veronica, and it is still
shown for the veneration of the faithful.

The Fourth and Fifth Falls of Jesus.

The Daughters of Jerusalem.
The procession was still at some distance from the south-west gate, which was large, and
attached to the fortifications, and the street was rough and steep; it had first to pass under a
vaulted arch, then over a bridge, and finally under a second arch. The wall on the left side of
the gate runs first in southerly direction, then deviates a little to the west, and finally runs to
the south behind Mount Sion. When the procession was near this gate, the brutal archers
shoved Jesus into a stagnant pool, which was close to it; Simon of Cyrene, in his
endeavours to avoid the pool, gave the cross a twist, which caused Jesus to fall down for the
fourth time in the midst of the dirty mud, and Simon had the greatest difficulty in lifting up
the cross again. Jesus then exclaimed in a tone which, although clear, was moving and sad:
‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered together thy children as the hen doth gather
her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldst not!’ When the Pharisees heard these words, they
became still more angry, and recommencing their insults and blows endeavoured to force
him to get up out of the mud. Their cruelty to Jesus so exasperated Simon of Cyrene that he
at last exclaimed, ‘If you continue this brutal conduct, I will throw down the cross and carry
it no farther. I will do so if you kill me for it.’
A narrow and stony path was visible as soon as the gate was passed, and this path ran in
a northerly direction, and led to Calvary. The high road from which it deviates divided
shortly after into three branches, one to the south-west, which led to Bethlehem, through the
vale of Gihon; a second to the south towards Emmaus and Joppa; a third, likewise to the
south-west, wound round Calvary, and terminated at the gate which led to Bethsur. A
person standing at the gate through which Jesus was led might easily see the gate of
Bethlehem. The officers had fastened an inscription upon a post which stood at the
commencement of the road to Calvary, to inform those who passed by that Jesus and the
two thieves were condemned to death. A group of women had gathered together near this
spot, and were weeping and lamenting; many carried young children in their arms; the
greatest part were young maidens and women from Jerusalem, who had preceded the
procession, but a few came from Bethlehem, from Hebron, and from other neighbouring
places, in order to celebrate the Pasch.
Jesus was on the point of again falling, but Simon, who was behind, perceiving that he
could not stand, hastened to support him; he leant upon Simon, and was thus saved from
falling to the ground. When the women and children of whom we have spoken above, saw
the deplorable condition to which our Lord was reduced, they uttered loud cries, wept, and,
according to the Jewish custom, presented him cloths to wipe his face. Jesus turned towards
them and said: ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over me, but weep for yourselves and for your
children. For behold the days shall come wherein they will say: Blessed are the barren, and the wombs
that have not borne, and the papas that have not given suck. Then shall they begin to say to the
mountains: Fall upon us, and to the hills: Cover us. For if in the green wood they do these things, what
shall be done in the dry?’ He then addressed a few words of consolation to hem, which I do
not exactly remember.
The procession made a momentary halt. The executioners, who set of first, had reached
Calvary with the instruments for the execution, and were followed by a hundred of the
Roman soldiers who had started with Pilate; he only accompanied the procession as far as
the gateway, and returned to the town.