Life of Jesus Christ by Anne Catherine Emmerich
1774-1824
Vol 4

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The Place of Execution

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 pagans, and numbers of women, were standing around the circle. Some were on the neighboring heights, and these were being constantly joined by others on their way to the city. Toward evening there had gath­ered on Mount Gihon a whole encampment of Paschal guests, many of whom gazed from a distance at the scene on Mount Calvary, and at times pressed nearer to get a better view.

It was about a quarter to twelve when Jesus, laden with the cross, was dragged into the place of execu­tion, thrown on the ground, and Simon driven off. The executioners then pulled Jesus up by the cords, took the sections of the cross apart, and put them together again in proper form. Ah! How sad and mis­erable, what a terribly lacerated, pale and blood­stained figure was that of poor Jesus as He stood on that place of martyrdom! The executioners threw Him down again with words of mockery such as these: "We must take the measure of Thy throne for Thee, O King!" But Jesus laid Himself willingly upon the cross. Had it been possible for Him, in His state of exhaustion, to do it more quickly, they would have had no necessity to drag Him down. Then they stretched Him out and marked the length for His hands and feet. The Pharisees were standing around, jeering and mocking. The executioners now dragged Jesus up again and led Him, bound, about seventy steps northward down to a cave cut in the rock. It looked as if intended for a cellar, or cistern. They raised the door and pushed Him down so unmerci­fully that, without a miracle, His knees would have been crushed on the rough stone floor. I heard His loud, sharp cries of pain. The executioners closed the door above Him, and set guards before it. I accom­panied Jesus on those seventy steps, and I think that I saw angels helping Him, supporting Him a little, that His knees should not be crushed. The stone under them became soft.

And now the executioners began their preparations.

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 In the center of the place of execution, the highest point of Calvary's rocky height, was a circular ele­vation, about two feet high, with a few steps lead­ing to it. After taking the measure of the lower part of each of the three crosses, the executioners chiseled out holes in that little elevation to receive them. Those for the thieves were raised to the right and left of the eminence. Their trunks were rough, shorter than that of Jesus, and sawed off obliquely at the upper end. The crosspieces, to which their hands were still fastened, were at the moment of crucifixion attached tightly to the upper end of the cross. The executioners next laid Christ's cross on the spot upon which they intended to crucify Him, so that it could be conveniently raised and deposited in the hole made to receive it. They fitted the tenons of the two arms into the mortises made for them in the trunk, nailed on the foot-block, bored the holes for the nails and also for the title written by Pilate, hammered in the wedges under the mortised arms, and made hollow places here and there down the trunk. These were intended to receive the crown of thorns and Jesus' back, so that His body might rather stand than hang, thus preventing the hands from being torn by the weight and hastening death. In the earth behind the little eminence, they sank a post with a crossbeam around which the ropes for raising the cross could be wound. They made several other preparations of a similar nature.

44. Mary and the Holy Women Go to Golgotha

After that most painful meeting with her Divine Son carrying His cross before the dwelling of Caiaphas, the most afflicted Mother was conducted by John and the holy women, Johanna Chusa, Susanna, and Salome, to the house of Nazareth in the vicinity of the corner gate. Here the other holy

The Way of the Cross

263

 women, in tears and lamentations, were gathered around Magdalen and Martha. Some children were with them. They now went all together, in number seventeen, with the Blessed Virgin, careless of the jeers of the mob, grave and resolute, and by their tears awe-inspiring, across the forum, where they kissed the spot upon which Jesus had taken up the burden of the cross. Thence they proceeded along the whole of the sorrowful way trodden by Him and ven­erated the places marked by special sufferings. The Blessed Virgin saw and recognized the footprints of her Divine Son, she numbered His steps, pointed out to the holy women all the places consecrated by His sufferings, regulated their halting and going forward on this Way of the Cross, which with all its details was deeply imprinted in her soul.

In this manner, that most touching devotion of the early Church, first written by the sword of Simeon's prophecy on the loving mother-heart of Mary, was transmitted from her lips to the companions of her sorrows, and from them passed down to us. It is the sacred gift of God to the heart of the Mother whence it has descended from heart to heart among her chil­dren. Thus is the tradition of the Church propagated. If people could see as I do, such gifts would appear to them more replete with life and holiness than any other. To the Jews, all places in which holy events, events dear to the heart happened, were thenceforth sacred. They forgot no spot remarkable for some great occurrence. They raised upon it a monument of stones, and went thither at times to pray. And so arose the devotion of the Holy Way of the Cross, not from any afterthought, but from the nature of man himself and the designs of God over His people, and from the truest mother-love which, so to speak, first trod that way under the very feet of Jesus Himself.

The holy band of mourners now arrived at Veron­ica's dwelling, which they entered, for Pilate with his riders and two hundred soldiers, having turned

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 back at the city gate, was coming along the street, Here with tears and expressions of sorrow, the holy women gazed upon the face of Jesus impressed upon Veronica's veil, and glorified His goodness toward His faithful friend. Taking the vessel of aromatic wine which Veronica had not been permitted to pre­sent to Jesus, they went to the gate nearby and out to Golgotha. Their number was increased on the way by the addition of many well-disposed people who traversed the streets with a demeanor at once orderly and deeply impressed. This procession was almost greater than that which followed Jesus, inclusive of the rabble running after it.

The sufferings of the most afflicted Mother of Sor­rows on this journey, at the sight of the place of exe­cution and her ascent to it, cannot be expressed. They were twofold: the pains of Jesus suffered interiorly and the sense of being left behind. Magdalen was perfectly distracted, intoxicated and reeling, as it were, with grief, precipitated from agony to agony. From silence long maintained she fell to lamenting, from listlessness to wringing her hands, from moan­ing to threatening the authors of her misery. She had to be continually supported, protected, ad­monished to silence, and concealed by the other women.

They went up the hill by the gently sloping west­ern side and stood in three groups, one behind the other, outside the wall enclosing the circle. The Mother of Jesus, her niece Mary Cleophas, Salome, and John stood close to the circle. Martha, Mary Heli, Veronica, Johanna Chusa, Susanna, and Mary Marcus stood a little distance back around Mag­dalen, who could no longer restrain herself. Still far­ther back were about seven others, and between these groups were some well-disposed individuals who carried messages backward and forward. The mounted Pharisees were stationed in groups at var­ious points around the circle, and the five entrances

Jesus is Dragged from the Prison Cave

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 were guarded by Roman soldiers.

What a spectacle for Mary! The place of execution, the hill of crucifixion, the terrible cross outstretched before her, the hammers, the ropes, the dreadful nails! And all around, the brutal, drunken executioners, with curses completing their preparations! The cru­cifixion stakes of the thieves were already raised, and to facilitate ascent, plugs were stuck in the holes bored to receive them. The absence of Jesus inten­sified the Mother's martyrdom. She knew that He was still alive, she longed to see Him, and yet she shuddered at the thought, for when she should again behold Him it would be in suffering unutterable.

The Weather

Toward ten in the morning, when the sentence had been pronounced, a little hail fell at intervals. At the time of Jesus' journey to Calvary, the sky cleared and the sun shone out, but toward twelve it was par­tially obscured by a lurid, reddish fog.

45. Jesus Stripped for Crucifixion And Drenched With Vinegar

Four executioners now went to the prison cave, seventy steps northward, and dragged Jesus out. He was imploring God for strength and offering Him­self once more for the sins of His enemies. They dragged Him with pushes, blows, and insults over these last steps of His Passion. The people stared and jeered; the soldiers, cold and grave, stood proudly erect keeping order; the executioners furiously snatched Him from the hands of His guards and dragged Him violently into the circle.

The holy women gave a man some money to take to the executioners together with the vessel of spiced wine and beg them to allow Jesus to drink it. The wretches took the wine but, instead of giving it to

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 Jesus, they drank it themselves. There were two brown jugs standing near. In one was a mixture of vinegar and gall, and in the other, a kind of vinegar yeast. It may have been wine mingled with worm­wood and myrrh. Some of this last-mentioned they held in a brown cup to the lips of the Saviour, who was still bound in fetters. He tasted it, but would not drink. There were eighteen executioners in the circle: the six scourgers, the four that led Jesus, the two that held the ropes, and six crucifiers. Some were busied around Jesus, some with the thieves, and they worked and drank alternately. They were short, pow­erfully built fellows, filthy in appearance, cruel and beastly. Their features denoted foreign origin; their hair was bushy, their beard scrubby. They served the Romans and Jews for pay.

The sight of all this was rendered still more fright­ful to me, since I saw what others did not see, namely, the evil one in his proper form. I saw, too, great, frightful-looking demons at work among those bar­barous men, handing them what they needed, mak­ing suggestions, and helping them in every way. Besides these, I saw numberless little figures of toads, serpents, clawed dragons, and noxious insects, which entered into the mouth of some, darted into the bosom of others, and sat on the shoulders of others. They upon whom I saw these evil spirits were those that indulged in wicked thoughts of rage, or that uttered words of mockery and malediction. But above the Lord, I frequently saw during the Crucifixion great figures of weeping angels and, in a halo of glory, lit­tle angelic faces. I saw similar angels of compassion and consolation hovering above the Blessed Virgin and all others well-disposed to Jesus, strengthening and supporting them.

And now the executioners tore from Our Lord the mantle they had flung around His shoulders. They next removed the fetter-girdle along with His own, and dragged the white woolen tunic over His head.

Jesus' Garments Are Torn off Him

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 Down the breast it had a slit bound with leather. When they wanted to remove the brown, seamless robe that His Blessed Mother had knit for Him, they could not draw it over His head, on account of the projecting crown of thorns. They consequently tore the crown again from His head, opening all the wounds afresh, tucked up the woven tunic and, with words of imprecation and insult, pulled it over His wounded and bleeding head.

There stood the Son of Man, trembling in every limb, covered with blood and welts; covered with wounds, some closed, some bleeding; covered with scars and bruises! He still retained the short woolen scapular over His breast and back, and the tunic about His loins. The wool of the scapular was dried fast in His wounds and cemented with blood into the new and deep one made by the heavy cross upon His shoulder. This last wound caused Jesus unspeakable suffering. The scapular was now torn ruthlessly from His frightfully lacerated and swollen breast. His shoulder and back were torn to the bone, the white wool of the scapular adhering to the crusts of His wounds and the dried blood on His breast. At last, they tore off His girdle and Jesus, our sweetest Sav­iour, our inexpressibly maltreated Saviour, bent over as if trying to hide Himself. As He appeared about to swoon in their hands, they set Him upon a stone that had been rolled nearby, thrust the crown of thorns again upon His head, and offered Him a drink from that other vessel of gall and vinegar. But Jesus turned His head away in silence. And now, when the executioners seized Him by the arms and raised Him in order to throw Him upon the cross, a cry of indig­nation, loud murmurs and lamentations arose from all His friends. His Blessed Mother prayed earnestly, and was on the point of tearing off her veil and reach­ing it to Him for a covering. God heard her prayer. At that same instant a man, who had run from the city gate and up through the crowd thronging the

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 way, rushed breathless, his garments girded, into the circle among the executioners, and handed Jesus a strip of linen, which He accepted with thanks and wound around Himself.

There was something authoritative in the impetu­osity of this benefactor of his Redeemer, obtained from God by the prayer of the Blessed Virgin. With an imperious wave of the hand toward the execu­tioners, he said only the words: "Allow the poor Man to cover Himself with this!" and, without further word to any other, hurried away as quickly as he came. It was Jonadab, the nephew of St. Joseph, from the region of Bethlehem. He was the son of that brother to whom, after the birth of Christ, Joseph had pawned the ass that was no longer necessary. He was not one of Jesus' courageous followers, and today he had been keeping at a distance and spying around every­where. Already, on hearing of the stripping for the scourging, he was filled with sorrow; and when the time for the Crucifixion was drawing near, he was seized in the Temple by extraordinary anxiety. While the Blessed Mother on Golgotha was crying to God, a sudden and irresistible impulse took possession of Jonadab, drove him out of the Temple, and up to Mount Calvary. He indignantly felt in his soul the ignominy of Cham, who mocked at his father Noe intoxicated with wine, and like another Sem, he hur­ried to cover his Blessed Redeemer. The execution­ers who crucified Jesus were Chamites, that is, descendants of Cham. Jesus was treading the bloody wine press of the new wine of Redemption when Jon­adab covered Him, Jonadab's action was the fulfill­ment of a prefiguring type, and it was rewarded.

46. Jesus Nailed to the Cross

Jesus was now stretched on the cross by the execu­tioners, He had lain Himself upon it; but they pushed Him lower down into the hollow places, rudely drew

Jesus Nailed to the Cross

269

 His right hand to the hole for the nail in the right arm of the cross, and tied His wrist fast. One knelt on His sacred breast and held the closing hand flat; another placed the long, thick nail, which had been filed to a sharp point, upon the palm of His sacred hand, and struck furious blows with the iron ham­mer. A sweet, clear, spasmodic cry of anguish broke from the Lord's lips, and His blood spurted out upon the arms of the executioners. The muscles and liga­ments of the hand had been torn and, by the three edged nail, driven into the narrow hole. I counted the strokes of the hammer, but my anguish made me forget their number. The Blessed Virgin sobbed in a low voice, but Magdalen was perfectly crazed.

The bore was a large piece of iron like a Latin T, and there was no wood at all about it. The large hammer also was, handle and all, of one piece of iron, and almost of the same shape as the wooden mallet we see used by a joiner when striking on a chisel.

The nails, at the sight of which Jesus shuddered, were so long that when the executioners grasped them in their fists, they projected about an inch at either end. The head consisted of a little plate with a knob, and it covered as much of the palm of the hand as a crown-piece would do. They were three edged, thick near the head as a moderate sized thumb, then tapered to the thickness of a little finger, and lastly were filed to a point. When hammered in, the point could be seen projecting a little on the oppo­site side of the cross.

After nailing Our Lord's right hand, the crucifiers found that His left, which also was fastened to the crosspiece, did not reach to the hole made for the nail, for they had bored a good two inches from the fingertips. They consequently unbound Jesus' arm from the cross, wound cords around it and, with their feet supported firmly against the cross, pulled it forward until the hand reached the hole. Now,

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 kneeling on the arm and breast of the Lord, they fastened the arm again on the beam, and hammered the second nail through the left hand. The blood spurted up and Jesus' sweet, clear cry of agony sounded above the strokes of the heavy hammer. Both arms had been torn from their sockets, the shoulders were distended and hollow, and at the elbows one could see the disjointed bones. Jesus' breast heaved, and His legs were drawn up doubled to His body. His arms were stretched out in so straight a line that they no longer covered the obliquely rising crosspieces. One could see through the space thus made between them and His armpits.

The Blessed Virgin endured all this torture with Jesus. She was pale as a corpse, and low moans of agony sounded from her lips. The Pharisees were mocking and jesting at the side of the low wall by which she was standing, therefore John led her to the other holy women at a still greater distance from the circle. Magdalen was like one out of her mind. She tore her face with her fingernails, till her eyes and cheeks were covered with blood.

About a third of its height from below, there was fixed to the cross by an immense spike a projecting block to which Jesus' feet were to be nailed, so that He should be rather standing than hanging; other­wise His hands would have been torn, and His feet could not have been nailed without breaking the bones. A hole for the nail had been bored in the block, and a little hollow place was made for His heels. Similar cavities had been made all down the trunk of the cross, in order to prolong His sufferings, for without them the hands would have been torn open and the body would have fallen violently by its own weight.

The whole body of our Blessed Redeemer had been contracted by the violent stretching of the arms to the holes for the nails, and His knees were forcibly drawn up. The executioners now fell furiously upon

The Nailing of Jesus' Feet

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 them and, winding ropes around them, fastened them down to the cross; but on account of the mistake made in the holes in the crosspiece, the sacred feet of Jesus did not reach even to the block. When the executioners saw this, they gave vent to curses and insults. Some thought they would have to bore new holes in the transverse arm, for that would be far less difficult than moving the foot block. Others with horrible scoffing cried out: "He will not stretch Him­self out, but we will help Him!" Then they tied ropes around the right leg and, with horrible violence and terrible torture to Jesus, pulled the foot down to the block, and tied the leg fast with cords. Jesus' body was thus most horribly distended. His chest gave way with a cracking sound, and He moaned aloud: "O God! O God!" They had tied down His arms and His breast also that His hands might not be torn away from the nails. The abdomen was entirely dis­placed, and it seemed as if the ribs broke away from the breastbone. The suffering was horrible.

With similar violence the left foot was drawn and fastened tightly with cords over the right; and because it did not rest firmly enough over the right one for nailing, the instep was bored with a fine, flathead piercer, much finer than the one used for the hands. It was like an auger with a puncher attached. Then seizing the most frightful-looking nail of all, which was much longer than the others, they drove it with great effort through the wounded instep of the left foot and that of the right foot resting below. With a cracking sound, it passed through Jesus' feet into the hole prepared for it in the foot block, and through that again back into the trunk of the cross. I have seen, when standing at the side of the cross, one nail passing through both feet.

The nailing of the feet was the most horrible of all, on account of the distension of the whole body. I counted thirty-six strokes of the hammer amid the poor Redeemer's moans, which sounded to me so

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 sweet, so pure, so clear.

The Blessed Virgin had returned to the place of execution. At the sound of the tearing and cracking and moaning that accompanied the nailing of the feet, in her most holy compassion she became like one dying, and the holy women, supporting her in their arms, led her again from the circle just as the jeering Pharisees were drawing nearer. During the nailing and the raising of the cross which followed, there arose here and there, especially among the women, such cries of compassion as: "Oh, that the earth would swallow those wretches! Oh, that fire from Heaven would consume them!" But these ex­pressions of love were answered with scorn and insult by Jesus' enemies.

Jesus' moans were purely cries of pain. Mingled with them were uninterrupted prayers, passages from the Psalms and Prophecies, whose predictions He was now fulfilling. During the whole time of His bitter Passion and until the moment of death, He was engaged in this kind of prayer, and in the unin­terrupted fulfillment of the Prophecies. I heard all the passages He made use of and repeated them with Him, and when I say the Psalms, I always remem­ber the verses that Jesus used. But now I am so crushed by the tortures of my Heavenly Bridegroom that I cannot recall them, I saw weeping angels hov­ering over Jesus during this terrible torture.

At the beginning of the Crucifixion, the comman­der of the Roman guard ordered the title written by Pilate to be fastened on its tablet at the head of the cross. This irritated the Pharisees, for the Romans laughed loudly at the words: "King of the Jews." After consulting as to what measures they should take to procure a new title, some of the Pharisees rode back to the city, once more to beg Pilate for another inscription.

While the work of Crucifixion was going on, some of the executioners were still chiseling at the hole

The Cross Crashes into Place

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 on the little elevation into which the cross was to be raised, for it was too small and the rock very hard. Some others, having drunk the spiced wine which they had received from the holy women, but which they had not given to Jesus, became quite intoxi­cated, and they felt such a burning and griping in their intestines that they became like men insane. They called Jesus a sorcerer, railed furiously at His patience, and ran more than once down the mount to gulp down asses' milk. Near the encampment of the Paschal guests were women with she-asses, whose milk they sold.

The position of the sun at the time of Jesus' Cru­cifixion showed it to be about a quarter past twelve, and at the moment the cross was lifted, the trum­pet of the Temple resounded. The Paschal lamb had been slaughtered.

47. The Raising of the Cross

After the Crucifixion of Our Lord, the execution­ers passed ropes through a ring at the back of the cross, and drew it by the upper part to the elevation in the center of the circle. Then they threw the ropes over the transverse beam, or derrick, raised on the opposite side. Several of the executioners, by means of these ropes, lifted the cross upright, while others supported it with blocks around the trunk, and guided the foot to the hole prepared for it. They shoved the top somewhat forward, until it came into a perpen­dicular line, and its whole weight with a tremulous thud shot down into the hole. The cross vibrated under the shock. Jesus moaned aloud. The weight of the outstretched body fell lower, the wounds were opened wider, the blood ran more profusely, and the dislocated bones struck against one another. The executioners now shook the cross again in their efforts to steady it, and hammered five wedges into the hole around it: one in front, one to the right, another to the left,

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 and two at the back, which was somewhat rounded.

A feeling of terror and, at the same time, one akin to deep emotion, was felt by Jesus' friends on behold­ing the cross swaying in the air and, at last, plung­ing into place with a heavy crash, amid the jeering shouts of the executioners, the Pharisees, and the dis­tant crowd, whom Jesus could now see. But along with those shouts of derision, there arose other sounds at that dreadful moment—sounds of love and com­passion from His devout followers. In touching expres­sions of pity, the holiest voices on earth, that of His afflicted Mother, of the holy women, the beloved dis­ciple, and all the pure of heart, saluted the "Eternal Word made Flesh" elevated upon the cross. Loving hands were anxiously stretched forth as if to help the Holy of Holies, the Bridegroom of souls, nailed alive to the cross, quivering on high in the hands of raging sinners. But when the upraised cross fell with a loud crash into the hole prepared for it, a moment of deep silence ensued. It seemed as if a new feeling, one never before experienced, fell upon every heart. Hell itself felt with terror the shock of the falling cross and, with cries of rage and blasphemy, rose up again against the Lord in its instruments, the cruel executioners and Pharisees. Among the poor souls and in Limbo, there arose the joy of anxious expec­tation about to be realized. They listened to that crash with longing hope. It sounded to them like the rap of the coming Victor at the door of Redemption. For the first time, the Holy Cross stood erect upon the earth, like another tree of life in Paradise, and from the Wounds of Jesus, enlarged by the shock, trickled four sacred streams down upon the earth, to wash away the curse resting upon it and to make it bear for Himself, the new Adam, fruits of salvation.

While our Saviour was thus standing upright upon the cross, and the cries of derision had for a few min­utes been reduced to sudden silence, the flourish of trumpets and trombones sounded from the Temple.

The Two Thieves

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 It announced that the slaughter of the types, the Paschal lambs, had begun; and at the same time, with solemn foreboding, it broke in upon the shouts of mockery and the loud cries of lamentation around the true, slaughtered Lamb of God. Many a hard heart shuddered and thought of the Baptist's words: "Behold the Lamb of God, who hath taken upon Him­self the sins of the world!"

The little eminence upon which the cross was raised was about two feet high. When the foot of the cross was placed near the hole, the feet of Jesus were about the height of a man above the ground; but when it was sunk into it, His friends could embrace and kiss His feet. A sloping path led up to it. Jesus' face was turned toward the northwest.

48. The Crucifixion of the Thieves

While Jesus was being nailed to the cross, the thieves were still lying on the eastern side of the mount, their hands bound to the crosspiece fastened on their shoulders, and guards keeping watch over them. Both were suspected of the murder of a Jew­ish woman who, with her children, was travelling from Jerusalem to Joppa. They were arrested under the disguise of wealthy merchants at a castle in that neighborhood. Pilate often made this castle his stopping place when he was engaged in military affairs. The thieves had been imprisoned a long time before being brought to trial and condemnation, but I have forgotten the details. The one commonly called "the left thief" was older than the other and a great miscreant. He was the master and seducer of the converted one. They are usually called Dismas and Gesmas. I have forgotten their right names, so I shall call them the good Dismas and the bad Gesmas.

Both belonged to that band of robbers on the Egypt­ian frontiers from whom the Holy Family, on the

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 flight to Egypt with the Child Jesus, received shel­ter for the night. Dismas was that leprous boy who, on Mary's advice, was washed by his mother in the water used for bathing the Child Jesus and instantly healed by it. The charity and protection which his mother, in spite of her companions, then bestowed upon the Holy Family, was rewarded by that out­ward, symbolical purification, which received its real­ization at the time of the Crucifixion when, through the Blood of Jesus, her son was inwardly cleansed from sin. Dismas had gone to ruin and he knew not Jesus; still he was not utterly bad, and the patience of the Lord had touched him. While lying on the mount, he spoke constantly of Jesus to his compan­ion, Gesmas. He said: "They are dealing frightfully with the Galilean. The evil He has done by His new laws must be much greater than ours. But He has great patience, as well as great power, above all men." To which Gesmas responded: "Come now, what kind of power has He? Were He as powerful as they say, He could help us and Himself too." And thus they bandied words. When Jesus' cross was raised, the executioners dragged the thieves up to it with the words: "Now it's your turn." They unbound them from the crosspiece and proceeded with great hurry, for the sun was clouding over and all things betokened a storm.

The executioners placed ladders against the upright trunks and fastened the curved crosspieces to the top of them. Two ladders were now placed against each of the two crosses, and executioners mounted them. Meanwhile the mixture of myrrh and vinegar was given them to drink, their old doublets were taken off, and by means of ropes passed under their arms and thrown up over those of the cross, they were drawn up to their places. Their ascent was ren­dered the more painful by the shocks they received and the striking against the wooden pegs that were stuck through the holes in the trunk of the cross.

Jesus' Clothing Is Sold

277

On the crossbeam and the trunk, ropes of twisted bark were knotted. The arms of the thieves were bent and twisted over the crosspieces; and around the wrists and elbows, the knees and ankles, cords were wound and twisted so tightly by means of those long wooden pegs that blood burst from the veins and the joints cracked. The poor creatures uttered frightful shrieks of pain. The good thief Dismas said to the executioners as they were drawing him up the cross: "Had you treated us as you did the poor Galilean, this trouble would have been spared you."

49. The Executioners Cast Lots For Jesus' Garments

At the place outside the circle upon which the thieves had lain, the crucifiers had meanwhile gath­ered Jesus' garments and divided them into several parts, in order to cast lots for them. The mantle was narrow at the top and wide at the bottom. It had several folds, and the breast was lined, thus form­ing pockets. The executioners tore it up into long strips, which they distributed among themselves. They did the same to the long white garment, which was closed at the opening on the breast with straps. Then they divided the long linen scarf, the girdle, the breast scapular, and the linen that was worn around the loins, all of which were soaked with the Lord's blood. But because they could not agree concerning the brown woven robe, which would have been useless to them if torn up, they brought out a board with numbers on it and some bean-shaped stones marked with certain signs. They threw the stones on the board in order to decide by lot whose the robe should be. Just at this point of the proceedings a messen­ger, sent by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, came running toward them to say that a purchaser had been found for the clothes of Jesus. So they bun­dled them up, ran down the mount, and sold them.

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 It was in this way that these sacred relics came into the possession of the Christians.

50. Jesus Crucified. The Two Thieves

The terrible concussion caused by the shock when the cross was let fall into the hole prepared for it drove the precious blood in rich streams from Jesus' thorn -crowned head, and from the wounds of His sacred feet and hands. The executioners now mounted ladders and loosened the cords with which they had bound the sacred body to the trunk of the cross, in order to prevent its tearing away from the nails when raised. The blood, whose circulation had been checked by the tightly bound cords and the horizontal posi­tion of the body, now with new force, owing to the loosening of the cords and the upright position, resumed its course. Jesus' torments were, in conse­quence, redoubled. For seven minutes He hung in silence as if dead, sunk in an abyss of untold pain, and for some moments unbroken stillness reigned around the cross. Under the weight of the thorny crown, the sacred head had sunk upon the breast, and from its countless wounds the trickling blood had filled the eyes, the hair, the beard, and the mouth—open, parched, and languishing. The sacred face, on account of the immense crown, could be uplifted only with unspeakable pain. The breast was widely distended and violently torn upward; the shoul­ders were hollow and frightfully stretched; the elbows and wrists, dislocated; and the blood was streaming down the arms from the now enlarged wounds of the hands. Below the contracted breast there was a deep hollow place, and the entire abdomen was sunken and collapsed, as if shrunken away from the frame. Like the arms, the loins and legs were most horri­bly disjointed. Jesus' limbs had been so violently dis­tended, His muscles and the torn skin so pitifully stretched, that His bones could be counted one by

The Appearance of Jesus

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 one. The blood trickled down the cross from under the terrible nail that pierced His sacred feet. The whole of the sacred body was covered with wounds, red swellings and scars, with bruises and boils, blue, brown and yellow, and with bloody places from which the skin had been peeled. All these wounds had been reopened by the violent tension of the cords, and were again pouring forth red blood. Later the stream became whitish and watery, and the sacred body paler. When the crusts fell off, the wounds looked like flesh drained of blood. In spite of its frightful disfigure­ment, Our Lord's sacred body presented upon the cross an appearance at once noble and touching. Yes, the Son of God, the Eternal sacrificing Himself in time, was beautiful, holy, and pure in the shattered body of the dying Paschal Lamb laden with the sins of the whole human race.

Mary's complexion was a beautiful bright olive tinged with red; and such, also, was that of her Divine Son. By the journeys and fatigue of His later years, His cheeks below the eyes and the bridge of His nose were somewhat tanned. His chest, high and broad, was free from hair, unlike that of John the Baptist, which was like a skin quite covered with hair. Jesus had broad shoulders and strong, muscular arms. His thighs also were provided with powerful, well-marked sinews, and His knees were large and strong, like those of a man that had travelled much on foot and knelt long in prayer. His limbs were long, the mus­cles of the calves strongly developed by frequent jour­neying and climbing of mountains. His feet were very beautiful and perfect in form, though from walking barefoot over rough roads the soles were covered with great welts. His hands, too, were beautiful, His fin­gers long and tapering. Though not effeminate, they were not like those of a man accustomed to hard work. His neck was not short, though firm and mus­cular. His head was beautifully proportioned and not too large, His forehead high and frank, His whole

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 face a pure and perfect oval. His hair, not exceed­ingly thick, and of a golden brown, was parted in the middle and fell in soft tresses down His neck. His beard, which was rather short, was pointed and parted on His chin.

But now His hair was almost all torn off, and what was left was matted with blood, His body was wound upon wound, His breast was crushed and there was a cavity visible below it. His body had been stretched asunder, and the ribs appeared here and there through the torn skin. Over the projecting bones of the pelvis the sacred body was so stretched in length that it did not entirely cover the beam of the cross. The cross was somewhat rounded in the back, but flat in front, and hollowed out in the necessary places. The trunk was about as wide as it was thick. The several pieces of which the cross was formed were of different colored wood: some brown, some yellow, the trunk darker than the rest, like wood that had lain a long time in water.

The crosses of the thieves were rougher. They stood on the edge of the little eminence, to the right and left of Jesus' cross, and far enough from it for a man to ride on horseback between them. They were some­what turned toward each other, and not so high as the Lord's. The thieves looked up to Jesus, one pray­ing, the other jeering, and Jesus said something down from His cross to Dismas. The aspect of the thieves on the cross was hideous, especially that of the one to the left, who was a ferocious, drunken reprobate. They hung there distorted, shattered, swollen, and bound fast with cords. Their faces were livid, their lips brown from drink and confined blood, their eyes red, swollen, and starting from their sockets. They yelled and shrieked under the pressure of the cords. Gesmas cursed and reviled. The nails in the cross­piece forced their heads forward. They writhed con­vulsively, and in spite of the hard twisting around the wooden peg of the cords that bound their legs,

Life of Jesus Christ by Anne Catherine Emmerich
1774-1824
Vol 4

This document is: ACE_4_0261

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