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Of the sorrowful way of the Cross, which he made with Christ when He was being led forth to death.
AT first for a long time the Servitor was, as it were, spoiled by God with heavenly consolations; and he was so eager after them, that all subjects of contemplation which had reference to the Divine nature were a delight to him; whereas, when he should have meditated upon our Lord’s sufferings, and sought to imitate Him in them, this seemed to him a thing hard and bitter. He was once severely rebuked by God for this, and it was said to him:—Knowest thou not that I am the door through which all true friends of God must press in, if they would attain to true bliss? Thou must break thy way through My suffering Humanity, if thou wouldst verily and indeed arrive at My naked Divinity. The Servitor was struck with consternation at this, and it was a hard saying to him; nevertheless he commenced meditating upon it, much though it went against him, and he began to learn what till then he knew not, and he gave himself up to practise it with detachment.
He now began every night after matins at 51his usual place, which was the chapter-room, to force himself into a Christlike feeling of sympathy with all that Christ, his Lord and God, had suffered for him. He stood up and moved from corner to corner, in order that all sluggishness might leave him, and that he might have throughout a lively and keen sensitiveness to our Lord’s sufferings. He commenced this exercise with the Last Supper, and he accompanied Christ from place to place, until he brought Him before Pilate. Then he received Him after He had been sentenced at the tribunal, and he followed Him along the sorrowful way of the cross from the court-house to beneath the gallows. The following was the manner in which he made the way of the cross:—On coming to the threshold of the chapter-house, he kneeled down and kissed the print of the first step which the Lord took, when, on being sentenced, He turned Him round to go forth to death. Then he began the psalm which describes our Lord’s passion, “Deus, Deus meus, respice,” &c. (Ps. xxi.), and he went out by the door into the cloister, repeating it. Now there were four streets through which he accompanied Him. He went with Him to death along the first street, with the earnest desire and will to 52go forth from his friends and all perishable goods, and to suffer, for Christ’s glory, misery without consolation, and voluntary poverty. In the second street he proposed to himself to cast aside all perishable honour and dignity, and voluntarily to despise this present world, considering how the Lord had become “a worm and the outcast of the people.” At the beginning of the third street he kneeled down again, and, kissing the ground, willingly renounced all needless comfort, and all tender treatment of his body, in honour of the pains of Christ’s tender body: and he set before his eyes, what is written in the psalm, how that all Christ’s strength was dried up, and His natural vigour brought nigh to death, as they drove Him onwards thus pitiably; and he thought how fitting it is that every eye should weep and every heart sigh on account of it. When he came to the fourth street, he kneeled down in the middle of the road, as if he were kneeling in front of the gate through which the Lord must pass out; and then falling on his face before Him, he kissed the ground, and crying out to Him, prayed Him not to go to death without His servant, but to suffer him to go along with Him. Then he pictured to himself as vividly as he could 53that the Lord was obliged to pass quite close to him, and when he had said the prayer, “Ave, rex noster, fili David!” (Hail, our King, son of David!), he let Him move onwards. After this he knelt down again, still turned towards the gate, and greeted the cross with the verse, “O crux ave, spes unica!” (Hail, O cross, our only hope!), and then let it go past. This done, he kneeled down once more before the tender Mother Mary, heaven’s queen, as she was led past him in unfathomable anguish of heart, and he observed how mournfully she bore herself, and noted her burning tears, sad sighings, and sorrowful demeanour; and he addressed her in the words of the “Salve Regina” (Hail, O Queen!), and kissed her footsteps. Then he stood up and hastened after his Lord, until he came up with Him. And the picture was some times so vividly present to his mind, that it seemed to him as if he were in body walking at Christ’s side, and the thought would come to him, how that when King David was driven from his kingdom his bravest captains walked around him and beside him, and gave him loving succour (2 Kings xv.). At this point he gave up his will to God’s will, desiring that God would do with him according to His good pleasure. Last of 54all, he called to mind the epistle, which is read in Holy Week, from the prophecy of Isaias, beginning, “Quis credidit auditui nostro” (Is. liii.), and which so exactly describes how the Lord was led forth to death, and meditating upon it, he went in by the door of the choir, and so up the steps into the pulpit, until he came beneath the cross, and then he besought the Lord that neither life nor death, weal nor woe, might separate his servant from Him.
There was another mournful way of the cross that he used to make, and it was in this wise:—While the “Salve Regina” was being sung at compline, he contemplated in his heart the pure Mother as at that moment still standing beside her dear Child’s grave, with all a mother’s grief for her buried child, and that it was time for her to be led home again, and that he was to lead her home. Accordingly, he made three prostrations (venias) in his heart, and with them he led her home again in his contemplation. The first was at the sepulchre. As soon as the “Salve Regina” began, he bowed down his soul before her, and supporting her in spiritual fashion with his arms, bewailed her tender heart, which was at that time so full of bitterness, outrage, and deadly sorrow, and he sought 55 to comfort her by reminding her that on account of all this she was now a queen in dignity, our hope and our sweetness, as it stands in the hymn. Then, when he had brought her under the gate way into Jerusalem, he went on before her into the street, and looking back upon her, as she came along in wretchedness, all blood-stained with the hot blood which had dropped upon her, as it streamed forth from the bursting wounds of her pierced Son, he marked how forsaken she was and bereaved of all her consolation. Then he received her again with a second interior prostration, at the words, “Eia ergo advocata nostra!” (Hail then, our advocate!), meaning by them that she should be of good cheer, since she is the worthy advocate of us all; and he besought her with that love which shone forth amid her anguish to turn to him her merciful eyes, and to grant him, when this miserable life is over, lovingly to behold her august Son, according to the wish expressed in the prayer. He made the third interior prostration before the door of her mother St. Anne’s house, whither he had led her in her sorrows, and, as he did this, he commended himself to her gentleness and loving sweetness, in the devout words, “O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria!” 56(O gentle, O pious, O sweet Virgin Mary!), and he prayed her to receive his wretched soul at its last passage, and to be its guide and defender from its evil enemies, through the gates of heaven to everlasting bliss.
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