On Our Lord’s Painful Passage from the Mount of Olives to the House of Annas.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On Our Lord’s Painful Passage from the Mount of Olives to the House of Annas.
It is night. A band of executioners and soldiers, issuing from the Garden of Olives, with Jesus in their midst, wend their way by the light of torches through the gloomy vale of Cedron. Unseen by man, a number of angels accompany that melancholy procession; angels who compassionate the Redeemer, now under arrest, and grieve over the ingratitude of men who treat their Creator, their Redeemer, like a captured criminal. The powers of hell on the other hand are triumphant, and incite the executioners to the practice of yet greater cruelty. Keep this sad procession, the saddest which the world has witnessed for thousands of years, before your eyes during the time of your meditation.
1st. Consider what a painful way this was for our Lord. Before He had recovered from the utter prostration and frightful exhaustion consequent upon the terrible conflict of His soul upon Gethsemane, the awful anguish and bloody sweat upon Mount Olivet, He is hurried away by the executioners and dragged by them as a lamb to the slaughter. The servants of the high priest vent all their malice and ill-will on their unhappy prisoner; they drag Him, following them with bare feet along the rough, uneven path, over stones and through mud; they drag Him first one way, then another, paying no heed to His bleeding feet, His deadly exhaustion, His frequent falls; nay, when they come to the bridge over the brook Cedron, the malignant wretches actually push Him over, so that He falls, striking Himself on the stony bed of the running stream (as was revealed to a devout soul in a vision), and it is only with difficulty that His parched lips can obtain a draught of the scanty waters of the rivulet, as the prophet predicted: “ He shall drink of the torrent in the way.” (Ps. cix. 7.) Like a warrior who, quitting for a moment the battle fray, stoops over the wayside brook to cool his fevered lips amid the heat and stress of the fight, so the heavenly warrior, the divine combatant, weary and faint with the struggle He has already sustained, now bends His face to the ground to drink, to gain fresh strength for a fresh conflict. It is the last draught of water that He will have here below, the last refreshment earth will offer Him, but yet it is a refreshment amid His suffering and woe. O my poor, persecuted, weary Saviour! How ashamed I am of the sloth, the reluctance, the contemptible weakness I display when my calling compels me to go on a toilsome journey, to undertake an onerous task. Henceforth I will under such circumstances call to mind the painful way my Saviour trod.
2d. Consider that it was also a path of ignominy for our Lord. Only think, He, the Holiest of the holy, He, the King of Heaven, is dragged to Jerusalem at midnight, fettered and bound with muddy cords, surrounded by the lowest rabble like a common thief, as if He were a robber and murderer. What a contrast this nocturnal entry of our Lord into the city of David, covered with contempt, affords to His triumphal entry on Palm Sunday. Then those who accompanied Him carried palm-branches in their hands as a token of His victory, now those who are with Him carry lances and spears as a sign of His defeat and signal disgrace. Then a thousand voices were raised to laud and magnify Him, now the dregs of the people deride Him and blaspheme. Then all Jerusalem flocked together to meet Him, with jubilant shouts greeting Him as their King, the Son of David; now He enters Sion’s city alone, forsaken even by His own disciples, a prisoner, contemned and maltreated. What a path of ignominy was this which my Saviour trod! How ashamed I feel, beholding what He endured, of my dastardly cowardice and effeminate delicacy, which lead me anxiously to avoid everything that is likely to expose me to any kind of humiliation, scorn, contempt or ridicule, whilst with the greatest eagerness, the most jealous zeal I follow and delight in those paths which lead to honor and distinction. From henceforward, my soul, think of the ignominious way your Saviour trod, whenever your calling or your conscience obliges you to do something which may be humiliating for you, and render you despicable in the eyes of men.
3d. Consider that what enhanced the difficulty and added to the bitterness of our Lord’s painful journey to the house of His judge, was the ingratitude and infidelity of men. When He went about in Jerusalem working miracles and healing the sick, so dense a crowd thronged around Him that it was no easy matter to get near Him. When He fed the hungry multitude in the wilderness the people flocked after Him desirous to make Him their King. But when He was dragged through the streets of Jerusalem bound and fettered, no one was found to accompany Him, He had not a single adherent, all abandoned Him, even His apostles went away from Him. Consider the thanklessness, the unfaithfulness of men, impress it upon your mind, that for the future you may build less on human praise, trust less to human promises of fidelity, count less upon human gratitude than heretofore. As long as you are prosperous, and all goes well with you, you will have many friends; as long as you tickle their ears and flatter them with promises of good fortune you will not lack admirers; but if a dark page is turned, or if you brace yourself to tell them the truth, or if adversity overtakes you, how quickly all your adherents fall away from you! Wherefore lay to heart the invaluable admonitions of the Imitation: “Trust not to friends and kinsfolk, for men will sooner forget thee than thou dost think.” (B. i. ch. 23.) “I find all to be infirm and unstable whatever I behold out of Thee, my Lord God. For neither will many friends avail me, nor strong helpers bring me succor, nor wise counsel give a useful answer, unless Thou Thyself stand by me; help, strengthen, cheer, teach and keep me.” (B. iii. ch. 59.)
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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