THE PASSION OF OUR LORD
Chapter 53 of the Golden Legend by Jacobus Voragine (1275), translated by William Caxton, 1483. This "reader's version" of the text provides section headings, paragraph breaks, and explanatory notes.
Some lacunae in the text have been filled in with quotations from Ryan.
The passion of our Lord was bitter for the sorrow that he suffered in derisions
and of many filths
productive, effective, producing good results
The sorrow was
of five things.
The Five Causes of Our Lord’s Sorrow
The Shamefulness of the CrucifixionThe first, because it was shameful, for the place of the Mount of Calvary, whereas malefactors and criminal persons were put to execution, and he was there put to death right foul. The cross was the torment of thieves, and if the cross was then of shame and of villainy, she is now of glory and of honour.
Wherefore saith St. Austin: Augustine Crux latronum qui erat supplicium, etc. The cross which was the justice of thieves is now become the sign of glory in the foreheads or fronts of emperors. And if he had such honour at his torment, what did he to his servant for the shameful fellowships that he did to him?
For he was set with malefactors, but the one of them was converted, which was called Dismas, like as it said in the Gospel of Nicodemus. And he was on the right side of our Lord, and that other on the left side was damned, which was called Gesmas. So that one then he gave the realm of heaven, and to that other hell.
Whereof saith St. Ambrose: Auctor pietatis in cruce, etc. He saith the author of pity hanging on the cross divided offices of pity in secular errands; that is to say, the persecution to the apostles, peace to his disciples, his body to the Jews, his spirit to the Father, to the Virgin the messages of the wedding of the sovereign spouse, to the thief paradise, to sinners hell, and to [the] Christian penitent he commanded commended, entrusted the cross. Lo! this is the testament that Jesu Christ made hanging on the cross.
The Injustice of The CrucifixionSecondly, the sorrow was caused unjustly, for none iniquity was found in him. And principally, unjustly they accused him of three things. The first was they said that he defended forbade to pay the trewage; tribute and for he said that he was a king; and he said him claimed to be the Son of God.
And against these three accusations we say on the Good Friday three excusations in the person of Jesu Christ when we sing: Popule meus, where Jesu Christ reproved them of three benefits that he did and gave to them, that is to wit the deliverance of them from Egypt, the sustentation and governance in the desert, and the plantation of the vine in a land propice. propitious, fruitful Like as Jesu Christ would say: Thou accuses me because that I defend forbid to pay thy trewage, and thou oughtest more to thank me of that I have delivered thee from the trewage and from the servitude of Pharaoh and of Egypt; thou accusest me that I call myself King, and thou oughtest better to yield me thankings of that which I governed thee in the desert with meat food royal; thou accusest me of this that I say me claim to be the Son of God, and thou oughtest more to thank me that I have chosen thee to be in my vineyard, and in a right good place I have planted thee.
Being Forsaken by His FriendsThe third cause is because he was despised and forsaken of by his friends, which seemed a thing more tolerable to be suffered of his enemies than of them whom he held to be his friends. And alway he suffered death for his friends and neighbours, that is of them of whose lineage he was born. This said he by the mouth of David: Amici mei et proximi, etc.: My friends and my neighbours have approached against me and so have continued. Whereof said Job, capitulo xix, chapter 19 Noti mei quasi alieni recesserunt a me: My neighbours that knew me, as strangers have left me. Item, he suffered of them to whom he had done much good. Like as St. John recordeth, Johannis viii: John 8 I have wrought many good things to you. And hereto saith St. Bernard: O good Jesus, how sweetly hast thou conversed with men, and how great things in the most abundant wise hast thou granted to them. How hard and sharp things hast thou suffered for them, hard words, harder strokes and beatings, and most hard torments of the cross, nevertheless they render and yield to thee contrary.
The Tenderness of His BodyThe fourth cause is for the tenderness of his body. Whereof David saith in figure of him in the second book of Kings: He is like as that most tender worm of the wood.
Whereof saith St. Bernard: O ye Jews, ye be stones, but ye smite a better stone, whereof resoundeth the sound of pity and boileth the oil of charity.
And St. Jerome saith: He is delivered to knights for to be beaten, and their beatings have cruelly wounded and torn the most precious body, in whose breast the Godhead was hid.
The Pain to All His BodyThe fifth cause was because it was general, for it was over all, that is to say over all his body, and in all the natural wits sensory impressions, senses of his body.
And first the sorrow was in his eyes, for he wept tenderly as St. Paul saith in his Epistle ad Hebreos. Twice he ascended on high that he might be far heard. He cried strongly because none should be excused. He added thereto weeping that we should have compassion, and to tender our hearts, and he had wept tofore two times also. One time when he raised Lazarus, and that other time when he approached Jerusalem he wept. The first tears were of love, whereof is said in the Gospel: Behold how he loved him! The second were of compassion upon Jerusalem. But in this third weeping the tears were of sorrow.
Secondly, the sorrow was in hearing with his ears the reproofs and villanies that was said to him and blasphemed. Jesu Christ in especial had four things in which he heard blasphemy and reproofs, for he had right excellent noblesse. As to the nature divine, he was son of the King, perpetual sovereign, and as to the nature human he was born of the lineage royal. And as to this he was also King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He was also sovereign truth. For he is the way, the life, and the truth. Whereof he said himself: Thy word is truth. The Son of God, that is the word of God the Father, he hath also sovereign power above all other. For none may surmount him, for all things been made by him and nought is made without him. He hath also singular bounty, goodness for there is none nothing good of himself in itself but God only.
And in these four things here, Jesu Christ had opprobriums and blasphemies. First as to his noblesse, [they asked, "Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary?" His power was derided: "It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons" and "He saved others, he cannot save himself." They said he was powerless though he showed power enough to strike down his persecutors solely by the sound of his voice. When he asked: "Whom do you seek?" and they said: "Jesus of Nazareth," Jesus answered: "I told you that I am he," and they fell to the ground at once. Augustine: "He struck at this hate-ridden, fearfully armed mob with no weapon but a word; he repulsed them, laid them low by the power of his hidden divinity. What will he, who did this when about to be judged, do when he comes to judge? What will he who was about to die be able to do when he assumes his reign?"]
[His truth was denied: "You are bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true." So they called him a liar, whereas he was the way, the truth, and the life. Pilate did not deserve to know or hear this truth, because he was not judging Christ according to the truth. He did begin his judging on the basis of truth, but he did not abide by the truth; therefore he was worthy to raise the question about truth, but not to hear the solution.] St. Austin saith that he abode not did not wait for the solution, because that so soon as he had made the question it came in his thought that the custom was of the Jews that one should be delivered to them at Paske. And therefore he went out anon immediately and abode not the solution. The third cause is after St. John Chrysostom: For the question was [of] so great difficulty, that he had need of long time to advise and to discuss it. And he laboured for the deliverance of Jesu Christ, and therefore he issued went out anon. Nevertheless it is read in the Gospel of Nicodemus that Jesu Christ answered: Veritas de celo est. And Pilate said: "In earth is no truth?" And Jesus said to him: "How may be truth in earth which in earth is judged of them that have power in earth?"
Fourthly, he suffered blasphemy as to his bounty goodness and goodness. For they said that he was a man sinner and deceiver in his words, Luke xxiii: He hath moved the common people with his doctrine, in beginning from Galilee, hither, and hath broken the commandments of the law, for he keepeth not the Sabbath day, Johannis nono. John 9
Thirdly, the sorrow was in smelling of ordure and filth. For he might smell great stench on the Mount of Calvary whereas were the bodies of dead men stinking, whereof is said in Scholastica Historia that Calvary is the bone of the head all bare. And because that many were there beheaded, and many skulls of heads were there sparteled strewn about all openly, they said that it was the place of Calvary.
Fourthly the sorrow in tasting, whereof he cried: Sitio! I am athirst! There was given to him vinegar meddled with myrrh and gall, to the end that he should the sooner die, and the keepers might the sooner depart and go thence. For it is said by vinegar men die much soone. And with this also they gave to him myrrh for to have the more pain, for the bitterness of the myrrh and of the gall. Whereof saith St. Austin: His purity was fulfilled with vinegar instead of wine, his sweetness with gall; the innocent is set for guilty, and the life dieth for death.
Fifthly, the sorrow was in touching, for in all the parts of his body he was touched and wounded, from the plant sole of his foot unto the top of his head was none whole place.
And how he suffered sorrow in all his natural wits St. Bernard telleth, that saith: The head that made angels to tremble is pierced and pricked with the quality of sharp thorns. The visage which was most fair of all other members is fouled by spit, and hurt with the thorns of the Jews. The eyes more shining than the sun be extinct in the death. The ears hear not the song of the angels but the assaults of the sinners. The mouth that teacheth and enseigneth teaches the angels, is made drink vinegar and gall. The feet, of whom the steps be worshipped, be attached with nails to the cross. The hands that formed the heavens be stretched on the cross, and nailed with nails. The body is beaten, the side is pierced with a spear, and what more may be said? There abode nothing save the tongue for to pray for the sinners, and for to recommend his mother to his disciple.
The Mockeries that Jesus SufferedSecondly, his passion was despised of by, by means of mockeries and derisions of the Jews. For four times he was mocked.
At the House of AnaniasFirst, at the house of Ananias where he received spittings, buffets and blindfolding, of the Jews. Whereof St. Bernard saith: Right sweet and good Jesus thy desirous visage which angels desire to see, the Jews with their spittings have defiled, with their hands have smitten, with a veil fortorn utterly torn they have covered, nor they have not spared to hurt it with bitter wounds.
In the House of HerodSecondly, he was mocked in the house of Herod, which reputed him for a fool, and aliened from out of his wit, because he might have of him none answer. And by derision he was clad with a white vesture.
Whereof saith St. Bernard: Tu es homo, etc. – He saith thus: Thou art a man and hast a chaplet of flowers, and I am God and have a chaplet of thorns. Thou hast gloves on thine hands, and I have the nails fixed in my hands. Thou dancest in white vestures, and I God am mocked and vilipended, despised and in the house of Herod had received a white vesture. Thou dancest and playest with thy feet, and I with my feet have laboured in great pain. Thou liftest up thine arms in joy, and I have stretched them in great reproof. Thou stretchest out thine arms across in caroling and gladness, and I stretch mine in the cross in great opprobrium and villainy. Thou hast thy side and thy breast open in sign of vain glory, and I have mine opened with a spear. Nevertheless return to me and I shall receive thee.
But why and wherefore Jesus in the time of his passion before Herod Pilate and the Jews was thus still and spake not, there be three reasons and causes. The first was because they were not worthy to hear his answer. The second was because Eve sinned by speaking, and Jesus would make satisfaction by being still and not speaking. The third is because that all that ever he answered, they perverted it.
In the House of PilateThirdly, Jesus was mocked in the house of Pilate. For they clad him with a red mantle, and in his hand they took him a reed, and set upon his head a crown of thorns, and kneeled on their knees before him saying: Hail, King of the Jews. This crown was of jonkes furze of the sea. And we hold and say that the blood sprang out of his head. Whereof saith St. Bernard: Caput illud divinum, etc. The head precious and divine was pierced with thorns unto the brain of the soul.
There be three opinions in what place principally the soul hath her place; or either in the heart, for the scripture saith, out of the heart come the evil thoughts; or in the blood, because the scripture saith, the soul of every one is in the blood; or in the head, because the Evangelist saith: When he inclineth his head he rendered his spirit. And this treble opinion it seemeth that the Jews had known, for when they would make the soul issue out of the body, they sought it in the head, when they thrust the thorns to the brain. They sought it in the blood when they opened his veins in the feet and hands. And they sought it in the heart when they pierced his side.
Against these three illusions, on Good Friday, before the cross is showed, we make three adorations in saying: Agios, O Theos, Yskyros Holy, God, Mighty (apparently referring to the "Sanctus" hymn in the liturgy) , etc., in honouring him three times, like as he was for us mocked and scorned on the cross.
On the CrossFourthly, he was scorned on the cross. The princes of the priests with the old men and masters of the law, clerks and doctors, said to him: If he be King of Israel, let him descend from the cross now to the end that we believe in him. Whereof saith St. Bernard: In that Jesus showed the more great virtue of patience, he commanded humility, he accomplished obedience, he performed charity. And in sign of these four virtues the four corners of the cross be adorned with precious gems and stones. And in the most apparent place is charity, and on the right side is obedience, and on the left side is patience, and beneath is humility, the root of all virtues.
And all these things that Jesu Christ suffered, St. Bernard gathereth together saying: I shall, said he, as long as I shall live remember the labours that he had in preaching, of the travails that he had in going from one place to another by land, and from city to city, of his wakings in praying, of his temptations in fasting, of his weepings and tears in having compassion, of the awaitings on him in speaking, in assaying him and tempting. And at last of the villanies of the spittings, of the mockeries, of the opprobriums and of the nails.
The Good Effects of His PassionThirdly, his passion was profitable and fructuous: the which may be profitable in three manners. That is to wit in remission of sin, in gifts of grace, and in demonstration of glory. And these three things be showed in the title of the cross. The first is Jesus, the second Nazarenus, and the third Rex Judeorum, for there shall we all be kings.
Of the profit speaketh St. Austin, saying: Our Lord Jesu Christ hath put away the sins past, present, and to come. The sins past in pardoning them; the present in withdrawing men from them; them to come in giving grace to eschew the sins. Yet the same doctor theologian saith thus: We ought to praise and to thank, to love and to honour him; for by the death of our Saviour and Redeemer we be brought to life, from corruption to incorruption, from exile unto our country, from weeping to joy we be called again.
And how well the manner of our redemption was profitable it appeareth by five reasons. That is to wit, because it was right acceptable to appease God, right helping to save us, right effectual to draw to him the human lineage, right wise to fight against the enemy of human lineage, and to reconcile us to God.
It Was Right Acceptable to Appease GodFor after this that St. Anselm saith: There is nothing more sharp ne nor more strong that a man may suffer by his proper will, without it be of God, than to suffer death with his own proper will for the honour of God. Ne no man may better give to God to his honour than give himself to death for him.
And this is that the apostle saith ad Ephesios v: Ephesians 5 Our Lord hath given himself in to oblation and sacrifice for us in to the odour of sweetness to God the Father.
And how he was sacrificed that was in us appeasing God, St. Austin in the book of the Trinity saith thus: What thing may be more graciously and pleasantly received than the flesh of our sacrifice, which was made the precious body i.e., the body of Christ in the Eucharist of by our priest. Therefore four things ought to be considered in all sacrifice: First, him to whom it is offered, that which is offered, him that offereth, and him for who the offering is offered. He himself is the moyen mean, middle of both two; or that is to say God and man, he was himself that did offer, and he was himself that was offered. And the same doctor saith yet of this sacrifice, how we be to God reconciled: Jesu Christ is the priest and the sacrifice, he is God and also he is the temple, he is the priest by whom we be reconciled, God, to whom we be reconciled, and the temple in whom we be reconciled, the sacrifice of whom we be reconciled.
And St. Austin saith, considering them that despise this reconciliation, and set nought thereby, he saith in the person of Jesu Christ in reproving them: When thou wert enemy to my Father I have reconciled thee; when thou wert far I bought thee again; back when thou wert taken I came for to redeem thee; when among the mountains and the forests thou wert out of the way, I sought thee, to the end that of the wolves nor of the evil beasts thou wert not eaten nor all to-torn; torn to pieces I gathered thee and bare thee in mine arms and delivered thee to my Father. I laboured, I sweat, I put mine head against the thorns, stretched mine hands unto the nails, opened my side to the spear, have shed my blood, and have given over my soul and life for to join thee to me, and thou hast departed separated thyself from me.
It Was Right Helping to Save UsSecondly, Jesu Christ was right convenable appropriate and necessary for to save us, and to heal and cure us of our malady and sickness, for because of the time and of the place and of the manner of the time, as it appeareth.
For Adam was made and sinned in the month of March, and on the Friday, which is the sixth day of the week, and therefore God in the month of March, and on the Friday would suffer death, and at midday which is the sixth hour.
Secondly, for the place of his passion, the which might be considered in three manners. For one place either it is common or especial or singular. The place common where he suffered was the land of promise; the place especial, the mount of Calvary; The place singular, the cross. In the [common place the first man was formed, because it is said that he was formed] in a field about or nigh Damascus. Where it is said, in a place special, he was there buried. For right in the place where Jesu Christ suffered death, it is said that Adam was buried. (How well that this is not authentic, for St. Jerome saith that Adam was buried in Hebron. And also in the book of Josuah is written the xiv chapter. In a place singular he was deceived, that is to wit in the tree, not in this on which Jesus suffered death, but in another tree.)
Thirdly, he was right convenable because of the curing, the which by manner was semblable similar to the prevarication by like and contrary. For thus as saith St. Austin in the book, De doctrina christiana: By a woman he was deceived, and by a woman he was born a man, and the man delivered the men. One mortal delivered the mortal, and the death by his death. And St. Ambrose saith: Adam was of the earth a virgin; Jesu Christ was born of the virgin; Adam was made to the image of God; Jesus was the image of God; by a woman folly was showed; by a woman wisdom was born. Adam was naked; Jesu Christ naked. The death came by the tree, the life by the cross. Adam in desert, and Jesus in desert, but by the contrary.
For after St. Gregory: Adam sinned by pride, by disobedience and by gluttony, for he coveted the highness of God. For the serpent said to them, ye shall be semblable to God, he brake the covenant of God, and desired and coveted the sweetness of the fruit by gluttony. And because the manner of the Saviour ought to be by the contrary, therefore this manner was right convenable by the humiliation, by the fulfilling and affliction, or of the divine volenty. And hereof saith the apostle ad Philippenses; Humiliavit se ipsum. he humbled himself
It Was Right Effectual to Draw to Him the Human LineageThirdly, Jesus was right profitable to draw to him the human lineage. For one of the world, his free will saved, might never have drawn mankind to his love.
And how he draweth us to his love St. Bernard saith:
Above all things O good Jesu give me grace to love thee. And by this thing he drew us most to his love. That is the chalice good Lord that thou hast drunken, which was the work our of redemption. This chalice is thy passion, which lightly may appropre recommend, regard as appropriate our love to thee. This is that that which draweth most pleasantly our devotion, and justly raiseth it, and soonest straineth constrains and most vehemently taketh our affection. And where thou lamentest, and thereas thou undress yourself explanation of thy rays natural, there shineth most thy pity; there is most clear thy charity, and there aboundeth most thy grace.And how also we ought to return to the affiance of allegiance to him St. Paul saith, ad Romanos viii: He spared not his own Son, but for us all he delivered him.
Therefore St. Bernard saith: "Who is he that is not ravished to caught bup by hope of affiance [Christ's] pledge of faithfulness which taketh none heed to the disposition of his body? He hath his head inclined to be kissed, the arms stretched to embrace us, his hands pierced to give to us, the side open to love us, the feet fixed with nails for to abide with us, and the body stretched all for to give to us."
It Was Right Wise to Fight Against the Enemy of Human LineageFourthly, he was right wise and well advised for to fight against the enemy of the human lineage. race Job xxvi.: His wisdom hath smitten the proud man, and after, may ye not take the fiend with an hook? Jesu Christ hath hid the hook of his divinity under the meat of our humanity, and the fiend would take the meat of the flesh, and was taken with by the hook of the Godhead.
Of this wise taking, saith St. Austin, "Our Redemption is come and the deceiver is vanquished. And what did our Redemptor? He laid out his bait to our deceiver and adversary; he hath set forth his cross; and within he hath set his meat, that is his blood." For he would shed his blood not as a debtor, and therefore, he departed from the debtors. And this debt here the apostle calleth chirographe or obligation, the which Jesu Christ bare and attached it to the Cross.
Of which Saint Austin saith: Eve took of the fiend sin by borrowing by usury, and wrote an obligation. She laid it for pledge, and the usury is augmented, and grew unto all the remnant of the lineage. Then took Eve of the fiend sin, when against the commandment she consented to him. She wrote the obligation when she put her hand to the tree against the defence prohibition of God. She delivered pledge when she made Adam to consent to the sin, and thus the usury grew and augmented unto the remainder of all the lineage.
Against them that reck nothing of do not care about, do not take heed of this redemption Saint Bernard saith in the person of Jesu Christ:
My people, saith Jesu, what might I have done for thee that I have not done to thee? What cause is there that ye serve sooner the devil, our adversary, than me? For he hath not created ne hath nourished you. But this seemeth a little thing to them that be full of ingratitude. I have redeemed you and not he, and for what price? Not with gold ne silver, ne of the sun, ne of the moon, ne with any of the angels, but with my proper blood. And after consider, if of right for so many benefits ye ought to choose to have my company. And if ye will all leave me, at the least come with me for to win a penny a day.
How Judas, the Jews, and Pilate were PunishedAnd because they delivered Jesu Christ to death, that is to wit Judas for avarice, the Jews for envy, and Pilate for dread. fear And therefore it is to see what pain was delivered to them of God for this sin.
But of the pain and of the birth of Judas thou shalt find in the legend of St. Matthew, of the pain and ruin of the Jews, in the legend of St. James the Less, and of the pain of Pilate and his birth thou shalt find in one apocryphum whereas it is said in this manner:
There was a king called Tyrus which knew carnally a maid called Pilam, which was daughter of a miller named Atus. And of this daughter he engendered a son. She took her name and the name of her father, which was called Atus, and composed thus of their names one name to her son, and named him Pilatus. And when he was three years old she sent him to the king. And the king had a son of by the queen, which seemed to be of the age of Pilate. And these two sons when they were of age of discretion, oft they fought together, and with the sling they played oft. And the king's son also, which was legitimate, was more noble, and in all feats he knew more, and more was set by because of his birth.Another cause of enmity is assigned in Scholastica Historia:
There was one that said himself to be God, and had deceived many of Galilee, and brought the people into Garizim Mount Gerizim, in Samaria (not Galilee) where he said that he would go up to heaven. And Pilate came upon them, and when he had knowledge of the deed he slew him and all his people, because he doubted feared that he would have deceived them of Judæa. And therefore were they enemies together, for Herod reigned in Galilee.And hitherto is this story called apocryphum read. They that have read this, let them say and believe as it shall please them.
Nevertheless in Scholastica Historia is read that Pilate was accused before the Emperor Tiberius because he did put to death by violence them that were innocent, by his might; and that maugre in spite of the Jews he did images of paynims pagans in the Temple, and that the money put in corbanam "Korban" refers to the sacrificial offerings required by the Torah he took, and did withal with it his profit, and was proved in his visage that he made in his house alleys and conduits for water to run in. And for these things he was sent to Lyons in exile for to die among the people of whom he was born.
And this may be well supposed that this history be true. For tofore was the edict given that he should be put in exile to Lyons, and that he was exiled ere Volusian returned to the Emperor. But when the Emperor heard how he had made our Lord Jesu to die he made him from his exile to come to Rome. Eusebius and Bede in their chronicles say not that he was imprisoned and put in exile, but because that he fell in many miseries by despair he slew himself with his own hand.
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