STATIONS OF THE CROSS: 1 Jesus Is Condemned To Death by Caryll Houselander

1 Jesus Is Condemned To Death by Caryll Houselander

From The Way of the Cross 

“Behold the man!”

He is a man of sorrows.  He is covered in bruises and stripes.  He is made a laughing stock.  He is crowned with a crown of thorns.  A reed is put into his hand for a scepter, a tattered soldier’s cloak is thrown over his naked shoulders.  His eyes are blind-folded.  His face is covered with spittings.  He is bound like a dangerous criminal.  His own people have chosen a murderer before him.  His friends have forsaken him.  The kiss of treason burns on his cheek.

“He has no comeliness whereby we shall desire him!”

“He is a worm and no man, the reproach of men and the outcast of the people.”

And he is condemned to death.

“Away with him!  Away with him!  Crucify him!”

“Behold the man!”

“Behold the Son of God!”

Behold the man abiding in mankind!

He had put on our humanity.  He has put you on – and me.  He had covered himself with our shame, blindfolded his eyes with our blindness, bound himself with our slavery to self.  He is bruised by our falls.  He bleeds from our wounds.  He sheds our tears.  He has made himself weak with our weakness.  Faith with our faintheartedness.  He is going to die our death.

All men are condemned to die, but he is condemned to die not only his own death, but yours and mine, and that of every man whom he will indwell through all the ages to come.

“Behold the Son of God!”

“This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased!”

He alone, of all men born, need not have died; but because things are as they are, because we have to pay the price of our sins, and our life on this Earth must inevitably be a journey through suffering to death, Christ has chosen to give himself to every man who will receive him, so that each man who wills can treat that road with the feet of Christ, and at the end of it he can, if he wills, die not his own death but Christ’s.

That is why death is the choice of Divine Love: “Dost thou doubt that if I call on my Father, even now, he will send more than twelve legions of angels to my side?  But how, were it so, should the scriptures be fulfilled, which have prophesied that all must be as it is?” (Matthew 26:53-54)  His bound hands hold back the legions of angels.

He has chosen our impotence in order to give us the power of his love, our weakness to give us his strength, our fear to give us his courage, our ignominy to give us his majesty, our pain to give us his peace, our wounds to give us his power to heal, our dying to give us his life; our interdependence that we may give him to one another.

“Behold the man.”

In him behold mankind!

Already in this mysterious moment of time, at the beginning of the Via Crucis, Christ has given himself to all those whom he will indwell through all the centuries to come.  Already he has taken them to himself, made them one with himself.  All manner of men and women and children – the rich and the poor, the famous and the infamous, saints and sinners – all who will be redeemed by his Passion are in Christ, and his Heavenly Father sees them all as Christ, his Son in whom he is well pleased.

There in the Prince of Peace, stripped and wearing a soldier’s coat that has been put on him, are all the conscripts compelled to go to war.  There in the young man in the flower of his manhood, going out willingly to be sacrificed, are all those young men who go willingly to die in battle for their fellow men: “This is the greatest love a man can show, that he should lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:13)

There in the prisoner – bound, publicly shamed, condemned to the death of criminals, thieves and murderers – are all the criminals who will repent and accept death on the scaffold as their due.

There in “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” are the kings of this world.

“Art thou a king then?”

“It is thy own lips that have called me king.”

“My kingdom is not of this world.”

There, crowned with thorns and bearing a reed for scepter, are the kings of our days, whose crowns are thorns indeed and whose scepters are reeds shaken by the wind.

There in the blameless Lord, made subject to men, illimitably patient, silent when he is mocked, silent before Herod, silent when Peter denies him, are all those innocent children who are so commonly patient and inarticulate in suffering, and whose suffering and death baffles and scandalizes us – “You will all be scandalized in me!”

There in him are all the martyrs of all times; those of our own time with every detail of their martyrdom, including those which their persecutors try to hide, shown to the whole world: the trickery, the utter injustice, the faked evidence, the verdict decided before the trial; and the things that have been done in secret to prepare the victim – if possible to break him! – the mental torture (a veritable crowning with thorns), the long nights without sleep; cruelest of all, the attempt to make him a stumbling block to his own people.

It is significant that everything contributing to that condemnation is parallel with everything that contributes to the passion of the martyrs of our own times: the intrigues and the fears of politicians, the hatred of fanatics, mass hysteria; the unstable crowds swayed by paid agitators, the popular craving for sensation – and those many Pilates of our day who wash their hands of the responsibility of knowing, “What is truth?”, who shut their eyes to Christ in man and try to escape from their own uneasiness by evasions: “I am innocent of the blood of this just man – look you to it!  In any case, there is nothing that I could do about it!”

Neither is it by chance that those who will carry out the sentence will be the young and ignorant soldiers of an army of occupation, lads brought up like the soldiers of the Red Army, deprived of the knowledge of the one God, obeying their orders without question because they are conditioned to obey orders without questioning, or thinking.

“Father, forgive them; they do not know what it is they are doing.”

“Behold the man.”

Yes, and behold in him yourself.  Each one of us can recognize himself, a sinner, in the disfiguring, the bruising, the ugliness, hiding the beauty of the fairest of the sons of men.  And there can be few who do not recognize themselves, too, in the utter loneliness of this man in the midst of the crowd that lately spread their garments to be trodden by the little ass he rode on, and now clamor for his blood.

“Behold we have seen him disfigured and without beauty; his aspect is gone from him; he has borne our sins, and suffers for us; and he was wounded for our iniquities, and by his stripes we are healed.”

Prayer

“Lord, that I may see!”

Give me light to see you in my even-Christian
and to see my even-Christian in you.

Give me faith to recognize you
In those under my own roof;
in those who are with me, day after day,
on the way of the cross.

Let me recognize you
not only in saints and martyrs,
in the innocence of children,
in the patience of old people
waiting quietly for death,
in the splendor of those who die for their fellow men;
but let me also discern your beauty
through the ugliness of suffering for sin
that you have taken upon yourself.

Let me know you in the outcast,
the humiliated, the ridiculed, the shamed;
in the sinner who weeps for his sins.

Give me even the courage
to look at your holy face,
almost obliterated,
bruised and lacerated,
by my own guilt,
and to see myself!

Look back at me, Lord,
through your tears,
with my own eyes,
and let me see you,
Jesus, condemned to death,
in myself,
and in all men
who are condemned to die.

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