Republished on March 28, 2024: Saint Robert Bellarmine on Our Lord's Agony in the Garden


All you who pass by, look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow. (Lam. 1:12)


The beginning is taken from the greatness of the passion of Christ, which it is fitting to consider continually. The four sources are mentioned, from which that greatness is drawn, the first of which is God's infinite love for us, which also makes the gravest torments light, and this is proved by the example of the martyrs, especially of St. Ignatius. The second source takes its origin from the first, because he felt he was abandoned in his passion by all consolation, which was prefigured long ago in the book of Leviticus by the annual offering of two goats. The third source is what he suffered in the excellent body, with which he was endowed. The fourth, that he endured every kind of torment. Then nine main kinds of the passion of Christ are expressed graphically, and are as it were represented. The first kind is the sadness and trembling of Christ on the Mount of Olives, because he was surrounded on all sides by every difficulty, the cause of which was all the torments he knew he had to undergo, having present before his eyes all the sins of all men, the ingratitude of men, and the immense sorrow caused therefrom to his virgin mother.

In the second part, after making an excuse for his prolixity, he lists another five results of the passion of Christ. Therefore the second is that, instead of assistance from a man whom he had raised to the highest dignity, he was sold to his enemies for a paltry sum; there the prostitutes of Judah are proved to be worse, Third, that all the lashes were unleashed by the cruelty of the Jews and Gentiles, since their hearts were blinded and hardened by the devil, who suggested to them unusual kinds of torments; there fornicators are proved to be worse than Judas. The fourth is, the horrible scouring, which is the punishment of the vilest of men; this is worth pious meditation. The fifth is the crowning with thorns. The sixth is the carrying of the cross to the mount of Calvary, where we are taught how to carry our cross, that is, how we should follow Christ by suffering tribulations.

In the third part, after examining the mysteries of his death on Calvary, he goes on to the three remaining kinds of the passion; the seventh of these is the crucifixion itself, where first of all the cruel denuding of Christ is expressed, and then the crucifixion in its details. The eighth is the presence of his beloved mother, where the result of the passion both of them are explained. The ninth and last aspect of the passion of Christ is the mockery of the bystanders and drinking gall; there it is proved that on the cross all the senses of Christ suffered. The blood stained cloak of Joseph, who was sold by his brothers, was given to his father, and it is said to have been a figure of the body of Christ, and then it is shown how our sins contributed to his suffering on the cross. Next comes a grave exhortation to practice charity and gratitude, and to confess venial and mortal sins. Finally, the epilogue shows how much greater the punishment of hell is than the suffering of Christ and how certainly it threatens sinners.

The severity of the punishments of the Lord was so great, my dear listeners, that it surpassed the powers of the human and angelic mind, and only Christ, who endured it, and only God, who arranged it for our salvation, can really understand how great its vileness and bitterness were. Indeed the split rocks and open tombs, and the torn veil of the temple, and the sun covered with darkness, and finally the whole world signified with terrifying and until that time unknown prodigies that it had not known such wickedness previously. And there is no doubt also that the angels of peace, according to the prophet weep out of love, and cover their faces with their wings, when the ministers of iniquity attack the Lord of majesty with shameless deeds and insults. Nevertheless, the Son of God appeals to the Father alone, as the only one who knows fully the magnitude of the situation; You know, he said, my reproach, and my shame and my dishonor. For only the Father fully understood what Christ his Son was suffering, because only he knew the infinite sublimity and majesty of the same Christ, and what great reverence and obedience was owed to him by all created things, and especially by men. Therefore only you he said, have known my reproach and my shame because you alone know my dignity. But although that is the case, and although the magnitude of the Lord's passion surpasses all created understanding, still the Lord exhorts us to try as much as we can to understand the vehemence of those sorrows and sufferings: O all you, he said, who pass by, who complete the course of human life, who do not cling to the mire of earthly passion, but hasten with wings of desire to the heavenly Jerusalem with eager steps: You, I say, do not simply listen, but look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow. Therefore on this day, both that we may give due and just thanks to Christ, and suffer with Christ our head as his true and live members, and that we may arm ourselves for the endurance of labors, and that we may follow the footsteps of the Lord bravely, we will speak, with the assistance of the Lord, about the magnitude and severity of the Lord's passion. But so that we may explain such a serious and useful matter in some order, and whatever we have said you will be able easily not only to understand but also to commit to memory, we will open up four as it were sources of founts, from which the magnitude and vehemence of the Lord's passion may flow like a swift river, so that we may draw out abundant water, according to the prophecy of Isaiah,  from the wells of salvation.

The first fount, which was the origin and beginning of the other founts, and rightly can be called the found of founts, is the infinite love, which burns perpetually in the heart of the Lord as in its own proper furnace. The Lord desired with this excellent was both to free the human race, and to satisfy divine justice fully and perfect. He desired in this way to cure many wounds, so that no traces, no signs would be left; and at the same time so to remove those great crimes against the wounded majesty, that from then on no reason for hostility and hatred between us and God would remain. He knew that the more he would suffer, the better he would be able to bring his works to their conclusion; at the same time, aware of his own powers and fortitude, he knew that he could carry on his strong shoulders any heavy weight or burden whatsoever. Therefore the result was that without measure he burdened himself with the weight of sorrows and labors. Give me the greatest power with the greatest wisdom, and the greatest power and greatest wisdom with the greatest love, and then comprehend, if you can, what will glow from that. The most common little men, when in their hearts love begins to burn and reign, what I ask you, do they think about? What do they prepare themselves for? What do they strive for? Certainly sometimes they so seem to glow that they want to do and suffer unlimited and huge things for those whom they love. When the patriarch Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and still had to serve another seven, that time did not seem to him to be fourteen years, but only the length of a few days, because of the love he had for her. But what the impure, unchaste lovers, like Jacob, always did for their mistresses, is known to everyone. But as I omit speaking about the lovers of women and other filth, consider the holy men, fiercely burning with the divine beauty, like the Apostle Paul, like the martyr Ignatius, and also St. Francis. All of them were so taken with love, and in a certain sense were rapt outside themselves by love that they sought martyrdom, blows, crosses, ignominies in the same was as merchants seek gold and gems and precious stones. Simple martyrdoms, and simple crosses, and simple death for the Lord were not enough for them, but they desired them again and again. Listen to what the blessed martyr Ignatius said in his letter to the Romans: Pardon me [in this]: I know what is for my benefit. Now I begin to be a disciple . . .Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearings, breakings, and dislocations of bones; let cutting of members, let shatterings of the whole body; and let all the dreadful torments of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ. All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing. It is better for me to die in behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth.

In the next place, who ever with such affection and such eagerness asked his friends that they should free him from an imminent violent death, as with such affection and eagerness the same glorious Ignatius asked the Romans that they should not try to stop his passion and death? Therefore those ardent lovers of God conceived in their heart the great things they desired to suffer for the Lord; but in the meantime they suffered lesser things, which did not respond to the power of their love. They desired to suffer immeasurable things, but they could not, and therefore God did not allow them to be tempted beyond their strength; but with the temptation he provided the way of escape that they might be able to endure it. But who does not know that the Lord Christ, the chief of martyrs and the singular teacher of patience, was aflame with much more intense love than any saint ever had? For love in Christ, as in a fountain, was as in a small brook in the other saints. For, from his fullness we have all received. Therefore he did not wish, he did not desire, but he burned with a passionate love to suffer for us; as a hart longs for flowing streams, so he longed for the chalice of his passion, as he said in these words: I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. And these:  I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished! What? It is this, that if to this infinite will to suffer, we add also the greatest power of suffering, what mass of suffering will be accomplished? Indeed, dear brethren, this one argument, if it is carefully and diligently considered alone suffices that a man will be carried away outside himself, and he will experience amazement and ecstasy of the mind; and then finally he will begin to understand what the Lord means when he says: Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.

Another source from which the vehemence of the Lord's passion was born is this – that the Lord willed to endure the fiercest punishments without any kind of consolation. This is really the second source from the first source, as a stream flows from a fountain, without any hesitation. For the sovereign charity, which willed that Christ should suffer the greatest sorrows, the same, I say, blocked all the doors, by which any kind of consolation, either from heaven or from earth, could enter into his heart. Therefore, not only by his disciples, friends and relatives, but also by his own Father he was so abandoned and deserted that the man Christ alone would struggle with his great sorrows and sufferings. Therefore we have these words: I am a man who has no strength, like one forsaken among the dead. And, I sink in the deep mire, where there is no foothold. And, My God, my God look at me, why have you forsaken me? In the Old Testament an illustrious figure preceded this matter. For what did those two goats in Leviticus 16 signify, which were offered to the Lord for the sin of the people, and of which one was killed and the other was sent off into the wilderness, unless it was that great and divine sacrifice by which the God-ma, Jesus Christ, was offered to the Lord for the sins of the whole world? For as one of the goats was killed and the other was sent into solitude, so in Christ one of his natures, namely, only the human was crucified; however, the other divine nature in a certain sense withdrew, and left its partner alone in the sufferings and torments. For although, in what pertains to the hypostatic union, the Word of God never left the human nature which he had once assumed, still in what pertains to the consolation, which he could have brought to the suffering human nature, and with regard to the mitigation and moderation of those unbearable sorrows, he completely abandoned it. Hence, the holy martyrs in the midst of great suffering sang, glorified God, exulted: but why was the Lord, who gave that strength and constancy to the martyrs, so horrified because of him imminent passion, why did he so tremble and even sweat blood? Certainly it was for no other reason than that for the martyrs the Lord mixed the chalice of suffering with the honey of heavenly sweetness, and often a very sweet liquid filled a large part of the chalice, so that they could truly say with the prophet: When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. And with the Apostle Paul: I am filled with comfort. With all our affliction, I am overjoyed. But the Lord, as we said before, closed all the doors for himself, through which consolation could have been brought to him. He did that for no other reason than that he might abundantly redeem us, who are so miserable and ungrateful. Consider now with me, what it means to drink a chalice of such suffering, full of gall, full of absinthe, full of foul liquids, without any moderation of sweetness? Consider this, how would you carry the cross, if you have a grave illness and you have no one to console you; if all abandon you, even your friends, even parents and wife, and even your children turn their back on you, and you would see greater compassion show to a dog lying wounded on the street, than to you? Rightly, therefore, such a one would say, look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.

Then the third source, which increased the passion of the Lord in a special way, was the delicateness and nobility of the body of the Lord. Who does not know how much difference there is between a hard and rustic farmer, whose body is accustomed to hard work, burned by the heat of the sun, often pounded by the rain, snow, and wind, and has put on as it were the solidity and hardness of the ground, and a noble and delicate youth who has been raised up in luxury? Would not some heavy blows, which the rustic would hardly feel, almost kill the delicate youth? Now the Lord Christ was not that youth raised in luxury, because he had chosen a mother lacking in earthly things, but rich in faith and in love and in the other virtues; nevertheless he had a body that was delicate, beautiful, noble, well formed and constituted, such as it rightly should have been, because it was formed and produced by the power of the Holy Spirit from the pure blood of the virgin. Therefore those fierce punishments, which would have affected any other body, no matter how hard, how solid, how rustic with the greatest sufferings, what, I ask, can we imagine took place in that body, which was the best of all bodies? Therefore could not the Lord deservedly and rightly say, look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow?

Now we will examine the fourth source. How great fierceness was of the tortures of the Lord can easily be known from the fact that he suffered not just one kind of torment, but a certain common and general punishment, which comprehends as it were in the full sense all punishments. If you consider all those he suffered, you will find that all types of men, every sex, every age, every condition, Jews and Gentiles, masters and slaves, men and women, friends and enemies in a certain sense act together, and conspire in the killing and destruction of the Lord. If you consider the things someone can suffer you will see that there is absolutely nothing that a person could suffer, and which the Lord did not suffer. Indeed his loving mother was pierced with a sword of sorrow, his disciples and friends fled his clothes were torn from him, his dignity was injured, and his mind was overcome with grief. What shall I say about his body? Did not each of his limbs and each of his senses have its own tormentor? And so that you may understand or rather see more clearly than the light of the sun, that there was not a simple destruction or one kind of torment, by which the Lord was killed, but there was a certain bitter and fierce composition of innumerable sufferings; each one of them singly by themselves, if they are carefully considered, were abundantly sufficient to crush the Lord Christ with incredible sorrow and shame. I will list briefly the nine principal kinds of punishments, which, beside many other, that one passion of the Lord comprehends in itself.

Therefore the first kind of sorrow was that inner conflict, that great sadness, that anxiety of the heart, that cloud of mourning which so invaded and weighed down the heart of the Lord that it placed him as it were in the extreme agony of death. Not that alone, but it also brought it about that the Lord, who as often as he spent the night alone in a remote place, then so feared that he would be asked by his disciples not to leave them alone; so he said remain here and watch with me. And not only just that, but it also brought it about that a sweat of blood burst forth from his whole body, and so abundantly that from his face and garments it fell on the ground and moistened it. This event was so rare that in no century has anything newer or more monstrous or more extraordinary ever happened. But we will not be greatly astonished, dear listeners, if we understand what a just reason the Lord had for this internal sorrow. Indeed that blessed soul wanted to be scourged and crucified, and to taste gall and vinegar before the body actually suffered these things. Therefore the soul was fastened to an invisible cross, which had its own four arms and four invisible nails, which were four bitter kinds of thoughts. For first all the torments came to mind, which he was going to suffer that night and on the following day and which were going to strike his body in a certain order, one after the other at different hours, and all of them together like a line of battle flooded the mind of the Lord. And why is it surprising if such an army of sorrows, so serious, so pitiless, so long-lasting could fill that body with grief and sadness? Especially since the Lord knew the vehemence of the various sorrows, and he knew for certain that none of them would be taken away or diminished; but that whole chalice to the last drop, to the dregs, as Scripture says (Is. 51:17), had to be drunk by him. Then all sins came to his mind, both past, present and future, which ever were either committed by men against God, or would be committed. And he saw them so much in detail, so clearly, that all my sins and all yours, and all those individually of each and every man, were present to him. Therefore did he who with such ardor and zeal loved the honor of the Father, and was so vehemently attacked by critics, see such an innumerable multitude of evil deeds and abominable, filthy and execrable crimes that cry to heaven and offend the honor and majesty of God? Certainly the sins of one man could be sufficient that they would torment the Lord more than the punishment of the cross. What therefore would the sins of the whole world do? There is not intelligence, either human or angelic that can comprehend the force of this sorrow.

In the third place, that huge ingratitude came to mind, first of the Jews, then of many Christians, who were going to tread on his precious blood: and at the same time he saw both the horrible punishment by which after a few years the Jews were going to suffer, and the intolerable punishments of hell, which were being prepared for such a great multitude not only of Jews and pagans, but also of Christians. All of this vehemently afflicted his innocent heart which loves us so much. If thus a father or mother grieves over the death of a son, so that in no way can they find any consolation, how much more credible it is that the Lord Christ grieved over the loss of so many thousands of men, whom he loved much more ardently than a mother does her children, and for whom he was prepared not only to die a thousand times for all, but also for each one? Finally, he thought about that sharp sword, which pierced the heart of his loving mother; who can doubt that this thought broke and tore to pieces the heart of the Lord? After God the Father the Lord loved no one as much as he loved his excellent and very holy mother. Therefore, since he knew with what great vehemence of sorrow that holy and innocent heart should be honored, certainly the sword of maternal sorrow predicted by Simeon pierced the heart of the Son before it did the mother, and it did not reach the heart of the mother except by going through the heart of the Son. Therefore this is the interior cross, these are the nails, this is the lance that force the bloody sweat from the body of the Lord. Just as this sweat was the most singular and most horrible of all sweats, so it was a sign of unheard of sorrows and torments, and of such a kind that no other punishments could be compared to them.

Consider with me that the Lord Jesus, in his agony in the garden of Gethsemane, was like another Isaac being offered in sacrifice; and in whatever direction he turned the eyes of his mind he saw that everything was filled with crosses, and from all sides these voices rang in his ears: Away with him, away with him, crucify him! If he looked at his disciples, he saw their hearts full of fear and sadness: if he looked at the Jews, he saw that they desired nothing other than his death, and that they were already planning with Judas, the betrayer, how to capture him. If he thought of the holy fathers resting in the bosom of Abraham, he saw that they were pleading for his death; finally, if he raised his eyes to heaven, he saw God the Father as another one with a bare sword prepared to sacrifice him; and at the same time he understood that now one of the angels would not come to stop his being killed, as he came formerly to prevent the death of Isaac, and that now a ram was not to be found, who could be offered as a holocaust in his place, Hence the bloody sweat flowed so abundantly; and what, I ask, will be the nature of the tortures that will follow, when in the beginning of his passion he is already constituted in the agony of death? What will he feel then, when he really suffers all those torments, when the consideration of them alone causes his bloody sweat?  Certainly in this place when you being to think about these things, if your heart is not moved and tears do not come to your eyes when you think about the bloody sweat coming from the Lord's body, you should know that you have a heart of stone and not a heart of flesh. For it you cannot weep from love and compassion, why will you not weep at least because of the multitude of your sins, since the thought of them alone forced the Lord to sweat his blood? The swords of the impious did not strike the Lord's body in the garden: there were no scourges or thorns or nails, which brought forth that blood, but your sins – they were the thorns that cruelly penetrated the Lord's head; they were that heavy load that bore down on the Lord, and that he could not carry without sweat. O with what a great price, Lord Jesus, you willed to purchase the remedy for my soul! O my true Adam, who not because of you sins, but mine, having been driven from paradise, by the sweat of your brow you gain the bread, by which you have decreed to nourish and sustain me. Therefore may heaven bless you and may the earth and every one of your creatures praise you and glorify you forever.


Today's sermon will be somewhat longer than the others usually are; therefore now we will take a short break before we arrive at the end. But it should not be annoying for us to suffer some small thing, while we are hearing a sermon on the passion. And if the Lord hung on the cross for three whole hours in incredible pain, in order there to gain salvation for us, why should it seem troublesome to us to listen to a sermon for one brief hour for our salvation and the glory of God? Now as we return to our theme, we said that there are nine kinds of suffering contained in the passion of the Lord; but we have already briefly explained one of them, and now the rest will be not so much explained as enumerated. For it they had to be explained, none hours would not be enough for us to do it.

Therefore the Lord suffered another very grave torment when he saw that he was old, like a slave, for a sum of silver. It is a great misfortune, when what has been born noble and free, still is sold for a sum of money, like cattle and beasts of burden. But how great would it be, if he is sold not only by friends, but is sold to cruel enemies, who buy him for no other reason than that they want to crucify him? The Lord Christ was sold and he was sold by the man whom he had placed in the highest grade of honor and dignity; for there is nothing on earth greater than the apostolic dignity. And he was sold to very cruel merchants, who were thirsting for nothing but his blood. But at what price was he bought? The cheapness of the price greatly increases the magnitude of the injury. Tell us, Judas, you wicked merchant, for what price did you sell Christ? For thirty denarii. Do you esteem your Lord at such a low price? Could you not sell a cow or a horse in the marketplace at a better price? Believe me, the Lord Christ does not value you at such a low price. O the price of man! O what a low price for God! God was sold for thirty denarii, and man is bought with the blood of God. And you fornicator, adulterer, miser –how much do you think the Lord is worth? For how much will you sell him? What if I were to show you that you are selling Christ as a lower price than Judas sold him? Judas sold Christ for thirty denarii; it is a low price, but still the price contains something good –silver. But at what price do you sell him? You do it for one fornication, for one brief pleasure, which often many labors and expenses precede, and sorrow and bitterness always follow. Therefore are not thirty pieces of silver better, which do hard to no one and can provide much benefit if a person uses them well, than one act of fornication, which drains your wallet, weakens your body, kills the soul and only can do harm, and no one can make good use of it? Therefore if Judas for eternity is suffering just and deserved punishments for this wicked sale, what will happen to you? What house will receive you except hell itself? And if the Lord in the garden, while considering the heat of those flames, out of compassion sweat blood, what will you suffer, whose members those flames will feed on for eternity? Now let us move on to the other points.

The third suffering, or rather the fount of his many sufferings was what was permitted to the devil that night, so that through his ministers, Jews and Gentiles, he might inflict on Christ every kind of cruelty. That that is true can be known both from what the Lord says in Luke: This is your hour, and the power of darkness, and also that this was the due punishment for our sins, and the Lord wanted to undergo it, so that by it he might vindicate us. In times past God gave the devil power over the body of holy Job, but provided that he spared his life; but the body of the Lord without any exception of life or death was handed over to the power of the devil: from this were born new and previously never heard kinds of punishments by which that cruel beast tormented the Lord through his ministers: both in order to satisfy his hatred and anger, and to force that holy soul to fall into some kind of impatience, if at all possible. Hence there were those blows and slaps, with which they struck the Lord, as if he were a common slave; hence the spitting, that was done in a blasphemous way on the face of the Lord; also the garments, both white and purple, by which the Lord was clothed like a fool and a madman; hence the occasions, the ridicule, the ironic words, the feigned bows by which they mocked the Lord of glory as if her were a ridiculous king and prince of buffoons; hence finally it happened that with great ignominy they led the Lord bound, surrounded by lictors and armed soldiers, like a convicted thief through the public streets and squares. And whose work was it, I ask you, if it was not that of the devil, namely, the amazing contempt for the Son of God, when he was compared with the criminal Barabbas, and was considered more useless and more unworthy of life that that public assassin? What words can be found to explain such an outrageous crime? Who would believe that the author of life and the parent of the human race came down to earth, and in the city where he had cured so many sick persons, restored sight to so many blind persons, hearing to so many deaf persons, walking to so many lame, life to so many dead, whom all miserable and suffering people appealed to, and from whom all received the cure of all their maladies, that  he should be compared with a criminal man, and considered to be less useful to the state, less fitting for the city, and less to be preserved and retained, that the man who even in the opinion of parricides was a danger and threat to men? Who could so tear away the mind from those judges, and counsel from those men, and pour such darkness into their hearts that for light they would choose darkness, and for God an assassin, unless it was the prince of darkness? Think therefore, and admire, to what degree of humility that majesty descended for you, when he did not refuse to commit his body to the power of devils, which without doubt is the greatest of all evils Now we will move on to other points.

The fourth punishment was the cruel scourging, which the Lord received in the courtyard from the Roman executioners. This was so violent that it exceeded all the boundaries of customs and laws, so that Pilate thought that it would sufficiently satisfy the rage and madness of the Jews; and certainly it would have suffice, unless they had hearts of stone filled with an evil demon. This in one of the great wonders, dear listeners, and new spectacles, which the world would ever see or hear. Who could ever imagine that the shoulders of God would be punished with lashes? Holy David said Because you have made the Lord your refuge . . .no evil should befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For what is more unworthy of the sublimity and majesty of God, than the humiliation and ignominy of flagellation? This is not the kind of punishment given to good men, but it is for buffoons, for thieves, for vile slaves, and for those who are of low esteem. In Roman times it was so vile to be beaten with rods that no Roman, no matter how humble and poor, could be treated with this kind of punishment. But now the Lord of heaven, the creator of the world, the honor of men, the glory of angels, the wisdom and power of God the Father will be subjected to flogging? Indeed I believe that all the choirs of angels were gathered together for this spectacle, and shocked and stunned, when they saw the abyss of the goodness and humility of the Son of God, they filled the air with their voices and praises. For if they did that on the day of his birth, when they saw nothing but swaddling clothes and a manger, what were they now going to do when the also saw the whipping and the column? Neither the time nor my powers allow me to explain this mystery. But I beseech all of you, dear listeners, that no one will return home without carefully thinking about this powerful mystery. For what more can we do for the Lord than to meditate on his sorrows and sufferings? Therefore in your mind and thoughts enter into the courtyard of Pilate, and bring with you many tears: for certainly they are necessary to deplore what you will see there. And first look at how Pilate, in order to satisfy the raging people, commands that the Lord be dragged forth, stripped, bound and beaten with rods. Look at how those savage and cruel executioners without any sign of humanity proceed to carry out the commands. Look at how alone and how stripped, not only of his clothes, but also of any help you Lord was as he stood there among so many wicked and devil-filled guards; there he had no protector, no advocate, no one who could say a word in defense of the Lord. Indeed there was no eye to look upon him with mercy. Finally, look at how those soldiers, devoid of all humanity, begin violently to scourge his virginal and naked body, which was firmly tied to a column; they punished him with malicious blows and wounds from the bottom of his feet to the top of his heard. But the Lord amidst so many sorrows and blows did not threaten with words or signs, but he endured all of them as well merited with humility and patience. O what incredible patience! O what unusual crime! O what a hard heart we have, if we are not moved by this spectacle!

Now we will consider the fifth kind of punishment and torture, which has no less ignominy and shame, than it has of sorrow and torment, God out, therefore, Christian souls after those severe scourges, and look at King Solomon, with the crown with which his mother crowned him: look at how the cruel executioners, and truly the ministers not of men but of demons, as if the previous blows, and the immediately following death and such an abundance of spilled blood were not enough, they fashioned a crown of thorns, and while pretending to adore him they pressed it onto his head, so that the wounds of the thorns would force out the blood, which the blows and scourges had spared. Who ever saw, or heard about, or read about a crown of this kind? Who ever thought up such a cruel device whereby men are tortured and mocked? Certainly Pilate did not order this; the customs and laws of the Romans did not have anything like this and it was not a custom among the Jews. Has human cruelty come to this point, that to afflict the savior of the world with unjust punishments the ole torments did not suffice, but new ones had to be invented? This work of art, O devil, is yours. You are king over all the children of pride, you wanted to be seen as the king of glory, a ridiculous king, you fashioned the crown of thorns in the workshop of hell. But you will obtain nothing, your raging cruelty will accomplish nothing. For those thorns will make your eyes blind, and they will make a medicine for us, and after three days they will be changed by Christ into rays of bright light.

Then the sixth cruel punishment was the carrying of the cross. It was customary for those who were condemned to death that their eyes were covered before, so that they would not see the instrument which was used to kill them. But here every form of humanity is excluded; and not only did they not cover the Lord's eyes, so he could not see the cross, but they also put the cross itself on his shoulders, so that his heart and eyes would be fixed on the cross and tormented even before his body, The kind Lord did not refuse that heavy burden, which our sins made heavier than all iron and lead; indeed it was embraced with great eagerness, as if it were something sought and desired for a long time. For although it was very, still it seemed light to him because of his great love. Therefore although exhausted, weak, although covered with wounds, nevertheless with a ready and willing heart he subjected his neck to the heavy yoke, which his love for our salvation imposed on him: he took up the cross, and so he began his journey groaning, and doing penance for our sins, and everywhere he marked the road with his blood, so that if there were those who, having taken up their cross on their shoulders, wanted to follow in his footsteps, they would not wander from the right road. Also, Father and Son in a certain way divided up the burden between themselves: the Son like another Isaac brought the wood and the victim; the Father like another Abraham brought the fire and word. For these two are the fire and the word, the fire of love for our salvation and the sword of divine justice offered up the Son of God in a holocaust. O how happy we would be, if we knew how to carry our cross, and to follow Christ on this journey. Be consoled, be consoled all you who bear the cross of tribulations and hardships is this world. Count it all joy, brethren, when you meet various trial. Take the yoke of the Lord upon you . . .and you will find rest for your souls. The Lord Christ, when he needed the greatest consolation and refreshment, then embraced the cross place on him with eagerness and with outstretched arms of charity. O if we knew how to imitate his example, and in the misfortunes we experience in the worked, we would not seek consolation form the world, if we would patiently and freely embrace the cross of the Lord! How much rest we would find there, how much peace, how much sweetness! What else can all calamities do to us, except that we imitate Christ? In times past the cross was something filled with horror and fear, but now, since God thought so much of it that he wanted to carry it on his shoulders, certainly it can be only a matter of honor and splendor.

Two persons, whom God loved more ardently than other, and preferred to all other things, were Christ and Mary. But in what, I ask you, are those signs of special love shown? Is it not in the fact that he imposed on those two the heaviest crosses of all? As there never was, and never will be among men someone better than Christ, not among women better than Mary, so there was not, and there will not be anyone here on earth more afflicted and harassed than Christ and Mary. But it should not move you and deter you from carrying your cross that you are perhaps suffering because of your sins. For a salutary cross. And if you suffer because of your sins, you are carrying the cross of the good thief; but if you are innocent, rejoice more. For you are imitating Jesus and Mary better and more perfectly. But woe to those, woe to those who honor a dead cross, and blaspheme the living cross, and are the like the Jews who persecuted the living prophets, and built magnificent tombs for the dead ones. For what else is it to honor and praise the cross, and in the meantime to fell from poverty and ignominy and tribulation and to curse them, than to honor a dead cross and blaspheme a living one? Those who have not carried their cross with Christ will not have a part with Christ; and they will not be able to be companions of consolation and of contemplations, who were not also companion of tribulations and sufferings; and those who were ashamed of the cross of Christ on earth, Christ will be ashamed of them in heaven in the sight of the angels.


Now we have arrived, dear hearers, at the holy top of the mount of Calvary, and so at the ultimate peak of the mysteries of human liberation. O how awesome this place is! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. Here it seems to me that I see the sublime ladder, which in time past the patriarch Jacob saw, which joins together heaven and earth. Or rather, this is paradise and a place of delights. For what is the meaning of the beautiful tree growing in the middle of this garden, on which hangs the fruit of life? Whatever it is, here is the house of prayer, and the temple, and the altar at which many kindnesses are conferred on those who approach it. Therefore, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. For this is that mystical rock from which water flows profusely. If you desire peace and friendship with Christ, here is the stone which Jacob set up as a pillar and he poured oil on it. If you need wine to cure your wounds, here is the grape brought from the promised lad, carefully trodden in the wine press of the cross, finally, here is the jar of oil, with which the widow mentioned by Elisha, namely the Church of Christ, easily discharged all her debts; for although it seems to be a small jar, nevertheless as long as the jars, which are filled, are not lacking, the precious liquid will never cease to flow. Therefore let us ascend the stained mountain of the Lord, the mountain on which the Lord is please, not only to dwell, to suffer and to die on it.

Therefore the seventh punishment was the crucifixion itself, which is a type of death not less shameful and infamous, than it is severe and long-lasting. And first of all look with the eyes of your mind at how the rough executioners again proceed to strip the Lord of all his garments, and with what great patience and gentleness he does not resist them, and he utters not one word of complaint about the injury inflicted by them. And this is for no other reason than so that he can clothe us, who have lost the garment of uprightness and innocence, with his own nakedness. O what a great light of charity and goodness would enlighten the eyes of your mind, if you began to think that he, who clothed heaven with cloud and earth with flowers, is now despoiled not only of his clothes, but also in a certain sense of his skin. Indeed, during the whole time of his life the Lord professed his love of poverty and want, but never more than in his death. For then, he was so poor that he did not have anything to cover himself with, and as he came naked into this world, so he wanted to go out of it naked; he tells us clearly that this world did not please him, nor did he desire for himself any of the things in this world, but despised all of them; and he said that they are deceived who think they are following the Lord, and at the same time do not know how to reject and despise earthly things.

Now continue on and consider how those cruel soldiers seize the Lord and stretch him out on the cross; how they grab those holy and divine hands and the splendid feet, worthy to be pressed perpetually with devout kisses, and they pierce them with rough nails driven in by a hammer, and fasten him to the cross. O what a great suffering the Lord endured in that hour, when the nails pierced those delicate hands and splendid feet, in which the sense of pain is very intense and with the hammer ruined the flesh, bones nerves, and whatever else is contained in those parts of the body. Finally, they raise up that dreadful banner, which before lay on the ground, and they let it drop not slowly they allow it to fall into the hole with great force. In that way the holy body raised up in the air trembled; the wounds of the hands and feet were made bigger and they poured out an abundant shower of blood. But this type of death is of such a nature, dear listeners, that those who die in this way do not die quickly, but with the vehemence alone and the long duration they change life into death.

After this came the eighth punishment which by the presence of his holy mother crucified not so much the body of the Lord as it did his heart. For who can explain how the hearts of mother and Son suffered the cross, when those two heavenly lights look at each other? Who can explain what happened, when the Son looked upon the face of his loving mother covered with the bitterness of the passion but her heart pierced with a sword of sorry, and when he saw the mental anxieties that she suffered, and the streams of tears flowing copiously from her eyes, and the groans with expressed the heavy wight of sorrow from the depths of her heart? For if those, who love Christ truly and from the heart, when they contemplate his passion, cannot contain the floods of tears, what can we believe Mary did, who was his mother, and was not contemplating with eyes of her mind the history of the passion, but with the eyes of her body was looking at her Son present before her actually suffering his passion? O how often did she raise her sad eyes to gaze on that divine face and then cast them down, because the tenderness of her heart could not sustain that sight! I for my part think that the tongues of both of them became as it were mute because of too much sorrow, or that they could say nothing or only very little. But the condition of the Son spoke many things to the heart of the Virgin, and so he said to her: Why did you come here, my dove, my love, because your sorrow increases my sorrow, and your sufferings torture me more than my own torments. Return, my dove, return to the ark until the waters of the flood begin to recede; for here you will not find any place where you can rest your foot; for there you will call out with prayer and contemplation, and you will raise yourself above yourself, and you will more easily bear the great force of this storm and tempest. Truly it should not be thought the heart of the mother responded with fewer words to the heart of her Son than he said to her. Why do you give me that command, beloved of my breasts? And how can I retreat from you, unless I retreat from myself, since you are the life of my life and the soul of my soul? But your sorrow has so occupied my heart that I cannot think about anything except it without you. Therefore my soul has been crucified with, and with you, and with you it is necessary to die and to be buried. This, dear listeners, the blessed virgin, although under the cross she suffered an unbearable cross, still she did not flee because of that, nor did she turn her back on it, in order to teach us not to abandon the cross of penance and hardships. Therefore she did not flee, but she persevered; and she did not sit or lie down, but she stood there like a strong and solid column, and a true column of the Church, and a teacher of the Apostles and the future martyrs; and just as Eve, looking at the tree with desire was present at the ruin of our death, so Mary, looking with sorrow at the tree of our life, was present at our liberation.

Now I come to the last, grave, unheard of and incredible punishment. For when the Son of God, while hanging on the cross, suffered extreme and innumerable sorrows and torments, and became as it were a sea of bitterness, and finally had the aspect and appearance that if a dog had the same he would move the hearts of men; still his enemies, crueler than wild beasts and harder than stones, not only were not moved, but they mocked him, and insulted him, and made jokes about him. And it was not just that, but when that holy body was weakened because of too much shedding of blood, and when his tongue, palate and inner organs were dried out, and so the Lord asked for a little water, in order to assuage his thirst and burning heat, those men, deprived of all human feeling, not only refused to give some water, but also they offered him gall and vinegar in place of water. O what intense cruelty! O you men more savage that wild beasts! And what, I ask you, can be heard or thought more cruel, what more inhumane, what more horrible! Certainly although water was denied to that rich feaster, who was being punished in hell, still bitter gall was not given to him to drink; but to the Son of God not only is what he asked for not given, but also his torment and punishment is increased. O sweet Saviour of the human race, who will tell us what you suffered on the cross? Certainly my ins were heavy, and your suffering clearly teaches that, I see you, my king, suspended on the cross, where you have nothing with which you can support your body, except the iron nails, I see the weight of your body dragging you down, and that the wounds in your hands and feet are constantly getting bigger and bigger causing you incredible pain. I see that you are placed in this anguish because of me, so that each member of your body and each sense has its own cross and its own executioner. Your eyes are tormented, not only because they saw your own wounds and your own blood, but also because they saw your holy and innocent mother weeping copiously, and they saw her standing there with her heart pierced with infinite sorrow. Your ears were tormented, because they were listening to those horrible blasphemies, which penetrated heaven, which obscured the Sun, which terrified the angels, which strongly incited the anger and fury of the Lord of Hosts. Your nostrils were tormented because they were in a very smelly place that gave off a strong odor because of the decayed bodies of dead men. Your tongue and palate were tormented because in your intense hunger and thirst they could obtain nothing but gall and vinegar. Also the sense of touch, which exists throughout the body, was also tormented with the whole body. I see that beautiful head, which should be venerated by both angels and men, pierced with sharp thorns; I see those powerful and kind hands which fashioned the heavens, which cured so many sick people, which multiplied the loaves and those splendid feet, which labored so hard on many journey, while they announce peace and salvation to men, these I say, the illustrious hands and the splendid feet were pierced through by nails. I also see the rest of his body dishonored by blows and full of bruises and wounds, so that now truly there is not in him form or comeliness, but he is a man of sorrow acquainted with grief, and he is afflicted with contempt and sorrows, which his enemies desired for him.

The divine Scripture recounts, dear listeners, that once the sons of Jacob removed the clothes from their brother Joseph and sold him for thirty pieces of silver, at the urging of Judah, to Madianite merchants; then they sprinkled his mantle with blood and gave that to his father. They said: See now whether it is your son's robe or not. But he recognized it and responded: It is my son's robe; a wild beast has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.  What else does that robe of the chaste and innocent Joseph signify but the body of our Lord and Savior? This is that long robe, the robe made with many threads, which the Holy Spirit weaved out of gold and silver threads. The impious synagogue, brothers of the Lord according to the flesh, the seed of Abraham and Jacob, Judas being the leader and author, after having sold the Lord for thirty pieces of silver, tore this robe to pieces and sprinkled it with blood; and if someone should show this torn and disfigured robe in anger to God the Father, so that he might see whether or not it is the robe of his Son, certainly he will respond; It is my son's robe; a wild beast has devoured him. It is true, O Lord, it is true – an evil beast has devoured him, my iniquity, my ride, my disobedience has devoured your son, Joseph. O what a mournful birth! O what a poisonous offspring! Behold, listeners, behold we are giving birth when we are kindled with pride, when we disobey God and the Church, when we commit sin, when we fornicate, when we are intoxicated, we are giving birth to an evil beast, who by his venom extinguishes life itself. O if you only understood how true this is! O if your were to think deeply just once, that it was not so much the weapons of the Romans and the shouts of the Jews, but your sins, your fornications, your usuries, your perjuries, your lies, your crimes that killed the Son of God, and devoured him like a wild beast! O what would you not do, what would you not suffer, rather than give birth to sin, that very poisonous and savage wild beast?

Truly, good Jesus, if we are the ones who put you on the cross, and still for our sake you so freely poured out your life with your blood, what shall we turn to you for everything you have given us? Ask us, Lord, freely ask us and we will not be able to deny you anything: you have wounded our heart with your love. Therefore, Lord, what shall we do? What is your fee?

Do you want to hear, my brothers, what the Lord seeks? I will tell you, and it is truly so, there is no one who does not need faith. The Lord desires nothing, he seeks nothing, he thirst for nothing more than your salvation: this for him is more bitter than all gall namely, that he wants to bring you to heaven and you are falling into hell. The cross was painful, the nails were painful, the wounds were painful, but nothing is more painful to his heart than your perdition. Therefore who of us will be so ungrateful, so pitiless, so cruel that he would offer the bitter gall of sins to the Lord thirsting for the water of our salvation? By the cross of the Lord, and by the Lord hanging on it I prat and beseech you that each person enter into his ow heart and with great devotion and eagerness offer to God a sweet sacrifice, a contrite and humble heart. And let each one say to himself: Behold I have so often offended my Lord, and I have so often fallen and relapsed, and I have never truly acknowledged my sins, as I have never wept for them as I should have, but I have confessed them out of habit and only with external words. Now since I understand the gravity of sin and the magnitude of the passion which our Lord endured, since I see that this matter is very serious (for God did not become man for some paltry reason) and that the punishment is so fierce, now I can, I say, since I see and understand these things, pledge to God that I will begin a new way of life and that I will prepare myself for a true and perfect conversion and repentances, and that I will avoid this disease more than fire, water and serpents. O what a good resolution! O how blessed you will be, if you do this! For in this way you will also refresh the heart of the crucified Lord and I dare to promise you in the name of the Christ that today you will be with him in paradise: today, indeed at this very hour, in this moment you will feel yourself brought forth from hell, and your will begin to breathe in the light of the freedom of the children of God, provided that today you begin truly to hate your sins, and your former fornications and impure pleasures no longer pleasing to you.

But if all these things do not more you, if the flame of love, if the fire of charity, which Christ clearly showed to you today, and which splits stones, cannot break and soften your heart, at least may those formidable words move you, which the Lord spoke in his passion and which he wanted to fix deeply in our hearts, when he says: Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves. For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry? O what a formidable and incredible sentence that would be, unless it was pronounced by Truth itself! If they do this when the wood is green, he said, what will happen when it is dry? That is, if in me, since I am righteous, holy and innocent, and since I am always blooming with the moisture of grace, still because of sins of others the fire of passion has been so inflamed, and my heavenly Father, in order to show his implacable hatred for sin, has so reduced me, his natural and only son, to infirmity because of the sins of others so that he made me a man of sorrows and the least of men, who can think what sinful men will suffer because of their own crimes and sins?

We have heard about the passion of the Lord, and we are frightened, and we thought that nothing worse could be found. Therefore, what will be the nature of the pains of hell, which Truth itself says will be much greater and more fierce? And truly it will be so. But when nothing more is added but eternity, does not this suffice to greatly increase that punishment? The Lord hung for three hours on the cross, and we are all amazed, and rightly amazed, and rightly we are afraid and frightened. Therefore what will you do in the midst of much greater punishments, not for three hours, not for three years, not for three centuries, not for three thousand centuries, but without any end, and it will last as long as God lives and reigns? And do not allow yourself to be persuaded by the devil that the Lord is gentle and merciful and that he will in no way condemn you. What! Will you be so stupid that you allow yourself to be persuaded on this point – that you who are immersed in innumerable sins will not be condemned? Come here and touch the truth with your hands: did he spare his own Son, when ye found in him not his own sins, but our sins? You have heard today, how severely he treated his own Son, Therefore if he did not spare his own Son, and if he did this in the green wood, how will he treat you, dry wood prepared for the fire, unless you repent immediately and irrigated with fountains of tears, you begin to grow green and bloom, how, I say, will he spare you? Therefore this is the end of our sermon today, so that with true and serious repentance and a firm proposal to lead a better life we refresh the heart of the crucified Lord, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Saint Robert Bellarmine, Sermon Twenty-eight: On Passion Sunday or the Holy Week on the Greatness of the Passion of the Lord. As found in Sermons of St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J., Part I: From Advent to Passion Sunday, pp. 306-321.Translated from the Latin by Father Kenneth Baker, S.J.)