— Feria IV infra Dominica Passionis — Statio ad S. Marcellum —
The charge of blasphemy was hurled against Christ by Caiphas, and, after rending his garments – a ritualistic sign of finality – the high priest left the gathering of the Sanhedrin and the group dispersed leaving Christ to the sport of the soldiers. St. Luke puts it this way: “And the men who had him in custody began to mock him and beat him. And they blindfolded him and kept striking his face, and asking him, saying Prophesy, who is that struck thee?” And many other things they kept saying against him, reviling Him.” (Lk. 22: 63-65) St. Matthew adds that they “spat in his face and buffeted him.” (Mt. 26: 67)
There is hardly another scene in the whole terrible story of the Passion that compares with the one in which mere mortals taunted, mimicked, maltreated, and grossly insulted the veritable Son of God. No artist has ever tried to portray this vicious scene. We have paintings by famous artists of the flagellation, the crowning of thorns, and the crucifixion but none has dared to depict the scene wherein Christ was so basely treated in the home of the high priest Caiphas in the early hours of the morning following His arrest. Not one artist has dared portray men spitting into the adorable face of God. It shocks even one’s imagination to conjure up such a picture. [Father Doyle must not have been aware of the works of Bl. Fra Angelico at St. Mark’s in Florence or he could have seen them as not able to convey how terrible the torturing of Christ was].
The worst criminal would have been given time to rest before his arraignment before the Roman authorities on the morrow. He would have been given bread and water, but not Christ. Small comforts were denied Him. He was bound to a small pillar by iron chains and bound in such a position as not to be able to stand erect or to fall to the hard floor. In His darkened hour in the garden of Olives an angel came to comfort Him, but here, He saw naught but the cruel soldiers mocking and reviling Him. Even His enemies were shut off from Him by the dirty cloth with which He was blindfolded. “Thou dost claim to be a Prophet,” they shouted. “Well, tell us who is striking Thee.” You say You are a king – well, You will be crowned a king tomorrow. All the time they reviled and mocked Him, the soldiers kept striking, kicking, and spitting into His face.
Who is it that endures such torments? It is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, at whose birth the angels sang: “Glory to God in the highest,” the same one of whom God the Father said: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17). What has happened that He is so abandoned and so insulted? Let us say here and now that no one compelled Christ to undergo this torment. He offered Himself of His own free will to pay the ransom for your sins and mine. Ask yourself if there is or has ever been anyone who has loved you enough to suffer thus for you? To whom then does your love belong? Christ bore the heavy chains to free us from the galling chains of our passions and sins. He bore a prison sentence that we might be freed from the eternal prison of hell. He endured the spitting in his face to repair for the awful insults men have offered, and do and will offer His eternal Father.
Go to your Christ in His new prison – the tabernacle – and beg pardon for the insults you have heaped on Him by your sins. If you condemn in your heart the foolish men who insulted our Lord during the Passion, think how much worse your insults are since the soldiers were pagans but you are a child of God and a follower of Christ.