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A Meditation On The Incarnation Of Christ, Sermons On The Life And
Passion Of Our Lord And Of Hearing And Speaking Good Words. -Thomas A Kempis

AND they took Jesus and led Him forth: and bearing His own cross. He went forth into that place which is called Calvary. It is well to ponder this sorrowful journey of our Lord: and with the pious eye of the mind to look upon this so tearful a sight. Behold the innocent Jesus, weighed down beneath the burden of the cross, is led forth between two thieves: and, alas, is dragged with shouting to the public gallows. He embraces the wood of shame with the arms of His love; He sets to it His back torn with scourges, and His holy shoulder: and all the enfeebled members of His body. He bears the unmerited load, He takes up the unaccustomed yoke: He carries it to the place appointed Him: that He may gain the fruit of our salvation, to cure the poison of eternal death.

A great laughing-stock to the wicked: but a sacred mystery to all the faithful. To the evil a witness of perdition: because they crucify the Innocent; but to the good a symbol of salvation: because they compassionate Him and mourn. Their laughter shall be turned to weeping: but the groaning of these shall be changed into joy. The meek Lord proceeds on the way of shame with wondrous gentleness; willingly He passes out through the gate of Jerusalem, over which He wept on the day of palms: He bears with patience the derision of His hanging, inflicted on Him by His own nation. He protests not of the injuries done Him: He resists not, goaded on violently from behind. He summons not the angels to His aid: nor begs the assistance of His friends; but He goes on without delay, readily He obeys the evil-minded. Alone He bears His most heavy burden: alone He suffers the reproach of shame; but He does not desire alone the joy of honour: because He wishes to bestow on all that believe in Him the merit of His Passion. He is not withdrawn from the way of the cross by affection for His Mother, nor hindered by the tears of His friends: He is not disturbed by the clamours of them that accompany Him, nor moved by the shouts of them that hate Him: He is not retarded by weariness of body from the task He has begun: nor overwhelmed by the storms of scandals. Alone and that most constantly He perseveres: free and with peaceful heart He stretches forward to the agony of His punishment: as esteeming little the glory of the world, so also bearing its shame with equanimity: persisting ever in the praise of the eternal Father: shutting out no man from His love: but with eager desire longing to fulfil the precept of the Father, ordained from eternity: and to consummate the work of man’s reparation laid upon Him by His Passion and cross.

In this noble example He now shows: what before He wholesomely taught in word: “Who wishes to come after Me,” He said, “let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” Lo, thou hast thy guide on the rough way, Jesus the Son of God: the captain and teacher to the nations to deliver them. Follow then, faithful servant, thy Lord: disciple, follow thy Master; imitate, frail member, thy glorious Head: that by His guidance thou mayest attain the kingdom of eternal bliss. If thou desirest prosperity and peace: fear not adversity. Follow, sinner, the Just; man, thy God, creature, thy Creator: exile, thy Redeemer. Cast away earthly fear, put on strength: strive as a good soldier, overcoming nature. The cross is the way to salvation: suffering is the road to the crown. Be not ashamed of the shame of Christ: if thou wilt contemplate the glorious countenance of Christ. For thee He bears this cross: for thee He undergoes also the death of the cross. He gives thee an example of endurance: He smoothes by His feet the way of roughness: He shows that the shame of the cross is not to be shunned, but embraced. The humble Jesus bears His cross for the wicked, that He may sanctify the wicked: He suffers torments for vile slaves: that He may make them co-heirs of His kingdom. Who would not now desire to bear the reproaches and contempt of men: when the innocent Christ endured from men things so grievous and shameful, without fault? For the soldier bears more easily: what he sees his king bear. And so the noble King, the King of kings, and Lord of all, goes up to fight against the prince of the world: not protected by a shield, nor armed with steel; but by the cross defended and entrenched, to be fastened to the cross: on the cross finally to die for His friends. Coming therefore to the place of Calvary, with the standard of the cross, He chose there to set up the title of His name, and to work the mystery of our salvation; foreknowing that the spot given up to shame was to be made glorious by wondrous signs: and the gallows of His cross to be changed into honour: in short time also to be preached throughout the world: and to be worshipped by the kings and princes of the earth. The venerable symbol of the cross is indeed a glorious ensign in the Christian host; and a singular protection above all manner of weapons: and an impregnable shield against the ferocity and terror of the devil. There then Jesus, the standard-bearer of the cross, prince and patron of all cross-bearers, stood in the place of awful shame: which, because of the bodies of the slain, was exceedingly despised and unclean. There He is speedily stripped of His garments; and naked He ascended the naked cross: and prayed for them that crucified Him. There the Almighty, as though He had no power, allowed Himself to be stretched out into the form of a cross: to be fastened by nails, to be pierced by a lance: and to be derided by wicked men. There deprived of all human comfort: He left an example of perfect self-denial, and a pattern of utter poverty. There by the touch of His sacred flesh, He consecrated the wood of life: and by the shedding of His precious blood dedicated the altar of the cross. There He fulfilled all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, figurative of His Passion: and offered Himself a victim to the Father in the odour of sweetness, for the salvation of the world. There He ended His life by a happy agony through obedience on the cross: dying, He conquered death, opened the gate of Paradise: and led the late repenting thief with Him to the promised joys.

Since therefore Jesus carried His cross on His own shoulders, Who was without sin; bear thou also thy cross, for thou hast grievously and often sinned: and justly deserved eternal punishment. To weak minds the way of the cross seems bitter and burdensome: but its end is joyous and fruitful, and sweet and wholesome to them that love. Is it not better now to lead a sad and laborious life for Christ and to suffer with the Crucified; than after the brief pleasure of a corruptible life, to be tormented for ever with the devil in hell? For so much the more agreeable to God shalt thou be, and worthy of fuller glory in the heavenly kingdom; the more grievous pains and labours thou now bearest for the name of Jesus, not looking to temporal consolations: but to the Passion of Christ, and the hard life of the saints, who passed through many tribulations. Speedily, all temporal pain and injury inflicted, pass like a shadow; but the glory of everlasting recompense remains in Heaven: which in the end will be given as reward to thee for thy good patience, at the word of Christ. Strive therefore to keep the way of the holy cross; and to carry the sorrowful image of the crucified Jesus in thy heart: and manfully to imitate Him in thy frail body according to thy strength. Freely resign thyself, and trustfully commend all thy affairs to the will of God; Who did and endured for thy salvation so much, that thou wilt never be able to return Him worthy thanks for the least point of His Passion: even if thou couldst suffer all the trials and toils of all the holy martyrs. But, alas, that thou dost follow the Lord’s cross so lukewarmly: that thou dost not compassionate the sorrows of Christ more intensely: that thou dost not serve Him more fervently, and render thanks unceasingly; Who deemed thee so dear, and so loved thee above other creatures, as not to refuse to die for thee: but by His innocent death, delivered thee from death eternal. For thou wouldst have been condemned for ever: if Christ had not been crucified and had not died for thee. For who could have satisfied for all the sins of men; save Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Lamb without stain?

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