A Devotion on the Symbols of the Passion


From A Book of the Love of Jesus, A Collection of Ancient English Devotions in Prose and Verse, compiled and Edited by Fr Robert Hugh Benson (1915). Retrieved from the Archive, here. I’ve not edited the text at all so some of the words may include off-puttings, odd-spellings, or punctuations.

O VERNACLE I honour him and thee,
That thee made through his privity;
The cloth he set upon his ſace,
The print he left there, of his grace,
His mouth, his nose, his eyen too,
His beard, his hair, he did also ;
Shield me for all that in my life
That I have sinned with senses five,
Namely, with mouth of slandering,
Of false oaths and of backbiting,
And made boast with tongue also,
Of all the sins committed too,
Lord of heaven, forgive them me,
Through sight of the figure that I here see.

This knife betokeneth circumcision;
Thus he destroyed sin, all and some,
Of our forefather old Adam
Through whom we nature took of man.
From temptation of lechery
Be my succour when I shall die.

The pelican his blood did bleed
Therewith his nestlings for to feed :
This betokeneth on the rood
How our Lord fed us with his blood,
When he us ransomed out of hell
In joy and bliss with him to dwell,
And be our father and our food,
And we his children meek and good.

The pence also that Judas told,
For which Lord Jesu Christ was sold,
Shield us from treason and avarice
Therein to perish in no wise.

The lantern where they bare the light
When Christ was taken in the night ;
May it light me from nightly sin
That I never be seized therein.

Swords and staven that they bare
Jesu Christ therewith to fear;
From fiends, good Lord, do thou keep me,
Of them afraid that I not be.

Christ was stricken with a reed,
With it the Jews did break his head ;
With good cheer and mildest mood,
All he suffered and still he stood.
When I wrong any, or any me,
Be it forgiven for that pity !

The hand, O Lord, that tare thy hair,
And the hand that clapped thee on the ear,
May that pain be my succour there
That I have sinned with pride of ear ;
And of all other sins also
That with mine ears have I hearkened to !

The Jew that spat in God’s own face;
For that he suffered, give us grace,
What I have reviled, or any me,
For that despite, forgiven it be !

The cloth before thine eyen too
To buffet thee they knit it so;
May it preserve me from vengeance,
Of childhood and of ignorance
And of other sins also,
That I have with mine eyes done too,
And with my nostrils sins of smell
That I have done when sick or well !

The garment white that had seam none,
The purple they laid lot upon,
Be they my succour and my keeping,
For my body’s use of soft clothing !

With great reeds thou wert sorely dashed,
With scourges painful sorely lashed;
May that pain rid me of sins these,
Namely, of sloth and idleness !

The crown of thorn, on thine head thrust,
That tare thine hair, and thy skin buist,
Shield me from hell-pit’s agony
That I deserve through my folly !

To the pillar, Lord, also
With a rope they bound thee too;
The sinews from the bones did burst
So hard ’twas drawn and strainéd fast;
That bond release me and unbind
Of that I’ve trespassed and been unkind. !

The cross behind on his backbone,
That he suffered death upon,
Give me grace while yet I live
Clean of sin me for to shrive,
And thereto give true penitence,
And to fulfil here my penance !

Thou bare the cross and took thy gait
Out of Jerusalem’s city-gate;
All thy footsteps sweet and good
Were seen through shedding of thy blood;
Thou met with women of Bethlehem
And also of Jerusalem,
And all wept for thine agony;
To them thou saidest openly :
Now weep ye not for this my woe,
But for your children weep also ;
For them ye may lament full sore.
And your salt tears for them down pour;
For they shall have great torment hard
An hundred winters here-afterward.
Those steps of thine give us pardon
When forth we go with devotion
On pilgrimage on horse or foot,
Of all our sins be they our boot* !


The nails through feet and hands also,
Help they me out of sin and woe
That I have here in my life done,
With hands handled, or on feet gone !

The hammer, Lord, both stern and great,
That drove the nails through hands and feet,
Be it my succour in my life
If any smite me with staff or knife !

The vessel with vinegar and gall
May it keep me from the sins all
That to the soul are venom dread,
That thereby I be not poisoned !

Though thou thirsted sore withal
They gave thee vinegar and gall;
From what I have drunken in gluttony
May it save me when I shall die;
That, Lord, now I pray to thee
For that grievance thou suffered for me !

Lord, that spear so sharply ground,
Within thy heart which made a wound,
Quench the sin that I have wrought,
Or in my heart have evil thought,
And of my stout pride thereto,
And mine unbuxomness also !

The ladder set up by occasion
When thou wert dead to be taken down,
When I am dead in any sin
Take me that I die not therein !

The tongs that drew the sharp nails out
Of feet and hands and all about,
And loosed thy body from the tree,
Of all my sins may they loose me !

The sepulchre wherein was laid H
is blessed body all be-bled,
May he send me ere that I die
Sorrow of heart and tear or eye,
Clear and cleanséd that I be,
Ere to my grave I betake me !
So that I may on the Doomsday
To judgment come without dismay,
And wend to bliss in company
Wherein a man shall never die,
But dwell in joy with our Lord right;
There is aye day and never night,
That ever lasts withouten end :—
Now jesu Christ us thither send ! Amen.

Best Hot Fudge Sauce Ever.


This hot fudge sauce is also keto-friendly. I won’t debate if all the ingredients are perfectly keto, but precious few carbs went into this.

Start with 4 strips of bacon:

Sorry, it’s blurry

I put them in a hot pan at about 200F and let them cook slowly, rendering their fatty, salty deliciousness (or “proving” as the old cookbooks say). Then I put the heat up on high and got them brown and crispy.

Next time I need more bacon. Where’s the chocolate, you’re asking.

Leaving the grease in the pan, add a bag of frozen berries – which are keto friendly. Strawbs are the best, but blurbs, rasps, and others are fine too.

It’s ok, Edgar. It’s organic. Nope. No chocolate yet.

As they fry up they will render their sugary goodness to the mix.

At this point, I didn’t like the flavor profile so I added some salt and some Imo Sochu.

That’s certainly not chocolate.

While that continued to simmer I used a Big Knife™ and shaved up 1/2 a block (about 2.5 oz) of this:

Whoo HOO! Chocolate in it’s Keto Friendly Style.

Then I added about 1/3 a cup of this.

Heavy Cream is Very Keto Friendly.

I stirred it all together and threw in the chocolate. It was so saucy looking that I couldn’t turn away even to get a picture.

I turned off the heat at this point. Then I did this (but you guessed it already):

Like I said, next time, more bacon.

It still needed a little more salt, so I dashed it in. And tadah! The best fudge sauce ever!

I didn’t have no ice cream though, so, TADAH! The Best Chocolate Bacon Berry Soup Ever!

Sorry it’s a little burry. I was eating too fast. But that’s where we started anyway. Blurry Bacon gets you blurry soup.

When or Because?


Did you ever notice that we called these things stoplights even when they’re green? Did you ever wonder about that? We tend to see these things as a hindrance rather than a conveyance, or help. When I was at NYU my Religion Professor, Dr. James Carse asked us one night if we went when the light turned green or because the light turned green. 35 years later I still wonder about that. We call it a stoplight, even though it is green as often as it is red – and you can also go when it is yellow. The device actually says go a lot more than it says stop. Do you go when the light turns green or because the light turns green?

I think most Americans go when the light turns green. We wait until it says we can go safely without getting a ticket. Late at night, when there’s no one around, on a backcountry road we might go anyway, getting angry at who in tarnation but a stoplight way the heck out here. If we’re in a strange place we might not realize that intersection is considered the most dangerous in the county, 5 deaths last year alone, until a petition got a light there. So we wait, maybe, until the light changes or we zip through not realizing we are risking our lives or someone else’s life, coming the other direction.

I won’t create a strawman in this argument by projecting that in XYZ location they go because the light gives them permission. However, I admit I want to imagine that somewhere there is such a place. I imagine it’s this way most other places, to be honest, with the possible exception of Australia. I say that based on 25 years of customer service (including retail): I know that in America if I forget to charge you sales tax, you’ll be happy and walk away. But for 25 years, customers from almost all other places have all been some version of, “Wait, you’re supposed to charge me a tax on this purchase. I need to pay for roads and schools, healthcare and more with that tax. It’s my obligation to my community. Charge me that tax!” Americans don’t feel that way at all, even though we tend to pay only pennies on the dollar for each item (some countries charge upwards from 20% in sales tax). I want to imagine that these folks who demand the right to pay their sales tax also wait to go because the light has turned green.

You, dear reader, may have already begun to discern the difference. If a driver goes because the light has turned green, then he – the driver – is waiting for the state’s permission to go. The light says “go now” and the driver goes. The driver who goes when the light turns green was probably revving her engine as she saw the light from the other direction turn yellow. Must get away from these other cars. Come on light! Green! Throw it in gear and GO!

So, less a strawman than a projection, nevertheless, a projection I want to use for this post. I am sure that there are folks in both sorts of cultures who fit both of these profiles – who want to pay taxes and who don’t. I know they exist. And I think America has more of the when the light turns green sort of folks. It would make sense to be so as we are very individualistic here. The only question dividing the two American parties is really, “Which of my individual rights will the state let me force on you?” Their answers are not very different. Even our more liberal or lefty sorts tend to be focused on individual liberty rather than community rights. Laws, to these people, are a hindrance rather than a help. At best, the government does something that usually gets in the way. At worst the government stops something that an individual wants to do. There is a reason we call it a stoplight.

What does this mean for us in light of covid-19? I think it explains a lot. Although the Italian people were in the streets partying until about 2 and 1/2 weeks ago once they were put under lockdown they went willingly. They sing opera to each other from their balconies. They make YouTube videos of jets flying overhead blasting Pavarotti. They are in this together not as a bunch of individuals who happen to be together but rather as a culture and a community. When the government does something in Italy – if not in all of Europe – it is perceived as doing something to help. Perhaps it is too little, too late… but generally… let’s try this and see. Looking on YouTube for videos from Italy, what you hear on Twitter, and what you read on Facebook it’s a bunch of people grumbly but aware of their safety and the health of their society. They understand that while this is really annoying. It’s better than everyone dying. It is possible that even in highly secular Europe, this is a result of their Catholic upbringing.

There are other places where this is not the case. America is one of these places. Here when the government is doing something it’s getting in my way. Although from person to person the attitude may change slightly, generally the assumption is if the government’s trying to do something it’s probably wrong. I say this can change slightly from person to person because often times it’s a matter of well, if I happen to agree with it… And those shades of if I agree with it do, in fact, differ from person to person in America. So, for some voters anything the previous president did was right – or most anything – but anything the current president is wrong. For other voters, that’s exactly reversed. This is all a matter of personal opinion, of individual Choice: that’s the American way. This is our Protestant, “Jesus and Me, to hell with thee” roots.

For Catholic, ethics is about the common good: the individual participates society. The individual cannot be considered as a building block of society, but rather as a participant in society. There is no human-alone. Communion is what makes us who we are. The individual is not saved alone, and the individual has an obligation to the community around him. That obligation is not only for the community’s spiritual well-being which is their salvation. It is also for the community’s physical, secular well being as well. It is wrong for the individual to be greedy: but why? My greed is wrong because it robs from you. I have an obligation to see that you have your needs met. In Christian culture, everyone has an obligation to see that everyone’s needs are met. That includes salvation, don’t get me wrong. But it also includes housing, food, and health care. In other words, Christian Society relies upon – and assumes – Christian government. As we are a part of a society our collective action should be to force the government to do its job. That job is to secure the common good: both salvation and well-being. When the government fails to do its job individuals step in.

Yes, all Christians have the personal moral obligation to feed the poor and to clothe the naked. And to defend the health and safety of each other. The government – which is instituted by God – has these same obligations. God gives us our status as the divine image, the right to life, and the pursuit of happiness which means happiness in this world and in the next. This is not about material success, but real happiness. The state is established by God not to “give” us rights, but rather to defend and enforce those rights. These only exist in communion. I have no rights that trump you, as a person. My right to a job, to shopping, to free movement cannot trump your right to life.

I have described this as an American problem. We were not always that way: our American foundation documents, in fact, back me up. Just as the Catholic Church teaches that I owe you all because you are created in the image of God, our Declaration of Independence says that all are created equal and are endowed by their creator with specific rights. Our Constitution assures us that the duty of government is to provide for the common defense and to promote the general welfare’s advance. It’s only as we became modern that we forgot the meaning of endowed by their creator and promote the general welfare.

There are differing political and economic theories about how to accomplish the right way of right governing and economic justice. They come from both the left and the right. I have met Catholics who, individually, hold any one of these points on a spectrum. I am not aware that any one or the other actually is the Catholic position. I do know that the Catholic Church requires we promote the common good and that we weigh the common good above our individual liberties. We are obligated to live and enact justice as individuals. Equally, we are morally obligated to work towards a society and a government that does the same. We cannot, as Catholics, work for amoral governance that does not enforce God’s laws either in terms of actions or economics on the argument that I will be moral anyway. The government’s job is to enforce morality.

In the era of covid-19 this forbids me (and the. government) from acting in the name of “muh freedomz” when those freedoms can endanger others. I raise this because so many of us are treating these enclosures, shelter-in-place orders, and even lockdowns as “stoplights” rather than “traffic lights”. We are posting warnings about “martial law” and “communism” when what we should see is actions in defense of the individuals “endowed by their creator” with the first right listed being “life”. And since, properly, no gov’t can grant a right not granted prior by God (else it is only license, not liberty) then no gov’t can give us the right to endanger the lives of others. To the contrary, a Christian is obligated to support a Gov’t that seeks to take action to prevent us from doing so. No gov’t can use your income as an excuse to let other’s die and call itself Christian. No Christian gov’t can let economics hinder it from doing all things it can to protect its people.

Additionally, when all those actions have occurred, when my mobility is hindered, and when other right actions have resulted in the health of the populace, it is also the government’s responsibility to take economic steps to ensure the continuance of prosperity.

Regardless of what political form or economic theory you name this, it is Christian charity. It is acting because the government says we can, it is waiting until the government says we can go. It is giving up our freedom for the Salvation of those around us. In this we followed Jesus.

In short, covid-19 is bringing us a chance to institute, both from the gov’t and from us as individuals, charity. Don’t struggle with that grace-filled moment claiming “personal freedom”. That’s just the language of Eden’s serpent recapitulated.

When you have to remember the Preamble to the Constitution

NYC 1985. The Doomed.


Last week when I told you about NYC in 1983, I titled the post Underground and discussed the active sense of denial that many engaged in. I compared AIDS in NYC, c. 1983, to where we were a week ago in this current crisis. Time is telescoping fast. The next stage in NYC in the 80s took about 2 years, more or less. We’ve gotten there in just about a week.

St Marks Baths closed in December of 1985. The city closed all the sex clubs. The medical establishment had finally convinced everyone in authority that AIDS was a sexually transmitted disease. As I mentioned last week there were still some who denied this. But most of us got the message: That was the end of the party. I was still in college. Our on-campus world was not well-connected with the larger community around NYU, as is common in all “college towns”. We had our own events on campus even though some of us ventured out beyond Washington Square. But politically, we experienced this.

There were arguments in meetings about the justification for closing places. Didn’t we have the freedom to do whatever we wanted? Didn’t public health trump personal freedom? Didn’t the Federal Gov’t need to step up support for AIDS patients? Didn’t we need to do something to stop this from killing everyone? Do I have it? Do you? Did that last experience kill us both? Was it my fault? Was it yours?

The frantic arguments, the frenetic do-literally-anything-NOW-DAMNIT attitude covered a deeper experience:

When the party was over… that was a huge downer, even for those of us who had never been to the party. Our elders and teachers… our friends… our guides started to die. The City began to change. People who used to go out all the time discovered other forms of community. We didn’t know what to do or who would be next. In fright, literally, I gave up. I turned to my fraternity brothers at NYU and built a close-knit and safe “family of choice”. I drank a lot, to be honest. Gin and tonic, rum and coke, pints of beer, brandy alexanders, Irish coffees. And I smoked heavily: a pack a day and then some. Only later did I realize I was killing myself on purpose behind everyone’s back (mine too).

Politically the gay community was powerless at this point. Making bars “legal” meant that they couldn’t be run by crime syndicates any more. Rather they needed corporate bank accounts and board members. They didn’t have to pay protection money to NYC Finest, so they didn’t get protected anymore. These syndicates had to find other ways to make income. Folks in the city were just getting used to seeing things like pride parades and same-sex couples who actually identified as couples. But they were “over there” not “here, with me”. They were rarely seen. The conversation still included lots of code words to identify one’s “friend” as someone of importance and often one took an opposite-sex friend to the company party.

Then AIDS became the conversation even out in the “regular” world. What might cause it? What might I do to avoid it? During this time I was involved in something called, I think, “The Columbia Study.” A pair of interviewers came to my home each year and asked me, anonymously, what I did, and who I did it with. Did I have a support network? Did I ever do drugs? They tracked me all over the place. Keeping track of me to see if AIDS had any effect on me as a person. What they found was I stayed home a lot.

During this time I first heard the phrase, “A virus does not have a conscience”. The idea was to counter people who were. saying “AIDS is God’s punishment”. You don’t get sick just because you “did a sin”. That’s not how a virus works. It can’t see you or judge you. That was the argument. It is, as far as we know, true: a virus does not have a conscience. Only 40 years later do I see the lie: the sentence leaves God out of the equation completely. But ok… let’s lay aside theology for a moment.

A virus does not make choices about who to infect based on their actions. That is true. But we learned (mostly by being forced to learn) that a virus can be passed on to others by our actions. Then we discovered we did not have consciences because we still wanted the sex clubs and the discos and the 25¢ theatres and the adult book stores all to stay open. What we began to do was a sort of two-faced dance. “A virus does not have a conscience” means both,”you cannot judge me” and “I can do whatever I want – if I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die.” Don’t close our party down!

I can go to spring break, to the Lunar New Year Parade, to the St Parick’s Day dance if I want. I demand we get our Public Masses back NOW!

I begin to feel like AIDS in the 1980s was like Prep School for COVID and none of us graduated.

Things were about to change, though. And things are about to change for us too. Not in a good way, I fear.

We’re All Idiorrhythmic Now

St Anthony the Great, pray for us.


Monastics in the earliest Christian Tradition were all hermits. They lived alone or perhaps in groups of two or three, but each in their own cell. In the Egyptian desert, these cells were often not much more than lean-tos against rocks or a small tarp tied up with some woven branches. Although they lived alone, monastics in an area might gather for the celebration of the Eucharist or other events if there was a priest present, or if there was some other reason. In the early days, very few of the monastics were clergy.

This was known as idiorrhythmic monasticism, to distinguish it from the community-style that became common later. This latter form of monasticism was called coenobitic (or cenobitic). St Pachomius in the East and St Benedict in the West are the fathers of coenobitic monasticism. It is St Anthony the Great who is the father of idiorrhythmic monks everywhere. He has suddenly become our father as well.

Even by the 4th to 6th centuries when coenobitic monasticism had become common, idiorrhythmic practice was sometimes followed, especially in Lent. St Sophronius tells of his community (about 100 years before his time) all leaving the monastery at the beginning of Lent and spending the entire 40 days in the desert fasting, praying, and struggling with their sins. One of the greatest Saints of the Byzantine and Orthodox tradition, St Mary of Egypt, was herself in the desert for over 30 years. She received communion only twice in her recorded life.

In case you can’t tell we’ve all become idiorrhythmic now.

The message I want to convey. Many of our fathers and mothers have chosen to be here, in this very situation, and have worked out their salvation, becoming Saints.

The concept of frequent communion and easy access to the Holy Mass is a modern, Western problem. Most of our ancestors were not able to go daily. Most of our ancestors did not have clergy to go to for such. And most of our ancestors did not even conceive of it as a necessary thing. Yes, most of our ancestors did not live in cities, and by the 5th Century or so, frequent liturgy in the city was not unheard of. But it was not common. And frequent communion meant on Sundays. Daily mass was the privilege of monastics who lived in community and even they did not partake of communion itself on a daily basis.

So we have the blessing from God now to work out our Salvation in an ascetic field that was common to many – if not most – of the Saints of our earliest history. Our spiritual Fathers and Mothers have already given us the tools to do so. The daily office, Lectio Divina, prayers counted on ropes of knots or beads, silence, aloneness, and occasional social interaction.

So, I know this sucks. I don’t want to pretend that it does not suck. In fact, and 14 to 21 days I could be dead. You could be dead. Any of our friends, co-workers, family, clergy, fellow parishioners… we could all be dead. That’s the truth of the matter in which we live. I’m counting on several different timelines until I get to 14 days: since my last meeting with a person, since my entry into work-alone status, since the shelter-in-place status, and since the last time I might have been exposed. And when I get to 14 days that only means I haven’t been exposed yet. So what am I supposed to do? What are we supposed to do?

I would suggest that we become Saints. I would suggest that we buckle down and become the idiorrhythmic monastics that our spiritual DNA has set us up to be. This is our genetics our gift from our parents. We can do this by God’s grace and we don’t need to worry about “public masses” – which unlike our ancestors – we can literally watch any time we wish now.

Let us all pray to come out of this alive or dead.



The Rosary: The Crucifixion


The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery is perhaps one of the most visual images of our faith. Everyone seems to know what a cross is, and most people have seen an artistic rendering of Crucifixion.  The image below is form Giotto’s Life of Christ, as are many of the works used to illustrate this series.

When we see the Crucifixion, I don’t know if we see it for what it really is: not only capital punishment, but ignominy. Those condemned to death in the arena might die fighting. Those beheaded, like John Baptist, died quickly. Those left to rot in prison died slowly in the dark. Those crucified, however, were exposed to public and official ridicule, dying slowly through asphyxiation whilst fighting for every breath. We have no equivalent in the modern world: our executions take place quietly and behind closed doors.

This is Jesus sanctifying death. The death of Christ on the Cross is the supreme triumph of life. O life, how canst thou die?” We seeing on Friday night.  Life cannot die. Breathing can be stopped, the heart can be stopped, but Zoe is forever. All of life now – from conception to birth, to the tomb – is an open door. Death is no longer “the end” but the gateway to the fullness of life in God. There is no fear. There can be precious little sorrow. Jesus, by his Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection (for this Mystery is not the Last) has open for us the entrance to Eternal Life: we have only to walk through.

When praying this Mystery, I add an embolism such as:

“…blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus; the Incarnate Word of God, crucified, dead, and buried. Holy Mary, Mother of God…”

The verses below are taken from the Good Friday Matins and Vespers.

The Fifth Dolorous Mystery:
The Crucifixion and Death of Christ

LET us contemplate, in this Mystery, how Our Lord Jesus Christ, being come to Mount Calvary, was stripped of His clothes, and His hands and feet nailed to the cross, in the presence of His most afflicted Mother.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen

Through a tree Adam was led out of Paradise; but through the tree of the Cross the Thief made Paradise his home: for the former set aside his Maker’s commandment, while the latter, crucified with him, confessed the hidden God, crying out, ‘Remember me, O Lord, in thy kingdom’.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The lawless bought the Maker of the Law from a disciple, and as a lawbreaker stood him before Pilate’s judgement seat, crying, ‘Crucify’ the one who gave them manna in the desert. But we, imitating the just Thief, cry with faith, ‘Remember us also, O Saviour, in thy kingdom’.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Impious and lawless nation, why dost thou imagine a vain thing? Why hast thou condemned the life of all to death? O great marvel! That the Creator of the world, who loves mankind, is betrayed into the hand of transgressors and lifted up on a tree, that he may free the prisoners in Hell. Long-suffering Lord, glory to thee!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Thy life-bearing side, gushing like a spring in Eden and giving drink to your Church, O Christ, is a spiritual Paradise, from thee dividing, as into four heads, into four Gospels, it waters the World, making creation glad and faithfully teaching the nations to worship thy Kingdom.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Thou wert crucified for my sake, becoming for me a source of forgiveness. Pierced in thy side, gushing forth for me streams of life. Transfixed by nails, that I, assured of the height of thy power by the depth of thy sufferings, might cry to thee, O Christ, giver of life, ‘Glory to thy Cross, O Saviour, glory to thy Passion!
Hail, Mary, &c.

All creation saw thy crucifixion, O Christ, and trembled. The foundations of the earth quaked with fear of thy might. The lamps of heaven hid themselves and the veil of the Temple was rent. The mountains quailed, and rocks were split, and with the faithful Thief we cry to thee, O Saviour, ‘Remember us in thy kingdom!’
Hail, Mary, &c.

All creation was struck with fear when it saw thee hanging on the Cross, O Christ; the sun was darkened and the foundations of the earth were shaken; all things suffering with thee, the Creator of all. All this thou didst endure willingly for us. Lord, glory to thee!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Lifted up on the Cross, destroying the power of death and as God wiping out the record against us, O Lord, only Lover of mankind, grant the repentance of the Thief also to us who worship in faith, Christ our God, and who cry to thee, ‘Remember us also, Saviour, in thy kingdom’.
Hail, Mary, &c.

O Christ, thy Mother, bearing thee in the flesh without seed, was truly Virgin and remained inviolate after child-birth. By her intercession, most merciful Master, to grant pardon of offences to those who ever cry, ‘Remember us also, Saviour, in thy kingdom’.
Hail, Mary, &c.

When she saw thee, O Christ, the Creator and God of all, hanging on the Cross, she who bore thee without seed, cried bitterly: My Son, where has the beauty of thy form gone? I cannot bear to see thee unjustly crucified; hasten then, arise, that I too may see thy resurrection from the dead on the third day.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O HOLY Mary, Mother of God, as the body of thy beloved Son was for us stretched upon the cross may we offer up our souls and bodies to be crucified with Him, and our hearts to be pierced with grief at His most bitter Passion; and do thou, O most sorrowful Mother graciously vouchsafe to help us, by thine all-powerful intercession, to accomplish the work of our salvation. Amen.

The Rosary: The Carrying of the Cross


Christ carries the Cross.  It is at this point that his path has grown into full parallel with ours for we are each called “to take up your cross and follow” Christ. What is your cross?  You want to, I’m sure, look for some great thing to be your cross. Forgive me if I am projecting. But if the Cross is a sign of our death, our loss of the illusion of self-ownership in sacrifice to Christ, then the Cross is our very life. The things that make you you; that make me me. Our passions, our talents, our temptations, our joys, our friends and loves, our families, our loss, our pain, our mourning. If we are here to “work out your salvation in fear and trembling” then it is your very gifts, your wins, and your losses, that are your cross.  The thing that is your bliss when you follow it: that is your cross. The sin you mistakenly think really is you, that is your cross. Take it up and sacrifice it.

To be clear, this is not a subtle, Disneyesque plea to “be yourself and everything will be fine” except insofar as “be yourself” means “the saint God wants me to be”. Your real self is not defined by “follow your bliss” or by giving in to your desires, lusts, cravings, and passions. Your real self is not who you think you are – especially if you define “self” by anything that departs from Christian teaching. You must become, by his grace, the Saint that God set out to create: the loving, self-sacrificing, God-praising, and God-pleasing light in your corner of the world. We must avoid any claim of “if it’s hard I must be doing it wrong.” In fact, it is when things are too easy that you’re doing it wrong!

Christ carries the Cross. This is not “for us” in the sense of paying a debt, but rather to show us how it’s done. You, too, in conforming to Christ, will die. And rise.

The verses below are taken from Matins for Holy Friday. The embolism I use in this Mystery is “the Incarnate Word of God, carrying his cross.”

The Fourth Dolorous Mystery:
The Carrying of the Cross

Let us contemplate, in this Mystery, how our Lord Jesus Christ, being sentenced to die bore, with most amazing patience, the Cross which was laid upon him, for his greater torment and ignominy.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen

Israel my firstborn son hath twice done wickedly: he abandoned me, source of the water of life, and hath dug for himself a broken well. He crucified me on a tree but hath asked for Barabbas, releasing him.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Heaven was amazed at this and the sun hid its rays; yet Israel felt no shame, and handed me over to death. Forgive them, holy Father, for they know not what they have done.
Hail, Mary, &c.

A destructive band of wicked men, hateful to God; an assembly of slayers of God came upon thee, O Christ, and dragged thee away as a malefactor, who art the Creator of all things, whom we magnify.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The impious, ignorant both of the Law and of the Prophets, meditating vain things, unjustly dragged thee away to slaughter as a sheep, the Master of all things, whom we magnify.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The priests with the scribes, wounded by envious malice, handed thee over to the nations, to be done away with, Thou who by nature art very Life, and the Giver of life, whom we magnify.
Hail, Mary, &c.

They surrounded thee like many dogs, Sovereign Lord; they struck thee cheek with a blow; they questioned the, they bore false witness against thee, and thou, enduring all things, hast saved all.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Seeing thee crucified, O Christ, all creation trembled; the foundations of the earth quaked with fear at thy might. For when thou wert lifted up today, the Hebrew race perished; the veil of the Temple was rent apart; the graves were opened, and the dead arose from the tombs.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The Centurion, seeing the marvel, was afraid; whilst thy Mother, standing by, cried out, lamenting as a mother, ‘How should I not lament, and beat my breast, as I see thee naked as one condemned, hanging on a tree?’
Hail, Mary, &c.

They stripped me of my garments, and clothed me in a scarlet cloak; they placed a crown of thorns upon my head and put a reed into my right hand, that I might smash them like a potter’s vessels.
Hail, Mary, &c.

I gave my back to scourgings, while I did not turn away my face from spittings. I stood at Pilate’s judgment seat and endured the Cross for the salvation of the world.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O Holy Virgin, model of patience, by the most painful carrying of the Cross, in which thy Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, bore the heavy weight placed upon him, obtain for us of him, by thine intercession,  courage, and strength to follow his steps, and bear our cross after him to the end of our lives.  Amen. 

The Rosary: The Crowning with Thorns

The Crown of Thorns was of great interest to the Faithful of the Late Middle Ages.  This instrument of torture and mocking was as important as the scourging (perhaps in that it added to the number of drops of blood) and also as important as the cross: it was to house the Crown of Thorns that King Louis IX caused to be built the great Sainte Chapelle 

Although we moderns cannot enter the pious hearts of our ancestors, I think we might see something here, if we open our own hearts to Christ, who is the King of All in All Ages: he is crowned not by his own people, but rather by the Army of the then-King-of-the-World. Although the pattern had not yet started, it was the same way that future Emperors of Rome would be crowned by their legions and then brought to Rome.  But here the crowning is a mocking. The mocking is merciless bullying, but it seems odd to put it here. Why did the soldiers do this?

Recently it dawned on me that Jesus was near collapse after the scourging. Ever see someone get drunk at a college party, pass out on the sofa, and then his fraternity buddies will draw pictures on his face? That’s what I see here. Dress him like a king! Crown him with thorns! Laugh and spit! Hey, this is getting boring, slap him and wake him up… yo, prophet dude, who hit you? Bwahahahaha.

Yet in Christ is fulfilled the real meaning of the Divine Kingship that all monarchs share: not only to rule, but to be a bridge and a sacrifice. It is Gentiles at the beginning of his life who hail Christ as king. It is Gentiles at the end of his life who mock him as king again. Do we Gentiles today claim him as king as the wise men did, in sincerity with gifts and honour; or as the Romans did, in mockery, with pain and blood? When you cast your crowns before your King, does it wound him?

The State crucifies, but it is individuals who mock. The state punishes, but it is people who bully. Jesus, thus, experiences pan at the hands of “Church”, State, and individual people. This is the God of Love.

In praying this mystery, I add the embolism “the Word of God incarnate, crowned with thorns by the Romans” after the Holy Name.

In the meditation below, rather than Byzantine hymnody, I have chosen to use verses from the western hymn, O Sacred Head Sore Wounded. There are rather a few more verses than you may be familiar with! At the end of the post, there is a video to let you hear the melody.

The Third Dolorous Mystery:
The Crowning of Christ with Thorns

Let us contemplate, in this Mystery, how those cruel ministers of Satan plaited a crown of thorns and cruelly pressed on the sacred head of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen

O sacred Head, sore wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!

How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!

Hail, Mary, &c.

Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.

Hail, Mary, &c.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

Hail, Mary, &c.

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

Hail, Mary, &c.

The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.

Hail, Mary, &c.

My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
and take away my sorrow by virtue of Thine own!

Hail, Mary, &c.

My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.

Hail, Mary, &c.

Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

Hail, Mary, &c.

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.

Hail, Mary, &c.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O Mother of our Eternal King of Glory, by those sharp thorns wherewith his sacred head was pierced, we beseech thee to obtain, by thine intercession, that we may be delivered from all temptations of pride and escape that shame which our sins deserve on the Day of Judgement. Amen.

The Rosary: The Scourging


The Scourging of our Lord Jesus Christ by the Romans – at the command of Pilate – is a favourite visual image: it has more action than the Crucifixion and also more blood.  Movie makers love it: it’s gory and allows them to play others off Jesus as bad guys.  See how cruel the Romans are to this peaceful teacher? Since the Occupied Nation could not do such things to her own citizens, it was the Romans who did it. The scriptures say Pilate wanted to let Jesus go but had him scourged just to make a point.  Roman cruelty towards its occupied peoples. Ever see Spartacus?  Ben Hur?  Romans are often the Bad Guys.

This is the punishment of a criminal by the state and of a heretic by the religious leaders. This is, properly, persecution against a religion: Jesus made theological claims that the Romans and the Jews both rejected. For this they oppressed him.

In mediæval piety there was a great fascination with the scourging: how many times was Jesus struck with how many whips? How many tails on each whip? How many leaded hooks on each tail? The count of the wounds let to a different level: how many drops of blood from each wound? Without flippancy, my first comment is: they had no television.  Church provides all the brightest and most colorful visuals in an otherwise dull life pattern. This is not a visual, however: this is counting and calculation. This is mental play for when there is no pageantry.

When praying this mystery, I used the embolism “scourged at the pillar”:

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, scourged at the pillar. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The Byzantine Rite text I modified for this meditation comes from the “Akathist to the Divine Passion of Jesus Christ”, available in full at Monochos. It’s quite a vivid text.  Since approved liturgical sources rarely provide authors and dates, we’re left with guessing: my guess would be Russian and mid to late Victorian era.

The Second Dolorous Mystery:
The Scourging of Our Lord by the Romans

Let us contemplate in this Mystery how our Lord Jesus Christ was most cruelly scourged in the house of Pilate.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen

Having true power as High Priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek, Thou didst stand before the criminal high priest Caiaphas. O Lord and Master of all, Who didst accept torture from Thy slaves, accept thy Mother’s prayers for us
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Wishing to deliver mankind from slavery to the enemy, Thou didst humble Thyself before Thine enemies, O Jesus, and like a lamb that is dumb Thou wast led to the slaughter, and didst endure wounds all over, that having healed the whole man, he might cry: Alleluia!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Jesus, Innocent Lamb, torn by cruel scourges, rescue me from mine enemies! Jesus, High Priest, Who hast entered the Holy of Holies with Thy Blood, cleanse me from fleshly impurity! Jesus bound, Who hast power to bind and to loose, absolve my grievous sins! Jesus, Son of God, remember us when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Jesus, Son of God and Son of the Virgin, tortured by the sons of iniquity! Jesus, mocked and stripped, Who givest the flowers of the field their beauty and deckest the sky with clouds! Jesus, covered with wounds, Who satisfied the hunger of five thousand men with five loaves of bread!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Jesus, King of all, who instead of a tribute of love and gratitude receivest cruel tortures! Jesus, Who art wounded all the day long for our sake, heal the wounds of our souls! Jesus, Son of God, remember us when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Thou wast all arrayed in Thy divine blood, O Thou Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment. I know, indeed I know with the Prophet why Thy garments are purple. I, Lord, it is I who wounded Thee with my sins. So to thee Who was wounded for my sake I thankfully cry: Alleluia!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Foreseeing Thee in spirit covered with shame and wounds, the divinely inspired Isaiah cried in horror: We have seen Him, and He had no form or beauty.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Jesus, enduring dishonour, Who hast crowned man with glory and honour! Jesus, on Whom angels cannot gaze, slapped in the face! Jesus, Who was struck on the head with a reed, bow my head in humility!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Jesus, Whose bright eyes were darkened with blood, turn away my eyes from beholding vanity! Jesus, Who from head to feet hadst not part whole, make me perfectly whole and healthy! Jesus, Son of God, remember us when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Thou wast a spectacle and marvel to men and angels, and to Pilate who said of Thee: Behold the Man! Come, then, let us worship Jesus Who suffered abuse for our sake.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O Mother of God, Fountain of Patience, through those stripes thy only and dearly beloved Son vouchsafed to suffer for us, obtain of him for us grace to mortify our rebellious senses, to avoid the occasions of sin, and to be ready to suffer everything rather than offend God.  Amen.

The Rosary: The Garden of Gathsemene


The Passion in the Garden is Jesus’ last “alone time” before the climax of his ministry.  He often went aside to pray, but, as it were, those might be considered “training prayers” for this one.  He experienced stress, certainly (as seen by the bloody sweat) and probably fear.  He asked his Father if there was another way – even after he had committed to doing this.  See the verses below from Byzantine Holy Week: as God, he himself was among the plotters agreeing to his own betrayal.

For the Orthodox, it is Jesus’ active participation in his own passion that is important: for us mortals, a “passion” implies (as Kallistos Ware points out) the Latin passio, something that happens to us.  For Jesus, it’s something he submits to fully and undertakes willfully.  He allows Judas to sell him to the Jews. He allows the Jews to give him to the Romans. He allows the Romans to nail him to the Cross.  He allows the demons to take him into hell. And then… O, Glorious God of All, what then! Oh, then and what more in your love for us!  Glory to Thee!

Let us contemplate, in this Mystery, how our Lord Jesus was so afflicted for us in the Garden of Gethsemane that his body was bathed in a bloody sweat, which rand down in great drops to the ground.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen

When the glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of the feet, Judas the ungodly was darkened with the sickness of avarice; and to lawless judges he delivered the only just judge. O lover of money, look upon him who for its sake hanged himself; flee from the insatiable soul, which dared such things against the Master.

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Judas ran, saying to the lawless scribes, ‘What wilt thou give me and I hand him over to thee?’ As they came to their agreement thou, even the object of their agreement, standest among them invisibly agreeing. O thou who knowest the heart, spare our souls.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Because of the raising of Lazarus, O Lord, who lovest mankind, the children of the Hebrews cried out to thee, ‘Hosanna’. But Judas the transgressor did not want to understand.
Hail, Mary, &c.

At thy Supper, O Christ our God, thou foretellest thy Disciples, ‘One of you will betray me’. But Judas the transgressor did not want to understand.
Hail, Mary, &c.

For thirty silver pieces, O Lord, and a deceitful kiss, the Jews sought to slay thee, the only lover of Mankind. But Judas the transgressor did not want to understand.
Hail, Mary, &c.

‘Watch and pray that ye may not be tested’, thou saidst to thy Disciples, O our God. But Judas the transgressor did not want to understand.
Hail, Mary, &c.

At the Supper thou nourished thy Disciples and, knowing the plan of the betrayal, thou exposed Judas during it, wishing all to know that it was by thine own will that thou wast handed over, that you might snatch the world from the Stranger.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Today the Creator of heaven and earth saith his own Disciples: The hour has drawn near and Judas who betrays me is at hand; let none deny me when they see me on the Cross, between two thieves; for as man I suffer, and as lover of mankind I save those who believe in me.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Today the Jews send to the Cross the Lord who parted the sea with a staff and led them through the desert. Today with a lance the Romans pierced the side of the One who scourged Egypt with plagues for their sake, and they gave vinegar as drink to the One who rained down the manna as nourishment.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Lord, as thou went to thy voluntary passion, thous saidst to thy Disciples, ‘If ye did not even have strength to keep vigil with me for one hour, how promised thee to die for me? Seest thou how Judas does not sleep, but hurries to betray me to sinner? Rouse thyselves to pray, let none deny me when they see me on the Cross’.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O Holy Virgin, more than martyr, by that ardent prayer which our beloved Saviour poured forth to his heavenly Father, vouchsafe to intercede for us, that our passions being under the yoke of reason and faith, we may always, and in all things conform and subject ourselves to the holy will of God.  Amen.