"Ah! When I see Jesus in tears, it pierces my heart. I realize that I, by my sins, have increased the burden which overwhelmed Him while He prayed in the garden.

At that moment Jesus saw all my sins, all my failings, and He saw, also, the place that I should have occupied in Hell, if Thy Heart, O Jesus, had not pardoned me."

From the letters of St. Gemma Galgani

Meditating on the Rosary


The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden




Gospel Text:

Then Jesus came with them into a country place which is called Gethsemani; and he said to his disciples: Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray. And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to grow sorrowful and to be sad. Then he saith to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death: stay you here, and watch with me. And going a little further, he fell upon his face, praying, and saying: My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh to his disciples, and findeth them asleep, and he saith to Peter: What? Could you not watch one hour with me?

Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak. Again the second time, he went and prayed, saying: My Father, if this chalice may not pass away, but I must drink it, thy will be done. And he cometh again and findeth them sleeping: for their eyes were heavy. And leaving them, he went again: and he prayed the third time, saying the selfsame word. Then he cometh to his disciples, and saith to them: Sleep ye now and take your rest; behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Rise, let us go: behold he is at hand that will betray me.

Considerations:

1. Our Divine Lord, accompanied by His Apostles, leaves the room of the last supper. The love with which He was inflamed in instituting the Holy Eucharist still lights up His countenance.
2. As David fled from his son Absalom, so Jesus flees from His own ungrateful people. Passing over the brook Cedron and through the shadowy valley of Josaphat, He enters the Garden of Gethsemani. The night wind rustles through the dark olive trees.
3. Withdrawing to a solitary spot, Jesus kneels down to pray. He sees the cruel cross hovering before Him. He feels in advance all the sufferings of the coming Good Friday.
4. All the sins that the innocent Lamb of God must take upon Himself assemble like horrible apparitions before the eyes of His soul. How hideous and how numerous are the sins that mankind have committed! What loathing did not my sins cause Jesus here in Gethsemani.
5. Jesus sees a great number of souls, whom He loves exceedingly and for whom He is ready to suffer so much, going to perdition through their own obduracy. They caused Him His greatest sorrow.
6. I look into the Saviour's agonized face. I hear with how much resignation and heartfelt earnestness He prays ever anew to His Father: "Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done."
7. Jesus seeks consolation from men. But even His most trusted friends are sleeping. The heart of Jesus endures the abandonment for our sakes. I will not be disconsolate when men forsake me. From my Father in Heaven, I shall obtain consolation.
8. Jesus suffers and prays on. His blood forces its way through the pores like sweat and trickles down upon the ground. Has anyone else ever had to suffer so much?
9. The Heavenly Father consoles Jesus through an angelic messenger, telling Him that He knows of His sufferings and showing Him the future glorious fruits of His sacrifice. Mary also participates in the agony of her Son. The melancholy premonition, yes, the fore-knowledge of the Mount of Olives and of Golgotha wrings her maternal heart on this night. Now again she prays: "I am the handmaid of the Lord."
10. My resolution: In hours of anguish and loneliness, I will go in spirit to the Mount of Olives and pray with a resignation like that with which Jesus prays.


The Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging




Gospel Text:

Pilate therefore went into the hall again, and called Jesus, and said to him: Art thou the king of the Jews? Jesus answered: Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or have others told it thee of me? Pilate answered: Am I a Jew? Thy own nation, and the chief priests, have delivered thee up to me: what hast thou done?

Jesus answered: My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would certainly strive that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now my kingdom is not from hence. Pilate therefore said to him: Art thou a king then? Jesus answered: Thou sayest that I am a king. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice. Pilate saith to him: What is truth? And when he said this, he went out again to the Jews, and saith to them: I find no cause in him. But you have a custom that I should release one unto you at the pasch: will you, therefore, that I release unto you the king of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying: Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber. Then therefore, Pilate took Jesus, and scourged him.

Considerations:

1. The Divine Holiness stands before a human court- the Eternal King before the dust of earth. Although the innocence of Jesus is known and recognized, yet He is cruelly condemned to be scourged. Let this unjust sentence serve as a rebuke to me when I consider myself wronged.

2. The soldiers snatch the garments from His body and bind Him to the column of the flagellation.

3. Behold how the executioners carry out their bloody work on Jesus!

4. How torn and mangled is the body of Jesus after the scourging! "From the soles of His feet to the crown of His head, there is no soundness in Him."

5. How much more wretched and disconsolate than ever is His soul, the noblest and most sensitive of all the souls of men.

6. O endless patience of Jesus! Not a single word of complaint escapes thy lips! O Jesus, make me patient and resigned like Thee!

7. My softness found a stern retribution at the column of the flagellation. From this day on, I must faithfully practice acts of renunciation and of mortification, else I am no true disciple of the Master.

8. O what a sword of sorrow pierces the heart of the onlooking Mother! Every stroke of the scourge inflicts on her an answering pain.

9. O self-sacrificing Jesus! No suffering is too great for Thee, where there is question of my soul's salvation. Grant that I may use violence on myself to gain possession of Thy heavenly Kingdom!

10. Tough hands and hard hearts have accomplished this unheard of spectacle- the scourging of the Son of God. From now on my hands shall be active only in charitable words, my heart filled only with love for my fellowmen.


The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning of Thorns


Gospel Text:

Then the soldiers of the governor taking Jesus into the hall, gathered together unto him the whole band. And stripping him, they put a scarlet cloak about him. And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand. And bowing the knee before him, they mocked him, saying: Hail, king of the Jews. And spitting upon him, they took the reed, and struck his head.

Considerations:

1. Herod and the Jews have already mocked Jesus as a false king. Once more but more cruelly, the Roman soldiers perpetrate this outrage. Now the cruel spectacle proceeds in the courtyard of the Pretorium, with Jesus seated upon a broken pillar.

2. The soldiers rend the clothing from the body of Jesus. With a soldier's red mantel they cover His wounds.

3. They place a reed in His hand for a scepter.

4. From sprays of long, sharp-pointed thorns, they weave a terrible crown of torture, then forcing it down upon the head of Jesus, they drive the thorns deep into His scalp. How His temples throb with the pain of those thorns!

5. In mockery, they pay Him homage. They kneel down before Him, spit upon Him and strike Him in the face. They beat His thorn-crowned head with the reed. They surround Him like horrors from hell.

6. How patient and humble Jesus remains to the end! How courageously He endures it all for me! In this wise, He atones for all pride, all anger, all rebellion, all wicked thoughts.

7. Pilate then exhibits Jesus to the people. Ecce Homo! Behold the wretched man! I will meditate profoundly on the Saviour here. I will gaze long into His loving heart, which is enduring so much for me.

8. Bowed down with painful wounds, but with a heart overflowing with love, Jesus gazes down upon the people, awaiting their compassion. But the crowd, alas, is encouraged on by wicked leaders. Into the heart of the Son of God pierces their savage demand, born in hell: "Crucify Him." What bitter disappointment does not Jesus experience here, as so often in individuals and peoples of later times.

9. Mary, His Mother, also sees Jesus in this condition. What pain did not this sad spectacle cause her! I will promise her that from now on, only thoughts of love, humility and purity shall be harboured in my mind.

10. Of Thy own free will, O Jesus Most Gracious, Thou wast so deeply humbled, in order that Thou mightest raise me up. Therefore my afflicted Saviour, Thy mantle of scorn shall be exchanged for royal vesture, this reed shall become the scepter of the world, Thy crown of thorns shall be Thy crown of glory as Christ the Eternal King. Whereas rough soldiers knelt before Thee in scorn, all peoples of the earth shall come and adore Thee!



The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross




Gospel Text:

Now of necessity he was to release unto them one upon the feast day. But the whole multitude together cried out, saying: Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas. Who, for a certain sedition made in the city, and for a murder, was cast into prison. And Pilate again spoke to them, desiring to release Jesus.

But they cried again, saying: Crucify him, crucify him. And he said to them the third time: Why, what evil hath this man done? I find no cause of death in him. I will chastise him therefore, and let him go. But they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified; and their voices prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him who for murder and sedition, had been cast into prison, whom they had desired; but Jesus he delivered up to their will.

And as they led him away, they laid hold of one Simon of Cyrene, coming from the country; and they laid the cross on him to carry after Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of people, and of women, who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them, said: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over me; but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For behold, the days shall come, wherein they will say: Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that have not borne, and the paps that have not given suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains: Fall upon us; and to the hills: Cover us.For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?

And there were also two other malefactors led with him to be put to death. 

Considerations:

1. The innocent Christ is condemned to die the death of a common criminal. For my sake Jesus willingly accepts the death sentence.

2. Filled with dismay but also full of resignation to the will of His Father and of love of us, Jesus shoulders the heavy burden of the cross. Hail, Holy Cross! Thou art the instrument of our eternal salvation!

3. Outraged in body and in soul Jesus carries the heavy cross on His wounded shoulders. He falls. My sins have borne down oh! so heavily upon that cross.

4. St. Veronica renders Jesus a small but courageous service. She offers our Lord a towel. So grateful was He for this kindness, that He wrought for her His last miracle. He leaves the impress of His wounded face upon the cloth. No less generously will Jesus reward me for the smallest loving service.

5. Exhausted unto death, Jesus stagger on under the cross. His enemies fear they may never see Him crucified. Simon of Cyrene they constrain to help Jesus carry His cross. He lends his assistance at first perforce but afterwards with the greatest love towards Jesus. I likewise carry His cross whenever I accept my own sufferings with resignation.

6. The pious women come out to meet Jesus. He directs their attention away from His own sufferings to the temporal and eternal woes of the sinner. Following this warning that Jesus thus gives me in the last hours of His life, I shall weep in good time over sin and hell.

7. Jesus falls repeatedly under the cross. Thus He reminds me of my relapses into sin, especially of my habitual sins.

8. What a great sorrow does it not all mean for Mary, the afflicted Mother, to see her most dearly loved Son so cruelly outraged and forsaken! No one could suffer more in sympathy with Jesus than she. Hence, hers is the honour of being the first and most perfect follower of Jesus in the way of the cross.

9. Behind the Saviour burdened with the cross follow two thieves carrying their crosses. After them come a great crowd of people. In spirit I see all men following Jesus in the way of the cross since all men have a cross to carry. To those who carry it with Jesus, the cross becomes a blessing; to those who do not, a curse. May my cross be my eternal salvation!

10. My resolution: I will be a disciple of Jesus. I will deny myself, take up my cross daily, and follow Him.



The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion



Gospel Text:

Then therefore he delivered him to them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him forth. And bearing his own cross, he went forth to that place which is called Calvary, but in Hebrew, Golgotha. Where they crucified him, and with him two others, one on each side, and Jesus in the midst. And Pilate wrote a title also, and he put it upon the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title therefore many of the Jews did read: because the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, in Greek, and in Latin.

Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate: Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am the King of the Jews. Pilate answered: What I have written, I have written. The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified him, took his garments, (and they made four parts, to every soldier a part,) and also his coat. Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said then one to another: Let us not cut it, but let us cast lots for it, whose it shall be; that the scripture might be fulfilled, saying: They have parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture they have cast lot. And the soldiers indeed did these things. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen.

When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own. Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst.  Now there was a vessel set there full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar and hyssop, put it to his mouth. Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost.

Considerations:

1. Arrived on Calvary, Jesus is again deprived of His garments. His scourged body bleeds afresh and His spirit mourns. He will do no more than taste the stupefying drink. He wills to suffer and to die for me in the full possession of His faculties.

2. Jesus is stretched out on the cross. Rough nails are driven one by one through His right hand, through His left hand, through His feet. There lies my Saviour as pale as death, bespattered with His own blood, gasping pitiably from the unspeakable torture. Not a word of complaint comes from His lips, but only the fervent prayer: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

3. The cross of Christ is raised aloft and sheds its glory for the first time over the earth. This is the most solemn moment in the history of the world.

4. Now our Redemption is actually being accomplished on the cross. As Jesus, graciously concealed under the appearances of bread and wine, speaks daily at the consecration, so visible here in the terrible crucifixion. He says also: "This is My body, which is being offered for you. This is My blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant, which is being shed for you and for many unto the remission of sins."

5. I also stand under the cross of Jesus. I perceive how the wounds of His hands and feet get wider and wider. I see His breast heave. I see the pallor of death spread over His face. I see His eyes turned towards me. I hear His lips murmur: "I thirst"- for the salvation of thy soul.

6. The enemies of Jesus are gathered around Him and blaspheming, the thief is mocking, the soldiers are dividing His garments. But in the heart of Jesus dwells only love and forgiveness. No one can doubt the genuineness of Jesus' love. He is the Divine Love amid the hate of the world. I will be His disciple.

7. The sun is veiled in darkness. In abandonment and pain Jesus suffers on. The Heavenly Father has withdrawn from Him all consolation.

8. Mary, the dearest of mothers, stands beside the death-bed of the most beloved of sons. The strokes of the hammer, every pain and outrage like relentless steel pierce her maternal heart. Thus she is offering sacrifice, she is suffering thus for me. Even amid the pains of death Jesus is concerned for His Mother. In St. John, He gives her another son, in us, other children.

9. Jesus is dying. Exultantly He cries out: "It is finished." His last word on earth is addressed to His Father: "Father, into thy hands I commend My spirit!" The suffering of the cross is over. Jesus is dead.

10. O Jesus, let not Thy sufferings and Thy blood-sheddings be for me in vain. Forsake me not in the hour of my death! Have mercy on those who shall die this day.