Second Interrogation of Christ (scene 15)
The 28 Meditation of the second examination of Christ by Pilate.
When Pilate heard that speech he feared more, and entered again into the Palace, and said unto him, whence art thou? but Jesus gave no answer.
Consider first, that Pilate being an Ethnic, and possessed with the error of the Gentiles, feared least Christ was the Son of some God, as perhaps of Jupiter, or Mars. For so the Poets feign of Romulus, and Remus, and of divers others: and Christ his modesty in answering, and his gravity of manners confirmed this opinion. He feared therefore the indignation of the God his Father, whose Son he had so unjustly whipped. The Gentiles feared the vain wrath of the Gentile God, and feared not the grievousness of his sin: neither did the Jews fear the most just wrath of the true God. Thou likewise doest fear sometimes shadows, dreams, and childish fancies; and art not afraid of the Devil, who is always at thine elbow, when thou sinnest; nor the district judgement of Christ, whom thou doest offend; nor Hell mouth gaping for thee.
Consider secondly (Whence art thou) Evil men neither know God the giver of all good things, nor from whence any good commeth to them. The Ox knoweth his Keeper, and the Ass, the manger of his Lord. Hence, Cats, and Hogs when meat is cast unto them, lift up their heads, and look upon them, that cast the same: And man, who hath received so many benefits from God, doth neither thank, nor know God.
Consider thirdly, that Christ made no answer. First, because it was not necessary seeing he had manifested his innocence before; and also satisfied this question, saying: My Kingdom is not of this world: I was born for this, and for that I came into the World, &c. For our Lord spake but seldom, and necessary things, and (as St. Chrysostom saith) least he might seem proud by his continual silence. Secondly, least by his answers he might be thought desirous to escape, and to avoid death, which he might easily have done, if either he himself, or any other for him had seriously defended his cause. Thirdly least he should give holy things unto Dogs. For at this time Pilate by his great sin of whipping him, had made himself unworthy of an answer at Gods hands. Fourthly, because an Heathen man could not understand the answer of that, which the Angels cannot conceive. For from whence is that Person, which with his Majesty filleth both Heaven & Earth; which always springing in the bosom of the Father, is always born and perfect; whose generation no man can declare. Thou therefore pondering in thy mind the Majesty of thy Lord, and seeing him before this wicked President thus fowly torn, deformed, with so many stripes, and covered with so many spitting, filth, and torments, admire and ask him, whence art thou? Art thou he, whose Father is God, whose Servants are the Angels, and whose Kingdom is Heaven? For if we may judge of a man according to his habit, thou seemest to be a Worm, rather then a Man, Brought forth of the dirt, rather then coming from Heaven.
Then Pilate said unto him: Doest thou not speak unto me? doest thou not know, that I have power to crucify thee, and power to dismiss thee?
Consider first, the pride of Pilate. First because he thought he was contemned by this silence of Christ, he threatened him with his power and authority. For a proud man is soon angry, and will not suffer indignity at another hand, and yet careth not what injury he offereth to them himself.Secondly, that he attributeth to himself the power, which he hath received from another: that thou mayest learn, first to refer all thy good things unto God from whom thou hast received them, least he take them from thee for thy ingratitude. Secondly to acknowledge those gifts, and to use them to the honor of thy Lord, least by abusing them thou be grievously punished. Consider therefore earnestly with thyself thine own wealth, authority, learning, strength of body, and thy other gifts; and how much good thou mayest do thereby, either for the increasing of Gods glory, or the salvation of thy neighbors; and how much good thou hast done: and labor instantly to do as much as thou art able; for neither work, nor reason, nor wisdom, nor knowledge shall be in Hell, to which place thou makest hast.
Consider secondly, that Pilate acknowledged free power in himself to crucify our Lord, and to dismiss him: That thou mayest learn, first, that thou doest not want free will to do well, or ill; and that thou mayest use it to the exercise of virtue, and not to commit sins. Secondly, that it is an evil freedom, whereby we may do evil; and an excellent necessity. which bringeth us to better things. Do thou then join thyself so unto Christ, that is shall not be in thy power to do ill, but that thou mayest will and do only good and virtuous things. For that is true Christian liberty, so to be able to work through virtue, and to effect those things, which reason & faith doth dictate; that we would not sin, though it were lawful, the will being so confirmed in good, that it cannot be diverted by any impediments, either of concupiscence, or any other thing.
Jesus answered, thou couldest have no power against me, except it were given thee from above. Wherefore he, which hath delivered me to thee, hath the greater sin.
Consider first, that by these words Christ abated the pride of Pilate, teaching him, that he had of himself no power, but that, which was either given him form above by Caesar, whose Vicegerent he was (as St. Augustine interpreteth this place,) or granted him from God in Heaven, without whose special permission no man could do any thing against Christ the Son of God. Pilate received this power with the enemies of our Lord, when he gave them licence in the garden to rage against him, by these words: This is your hour, and the power of darkness. And although it was necessary to have a more peculiar permission to rage against Christ, then against any other Christian. Yet thou mayest learn truly with Saint Cyprian, that the Devil can do nothing against man, except God permit him.
Consider secondly, (he which delivered me to thee, hath the greater sin) to wit, then if he had offered any other man to be out to death by thee: or greater sin then thou; partly because thou maist be much moved thereunto by reason of thy authority, and by the people, and the chief men, whereas he did it of himself by private hate, and feted malice; partly because thou knows not the dignity of my person, and office, which the Jews must needs know by the prophecies of the Prophets, having seen so many miracles, which could not happen, but by the Messias, so as they had no excuse of their sin. Thou seest first that all sins are not alike (as some men fain) but that those sins are more grievous, which come of deliberate malice, then those which are committed through weakness or ignorance: and they sin more which mock and persecute the godly, then they which deride wicked men: and they offend more which induce men to sin. then they which are induced; for the sin of such redoundeth also to the inducers. Secondly, thou earnest to abstain from all sins, but especially from those which are committed against God; as Heretics, blasphemy, perjury, irrision and profanation of holy and divine things. For although in the blind judgement of men (which think nothing to be a fault, but that, which tendeth to the hurt of our neighbor) those things seem small: yet God will revenge more sharply the wrong done unto himself, then to any other creature. Admire thou the bounty of Christ, who so lovingly taught the wicked Judge: & pray him, that he will never give thee liberty to sin.
~ Fr. Francois Coster S.J.
~ Fr. Francois Coster S.J.