LIBERA ME, Domine, Iesu Christe, ab omnibus iniquitatis meis et universis malis,
fac me tuis semper inhærere mandatis et a te numquam separari permittas. Amen.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Point to Ponder - One O'Clock

Do not let us listen to these triumphant Jews, as they insult Him in His pain. He has already forgiven them, for they know not what they do. Jesus has at first been in a state bordering on collapse. After so many tortures, for a worn-out body this immobility is almost a rest, coinciding as it does with a general lowering of His vitality. But He thirsts. He has not said so as yet. Before lying down on the beam, He has refused the analgesic drink, of wine mingled with myrrh and gall, which is prepared by the charitable women of Jerusalem. He wishes to know His suffering in its completeness; He knows that He will conquer it. He thirsts. Yes, Adhæsit lingua me faucibus meis. He has neither eaten nor drunk anything since the evening before, and it is now midday. His sweat in Gethsemani, all His fatigues, His loss of blood in the prætorium and at other times, and even the small amount now flowing from His wounds, all this has taken a good part of His sum-total of blood. He thirsts. His features are drawn, His pale face is streaked with blood which is congealing everywhere. His mouth is half open and His lower lip has already begun to droop. A little saliva has flowed down to His beard, mingled with the blood from His injured nose. His throat is dry and on fire, but He can no longer swallow. He thirsts. How can one recognise the fairest of the children of men in this swollen face, all bleeding and deformed ? Vermis sum et non homo. It would be horrible, if one did not see shining through it the serene majesty of God Who wishes to save His brothers. He thirsts. And He will soon say it, so as to fulfil the Scriptures. A great simpleton of a soldier, wishing to hide his compassion beneath a mocking jest, soaks a sponge in his acid posca, acetum as the Gospels call it, and holds it up to Him at the end of a reed. Will He drink only a drop of it ? It is said that the fact of drinking brings on a mortal fainting fit in these poor, condemned creatures. How then, after the sponge had been held up to Him, was He able to speak two or three times ? No, He will die at His own hour. He thirsts.

And that has just begun. But, a moment later, a strange phenomenon occurs. The muscles of His arms stiffen of themselves, in a contraction which becomes more and more accentuated; His deltoid muscles and His biceps become strained and stand out, His fingers are drawn sharply inwards. It is cramp ! You have all had some experience of this acute, progressive pain, in the calves of the legs, between the ribs, a little everywhere. One must immediately relax the contracted muscle by extending it. But watch--on His thighs and on His legs there are monstrous rigid bulges, and His toes are bent. It is like a wounded man suffering from tetanus, a prey to those horrible spasms, which once seen can never be forgotten. It is what we describe as tetanisation, when the cramps become generalised, which is now happening. The stomach muscles become tightened in set undulations, then the intercostal, then the muscles of the neck, then the respiratory. His breathing has gradually become shorter and lighter. His sides, which have already been drawn upwards by the traction of the arms, are now exaggeratedly so; the solar plexus sinks inwards, and so do the hollows under the collar-bone. The air enters with a whistling sound, but scarcely comes out any longer. He is breathing in the upper regions only, He breathes in a little, but cannot breathe out. He thirsts for air. (It is like someone in the throes of asthma.) A flush has gradually spread over His pale face; it has turned a violet purple and then blue. He is asphyxiating. His lungs which are loaded with air can no longer empty themselves. His forehead is covered with sweat, His eyes are prominent and rolling. What an appalling pain must be hammering in His head ! He is going to die. Well, it is best so. Has He not suffered enough ?

But no, His hour has not yet come. Neither thirst, nor hæmorrhage, nor asphyxia, nor pain will be able to overcome the Saviour God, and if He dies with these symptoms, He will only die in truth because He freely wills it, habens in potestate ponere animam suam et recipere eam. And thus it is that He will rise again.

What, then, is happening ? Slowly, with a superhuman effort, He is using the nail through His feet as a fulcrum, that is to say He is pressing on His wounds. The ankles and the knees stretch themselves out bit by bit, and the body is gradually lifted, thus relieving the pressure on the arms (a pressure which was of very nearly 240 pounds on each hand). We thus see how, through His own efforts, the phenomenon grows less, the tetanisation recedes, the muscles become relaxed, anyway those of the chest. The breathing becomes more ample and moves down to a lower level, the lungs are unloaded and the face soon resumes its former pallor.

Dr Pierre Barbet ~ 'The Corporal Passion' from 'A Doctor at Calvary'

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