Jesus is taken before Pilate
The malicious enemies of our Saviour led him through the most public part of the town to take him before Pilate. The procession wended its way slowly down the north side of the mountain of Sion, then passed through that section on the eastern side of the Temple, called Acre, towards the palace and tribunal of Pilate, which were seated on the north-west side of the Temple, facing a large square. Caiphas, Annas, and many others of the Chief Council, walked first in festival attire; they were followed by a multitude of scribes and many other Jews, among whom were the false witnesses, and the wicked Pharisees who had taken the most prominent part in accusing Jesus. Our Lord followed at a short distance; he was surrounded by a band of soldiers, and led by the archers. The multitude thronged on all sides and followed the procession, thundering forth the most fearful oaths and imprecations, while groups of persons were hurrying to and fro, pushing and jostling one another. Jesus was stripped of all save his under garment, which was stained and soiled by the filth which had been flung upon it; a long chain was hanging round his neck, which struck his knees as he walked; his hands were pinioned as on the previous day, and the archers dragged him by the ropes which were fastened round his waist. He tottered rather than walked, and was almost unrecognisable from the effects of his sufferings during the night;—he was colourless, haggard, his face swollen and even bleeding, and his merciless persecutors continued to torment him each moment more and more. They had gathered together a large body of the dregs of the people, in order to make his present disgraceful entrance into the city a parody on his triumphal entrance on Palm Sunday. They mocked, and with derisive gestures called him king, and tossed in his path stones, bits of wood, and filthy rags; they made game of, and by a thousand taunting speeches mocked him, during this pretended triumphal entry.
In the corner of a building, not far from the house of Caiphas, the afflicted Mother of Jesus, with John and Magdalen, stood watching for him. Her soul was ever united to his; but propelled by her love, she left no means untried which could enable her really to approach him. She remained at the Cenacle for some time after her midnight visit to the tribunal of Caiphas, powerless and speechless from grief; but when Jesus was dragged forth from his prison, to be again brought before his judges, she arose, cast her veil and cloak about her, and said to Magdalen and John: ‘Let us follow my Son to Pilate’s court; I must again look upon him.’ They went to a place through which the procession must pass, and waited for it. The Mother of Jesus knew that her Son was suffering dreadfully, but never could she have conceived the deplorable, the heartrending condition to which he was reduced by the brutality of his enemies. Her imagination had depicted him to her as suffering fearfully, but yet supported and illuminated by sanctity, love, and patience. Now, however, the sad reality burst upon her. First in the procession appeared the priests, those most bitter enemies of her Divine Son. They were decked in flowing robes; but ah, terrible to say, instead of appearing resplendent in their character of priests of the Most High, they were transformed into priests of Satan, for no one could look upon their wicked countenances without beholding there, portrayed in vivid colours, the evil passions with which souls were filled—deceit, infernal cunning, and a raging anxiety to carry out that most tremendous of crimes, the death of their Lord and Saviour, the only Son of God. Next followed the false witnesses, his perfidious accusers, surrounded by the vociferating populace; and last of all— himself—her Son—Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of Man, loaded with chains, scarcely able to support himself, but pitilessly dragged on by his infernal enemies, receiving blows from some, buffets from others, and from the whole assembled rabble curses, abuse, and the most scurrilous language. He would have been perfectly unrecognisable even to her maternal eyes, stripped as he was of all save a torn remnant of his garment, had she not instantly marked the contrast between his behaviour and that of his vile tormentors. He alone in the midst of persecution and suffering looked calm and resigned, and far from returning blow for blow, never raised his hands but in acts of supplication to his Eternal Father for the pardon of his enemies. As he approached, she was unable to restrain herself any longer, but exclaimed in thrilling accents: ‘Alas! is that my Son? Ah, yes! I see that it is my beloved Son. 0, Jesus, my Jesus!’ When the procession was almost opposite, Jesus looked upon her with an expression of the greatest love and compassion; this look was too much for the heartbroken mother: she became for the moment totally unconscious, and John and Magdalen endeavoured to carry her home, but she quickly roused herself, and accompanied the beloved disciple to Pilate’s palace.
The inhabitants of the town of Ophel were all gathered together in an open space to meet Jesus, but far from administering comfort, they added a fresh ingredient to his cup of sorrow; they inflicted upon him that sharp pang which must ever be felt by those who see their friends abandon them in the hour of adversity. Jesus had done much for the inhabitants of Ophel, but no sooner did they see him reduced to such a state of misery and degradation, than their faith was shaken; they could no longer believe him to be a king, a prophet, the Messiah, and the Son of God. The Pharisees jeered and made game of them, on account of the admiration they had formerly expressed for Jesus. ‘Look at your king now,’ they exclaimed; ‘do homage to him; have you no congratulations to offer him now that he is about to be crowned, and seated on his throne? All his boasted miracles are at an end; the High Priest has put an end to his tricks and witchcraft.’
Notwithstanding the remembrance which these poor people had of the miracles and wonderful cures which had been performed under their very eyes by Jesus; notwithstanding the great benefits he had bestowed upon them, their faith was shaken by beholding him thus derided and pointed out as an object of contempt by the High Priest and the members of the Sanhedrin, who were regarded in Jerusalem with the greatest veneration. Some went away doubting, while others remained and endeavoured to join the rabble, but they were prevented by the guards, who had been sent by the Pharisees, to prevent riots and confusion.
Description of Pilate’s Palace and the Adjacent Buildings
The palace of the Roman Governor, Pilate, was built on the north-west side of the mountain on which the Temple stood, and to reach it persons were obliged to ascend a flight of marble steps. It overlooked a large square surrounded by a colonnade, under which the merchants sat to sell their various commodities. A parapet, and an entrance at the north, south, east, and west sides alone broke the uniformity of this part of the market-place, which was called the forum, and built on higher ground than the adjacent streets, which sloped down from it. The palace of Pilate was not quite close, but separated by a large court, the entrance to which at the eastern side was through a high arch facing a street leading to the door called the ‘Probatica’, on the road to the Mount of Olives. The southern entrance was through another arch, which leads to Sion, in the neighbourhood of the fortress of Acre. From the top of the marble steps of Pilate’s palace, a person could see across the court as far as the forum, at the entrance of which a few columns and stone seats were placed. It was at these seats that the Jewish priests stopped, in order not to defile themselves by entering the tribunal of Pilate, a line traced on the pavement of the court indicating the precise boundary beyond which they could not pass without incurring defilement. There was a large parapet near the western entrance, supported by the sides of Pilate’s Praetorium, which formed a species of porch between it and the square. That part of Pilate’s palace which he made use of when acting in the capacity of judge, was called the Praetorium. A number of columns surrounded the parapet of which we have just spoken, and in the centre was an uncovered portion, containing an underground part, where the two thieves condemned to be crucified with our Lord were confined, and this part was filled with Roman soldiers. The pillar upon which our Lord was scourged was placed on the forum itself, not far from this parapet and the colonnade. There were many other columns in this place; those nearest to the palace were made use of for the infliction of various corporal punishments, and the others served as posts to which were fastened the beasts brought for sale. Upon the forum itself, opposite this building, was a platform filled with seats made of stone; and from this platform, which was called Gabbatha, Pilate was accustomed to pronounce sentence on great criminals. The marble staircase ascended by persons going to the governor’s palace led likewise to an uncovered terrace, and it was from this terrace that Pilate gave audience to the priests and Pharisees, when they brought forward their accusations against Jesus. They all stood before him in the forum, and refused to advance further than the stone seats before mentioned. A person speaking in a loud tone of voice from the terrace could be easily heard by those in the forum.
Behind Pilate’s palace there were many other terraces, and likewise gardens, and a country house. The gardens were between the palace of the governor and the dwelling of his wife, Claudia Procles. A large moat separated these buildings from the mountain on which the Temple stood, and on this side might be seen the houses inhabited by those who served in the Temple. The palace of Herod the elder was placed on the eastern side of Pilate’s palace; and it was in its inner court that numbers of the Innocents were massacred. At present the appearance of these two buildings is a little altered, as their entrances are changed. Four of the principal streets commenced at this part of the town, and ran in a southerly direction, three leading to the forum and Pilate’s palace, and the fourth to the gate through which persons passed on their way to Bethsur. The beautiful house which belonged to Lazarus, and likewise that of Martha, were in a prominent part of this street.
One of these streets was very near to the Temple, and began at the gate which was called Probatica. The pool of Probatica was close to this gate on the right-hand side, and in this pool the sheep were washed for the first time, before being taken to the Temple; while the second and more solemn washing took place in the pool of Bethsaida, which is near the south entrance to the Temple. The second of the above-mentioned streets contained a house belonging to St. Anne, the Mother of the Blessed Virgin, which she usually inhabited when she came up to Jerusalem with her family to offer sacrifice in the Temple. I believe it was in this house that the espousals of St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin were celebrated.
The forum, as I have already explained, was built on higher ground than the neighbouring streets, and the aqueducts which ran through these streets flowed into the Probatica pool. On Mount Sion, directly opposite to the old castle of King David, stood a building very similar to the forum, while to the south-east might be seen the Cenacle, and a little towards the north the tribunals of Annas and Caiphas. King David’s castle was a deserted fortress, filled with courts, empty rooms, and stables, generally let to travellers. It had long been in this state of ruin, certainly before the time of our Lord’s nativity. I saw the Magi with their numerous retinue enter it before going into Jerusalem.
When in meditation I behold the ruins of old castles and temples, see their neglected and forlorn state, and reflect on the uses to which they are now put, so different from the intentions of those who raised them, my mind always reverts to the events of our own days, when so many of the beautiful edifices erected by our pious and zealous ancestors are either destroyed, defaced, or used for worldly, if not wicked purposes. The little church of our convent, in which our Lord deigned to dwell, notwithstanding our unworthiness, and which was to me a paradise upon earth, is now without either roof or windows, and all the monuments are effaced or carried away. Our beloved convent, too, what will be done with it in a short time? that convent, where I was more happy in my little cell with my broken chair, than a king could be on his throne, for from its window I beheld that part of the church which contained the Blessed Sacrament. In a few years, perhaps, no one will know that it ever existed,—no one will know that it once contained hundreds of souls consecrated to God, who spent their days in imploring his mercy upon sinners. But God will know all, he never forgets,—the past and the future are equally present to him. He it is who reveals to me events which took place so long ago, and on the day of judgment, when all must be accounted for, and every debt paid, even to the farthing, he will remember both the good and the evil deeds performed in places long since forgotten. With God there is no exception of persons or places, his eyes see all, even the Vineyard of Naboth. It is a tradition among us that our convent was originally founded by two poor nuns, whose worldly possessions consisted in a jar of oil and a sack of beans. On the last day God will reward them for the manner in which they put out this small talent to interest, and for the large harvest which they reaped and presented to him. It is often said that poor souls remain in purgatory in punishment for what appears to us so small a crime as not having made restitution of a few coppers of which they had unlawful possession. May God therefore have mercy upon those who have seized the property of the poor, or of the Church.
Jesus before Pilate
It was about eight in the morning, according to our method of counting time, when the procession reached the palace of Pilate. Annas, Caiphas, and the chiefs of the Sanhedrim stopped at a part between the forum and the entrance to the Praetorium, where some stone seats were placed for them. The brutal guards dragged Jesus to the foot of the flight of stairs which led to the judgment-seat of Pilate. Pilate was reposing in a comfortable chair, on a terrace which overlooked the forum, and a small three-legged table stood by his side, on which was placed the insignia of his office, and a few other things. He was surrounded by officers and soldiers dressed with the magnificence usual in the Roman army. The Jews and the priests did not enter the Praetorium, for fear of defiling themselves, but remained outside.
When Pilate saw the tumultuous procession enter, and perceived how shamefully the cruel Jews had treated their prisoner, he arose, and addressed them in a tone as contemptuous as could have been assumed by a victorious general towards the vanquished chief of some insignificant village: ‘What are you come about so early? Why have you ill-treated this prisoner so shamefully? Is it not possible to refrain from thus tearing to pieces and beginning to execute your criminals even before they are judged?’ They made no answer, but shouted out to the guards, ‘Bring him on—bring him to be judged!’ and then, turning to Pilate, they said, ‘Listen to our accusations against this malefactor; for we cannot enter the tribunal lest we defile ourselves.’ Scarcely had they finished these words, when a voice was heard to issue from the midst of the dense multitude; it proceeded from a venerable-looking old man, of imposing stature, who exclaimed, ‘You are right in not entering the Praetorium, for it has been sanctified by the blood of Innocents; there is but one Person who has a right to enter, and who alone can enter, because he alone is pure as the Innocents who were massacred there.’ The person who uttered these words in a loud voice, and then disappeared among the crowd, was a rich man of the name of Zadoc, first-cousin to Obed, the husband of Veronica; two of his children were among the Innocents whom Herod had caused to be butchered at the birth of our Saviour. Since that dreadful moment he had given up the world, and, together with his wife, followed the rules of the Essenians. He had once seen our Saviour at the house of Lazarus, and there heard him discourse, and the sight of the barbarous manner in which he was dragged before Pilate recalled to his mind all he himself had suffered when his babes were so cruelly murdered before his eyes, and he determined to give this public testimony of his belief in the innocence of Jesus. The persecutors of our Lord were far too provoked at the haughty manner which Pilate assumed towards them, and at the humble position they were obliged to occupy, to take any notice of the words of a stranger.
(Pictured above the stairs Jesús climbed at the Sancta Scala in Rome)
The brutal guards dragged our Lord up the marble staircase, and led him to the end of the terrace, from whence Pilate was conferring with the Jewish priests. The Roman governor had often heard of Jesus, although he had never seen him, and now he was perfectly astonished at the calm dignity of deportment of a man brought before him in so pitiable a condition. The inhuman behaviour of the priests and ancients both exasperated him and increased his contempt for them, and he informed them pretty quickly that he had not the slightest intention of condemning Jesus without satisfactory proofs of the truth of their accusations. ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ said he, addressing the priests in the most scornful tone possible. ‘If he were not a malefactor we would not have delivered him up to thee,’ replied the priests sullenly. ‘Take him,’ said Pilate, ‘and judge you him according to your law.’ ‘Thou knowest well,’ replied they, ‘that it is not lawful for us to condemn any man to death.’ The enemies of Jesus were furious—they wished to have the trial finished off, and their victim executed as quickly as possible, that they might be ready at the festival-day to sacrifice the Paschal lamb, not knowing, miserable wretches as they were, that he whom they had dragged before the tribunal of an idolatrous judge (into whose house they would not enter, for fear of defiling themselves before partaking of the figurative victim), that he, and he alone, was the true Paschal Lamb, of which the other was only the shadow.
Pilate, however, at last ordered them to produce their accusations. These accusations were three in number, and they brought forward ten witnesses to attest the truth of each. Their great aim was to make Pilate believe that Jesus was the leader of a conspiracy against the emperor, in order that he might condemn him to death as a rebel. They themselves were powerless in such matters, being allowed to judge none but religious offences. Their first endeavour was to convict him of seducing the people, exciting them to rebellion, and of being an enemy to public peace and tranquility. To prove these charges they brought forward some false witnesses, and declared likewise that he violated the Sabbath, and even profaned it by curing the sick upon that day. At this accusation Pilate interrupted them, and said in a jeering tone, ‘It is very evident you were none of you ill yourselves-had you been so you would not have complained of being cured on the Sabbath-day.’ ‘He seduces the people, and inculcates the most disgusting doctrines. He even says, that no person can attain eternal life unless they eat his flesh and drink his blood.’ Pilate was quite provoked at the intense hatred which their words and countenances expressed, and, turning from them with a look of scorn, exclaimed, ‘You most certainly must wish to follow his doctrines and to attain eternal life, for you are thirsting for both his body and blood.’
The Jews then brought forward the second accusation against Jesus, which was that he forbad the people to pay tribute to the emperor. These words roused the indignation of Pilate, as it was his place to see that all the taxes were properly paid, and he exclaimed in an angry tone, ‘ That is a lie! I must know more about it than you.’ This obliged the enemies of our Lord to proceed to the third accusation, which they did in words such as these: ‘Although this man is of obscure birth, he is the chief of a large party. When at their head, he denounces curses upon Jerusalem, and relates parables of double meaning concerning a king who is preparing a wedding feast for his son. The multitude whom he had gathered together on a mountain endeavoured once to make him their king; but it was sooner than he intended: his plans were not matured; therefore he fled and hid himself. Latterly he has come forward much more: it was but the other day that he entered Jerusalem at the head of a tumultuous assembly, who by his orders made the people rend the air with acclamations of “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed be the empire of our Father David, which is now beginning.” He obliges his partisans to pay him regal honours, and tells them that he is the Christ, the Anointed of the Lord, the Messiah, the king promised to the Jews, and he wishes to be addressed by these fine titles.’ Ten witnesses gave testimony concerning these things.
The last accusation—that of Jesus causing himself to be called king—made some impression upon Pilate; he became a little thoughtful, left the terrace and, casting a scrutinising glance on Jesus, went into the adjoining apartment, and ordered the guards to bring him alone into his presence. Pilate was not only superstitious, but likewise extremely weak-minded and susceptible. He had often, during the course of his pagan education, heard mention made of sons of his gods who had dwelt for a time upon earth; he was likewise fully aware that the Jewish prophets had long foretold that one should appear in the midst of them who should be the Anointed of the Lord, their Saviour, and Deliverer from slavery; and that many among the people believed this firmly. He remembered likewise that kings from the east had come to Herod, the predecessor of the present monarch of that name, to pay homage to a newly-born king of the Jews, and that Herod had on this account given orders for the massacre of the Innocents. He had often heard of the traditions concerning the Messiah and the king of the Jews, and even examined them with some curiosity; although of course, being a pagan, without the slightest belief. Had he believed at all, he would probably have agreed with the Herodians, and with those Jews who expected a powerful and victorious king. With such impressions, the idea of the Jews accusing the poor miserable individual whom they had brought into his presence of setting himself up as the promised king and Messiah, of course appeared to him absurd; but as the enemies of Jesus brought forward these charges in proof of treason against the emperor, he thought it proper to interrogate him privately concerning them.
Art thou the king of the Jews?’ said Pilate, looking at our Lord, and unable to repress his astonishment at the divine expression of his countenance.
Jesus made answer, ‘Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or have others told it thee of me?’
Pilate was offended that Jesus should think it possible for him to believe such a thing, and answered, ‘Am I a Jew? Thy own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee up to me as deserving of death: what hast thou done?’
Jesus answered majestically, ‘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 was somewhat moved by these solemn words, and said to him in a more serious tone, ‘Art thou a king, then?’
Jesus answered, ‘Thou sayest that I am a king. For this was I born, and for this I came into the world, that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.’
Pilate looked at him, and rising from his seat said, ‘The truth! what is truth?’
They then exchanged a few more words, which I do not now remember, and Pilate returned to the terrace. The answers and deportment of Jesus were far beyond his comprehension; but he saw plainly that his assumption of royalty would not clash with that of the emperor, for that it was to no worldly kingdom that he laid claim; whereas the emperor cared for nothing beyond this world. He therefore again addressed the chief priests from the terrace, and said, ‘I find no cause in him.’ The enemies of Jesus became furious, and uttered a thousand different accusations against our Saviour. But he remained silent, solely occupied in praying for his base enemies, and replied not when Pilate addressed him in these words, ‘Answerest thou nothing? Behold in how many things they accuse thee!’ Pilate was filled with astonishment, and said, ‘I see plainly that all they allege is false.’ But his accusers, whose anger continued to increase, cried out, ‘You find no cause in him? Is it no crime to incite the people to revolt in all parts of the kingdom?—to spread his false doctrines, not only here, but in Galilee likewise?’
The mention of Galilee made Pilate pause: he reflected for a moment, and then asked, ‘Is this man a Galilean, and a subject of Herod’s?’ They made answer, ‘He is; his parents lived at Nazareth, and his present dwelling is in Capharnaum.’
‘Since that is the case,’ replied Pilate, ‘take him before Herod; he is here for the festival, and can judge him at once, as he is his subject.’ Jesus was immediately led out of the tribunal, and Pilate dispatched an officer to Herod, to inform him that Jesus of Nazareth, who was his subject, was about to be brought to him to be judged. Pilate had two reasons for following this line of conduct; in the first place he was delighted to escape having to pass sentence himself, as he felt very uncomfortable about the whole affair; and in the second place he was glad of an opportunity of pleasing Herod, with whom he had had a disagreement, for he knew him to be very curious to see Jesus.
The enemies of our Lord were enraged at being thus dismissed by Pilate in the presence of the whole multitude, and gave vent to their anger by ill-treating him even more than before. They pinioned him afresh, and then ceased not overwhelming him with curses and blows as they led him hurriedly through the crowd, towards the palace of Herod, which was situated at no great distance from the forum. Some Roman soldiers had joined the procession.
During the time of the trial Claudia Procles, the wife of Pilate, had sent him frequent messages to intimate that she wished extremely to speak to him; and when Jesus was sent to Herod, she placed herself on a balcony and watched the cruel conduct of his enemies with mingled feelings of fear, grief, and horror.
The Origin of the Way of the Cross
During the whole of the scene which we have just described, the Mother of Jesus, with Magdalen and John, had stood in a recess in the forum: they were overwhelmed with the most bitter sorrow, which was but increased by all they heard and saw. When Jesus was taken before Herod, John led the Blessed Virgin and Magdalen over the parts which had been sanctified by his footsteps. They again looked at the house of Caiphas, that of Annas, Ophel, Gethsemani, and the Garden of Olives; they stopped and contemplated each spot where he had fallen, or where he had suffered particularly; and they wept silently at the thought of all he had undergone. The Blessed Virgin knelt down frequently and kissed the ground where her Son had fallen, while Magdalen wrung her hands in bitter grief, and John, although he could not restrain his own tears, endeavoured to console his companions, supported, and led them on. Thus was the holy devotion of the ‘Way of the Cross’ first practised; thus were the Mysteries of the Passion of Jesus first honoured, even before that Passion was accomplished, and the Blessed Virgin, that model of spotless purity, was the first to show forth the deep veneration felt by the Church for our dear Lord. How sweet and consoling to follow this Immaculate Mother, passing to and fro, and bedewing the sacred spots with her tears. But, ah! who can describe the sharp, sharp sword of grief which then transfixed her tender soul? She who had once borne the Saviour of the world in her chaste womb, and suckled him for so long,—she who had truly conceived him who was the Word of God, in God from all eternity, and truly God,—she beneath whose heart, full of grace, he had deigned to dwell nine months, who had felt him living within her before he appeared among men to impart the blessing of salvation and teach them his heavenly doctrines; she suffered with Jesus, sharing with him not only the sufferings of his bitter Passion, but likewise that ardent desire of redeeming fallen man by an ignominious death, which consumed him.
In this touching manner did the most pure and holy Virgin lay the foundation of the devotion called the Way of the Cross; thus at each station, marked by the sufferings of her Son, did she lay up in her heart the inexhaustible merits of his Passion, and gather them up as precious stones or sweet-scented flowers to be presented as a choice offering to the Eternal Father in behalf of all true believers. The grief of Magdalen was so intense as to make her almost like an insane person. The holy and boundless love she felt for our Lord prompted her to cast herself at his feet, and there pour forth the feelings of her heart (as she once poured the precious Ointment on his head as he sat at table); but when on the point of following this impulse, a dark gulf appeared to intervene between herself and him. The repentance she felt for her faults was immense, and not less intense was her gratitude for their pardon; but when she longed to offer acts of love and thanksgiving as precious incense at the feet of Jesus, she beheld him betrayed, suffering, and about to die for the expiation of her offences which he had taken upon himself, and this sight filled her with horror, and almost rent her soul asunder with feelings of love, repentance, and gratitude. The sight of the ingratitude of those for whom he was about to die increased the bitterness of these feelings tenfold, and every step, word, or movement demonstrated the agony of her soul. The heart of John was filled with love, and he suffered intensely, but he uttered not a word. He supported the Mother of his beloved Master in this her first pilgrimage through the stations of the Way of the Cross, and assisted her in giving the example of that devotion which has since been practised with so much fervour by the members of the Christian Church.
Pilate and his Wife
While the Jews were leading Jesus to Herod, I saw Pilate go to his wife, Claudia Procles. She hastened to meet him, and they went together into a small garden-house which was on one of the terraces behind the palace. Claudia appeared to be much excited, and under the influence of fear. She was a tall, fine-looking woman, although extremely pale. Her hair was plaited and slightly ornamented, but partly covered by a long veil which fell gracefully over her shoulders. She wore earrings, a necklace, and her flowing dress was drawn together and held up by a species of clasp. She conversed with Pilate for a long time, and entreated him by all that he held sacred not to injure Jesus, that Prophet, that saint of saints; and she related the extraordinary dreams or visions which she had had on the previous night concerning him.
Whilst she was speaking I saw the greatest part of these visions: the following were the most striking. In the first place, the principal events in the life of our Lord —the annunciation, the nativity, the adoration of the shepherds and that of the kings, the prophecy of Simeon and that of Anna, the flight into Egypt, the massacre of the Innocents, and our Lord’s temptation in the wilderness. She had likewise been shown in her sleep the most striking features of the public life of Jesus. He always appeared to her environed with a resplendent light, but his malicious and cruel enemies were under the most horrible and disgusting forms imaginable. She saw his intense sufferings, his patience, and his inexhaustible love, likewise the anguish of his Mother, and her perfect resignation. These visions filled the wife of Pilate with the greatest anxiety and terror, particularly as they were accompanied by symbols which made her comprehend their meaning, and her tender feelings were harrowed by the sight of such dreadful scenes. She had suffered from them during the whole of the night; they were sometimes obscure, but more often clear and distinct; and when morning dawned and she was roused by the noise of the tumultuous mob who were dragging Jesus to be judged, she glanced at the procession and instantly saw that the unresisting victim in the midst of the crowd, bound, suffering, and so inhumanely treated as to be scarcely recognisable, was no other than that bright and glorious being who had been so often brought before her eyes in the visions of the past night. She was greatly affected by this sight, and immediately sent for Pilate, and gave him an account of all that had happened to her. She spoke with much vehemence and emotion; and although there was a great deal in what she had seen which she could not understand, much less express, yet she entreated and implored her husband in the most touching terms to grant her request.
Pilate was both astonished and troubled by the words of his wife. He compared the narration with all he had previously heard concerning Jesus; and reflected on the hatred of the Jews, the majestic silence of our Saviour, and the mysterious answers he had given to all his questions. He hesitated for some time, but was at last overcome by the entreaties of his wife, and told her that he had already declared his conviction of the innocence of Jesus, and that he would not condemn him, because he saw that the accusations were mere fabrications of his enemies. He spoke of the words of Jesus to himself, promised his wife that nothing should induce him to condemn this just man, and even gave her a ring before they parted as a pledge of his promise.
The character of Pilate was debauched and undecided, but his worst qualities were an extreme pride and meanness which made him never hesitate in the performance of an unjust action, provided it answered his ends. He was excessively superstitious, and when in any difficulty had recourse to charms and spells. He was much puzzled and alarmed about the trial of Jesus; and I saw him running backwards and forwards, offering incense first to one god and then to another, and imploring them to assist him; but Satan filled his imagination with still greater confusion; he first instilled one false idea and then another into his mind. He then had recourse to one of his favourite superstitious practices, that of watching the sacred chickens eat, but in vain,—his mind remained enveloped in darkness, and he became more and more undecided. He first thought that he would acquit our Saviour, whom he well knew to be innocent, but then he feared incurring the wrath of his false gods if he spared him, as he fancied he might be a species of demigod, and obnoxious to than. ‘It is possible,’ said he inwardly, ‘that this man may really be that king of the Jews concerning whose coming there are so many prophecies. It was a king of the Jews whom the Magi came from the East to adore. Perhaps he is a secret enemy both of our gods and of the emperor; it might be most imprudent in me to spare his life. Who knows whether his death would not be a triumph to my gods?’ Then he remembered the wonderful dreams described to him by his wife, who had never seen Jesus, and he again changed, and decided that it would be safer not to condemn him. He tried to persuade himself that he wished to pass a just sentence; but he deceived himself, for when he asked himself, ‘What is the truth?’ he did not wait for the answer. His mind was filled with confusion, and he was quite at a loss how to act, as his sole desire was to entail no risk upon himself.