The Crowning with Thorns
No sooner did Sister Emmerich recommence the narrative of her visions on the Passion than she again became extremely ill, oppressed with fever, and so tormented by violent thirst that her tongue was perfectly parched and contracted; and on the Monday after Mid-Lent Sunday, she was so exhausted that it was not without great difficulty, and after many intervals of rest, that she narrated all which our Lord suffered in his crowning with thorns. She was scarcely able to speak, because she herself felt every sensation which she described in the following account:
Pilate harangued the populace many times during the time of the scourging of Jesus, but they interrupted him once, and vociferated, ‘He shall be executed, even if we die for it.’ When Jesus was led into the guard-house, they all cried out again, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’
After this there was silence for a time. Pilate occupied himself in giving different orders to the soldiers, and the servants of the High Priests brought them some refreshments; after which Pilate, whose superstitious tendencies made him uneasy in mind, went into the inner part of his palace in order to consult his gods, and to offer them incense.
When the Blessed Virgin and the holy women had gathered up the blood of Jesus, with which the pillar and the adjacent parts were saturated, they left the forum and went into a neighbouring small house, the owner of which I do not know. John was not, I think, present at the scourging of Jesus.
A gallery encircled the inner court of the guard-house where our Lord was crowned with thorns, and the doors were open. The cowardly ruffians, who were eagerly waiting to gratify their cruelty by torturing and insulting our Lord, were about fifty in number, and the greatest part slaves or servants of the jailers and soldiers. The mob gathered round the building, but were soon displaced by a thousand Roman soldiers, who were drawn up in good order and stationed there. Although forbidden to leave their ranks, these soldiers nevertheless did their utmost by laughter and applause to incite the cruel executioners to redouble their insults; and as public applause gives fresh energy to a comedian, so did their words of encouragement increase tenfold the cruelty of these men.
(Pictured above the crown of thorns relic is processed on the streets of Paris on Good Friday)
In the middle of the court there stood the fragment of a pillar, and on it was placed a very low stool which these cruel men maliciously covered with sharp flints and bits of broken potsherds. Then they tore off the garments of Jesus, thereby reopening all his wounds; threw over his shoulders an old scarlet mantle which barely reached his knees; dragged him to the seat prepared, and pushed him roughly down upon it, having first placed the crown of thorns upon his head. The crown of thorns was made of three branches plaited together, the greatest part of the thorns being purposely turned inwards so as to pierce our Lord’s head. Having first placed these twisted branches on his forehead, they tied them tightly together at the back of his head, and no sooner was this accomplished to their satisfaction than they put a large reed into his hand, doing all with derisive gravity as if they were really crowning him king. They then seized the reed, and struck his head so violently that his eyes were filled with blood; they knelt before him, derided him, spat in his face, and buffeted him, saying at the same time, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ Then they threw down his stool, pulled him up again from the ground on which he had fallen, and reseated him with the greatest possible brutality.
It is quite impossible to describe the cruel outrages which were thought of and perpetrated by these monsters under human form. The sufferings of Jesus from thirst, caused by the fever which his wounds and sufferings had brought on, were intense.* He trembled all over, his flesh was torn piecemeal, his tongue contracted, and the only refreshment he received was the blood which trickled from his head on to his parched lips. This shameful scene was protracted a full half-hour, and the Roman soldiers continued during the whole time to applaud and encourage the perpetration of still greater outrages.
* These meditations on the sufferings of Jesus filled Sister Emmerich with such feelings of compassion that she begged of God to allow her to suffer as he had done. She instantly became feverish and parched with thirst, and, by morning, was speechless from the contraction of her tongue and other lips. She was in this state when her friend came to her in the morning, and she looked like a victim which had just been sacrificed. Those around succeeded, with some difficulty, in moistening her mouth with a little water, but it was long before she could give any further details concerning her meditations on the Passion.
(Pictured above a relic of the crown of thorns is venerated at the church of the Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome)
The cruel executioners then reconducted our Lord to Pilate’s palace, with the scarlet cloak still thrown over his shoulders, the crown of thorns on his head, and the reed in his fettered hands. He was perfectly unrecognisable, his eyes, mouth, and beard being covered with blood, his body but one wound, and his back bowed down as that of an aged man, while every limb trembled as he walked. When Pilate saw him standing at the entrance of his tribunal, even he (hard-hearted as he usually was) started, and shuddered with horror and compassion, whilst the barbarous priests and the populace, far from being moved to pity, continued their insults and mockery. When Jesus had ascended the stairs, Pilate came forward, the trumpet was sounded to announce that the governor was about to speak, and he addressed the Chief Priests and the bystanders in the following words: ‘Behold, I bring him forth to you, that you may know that I find no cause in him.’
The archers then led Jesus up to Pilate, that the people might again feast their cruel eyes on him, in the state of degradation to which he was reduced. Terrible and heartrending, indeed, was the spectacle he presented, and an exclamation of horror burst from the multitude, followed by a dead silence, when he with difficulty raised his wounded head, crowned as it was with thorns, and cast his exhausted glance on the excited throng. Pilate exclaimed, as he pointed him out to the people: ‘Ecce homo! Behold the man !’ The hatred of the High Priests and their followers was, if possible, increased at the sight of Jesus, and they cried out, ‘Put him to death; crucify him.’ ‘Are you not content?’ said Pilate. ‘The punishment he has received is, beyond question, sufficient to deprive him of all desire of making himself king.’ But they cried out the more, and the multitude joined in the cry, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ Pilate then sounded the trumpet to demand silence, and said: ‘Take you him and crucify him, for I find no cause in him.’ ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die,’ replied the priests, ‘because he made himself the Son of God.’ These words, ‘he made himself the Son of God,’ revived the fears of Pilate; he took Jesus into another room, and asked him; ‘Whence art thou?’ But Jesus made no answer. ‘Speakest thou not to me?’ said Pilate; ‘knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and power to release thee?’ ‘Thou shouldst not have any power against me,’ replied Jesus, ‘unless it were given thee from above; therefore he that hath delivered me to thee hath the greater sin.’
The undecided, weak conduct of Pilate filled Claudia Procles with anxiety; she again sent him the pledge, to remind him of his promise, but he only returned a vague, superstitious answer, importing that he should leave the decision of the case to the gods. The enemies of Jesus, the High Priests and the Pharisees, having heard of the efforts which were being made by Claudia to save him, caused a report to be spread among the people, that the partisans of our Lord had seduced her, that he would be released, and then join the Romans and bring about the destruction of Jerusalem, and the extermination of the Jews.
Pilate was in such a state of indecision and uncertainty as to be perfectly beside himself; he did not know what step to take next, and again addressed himself to the enemies of Jesus, declaring that ‘he found no crime in him,’ but they demanded his death still more clamorously. He then remembered the contradictory accusations which had been brought against Jesus, the mysterious dreams of his wife, and the unaccountable impression which the words of Jesus had made on himself, and therefore determined to question him again in order thus to obtain some information which might enlighten him as to the course he ought to pursue; he therefore returned to the Praetorium, went alone into a room, and sent for our Saviour. He glanced at the mangled and bleeding Form before him, and exclaimed inwardly: ‘Is it possible that he can be God?’ Then he turned to Jesus, and adjured him to tell him if he was God, if he was that king who had been promised to the Jews, where his kingdom was, and to what class of gods he belonged. I can only give the sense of the words of Jesus, but they were solemn and severe. He told him ‘that his kingdom was not of this world,’ and he likewise spoke strongly of the many hidden crimes with which the conscience of Pilate was defiled; warned him of the dreadful fate which would be his, if he did not repent; and finally declared that he himself, the Son of Man, would come at the last day, to pronounce a just judgment upon him.
Pilate was half frightened and half angry at the words of Jesus; he returned to the balcony, and again declared that he would release Jesus; but they cried out: ‘if thou release this man, thou art not Caesar’s friend. For whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.’ Others said that they would accuse him to the Emperor of having disturbed their festival; that he must make up his mind at once, because they were obliged to be in the Temple by ten o’clock at night. The cry, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ resounded on all sides; it re-echoed even from the flat roofs of the houses near the forum, where many persons were assembled. Pilate saw that all his efforts were vain, that he could make no impression on the infuriated mob; their yells and imprecations were deafening, and he began to fear an insurrection. Therefore he took water, and washed his hands before the people, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just man; look you to it.’ A frightful and unanimous cry then came from the dense multitude, who were assembled from all parts of Palestine, ‘His blood be upon us, and upon our children.’
Reflections on the Visions
Whenever during my meditations on the Passion of our Lord, I imagine I hear that frightful cry of the Jews, ‘His blood be upon us, and upon our children,’ visions of a wonderful and terrible description display before my eyes at the same moment the effect of that solemn curse. I fancy I see a gloomy sky covered with clouds, of the colour of blood, from which issue fiery swords and darts, lowering over the vociferating multitude; and this curse, which they have entailed upon themselves, appears to me to penetrate even to the very marrow of their bones,— even to the unborn infants. They appear to me encompassed on all sides by darkness; the words they utter take, in my eyes, the form of black flames, which recoil upon them, penetrating the bodies of some, and only playing around others.
The last-mentioned were those who were converted after the death of Jesus, and who were in considerable numbers, for neither Jesus nor Mary ever ceased praying, in the midst of their sufferings, for the salvation of these miserable beings.
When, during visions of this kind, I turn my thoughts to the holy souls of Jesus and Mary, and to those of the enemies of Christ, all that takes place within them is shown me under various forms. I see numerous devils among the crowd, exciting and encouraging the Jews, whispering in their ears, entering their mouths, inciting them still more against Jesus, but nevertheless trembling at the sight of his ineffable love and heavenly patience. Innumerable angels surrounded Jesus, Mary, and the small number of saints who were there. The exterior of these angels denotes the office they fill; some represent consolation, others prayer, or some of the works of mercy.
I likewise often see consolatory, and at other times menacing voices, under the appearance of bright or coloured gleams of light, issuing from the mouths of these different apparitions; and I see the feelings of their souls, their interior sufferings, and in a word, their every thought, under the appearance of dark or bright rays. I then understand everything perfectly, but it is impossible for me to give an explanation to others; besides which, I am so ill, and so totally overcome by the grief which I feel for my own sins and for those of the world, I am so overpowered by the sight of the sufferings of our Lord, that I can hardly imagine how it is possible for me to relate events with the slightest coherency. Many of these things, but more especially the apparitions of devils and of angels, which are related by other persons who have had visions of the Passion of Jesus Christ, are fragments of symbolical interior perceptions of this species, which vary according to the state of the soul of the spectator. Hence the numerous contradictions, because many things are naturally forgotten or omitted.
Sister Emmerich sometimes spoke on these subjects, either during the time of her visions on the Passion, or before they commenced; but she more often refused to speak at all concerning them, for fear of causing confusion in the visions. It is easy to see how difficult it must have been for her, in the midst of such a variety of apparitions, to preserve any degree of connection in her narrations. Who can therefore be surprised at finding some omissions and confusion in her descriptions?