[Station at St. Mary Major’s.]
The Chief Priests and the Ancients of the people, are met today, in one of the rooms adjoining the Temple, for the purpose of deliberating on the best means of putting Jesus to death. Several plans are discussed. Would it be prudent to lay hands upon Him at this season of the Feast of the Pasch, when the City is filled with strangers, who have received a favourable impression of Jesus from the solemn ovation given to him three days back? Then, too, are there not a great number of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who took part in that triumph, and whose enthusiastic admiration of Jesus might excite them to rise up in His defence? These considerations persuade them not to have recourse to any violent measure, at least for the present, as a sedition among the people might be the consequence, and its promoters, even were they to escape being ill-treated by the people, would be brought before the tribunal of the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. They, therefore, come to the resolution of letting the Feast pass quietly over, before apprehending Jesus.
But these blood-thirsty men are making all these calculations as though they were the masters. They are, if they will, shrewd assassins, who put off their murder to a more convenient day: but the Divine decrees,—which, from all eternity, have prepared a Sacrifice for the world’s salvation,—have fixed this very year’s Pasch as the day of the Sacrifice, and, tomorrow evening, the holy City will re-echo with the trumpets, which proclaim the opening of the Feast. The figurative Lamb is now to make way for the true one; the Pasch of this year will substitute the reality for the type; and Jesus’ Blood, shed by the hands of wicked priests, is soon to flow simultaneously with that of victims, which have only been hitherto acceptable to God, because they prefigured the Sacrifice of Calvary. The Jewish priesthood is about to be its own executioner, by immolating Him, whose Blood is to abrogate the Ancient Alliance, and perpetuate the New one.
But how are Jesus’ enemies to get possession of their divine Victim, so as to avoid a disturbance in the City? There is only one plan that could succeed, and they have not thought of it: it is treachery. Just at the close of their deliberations, they are told that one of Jesus’ Disciples seeks admission. They admit him, and he says to them: What will you give me, and I will deliver Him unto you (St. Matth. xxvi. 15.)? They are delighted at this proposition: and yet, how is it, that they, doctors of the law, forget that this infamous bargain between themselves and Judas has all been foretold by David, in the 108th Psalm? They know the Scriptures from beginning to end;—how comes it, that they forget the words of the Prophet, who even mentions the sum of thirty pieces of silver (Idem, xxvii. 9. Zach. xi. 12.). Judas asks them what they will give him; and they give him thirty pieces of silver! All is arranged: tomorrow, Jesus will be in Jerusalem, eating the Pasch with his Disciples. In the evening, He will go, as usual, to the Garden on Mount Olivet. But how shall they, who are sent to seize Him, be able to distinguish Him from his Disciples? Judas will lead the way; he will show them which is Jesus, by going up to him and kissing him!
Such is the impious scheme devised on this day, within the precincts of the Temple of Jerusalem. To testify her detestation at it, and to make atonement to the Son of God for the outrage thus offered him, the Holy Church, from the earliest ages, consecrated the Wednesday of every week to penance. In our own times, the Fast of Lent begins on a Wednesday; and when the Church ordained that we should commence each of the four Seasons of the year with Fasting, Wednesday was chosen to be one of the three days thus consecrated to bodily mortification.
On this day, in the Roman Church, was held the sixth Scrutiny, for the admission of Catechumens to Baptism. Those, upon whom there had been previous doubts, were now added to the number of the chosen ones, if they were found worthy. There were two Lessons read in the Mass, as on the day of the great Scrutiny, the Wednesday of the fourth Week of Lent. As usual, the Catechumens left the Church, after the Gospel; but, as soon as the Holy Sacrifice was over, they were brought back by the Door- Keeper, and one of the Priests addressed them in these words: “On Saturday next, the Eve of Easter,” at such an hour, you will assemble in the Lateran “Basilica, for the seventh Scrutiny; you will then” recite the Symbol, which you must have learned; “and lastly, you will receive, by God’s help, the “sacred laver of regeneration. Prepare yourselves,” zealously and humbly, by persevering fasts and “prayers, in order that, having been buried, by this” holy Baptism, together with Jesus Christ, you may “rise again with him, unto life everlasting. Amen.”
At Rome, the Station for to-day is in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. Let us compassionate with our Holy Mother, whose Heart is filled with poignant grief at the foresight of the Sacrifice, which is preparing.
The Church commences her chants with one to the glory of the Holy Name of Jesus, outraged as it is, on this day, by them that plot his Death. This Name, which was given him by heaven, and signifies that he is our Saviour, is now being blasphemed by his enemies: in a few hours, their crime will bring its full meaning before us, for his Death will have worked the Salvation of the world.