Thursday, April 01, 2010

Lancelot Andrewes: A sermon on the Passion


Preached at the Court, on the Twenty-fifth of March, A.D. MDXCVII, being Good Friday
Text Zechariah xii:10
And they will look upon Me Whom they have pierced.

That great and honourable person the Eunuch, sitting in his chariot, and reading a like place of the Prophet Esay, asketh St. Philip, 'I pray thee, Of Whom speaketh the Prophet this? of himself, or some other?' A question very material, and to great good purpose, and to be asked by us in all prophecies. For knowing who the party is, we shall not wander in the Prophet's meaning.

Now, if the Eunuch had been reading this of Zachary, as then he was that of Esay, and had asked the same question of St. Philip, he would have had the same answer. And as he out of those words took occasion, so may we out of these take the like, to preach Jesus unto them. For neither of himself, nor of any other, but of Jesus, speaketh the Prophet this; and 'the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of this prophecy.'

That so it is the Holy Ghost is our warrant, Who in St. John's Gospel reporting the Passion, and the last act of the Passion--this opening of the side, and piercing of the heart--our Saviour Christ saith plainly, that in the piercing the very words of the prophecy were fullfilled, Respicient in Me Quem transfixerunt.

Which term of piercing we shall the more clearly conceive, if with the ancient writers, we sort it with the beginning of Psalm XXII, the Psalm of the Passion. For, in the very front or inscription of this Psalm, our Saviour Christ is compared cervo matutino, 'to the morning hart;' that is, a hart roused early in the morning, as from His very birth. He was by Herod, hunted and chased all His life long, and this day brought to His end, and, as the poor deer, stricken and pierced through side, heart, and all; which is it we are here to behold.

There is no part of the whole course of our Saviour Christ's life or death but it is well worthy our looking on, and from each part in it there goes virtue to do us good; but of all other parts, and above them all, this last part of His piercing is here commended unto our view. Indeed, how could the prophet commend it more, than in avowing it to be an act of grace, as in the fore part of this verse he doth? Effundam super eos Spiritum Gratiae, et respicient, &c., as if he should say, If there be any grace in us, we will think it worth the looking on.



Neither doth the Prophet only, but the Apostle also, calls us unto it, and willeth us what to 'look unto,' and regard, 'Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith.' Then specially, and in that act, when for 'the joy of our salvation set before Him He endured the cross, and despised the shame;' that is, in this spectacle, when He was pierced.

Which surely is continual, all our life long, to be done by us, and at all times some time to be spared unto it; but if at other times, most requisite at this time, this very day which we hold holy to the memory of His Passion, and the piercing of His precious side. That, though on other days we employ our eyes otherwise, this day at least we fix them on this object, respecientes in Eum. This day, I say. which is dedicated to no other end, but even to lift up the Son of Man, as Moses did the serpent in the wilderness, that we may look upon Him and live; when every Scripture that is read sounds nothing but this unto us, when by the office of preaching Jesus Christ is lively described in our sight, and as the Apostle speaketh, is 'visibly crucified among us;' when in the memorial of the Holy Sacrament, 'His death is shewed forth until He come,' and the mystery of this His piercing so many ways, so effectually represented before us.

The principal words are but two, and set down unto us in two points. I. the sight itself, that is, the thing to be seen; II. and the sight of it, that is, the act of seeing or looking. Quem transfixerunt is the object, or spectacle propounded. Respicient in Eum, is the act or duty enjoined.

Of which the object though in place latter, in nature is the former, and first to be handled; for that there must be a thing first set up, before we can set our eyes to look upon it.

Of the object generally, first. Certain it is, that Christ is here meant; St. John hath put us out of doubt for that point. And Zachary here could have set down His name, and said, Respice in Christum; for Daniel before had named his name, Occidetur Messias; and Zachary, being after him in time, might have easily repeated it. But it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to him, rather to use a circumlocution; and suppressing His name of Christ, to express Him by the style or term, Quem transfixerunt. Which being done by choice, must needs have a reason of the doing, and so it hath.

1. First, the better to specify and particularize the Person of Christ, by the kind, and most peculiar circumstance, of His death. Esay [Isaiah 53:10] had said, Morietur, 'Die He shall, and lay down His soul an offering for sin.' 2. Die--but what death? A natural or a violent? Daniel tells us, Occidetur 'He shall die, not a natural, but a violent death [Dan.9: 26]. 3. But many are slain after many sorts, and divers kinds there be of violent deaths. The Psalmist, the more particularly to set it down, describeth it thus: 'They pierced My hands and feet;'[Psalm 22:16] which is only proper to the death of the Cross. 4. Die, and be slain, and be crucified. But sundry else were crucified; and therefore the Prophet here, to make up all, addeth, that He should not only be crucifixus, but transfixus; not only have His hands and His feet, but even His heart pierced too. Which very note severs Him from all the rest, with as great particularity as may be; for that, though many besides at other times, and some at the same time with Him were crucified, yet the side and the heart of none was opened, but His, and His only.

2. Secondly, as to specify Christ Himself, and in His Person, to sever from the rest of His doings and sufferings, what that is that chiefly concerneth us, and we especially are to look to; and that is this day's work--Christ pierced. St. Paul doth best express this: 'I esteemed,' saith he, 'to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.' That is, the perfection of our knowledge is Christ; and the perfection of our knowledge in, or touching Christ, is the knowledge of Christ's piercing. This is the chief sight; nay, as it shall after appears, in this sight are all sights; so that know this, and know all. This generally.

Now, specially. In the object, two things offer themselves; 1. The Passion, or suffering itself, which was, to be 'pierced.' 2. And the Persons, by whom. For if the Prophet had not intended the Persons should have had their respect too, he might have said Respicient in Eum Qui transfixus est;--which passive would have carried the Passion itself full enough-- but so he would not, but rather chose to say, Quem transfixerunt; So that we must needs have an eye in the handling, both to the fact, and to the persons, 1. quid, and 2. quibus, both what, and of whom.

In the Passion, we first consider the degree; for transfixerunt is a word of gradation, more than fixerunt, or suffixerunt, or confixerunt either. Expressing unto us the piercing, not with whips and scourges; nor of the nails and thorns, but of the spear-point. Not the whips and scourges, wherewith His skin and flesh were pierced; nor the nails and thorns wherewith His feet, hands and head were pierced; but the spear-point which pierced, and went through, His very heart itself; for of that wound, of the wound in His heart, is this spoken. Therefore trans is here a transcendent--through and through; through skin and flesh, through hands and feet, through side and heart, and all; the deadliest and deepest wound, and of highest gradation.

Secondly, as the preposition trans hath his gradation of divers degrees, so the pronoun me hath his generality of divers parts; best expressed in the original. 'Upon Me;' not, upon My body and soul. 'Upon Me;' Whose Person, not Whose parts, either body without, or soul within; but 'upon Me.' Whom wholly, body and soul, quick and dead, 'they have pierced.'

Of the body's piercing there can be no question, since no part of it was left unpierced. Our senses certify us of that--what need we farther witness?

Of the soul's too, it is certain, and there can be no doubt of it neither; that we truly may affirm, Christ, not in part, but wholly, was pierced. For we should do injury to the sufferings of our Saviour, if we should conceive by this piercing none other but that of the spear.

And may a soul then be pierced? Can any spear-point go through it? Truly Simeon saith to the blessed Virgin by way of prophecy, that 'the sword should go through her soul' at the time of His Passion. And as the sword through hers, so I make no question but the spear through His. And if through hers which was but animo compatientis, through His much more, which was anima patientis; since compassion is but passion at rebound. Howbeit, it is not a sword of steel, or a spear-head of iron, that entereth the soul, but a metal of another temper; the dint whereof no less goreth and woundeth the soul in proportion, than those do the body. So that we extend this piercing of Christ further than to the visible gash in His side, even to a piercing of another nature, whereby not His heart only was stabbed, but His very spirit wounded too.

The Scripture recounteth two, and of them both expressly saith, that they both pierce the soul. The apostle saith it by sorrow; 'pierced themselves through with many sorrows.' The Prophet, of reproach: 'There are whose words are like the pricking of a sword;' and that to the soul both, for the body feels neither. With these, even with both these, was the soul of Christ Jesus wounded.

For sorrow--it is plain through all four Evangelists; Undique tristis est anima Mea usque ad mortem! 'My soul is environed on every side with sorrow, even to the death.' Coepit Jesus tædere et pavere, 'Jesus began to be distressed and in great anguish.' Factus in agoniæ, 'being cast into an agony.' Jam turbata est anima Mea; 'Now is My soul troubled.' Avowed by them all, confessed by himself. Yea that His strange and never else heard of sweat--drops of blood plenteously issuing from Him all over His body, what time no manner of violence was offered to His body, no man then touching Him, none being near Him; that blood came certainly from some great sorrow wherewith His soul was pierced. And that His most dreadful cry, which at once moved all the powers of Heaven and earth, 'My God, My God, &c.' was the voice of some mighty anguish, wherewith His soul was smitten; and that in other sort, than with any material spear. For derelinqui a Deo--the body cannot feel it, or tell what it means. It is the soul's complaint, and therefore without any doubt His soul within Him was pierced and suffered, though not that which--except charity be allowed to expound it--cannot be spoken without blasphemy. Not so much, God forbid! yet much, and very much, and much more than others seem to allow; or how much, it is dangerous to define.

To this edge of sorrow, if the other of piercing despite be added as a point, as added it was, it will strike deep into any heart; especially being wounded with so many sorrows before. But the more noble the heart, the deeper; who beareth any grief more easily than this grief, the grief of a contumelious reproach. 'To persecute a poor distressed soul, and seek to vex Him that is already wounded at the heart,' why, it is the very pitch of all wickedness; the very extremity that malice can do, or affliction can suffer. And to this pitch were they come, when after all their wretched villanies and spittings, and all their savage indignities in reviling Him most opprobiously, He being in the depth of all His distress, and for very anguish of soul crying, Eli, Eli, &c, they stayed those that would have relieved Him; and void of all humanity then scorned, saying, 'Stay, let alone, let us see if Elijah will now come and take Him down.' This barbarous and brutish inhumanity of theirs, must needs pierce deeper into His soul, than ever did the iron into His side.

To all of which if we add, not only that horrible ingratitude of theirs, there by Him seen, but ours also no less than theirs by Him forseen at the same time; who make so slender reckoning of these His piercings, and, as they were a matter not worth the looking on, vouchsafe not so much as to spend an hour in the due regard and meditation of them; nay, not that only, but farther by incessant sinning and that without remorse, do most unkindly requite those His bitter pains, and as much as in us lies, 'even crucify afresh the Son of God, making a mock of Him and His piercings.' These I say, for these all and every of them in that instant were before His eyes, must of force enter into, and go through and through His soul and spirit; that what with those former sorrows, and what with these after indignities, the Prophet might truly say of Him, and He of Himself, 'upon Me;' not whose body or whose soul, but whom entirely and wholly, both in body and soul, alive and dead, they have pierced and passioned this day on the cross.

Of the persons;--which, as it is necessarily implied in the word, is very properly incident to the matter itself. For it is usual, when one is found slain as here, to make enquiry, By whom he came by his death. Which so much the rather is to be done by us, because there is commonly an error in the world, touching the parties that were the causes of Christ's death. Our manner is, either to lay it on the soldiers, that were the instruments; or if not upon them, upon Pilate the judge that gave sentence; or it not upon him, upon the people that importuned the judge; or lastly, if not upon them, upon the Elders of the Jews that animated the people; and this is all to be found by our quest of enquiry.

But the Prophet here indicted others. For by saying, 'They shall look,' &c., 'Whom they have pierced,' he intendeth by very construction, that the first and second 'They,' are not two, but one and the same parties. And that they that are here willed to look upon him, are they and none other than were the authors of this fact, even of the murder of Jesus Christ. And to say truth, the Prophet's intent is no other but to bring the malefactors themselves that pierced Him, to view the body and the wounded heart of Him, Whom they have pierced.'

In the course of justice we say, and say truly, when a party is put to death, that the executioner cannot be said to be the cause of death; nor the sheriff, by whose commandment he doth it; neither yet the judge by whose sentence; nor the twelve men by whose verdict; nor the law itself, by whose authority it is proceeded in. For, God forbid we should indict these, or any of these, of murder. Solum peccatum homicida; sin and sin only, is the murder. Sin, I say, either of the party that suffereth; or of some other, by whose means, or for whose cause, he is put to death.

Now, Christ's own sin it was not that He died for. That is most evident. Not so much by His own challenge, Quis ex vobis arguit Me de peccato? [Which of you convicts me of sin? John 8:46] as by the report of His judge, who openly professed that he had examined Him, and 'found no fault in Him.' 'No, nor yet Herod,' for being sent to him and examined by him also, nothing worthy death was found in him. And therefore, calling for water and washing his hands he protesteth his own innocency of the blood of this 'Just Man;' thereby pronouncing Him Just, and void of any cause in Himself of His own death.

It must then necessarily be the sin of some others, for whose sake Christ Jesus was thus pierced. And if we ask, who those others be? or whose sins they were? the Prophet Esay [Isaiah] tells us, Posuit super Eum iniquitates omnium nostrûm, 'He laid upon Him the trangressions of us all;' who should, even for those our many, great and grievous transgressions, have eternally been pierced, in body and soul, with torment and sorrows of a never-dying death, had not He stepped between us and the blow, and received it in His own body; even the dint of the wrath of God to come upon us. So that it was the sin of our polluted hands that pierced His hands, the swiftness of our feet to do evil that nailed His feet, the wicked devices of our heads that gored His head, and the wretched desires of our hearts that pierced His heart. We that 'look upon,' it is we that 'pierced Him;' and it is we that 'pierced Him,' that are willed to 'look upon Him.' Which bringeth it home to us, to me myself that speak, and you yourselves that hear; and applieth it most effectually to every one of us, who evidently seeing that we were the cause of this His piercing, if our hearts be not too hard, ought to have remorse to be pierced with it.

When, for delivering to David a few loaves, Abimelech and the Priests were by Saul put to the sword, if David did then acknowledge with grief of heart and say, 'I, even I, am the cause of the death of thy father and all his house;'--when he was but only the occasion of it, and not that direct neither ­ may not we, nay ought not we much more justly and deservedly say of this piercing of Christ our Saviour, that we verily, even we, are the cause thereof, as verily we are, even the principals in this murder; and the Jews and others, on whom we seek to derive it, but only accessories and instrumental causes thereof. Which point we ought as continually, so seriously to think of; and that no less than the former. The former, to stir up compassion in ourselves, over Him that was thus pierced; the latter, to work deep remorse in our hearts, for being authors of it. That He was pierced, will make our hearts melt with compassion over Christ. That He was pierced by us that look on Him, if our hearts be not 'flint' as Job saith, or as 'the nether mill-stone' will breed remorse over ourselves, wretched sinners as we are.

The act followeth in these words; Respicient in Eum. A request most reasonable, to 'look upon Him'--but 'to look upon him,' to bestow but a look and nothing else, which even of common humanity we cannot deny, Quia non aspicere despicere est. It argueth great contempt, not to vouchsafe it the cast of our eye, as it were an object utterly unworthy the looking toward. Truly, if we mark it well, nature itself of itself inclineth to this act. When Amasa treacherously was slain by Joab, and lay weltering in his blood by the way side, the story saith that not one of the whole army, then marching by, but when he came at him, 'stood still and looked on him.'

In the Gospel, the party that goeth from Jerusalem to Jericho was spoiled and wounded and lay drawing on, though the Priest and Levite that passed near the place relieved him not, as the Samaritan after did; yet it is said of them, they 'went near and looked on,' and then passed on their way. Which desire is even natural in us; so that even nature itself inclineth us to satisfy the Prophet.

Nature doth, and so Grace too. For generally we are bound to regard the work of the Lord, and to consider the operations of His hands;' and specially this work, in comparison whereof God Himself saith, the former works of His 'shall not be remembered, nor the things done of old once regarded.'

Yea Christ Himself, pierced as He is, inviteth us to it. For in the Prophet here it is not Eum, but in Me; not 'on Him,' but 'on Me Whom they have pierced.' But more fully in Jeremy; for, to Christ Himself do all the ancient writers apply, and that most properly, those words of the Lamentation; 'Have ye no regard all ye that pass by this way? Behold and see, if there be any sorrow like My sorrow, which is done unto Me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted Me in the day of His fierce wrath.'

Our own profit, which is wont to persuade well, inviteth us; for that as from the brazen serpent no virtue issued to heal but unto them who steadily beheld it, so neither doth there from Christ but upon those that with the eye of faith have their contemplation on this object; who thereby draw life from Him, and without it may and do perish, for all Christ and His Passion.

And if nothing else move us, this last may, even our danger. For the time will come when we ourselves shall desire, that God looking with an angry countenance upon our sins, would turn His face from them and us, and look upon the face of His Christ, that is, respicere in Eum, which will be justly denied us, if we ourselves could never be gotten to do this duty, respicere in Eum, when it was called for of us. God will not look upon Him at ours, Whom we would not look upon at His request.

In the act itself are enjoined three things: 1. That we do it with attention; for it is not Me, but in Me; not only 'upon Him,' but 'into Him.' 2. That we do it often, again and again, with iteration, for respicient is re-aspicient. Not a single act, but an act iterated. 3. That we cause our nature to do it, as it were, by virtue of an injunction, per actum elictum, as the schoolmen call it. For in the original it is in the commanding conjugation, that signifieth, facient se respicere, rather than respicient.

First then, not slightly, superficially or perfunctorily, but steadfastly, and with due attention, 'to look upon Him.' And not to look upon the outside alone, but to look into the very entrails; and with our eye to pierce Him That was thus pierced. In Eum beareth both.

1. 'Upon Him' if we 'look,' we shall see so much as Pilate shewed of Him;--ecce Homo, that He is a Man. And if He were not a man, but some other unreasonable creature, it were great ruth to see Him so handled.

2. Among men we less pity malefactors, and have most compassion on them that be innocent. And He was innocent, and deserved it not, as you have heard, His enemies themselves being His judges.

3. Among those that be innocent, the more noble the person, the greater the grief, and the more heavy ever is the spectacle. Now if we consider the verse of this text, we shall see it is God Himself and no man that here speaketh, for to God only it belongs to 'pour out the Spirit of grace', it passeth man's reach to do it; so that, if we look better upon Him, we shall see as much as the Centurion saw, that this party thus pierced 'is the Son of God.' The Son of God slain! Surely he that hath done this deed is 'the child of death,' would every one of us; Et tu es homo, 'Thou are the man.' You are they, for whose sins the Son of God has His very heart-blood shed forth. Which must needs strike into us remorse of a deeper degree than before; that not only it is we that have pierced the part thus found slain, but that this party, whom we have thus pierced, is not a principal person among the children of men, but even the only-begotten Son of the Most High God. Which will make us cry out with St. Augustine, O amaritudo peccati mei, ad tollendam necessaria fuit amaritudo tanta! 'Now sure, deadly was the bitterness of our sins, that might not be cured, but by the bitter death and blood-shedding Passion of the Son of God.' And this may we see looking upon Him.

But now then, if we look in Eum, 'into Him,' we shall see yet a greater thing, which may raise us in comfort, as far as the other cast us down. Even the heart of compassion and tender love, whereby He would and was content to suffer all this for our sakes. For that, whereas 'no man had power to take His life from Him,' for He had power to have commanded twelve legions of Angels in His just defence; and without any Angel at all, power enough of Himself with his Ego sum, to strike them all to the ground; He was content notwithstanding all this, to lay down His life for us sinners. The greatness of which love passeth the greatest love that man has; 'for greater love than this hath no man, but to bestow his life for his friends,' whereas He condescended to lay it down for His enemies. Even for them that sought His death, to lay down His life, and to have His blood shed for them that did shed it; to be pierced for His piercers. Look how the former in Eum worketh grief, considering the great injuries offered to so great a Personage; so, to temper the grief of it, this latter in Eum giveth some comfort, that so great a Person should so greatly love us, as for our sakes to endure all those so many injuries, even to the piercing of His very heart.

Secondly, Respicient that is re-aspicient, not once or twice, but oftentimes to look upon it; that is, as the Prophet saith here, iteratis vicibus, to look again and again; as the Apostle saith, recogitare, 'to think upon it over and over and over again,' as it were to dwell in it for a time. In a sort, with the frequentness of this our beholding it, to supply the weakness and want of our former attention. Surely, the more steadily and more often we shall fix our eye upon it, the more we shall be inured; and being inured, the more desire to do it. For at every looking some new sight will offer itself, which will offer unto us occasion, either of godly sorrow, true repentance, sound comfort, or some other reflection, issuing from the beams of this heavenly mirror. Which point, because it is the chief point, the Prophet here calleth us to, even how to look upon Christ often, and to be the better for our looking; it shall be very agreeable to the text, and to the Holy Ghost's chief intent, if we prove how, and in how diverse sorts, we may with profit behold and 'look upon Him' Whom thus we have 'pierced.'

First then, looking upon him, we may bring forth for the first effect that which immediately followeth this text itself in this text, Et plangent Eum--Respice et plange. First, 'look and lament,' or mourn, which is indeed the most kindly and natural effect of such a spectacle. 'Look upon Him That is pierced,' and with looking upon Him be pierced yourself. A good effect of our first look, if we could bring it forth. At leastwise, if we cannot respice et transfigere 'look and be pierced,' yet that it might be, respice et compungere, 'that with looking on Him we might be "pricked in our hearts,' " and have it enter past the skin, though it go not clean through. Which difference in this verse the Prophet seemeth to insinuate, when first he willeth us to mourn as for one's only sin, with whom all is lost. Or, if that cannot be bad, to mourn as for a first-begotten son, which is though not so great, yet a great mourning; even for the first-begotten, though other sons be left.

And, in the next verse, if we cannot reach to natural grief, yet he wisheth us to mourn with a civil; even with such a lamentation as was made for Josias. And behold a greater than Josias is here. Coming not, as he, to an honourable death in battle, but to a most vile death, the death of a malefactor; and not, as Josias, dying without any fault of theirs but mangled and massacred in this shameful sort for us, even for us and our transgressions. Verily, the dumb and senseless creatures had this effect wrought in them, of mourning at the sight of His death; in their kind sorrowing for the murder of the Son of God. And we truly shall be much more senseless than they, if it have in us no work to the like effect. Especially, considering it was not for them He suffered all this, nor they no profit by it, but for us it was, and we by it saved; and yet they had compassion, and we none. Be this then the first.

Now, as the first is respice et transfigere, 'look upon Him and be pierced;' so the second may be, and that fitly, respice et transfige, 'look upon Him and pierce;' and pierce that in thee that was the cause of Christ's piercing, that is, sin and the lusts thereof. For as men that are pierced indeed with the grief of an indignity offered, withal are pricked to take revenge on him that offers it, such a like affection ought our second looking so kindle in us, even to take a wreak or revenge upon sin, quia fecit hoc, 'because it hath been the cause of all this.' I mean, as the Holy Spirit terms it, a mortifying or crucifying; a thrusting through our wicked passions and concupiscences, in some kind of repaying those manifold villanies, which the Son of God suffered by means of them. At leastwise, as before, if it kindle not our zeal so far against sin, yet that it may slaken our zeal and affection to sin, that is, respice ne respicias, respice Christum ne respicias peccatum. That we have less mind, less liking, less acquaintance with sin, for the Passion-sake. For that by this means we do in some sort spare Christ, and at least make His wounds no wider; whereas by affecting sin anew we do what in us lieth to crucify Him afresh, and both increase the number, and enlarge the wideness of His wounds.

It is no unreasonable request, that if we list not wound sin, yet seeing Christ hath wounds enough, and they wide and deep enough, we should forbear to pierce Him farther, and have at least this second fruit of our looking upon Him; either to look and to pierce sin, or to look and spare to pierce Him any more.

Now, as it was sin that gave Him these wounds, so it was love to us that made Him receive them, being otherwise able enough to have avoided them all. So that He was pierced with love no less than with grief, and it was that wound of love made Him so constantly to endure all the other. Which love we may read in the palms of His hands, as the Fathers express it out of Esay [Isaiah 49:16], 'for in the palms of His hands He hath graven us,' that He might not forget us. And the print of the nails in them, are as capital letters to record His love towards us. For Christ pierced on the cross is liber charitatis, 'the very book of love' laid open before us. And again, this love of His we may read in the cleft of His heart. Quia clavbus penetrans factus est nobis clavis reserans, saith St. Bernard, 'the point of the spear serves us instead of a key, letting us through His wounds see His very heart,' the heart of tender love and most kind compassion, that would for us endure to be so entreated. That if the Jews that stood by said truly of Him at Lazarus' grave, Ecce quomodo dilexit eum! when He shed a few tears out of His eyes; much more truly may we say of Him, Ecce quomodo dilexit nos! seeing Him shed both water and blood, and that in great plenty, and that out of His heart.

Which sight ought to pierce us with love too, no less than before it did with sorrow. With one or both, for both have power to pierce; but especially love, which except it had entered first and pierced Him, no nail or spear could ever have entered. Then let this be the third, respice et dilige; 'look and be pierced with love of Him' that so loved thee, that He gave Himself in this sort to be pierced for thee.

And forasmuch as it is Christ His Ownself That, resembling His Passion on the cross to the brazen serpent lift up in the wilderness, maketh a correspondence between their beholding and our believing--for so it is John iii.xiv.--we cannot avoid, but must needs make that an effect too; even respice et crede. And well may we believe and trust Him, Whom looking a little before we have seen so constantly loving us. For the sight of that love makes credible unto us, whatsoever in the whole Scripture is affirmed unto us of Christ, or promised in His name; so that we believe it, and believe all. Neither is there any time wherein with such cheerfulness or fulness of faith we cry unto Him, 'My Lord and My God,' as when our eye is fixed upon 'the print of the nails, and on the hole in the side' of Him that was pierced for us. So that this fourth duty Christ Himself layeth upon us, and willeth us from His own mouth, respice et crede.

And believing this of Him, what is there the eye of our hope will not look for from Him? What would not He do for us, That for us would suffer all this? It is St. Paul's argument, 'If God gave His Son for us, how will He deny us anything with Him?' That is, respice et spera. 'Look upon Him, and His heart opened, and from that gate of hope promise yourself, and look for all manner of things that good are.' Which our expectation is reduced to these two: The deliverance from evil of our present misery; and the restoring to the good of our primitive felicity. By the death of this undefiled Lamb, as by the yearly Passover, look for and hope for a passage out of Egypt, which spiritually is our redemption from the servitude of the power of darkness. And as by the death of the Sacrifice we look to be freed from whatsoever evil, so by the death of the High Priest look we for and hope for restitution to all that is good; even to our forfeited estate in the land of the Promise which is Heaven itself, where is all joy and happiness for evermore. Respice et spera, 'look and look for;' by the Lamb that is pierced to be freed from all misery, by the High Priest who is pierce fruition of all felicity.

Now, inasmuch as His heart is pierced, and His side opened; the opening of the one, and the piercing of the other, is to the end somewhat may flow forth. To which end, saith St. Augustine, Vigilanti verbo usus est Apostolus, 'the Apostle was well advised when he used the word opening;' for there issued out 'water and blood,' which make the sixth effect, Respice et recipe. Mark it running out, and suffer it not to run waste, but receive it. Of the former, the water, the Prophet speaketh in the first words of the next chapter, that out of His pierced side God 'opened a fountain of water to the House of Israel for sin and for uncleanness;' of the fulness whereof we all have received in the Sacrament of Baptism. Of the latter, the blood, which the Prophet, in the ninth chapter before, calleth, 'the blood of the New Testament,' we may receive this day; for it will run in the high and holy mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ. There may we be partakers of the flesh of the Morning Hart, as upon this day killed. There may we be partakers of 'the cup of salvation, the precious blood, which was shed for the remission of sins.' Our part it shall be not to account 'the blood of the Testament an unholy thing,' and to suffer it to run in vain for all of us, but with all due regard to receive it so running, for even therefore was it shed. And so to the former to add the sixth, Respice et recipe.

And shall we always receive grace, even streams of grace issuing from Him That is pierced, and shall there not from us issue something back again, that He may look for and receive from us that from Him have, and do daily, receive so many good things? No doubt there shall, if love which pierced Him have pierced us aright. And that is, no longer to hold you with these effects, Respice et retribue. For it will even behove us, no less than the Psalmist, to enter into the consideration of quid retribuami. Especially since we by this day both see and receive that, which he and many others desired to see, and receive, and could not. Or if we have nothing to render, yet ourselves to return with the Samaritan, and falling down at His feet, with a loud voice, to glorify His goodness, Who finding in us the estate that other Samaritan found the forlorn and wounded man, healed us by being wounded Himself, and by His own death restored us to life. For all which His kindness and thankful acknowledgement, we are certainly worthy He should restrain the fountain of His benefits, which hitherto hath flowed most plenteously, and neither let us see nor feel Him any more.

But I hope for better things--that love, and so great love, will pierce us, and cause both other fruits, and especially thoughts of thankfulness to issue from us. Thus many, and many more if the time would serve, but thus many several uses may we have of thus many several respects, or reflexed lookings upon Him Whom we have pierced.

Thirdly, facient se respicere. For the Holy Ghost did easily foresee, we would not readily be brought to the sight, or to use our eyes to so good an end. Indeed, to flesh and blood it is but a dull and heavy spectacle. And neither willingly they begin to look upon it, and having begun are never well till they have done and look off it again. Therefore is the verb by the Prophet put into this conjugation of purpose, which to turn in strict propriety is respicere se facient, rather than respicient. 'They shall procure or cause, or even enjoin or enforce themselves to look upon it; or, as one would say, look that they look upon it.'

For some new and strange spectacle, though vain and idle, and which shall not profit us how strange soever, we cause ourselves sometimes to take a journey, and besides our pains are at expenses too to behold them. We will not only look upon, but even cause ourselves to look upon vanities; and in them, we have the right use of facient se respicere. And why should we not take some pains, and even enjoin ourselves to look upon this, being neither far off, nor chargeable to come, and since the looking on it may so many ways so mainly profit us? Verily it falleth out often, that of Christ's; violenti rapiunt illud, nature is not inclined, and where it is not inclined, force must be offered, which we call in schools actum elictum. Which very act by us undertaken right acceptable. Therefore facias, or fac facias; 'do it willingly, or do it by force.' Do it, I say, for done it must be. Set it before you and look on it; or if you list not remove it, and set it full before you: though it be not with your ease, respice, 'look back upon it' with some pain; for one way or other, look upon it we must.

The necessity whereof, that we may better apprehend it, it will not be amiss we know, that these words are in two sundry places two sundry ways applied. 1. Once by St. John in the Gospel, 2. and the second time again by Christ Himself in the Revelation. By St. John to Christ at His first coming, suffering as our Saviour upon the cross. By Christ to himself at His second coming, sitting as our Judge upon His throne, in the end of the world. 'Behold He cometh in the clouds, and every eye will see Him, yes, even they who pierced Him;' et plangent se super Eum omnes gentes terræ. The meaning whereof is, Look upon Him here if you will; enjoin yourselves if you think good, either here or somewhere else; either now or then, look Him you shall. And they which put this spectacle far from them here, and cannot endure 'to look upon Him Whom they have pierced, and be grieved for Him,' while it is time; a place and time will be, when they will be enforced to look upon Him, whether they will or no, and et plangent se super Eum, 'be grieved for themselves,' that they had no grace to do it sooner. Better compose themselves to a little mourning here, with some benefit to be made by their beholding, than to be drawn to it there when it is too late, and when all their looking and grieving will not avail a whit. For there respicientes respiciet, et despicientes despiciet; 'His look will be amiable to them that have respected His piercing here, and dreadful on the other side to them who have neglected it.' And they that have inured themselves this looking on here, will in that day 'look up and lift up their heads with joy, the day of their redemption being at hand;' so they that cannot bring themselves to look upon Him there, shall not dare to do it the second time, but cry to the mountains, 'Fall upon us, and to the hills, Hide us from the face of Him That sits upon the throne.' Therefore, respicient is no evil counsel. No, though it be facient se respicere.

In a word, if thus causing ourselves to fix our eyes on him we ask, How long we shall continue so doing, and when must we give over? Let this be the answer: Donec totus fixus in corde, Qui totus fixus in cruce. Or if that be too much or too hard, yet saltem, 'at the least,' respice in Illum donec Ille te respexerit, 'Look upon Him till He look upon you again.' For so He will. He did upon Peter, and with His look melted him into tears. He that once and twice before denied Him and never wept, because Christ looked not on him, then denied and Christ looked on him, 'and he went out and wept bitterly.' And if to Peter thus He did, and vouchsafed him so gracious a regard, when Peter not once looked towards Him, how much more will He not deny us like favour, if by looking on Him first we provoke Him in a sort to a second looking on us again, with the Prophet saying, Proponsi Dominum coram me, 'I have set Thee, O Lord, before me;' and again, Respice in me, &c. 'O look Thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as Thou usest to do to those who love Thy Name.' 'That love Thy name' which is Jesus, 'a Saviour;' and which love that sight wherein most properly Thy Name appeareth, and wherein Thou chiefly shewest Thyself to be 'Jesus a Saviour.'

And to conclude, if we ask, How shall we know when Christ doth thus respect us? Then truly, when fixing both the eyes of our meditation upon Him That was pierced,--as it were one eye upon the grief, the other the love wherewith He was pierced, we find by both, or one of these, some motion of grace arise in our hearts; the consideration of His grief piercing our hearts with mutual love again. The one is the motion of compunction which they felt, who when they heard such things 'were pricked in their hearts.' The other, the motion of comfort which they felt, who when Christ spake to them of the necessity of His piercing, said, 'Did we not feel our hearts warm within us?' That, from shame and pain He suffered for us; this, from the comforts and benefits thereby procured for us.

These have been felt at this looking on, and these will be felt. It may be at the first, imperfectly, but after with deeper impression; and that of some, with such nemo scit, 'none knoweth,' but He that hath felt them. Which that we may endeavour to feel, and endeavouring may feel, and so grow into delight of this looking, God, &c.

1 comment:

RC Cola said...

Prayerful regards to all clergy here, who have now entered one of the most physically taxing liturgical periods of the kalendar.

While I cannot speak for all the laity, I know that many of us are grateful for your sacrifices for our benefit.