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  • Sarah Raad

Precursors

“Then Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged.” (John 19:1).

Flagellation (Caravaggio)

“Then Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged.” (John 19:1).


And there it is expressed simply and matter-of-factly in eight very ordinary little words… The scourging of Christ…


And how trivial that scourging seems in comparison to the Crucifixion that follows it. Look at how this action appears as almost nothing in the progression of the Passion. “…had Him flogged.” (John 19:1). Really, if you consider the active part of that sentence in relation to the flogging, there are only three very short words allocated to it. And because of this description how trivial this event seems – like a mere precursor, a mere foreshadowing of the main event, hardly an event in its own right.


The scourging is mentioned in three of the four Canonical Gospels, though Saint John spends the most time on it devoting a whole eight words to its description. “Then Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged.” (John 19:1). Saint Mark uses only half as many words, “He had Jesus flogged,” (Mark 15:15), and Matthew uses five, “But he had Jesus flogged,” (Matthew 27:26).


And there it is, in less than a sentence – in merely a phrase – the Scourging at the Pillar. An event in the Passion of Christ that is significant enough to merit commemoration through the Second Sorrowful Mystery of the Most Holy Rosary, but which is insignificantly referenced in less than 20 words in all of the four Canonical the Gospels.


But this is not all we know about the scourging...


Of course, there are historical facts that inform us to the process of this ancient Roman punishment and so we know the most likely type of whip likely used and the methodology for delivering a scourging.


But God – in His infinite mercy and wisdom – has revealed to us even more.


Saint Faustina was granted a vision of the Passion of Our Lord, where she was allowed to see – and experience some small fraction of – the suffering of Our Lord during His Passion.


Saint Faustina describes the scourging in horrifying graphic detail…

“I saw how the Lord Jesus suffered as He was being scourged. Oh, such an inconceivable agony! ... His blood flowed to the ground, and in some places His flesh started to fall off. I saw a few bare bones on His back. The meek Jesus moaned softly and sighed.” (Diary, 188).

Saint Faustina added, “I saw the Lord Jesus tied to a pillar, stripped of His clothes, and the scourging began immediately. I saw four men who took turns at striking the Lord with scourges. My heart almost stopped at the sight of these tortures. The Lord said to me, ‘I suffer even greater pain than that which you see.’ And Jesus gave me to know for what sins He subjected Himself to the scourging: these are sins of impurity. Oh, how dreadful was Jesus’ moral suffering during the scourging!” (Diary, 445).


And so, as I read the eight words in that Gospel passage – which seems to list the scourging as a mere precursor to our redemption – my heart BROKE for love of Him.


The fruit of the Second Sorrowful Mystery of the most Holy Rosary is PURITY.


Why?


Because the sins that Christ endured during the scourging were sins of impurity. During those long minutes of inhumane torture, Christ experienced the pain of every rape, seduction and abuse of the innocent. He experienced all the anguish of the prostitute and the despair of infidelity. He felt all the pain of broken dreams caused by every impure thought word or deed. He was not raped once, or many times over the course of one lifetime, but He was raped all the billions and trillions of times over the billions and trillions of lives since the fall of humanity. He did not feel the emptiness of meaningless sex and the terror of venereal disease once or many times in one lifetime, but over and over again in a billion trillion lifetimes.

And He – HOLY, CHASTE, DIVINE, INFINITE HE – experienced all of that and more for love of us!

And so it was that there, after reading that single line of merely eight words, I could not stop my tears… Can you blame me?


For I could see in those words – that mere precursor – the whip, the sting and the blood. I could see His Sacred Hands tied together with thick, ugly rope and chain like a dog, attached to the pillar like a slave. I could see the unholy sweat of the guards flicking into His holy Wounds as they tormented Him. I could hear their blasphemous indignity in each grunted curse and his meek moaning when He could not humanly suppress His physical response to the torture. I could see the scourge – most likely a whip with nine tails and on each tail a barbed metal hook – catch on His skin and flay it leaving nine snakes of blood and destruction for each slap of the whip. I could see His Holy flesh scattered like refuse upon the bloodied floor.


But though I can see all of this in my mind, this vision is not what caused my tears.


I cried not for the suffering I saw inflicted upon my Beloved...


I cried because I saw my own hand wielding the whip.


I cried because I saw my own unholy sweat infect His Sacred Flesh.


I cried because I saw my own impurity rape His Holy Heart…


And so today, I cried and I cried and I cried…. For what suffering there is contained in this precursor? What terrible suffering there is?


For how could one such as I do such a thing to One such as He?


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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