"The way of the cross": translated by John Marson Dunaway.
FIRST STATION * Christ condemned to death It's all over. We have judged God and we have condemned Him to death. We no longer want Jesus Christ with us, for He is getting in the way. We no longer want any king but Caesar! No other law but blood and gold! Crucify Him if you wish, but get Him off our hands! Take Him away! Tolle! Tolle! Too bad! Since it's necessary, sacrifice Him and give us Barabbas! Pilate is seated in the place called Gabbatha. "Have you nothing to say?" says Pilate. And Jesus doesn't respond. "I find no evil in this man," says Pilate. "But bah! Let Him die, since you insist! I give Him to you. Ecce homo." Behold the Man, the crown on His head and the robe on His back. One last time turned toward us, those eyes full of tears and blood! What can we do about it? No way to keep Him with us any longer. As He was a scandal for the Jews, to us He is a nonsense. The sentence, moreover, is rendered, with nothing missing, in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. And we see the crowd yelling and the judge washing his hands. SECOND STATION * Christ receives the Cross His clothes are given back to Him and the cross brought to Him. "Hail," says Jesus, "O Cross I have desired so long!" And you, behold, Christian, and tremble! Ah, what a solemn moment When Christ for the first time accepts the eternal Cross! O consummation on this day of the tree in Paradise! Behold, sinner, and see what purpose your sin has served. No more crime without a God upon it and no more cross without Christ! Certainly man's affliction is great, but we have nothing to say, For God is now upon it, having come not to explain but to fulfill. Jesus receives the Cross as we receive the Holy Eucharist: "We give Him some wood for His bread," as it is said by the prophet Jeremiah. Ah, how long is the cross, and how enormous and difficult! How hard it is! How rigid! How heavy, the weight of the useless sinner! How long one must carry it step by step until one dies upon it! Is it you who are going to carry this alone, Lord Jesus? Make me patient in my turn with the wood you want me to bear. For we must bear the cross before the cross bears us. THIRD STATION * Christ falls the first time Forward! Victim and executioners at the same time, all are moving along toward Calvary. God, who is being pulled by the neck, suddenly stumbles and falls to earth. What do you say, Lord, about this first fall? And since now you know, what do you think of it? This minute When you fall and the unsteady burden hurls you down. How do you find it, this ground that you made? Ah! It's not only the road of good that is rough. The road of evil too is treacherous and dizzying. One cannot go straight down it, one has to search one's way, stone by stone, And one's foot often fails, though one's heart perseveres. Ah, Lord, by those sacred knees, those two knees that have failed you at once, By the sudden nauseous retching and the fall at the entrance to the horrible Via, By the trap that has succeeded, by the earth that you have taught, Save us from the first sin that is committed, by surprise! FOURTH STATION * Christ meets His mother O mothers who have seen your first and only child die, Remember that night, the last, near the little whimpering being, The water you try to get Him to drink, the ice, the thermometer, And death, which comes little by little and which one can no longer fail to recognize. Put his poor shoes on him, change his linens and gown. Someone is coming to take Him from me and put Him in the ground. Farewell, my good little child! Farewell, O flesh of my flesh! The Fourth Station is Mary who has accepted everything. Here at the corner of the street, she awaits the Treasure of all Poverty. Her eyes have no tears at all, her mouth is dry. She says not a word and looks at Jesus arriving. She accepts. She accepts once more. The cry Is severely stifled in her strong and disciplined heart. She says not a word and looks at Jesus Christ. The Mother looks at her Son, the Church at her Redeemer, Her soul goes out passionately toward Him like the cry of the dying soldier! She stands before God and offers Him her soul to be read. There is nothing in her heart that refuses or draws back, Not a fiber in her pierced-through heart that doesn't accept and consent. And like God himself who is there, she is present. She accepts and looks at this Son whom she conceived in her bosom. She says not a word and looks at the Holy of Holies. FIFTH STATION * Simon of Cyrene carries the Cross The moment comes when there's no use any more and one can no longer go forward. It's there we come in and where you permit Us to be used also, even forcibly, for your Cross. Just so Simon the Cyrenean, who is harnessed up to this piece of wood. He grasps it solidly and walks behind Jesus, So that nothing of the Cross is left behind or lost. SIXTH STATION * Veronica and the veil All the disciples have fled, Peter himself bursts out in denials! A woman in the thick of the insults and at the center of death Rushes forward, finding Jesus and taking His face in her hands. Teach us, Veronica, to defy public opinion. For the one to whom Jesus Christ isn't only an image, but true, Becomes immediately unpleasant and suspect to others. His plan of life is inside-out, His motives aren't theirs any more. There is always something in Him that escapes and is somewhere else. A hypocrite who says his rosary and goes shamelessly to confession, Who keeps the Friday fast and who is seen among the women at mass, That's laughable and shocking, it's funny and irritating as well. Let him watch what he does, for there are eyes upon him. Let him watch every one of his steps, for he is a sign. For each Christian is the true image of his Christ, however unworthy. And the face he shows is the trivial and abominable reflection In his heart of this Face of God, triumphant! Let us look once more, Veronica, at this Face Whose imprint on the cloth you received, the face of the Holy Viaticum. This pious linen veil where Veronica hid The face of the Grape-Harvester on the day of His intoxication, So that eternally might be attached to it His image, Which is made of His blood, of His tears and of our spittle! SEVENTH STATION * Christ's secondfall It isn't the stone under His feet, nor the halter Drawn too tightly, it's the soul that suddenly fails him. O middle of our life! O fall taken spontaneously! When the magnet no longer has a pole and faith no firmament, Because the road is long and because the end is far, Because one is all alone and consolation does not exist! How time drags! Secretly growing disgust For the inflexible injunction and for this wooden companion! That's why you extend your two arms together like one who swims! It's no longer on your knees you fall but on your face. The body falls, it's true, and the soul at the same time has consented. Save us from the Second fall that is taken willfully through boredom. EIGHTH STATION * Christ comforts the women of Jerusalem Before He climbs the mountain one last time, Jesus raises His finger and turns toward the people accompanying him, A few poor women in tears with their children in their arms. And we, let us not only look, let us listen to Jesus, for He is here. It is not a man who is raising His finger in the middle of this poor manuscript illumination, It is God who for our salvation has not only suffered in painting. Thus, it is true, this man was Almighty God! There is a day when God suffered this for us, indeed! What then is it, the danger from which we have been redeemed at such a price? Is the salvation of man such a simple business that the Son In order to accomplish it is obliged to tear himself away from the Father's bosom? If it is thus of Paradise, what then is Hell? What will they do with the dead wood if they do this to the green? NINTH STATION * Christ's thirdfall "I have fallen again and this time it is the end. Though I wish to get up, there is no way. For I have been squeezed like a fruit and humankind, whom I carry on my back, is too heavy. I've done evil, (1) and the dead weight of humanity with me is too heavy! Let us die then, for it is easier to be flat on one's face than standing, Less easy to live than to die, and on the cross than under it." Save us from the Third sin, which is despair! Nothing is yet lost as long as death remains to be drunk! And I've finished with this wood, but the iron remains for me! Jesus falls a third time, but it is at the top of Calvary. TENTH STATION * Christ stripped of clothes Here is the threshing floor where the celestial wheat is ground. The Father is naked, the veil of the Tabernacle is torn. The hand is lifted upon God, the Flesh of the Flesh shudders, The Universe, stricken at its source, trembles to the depths of its bowels! We, since they have taken the tunic and seamless robe, Lift our eyes and dare look upon Jesus all pure. They have left you nothing, Lord, they have taken everything, The garment clinging to the skin, as today They tear the monk's cowl away from Him and the consecrated virgin's veil. They've taken everything, there's nothing left for Him to cover himself. He has no further defense, He is naked as a worm, He is delivered over to men and uncovered. What, that is your Jesus! He's laughable. He's covered with blows and trash. He's a case for the psychiatrists and the police. Tauri pingues obsederunt me. Libera me, Domine, de ore canis. (2) He's not the Christ, He's not the Son of Man. He's not God. His gospel is a lie and His Father isn't in heaven. He's a madman! He's an imposter! Let Him speak! Let Him be silent! Anne's valet slaps Him and Renan kisses Him. They've taken everything. But there remains the scarlet blood. They've taken everything. But there remains the bursting wound! God is hidden. But there remains the man of pain. God is hidden. There remains my brother, crying! By your humiliation, Lord, by your shame, Have pity on the vanquished, the weak whom the strong overcome! By the horror of this last garment which they take from you, Have pity on all those who are torn and rent! On the child who's had three operations and whom the doctor is encouraging, And the poor wounded one whose bandages are being changed, On the humiliated husband, on the son by the side of his dying mother, And on this terrible love that must be torn from our heart! ELEVENTH STATION * Christ nailed to the Cross Behold, God is no longer with us. He is on the ground. The frenzied pack has taken Him by the throat like a stag. So You have come!You are really with us, Lord! They have sat upon you, their knee upon your heart. This hand that the executioner twists is the right hand of the Almighty. They have bound the Lamb by the legs, they're tying up the Omnipresent. They mark with chalk on the cross His height and armspan. And when He tastes of our nails, we'll see His face. Eternal Son, whose boundary is your Infinity alone, Here it is, then, with us, this narrow place that you have coveted! Here is Elisha stretched out lying on the dead boy, Here is the throne of David and the glory of Solomon, Here is the bed of our love withYou, powerful and hard! It is difficult for a God to make himself fit our scale. They pull and the half-dislocated body cracks and cries, He is stretched like a wine-press, He is hideously butchered. So that the Prophet might be confirmed who foretold it in these words: "They have pierced my hands and feet. They have numbered all my bones." You are caught, Lord, and can no longer escape. You are nailed on the cross by the hands and by the feet. I have nothing more to seek in heaven with the heretic and the madman. This God is enough for me, held between four spikes. TWELFTH STATION * Christ dies on the Cross He was suffering a moment ago, it's true, but now he's going to die. The Great Cross in the night feebly sways with the breathing God. All is there. Nothing left but to leave it to the Instrument, Which of the joining of the double nature inexhaustibly, Of the source of the body and of the soul and of the hypostasis, expresses and draws out All the possibility that is in Him of suffering. He is all alone like Adam when he was alone in Eden. He is for three hours alone and savors the Wine, The invincible ignorance of man in the withdrawal of God! Our host is weighed down and His forehead bends down little by little. He no longer sees His Mother and His Father is abandoning Him. He savors slowly the cup and the death that poisons Him. Have You then not enough of that sour wine mixed with water, That You suddenly straighten up and cry: Sitio? You are thirsty, Lord? Is it to me You are speaking? Is it I that you need still and my sins? Is it I who am missing before all is consummated? THIRTEENTH STATION * Christ's body removedfrom the Cross Here the Passion comes to an end and the Compassion continues. Christ is no longer on the Cross, He is with Mary who has received Him: As she accepted Him when promised, she receives Him, consummated. Christ who has suffered in the eyes of all, once again in the bosom of His Mother is hidden. The Church within her arms forever bears her beloved. What is of God, and what is of the Mother, and what the man has done, All this under her mantle is with her forever. She has taken him, she sees, she touches, she prays, she weeps, she admires; She is the shroud and the ointment, she is the sepulchre and the myrrh, She is the priest and the altar and the vessel and the Cenacle. Here ends the Cross and begins the Tabernacle. FOURTEENTH STATION * The Entombment The tomb where Christ who is dead, having suffered, is placed, The hole hastily unsealed so He may sleep in His night, Before the pierced One revives and rises to the Father, It is not only this new sepulchre, it is my flesh, It is man, your creature, who is deeper than the earth! Now that His heart is open and now that His hands are pierced, There is no longer a cross among us that His body could not fit, There is no longer any sin in us to which the wound would not correspond! Come then from the altar where you are hidden, come toward us, Savior of the world! Lord, how open is your creature and how profound!
The translator wishes to acknowledge the gracious help of Trish Dunaway, Professors Achim Kopp, Anna Weaver, and the Rev. Raymond Webster.
(1.) One is hard pressed to find a scripturally and theologically sound interpretation of this phrase. The most plausible possibility that occurs to me is that in this context Claudel is underlining the extreme identification of Christ with the burden of human sin that he is assuming, the crushing load he is bearing.
(2.) "Strong bulls of Bashan have beset me around.... Deliver my soul ... from the power of the dogs" (Ps 22).
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|Title Annotation:||Re-considerations: Historical (and often neglected) texts in the Catholic intellectual tradition with contemporary comment and reflection|
|Publication:||Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2016|
|Previous Article:||Claudel's way to the inexhaustible.|