PUNISHMENT OF THE JEWS
|Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, Francesco Hayez|
Therefore, because of you, Sion shall be ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem as a field of stones, and the mountain of the temple as the high place of the forests." (Mich. 3:9)
St. John the Baptist announced to the Jews their impending punishments. "Ye offspring of vipers, he said to them, who hath showed to you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of penance . . . For now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and cast into the fire." (Lk. 3:7) The astonishing perversity and malicious obstinacy of the Jewish people drew upon their guilty heads the following severe rebuke and terrible threat of our meek and loving Redeemer, "Woe to you scribes and pharisees, hypocrites; who build the sepulchers of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the just and say: If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore you are the witnesses against yourselves, that you are the sons of them who killed the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, generation of vipers, how will you escape the judgment of hell? Therefore behold I send to you prophets, and wise men, and scribes:
And some of them you will put to death, and crucify; and some you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may came all the just blood that hath been shed upon earth, from the blood of Abel the just, even unto the blood of Zacharias, the son of Barachias, whom you killed between the temple and the altar. Amen, I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation. O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee! How often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen gatherest her chickens under her wings and thou wouldst not? Behold, your house shall be left to you desolate...Amen I say to you, there shall not be left here a stone upon a stone that shall not be thrown down." (Mt. 23:29)
If these terrible punishments were threatened against the Jews for the killing of the prophets, of the apostles, and other holy servants of God, what chastisements are due to them for condemning to the death of the cross the Incarnate Son of God, their Messias and the Savior of mankind? The warning of prophecy was soon realized. The most frightful calamities befell that guilty nation. Political dissensions and civil wars tore it to pieces: famine and pestilence devoured that wretched people: parents saw their children dying of starvation. The destroying angel visibly appeared with a flaming sword in the air above Jerusalem, having its fiery point directed against the doomed city. Rebellion against the Roman empire swiftly brought the Roman legions around the walls of Jerusalem, inside of which the largest portion of the Jewish people, from every part of the country, had taken refuge. This memorable siege under the Roman General and Emperor Vespasian, continued by his brave son Titus, was one of the most terrible recorded in history. By a disposition of divine justice, it began a few days before the Jewish paschal solemnity, in which thirty seven years before, our Lord was condemned to death and crucified on Mount Calvary.
2. On that occasion, both on account of the great national solemnity, and because of the war with the Romans, an extraordinary number of the Jewish people were congregated in the city. At least one million and a half of those wretched Jews, some say more, were shut up within the walls of Jerusalem. No adequate provisions were made, or could be made, for the support of that vast multitude. The siege lasted several years. The defense on the side of the Jews was fierce and stubborn. The position of the city and the strength of its fortifications, prolonged the struggle beyond the expectation of the Roman general. The combatants on both sides performed prodigies of military valor. Hecatombs of slain soldiers were putrefying round the walls and infecting the air with a pestilential atmosphere. Hence the plague was added to the scourge of war. The Roman general, to force the surrender of the city or to starve its doomed inhabitants, did not allow any person to come outside of the walls under penalty of being crucified in the sight of the beleagured people. In accordance with our Savior's prophecy, the Roman army dug a deep trench round about Jerusalem. Starvation or unconditional surrender was the order of the day. To famine and pestilence internal seditions among the Jews were added to their common war with the Roman Empire. In the despair and frenzy of starvation grownup men snatched like ravenous wolves the least morsel of food from the trembling hands of starving and weeping children. A mother maddened with hunger killed her full grown baby, roasted the body at the fire, eating a portion of it, and reserved the rest for subsequent meals. The smell of roasted flesh attracted to her house a crowd of hungry persons, who insisted with threats of violence, in having a share of her prepared food. The woman, forced by the people, opened a pantry room, where they were horrified at the frightful spectacle of the roasted body of her own child, portion of which she had been eating. The famous Jewish historian Josephus states that several other mothers were on that occasion guilty of similar unnatural barbarities. (Lib 6 Belli Cap 14) The accumulating horrors of famine, pestilence, and civil factions in the doomed city forced daily hundreds of the despairing inhabitants, in spite of the prohibition of the Roman General Titus, to attempt a flight to the Roman camp. But they were immediately seized by the soldiers, nailed upon crosses, which were erected, between the breastworks of the Roman army and the wall of Jerusalem, in full sight of the terrified inhabitants. More than five hundred persons of every class, sex and condition were daily crucified. In his history Josephus relates that the number of these executions increased to such an extent that sufficient timber could not be obtained to form the crosses, and that all the space between the Roman trench and the wall of the besieged city was entirely covered with crosses and with putrefying corpses. Ut tandem locus crucible deesset, et corporibus cruces. (Lib. 6 Belli, Cap. 12) The Holy Ghost says: "By what things a man sinneth by the same also is he tormented." (Wis. 11:17) Is not this a just retribution for their impious cry against our divine Lord, their holy Messias, when the Jews clamored before the Roman Governor, Pilate: "Away with him, away with him, crucify, crucify him, Let his blood fall upon us and upon our children?... After having suffered all the horrors and miseries of a close and protracted siege, devoured by famine, decimated by pestilence, distracted by internal anarchy, the sacrilegious city was taken by storm and was totally destroyed by the Roman army. Thus were literally verified the prophecies of the old testament confirmed by the infallible words of our divine Savior, when he said: "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but for yourselves and for your children... for if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry? If the justice of my heavenly Father demands the excessive sufferings which you bewail in me, His divine and innocent Son, because I have undertaken in mercy to atone for the sins of your nation and of mankind: what punishment, do you think, will the justice of an offended God inflict upon a people that to all their former black ingratitudes, and manifold transgressions, now add the awful crime of crucifying me, their divine Messias and the true Redeemer of the world?" . . . "Oh! Jerusalem, Jerusalem, if thou also hadst known, and that in this day, the things that are for thy peace, but now they are hidden from thy eyes.... for the days shall come upon thee, and thy enemies shall cast a trench about thee and compass thee round, and straiten thee on every side, and beat thee down to the ground: and thy children who are in thee.. And they shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone: because thou hast not known the time of thy visitation." (Lk. 19:42)
All these threats were literally accomplished against the guilty city of Jerusalem, which by the order of Titus, the victorious Roman General, was razed to the ground in the month of September, thirty-seven years after our Savior's crucifixion and death. According to the above mentioned Jewish hisorian, Josephus, more than one million and one hundred thousand Jews perished on that ever memorable occasion. The surviving portion of that wretched people was dispersed all over the face of the earth, to testify to all nations, tribes and tongues, how heavily during nineteen centuries "The blood of Jesus has fallen upon them and upon their children." The most dreadful, however, of all the punishments is their impious rejection of the Messias, by their insane cry: "Away with him, away with him," followed by their obduracy in their malicious impiety, and the inevitable damnation during a miserable eternity of the vast majority of that guilty nation. Thus another prophetical warning of our divine Lord is unhappily verified. "Amen, I say to you, that many shall come from the east, and the west, and sit down with Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into exterior darkness: There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'' (Mt. 8:11) Behold the crime and the punishment of the perfidious Jews! The punishment has been severe and long, because the crime was the most atrocious ever perpetrated by any nation upon earth ... It was committed with premeditated malice; it was consented to by the representatives of the people; it was consummated with the most barbarous cruelty. Hence the sacrilegious murderers of the incarnate Son of God must feel and bear the just indignation of heaven, and the scorn of horrified humanity. Modern nations guilty of similar persecutions against the Church of Jesus Christ will likewise soon have to feel the effects of the offended justice of God.
3. We have observed that the degenerate chief priests, and Jewish magistrates were the principal and most active persecutors of our divine Lord. Corroded by envy, and inflamed by hatred, they conspired against his life, and in secret conventicle they agreed to condemn him to death on the first opportunity. For this end they bribed Judas with money; and furnished him with a band of armed men, to capture his betrayed Master in the garden of Gethsemani. Twice in a public assembly they pronounced sentence of death against our innocent Lord, before delivering him to the civil tribunal of the Roman Governor. It was entirely due to the influence of their authority, example, and active energy that the Jewish people were induced to demand from Pilate, the condemnation of our dear Savior to the death of the cross. Now, then, if the Jewish nation in general has been so severely punished for having consented to the crime of deicide, what punishments must we expect to fall upon the chief priests and Jewish magistrates who have been the principal authors and the most malicious instigators of this awful crime? More severe must be the chastisement where greater is the guilt. "To him that is little mercy is granted, but the mighty shall be mightly tormented" (Wis. 6:7) The holy Prophet Osee had foretold that: "The children of Israel shall sit many days without king and without prince and without sacrifice and without altar and without ephod and without Theraphim." (Osee 3:4) This is an evident threat that the Jewish priesthood and magistracy were to be abolished. Symptoms of dissolution appeared soon after the death of our Savior. During the thirty-seven years preceeding the complete destruction of the city of Jerusalem and of the temple, and the utter dispersion of the Jews from Palestine, serious commotions were excited, and bloody riots occurred among the Jewish magistrates, and chief priests, caused by their ambition, and their thirst for filthy lucre. These scandalous contentions grew more frequent and fierce in proportion as the final catastrophe approached. Josephus relates, that during the long siege of Jerusalem by the Roman army, the people within the beleagured city were divided into several factions which provoked frequent bloody encounters, hating and persecuting one another more cruelly than they fought against their common external foe... Moreover, the people maddened by famine and despair often threatened the life of the civil magistrates and Jewish priests for neglecting or refusing to provide them with the necessary means of subsistence. Frequently the magistrates were forced to abdicate their office which was transferred to other ambitious men who made, before election, flattering promises to the mob. But being unable to satisfy the people they were in turn deposed and others substituted in their place to be expelled again in a short time. Thus to the crushing pressure of external war, the disintegrating progress of internal anarchy, being added, the city was stormed and captured by the soldiers who, provoked and maddened by the long and stubborn resistance of the Jews, rushed upon them with uncontrollable fury; but wreaked their vengeance in a more special manner on the Jewish magistrates and officers, whom they sought in every direction. Very few could escape the gory blade of the exterminating sword. No mercy was shown to them in punishment of their barbarous cruelty against our innocent Savior. Divine Justice had warned them that "Judgment without mercy should be executed against those who have done no mercy" "Learn ye that are the judges of the ends of the earth. Give ear you that rule the people.., because being ministers of his kingdom, you have not judged rightly, nor kept the law of justice, nor walked according to the will of God. Horribly and speedily will he appear to you: For a most severe judgment shall be for them that bear rule." (Wis. 6:2) May modern avowed and secret persecutors of the Church of Christ, heed in time this merciful warning of infallible truth. Let present rulers and magistrates hostile to the venerable head of our holy religion, learn a useful lesson from the terrible and speedy punishment inflicted by divine justice upon the guilty Jewish magistrates, who persecuted Jesus Christ.
4. No less severe was the chastisement of the Jewish priesthood. These unworthy ministers of religion had been the most malicious, bold and persistent persecutors of the Messias. It has been through their active exertions that our Lord was captured in the garden of Gethsemani, that he was insulted and struck on the face in the house of the high priest Annas, and twice condemned to death by the high pontiff Caiphas. They were the principal and most influential instigators of the mockeries and outrages heaped upon our Savior in the palace of King Herod. They are now before the Roman Governor, Pilate, the most zealous actors in the awful tragedy. They sacrilegiously abuse their authority and influence with the people to stir up the multitude to hatred against our innocent Savior, and are the first to utter the impious city: "Away with him, away with him. Crucify him."
Horrible crime which bears with it its due punishment! By rejecting Jesus of Nazareth, the chief priests deprive themselves of the dignity and office of the priesthood. Our divine Lord, being the author, the head, the life and the only fit victim of religion, this is necessarily abolished whenever he is rejected. His death was the complete abrogation of Judaism, as his glorious resurrection was the real birth of Christianity. The figure passes away as soon as the reality appears. Hence in his magnificent letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul says: "There is verily an abrogation of the former commandment, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law brought nothing to perfection, but an introduction of a better hope, by which we approach to God... Jesus Christ being a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech, having an everlasting priesthood, whereby he is able also to save forever them that come to God by himself; always living to make intercession for us." (Heb. 7:18) These words announce the realization of the prophecy made to the Jewish priests by St. Malachy, speaking to them in the name of God, about four hundred years before. "/ have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts; and I will not receive any gift of your hands... you have departed out of the way and have caused many to stumble at the law: you have made void the covenant of Levi... Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all people." (Malac. 1:10, 2:8) Behold here the terrible sentence of divine abrogation of the Jewish priesthood. How base, ignoble, and contemptible they are before all nations is proved by their conduct towards our Savior, and subsequent history testifies to the fact.
The same holy prophet who foretold the abrogation of the Aaronic priesthood, clearly announced the institution of the perpetual and universal priesthood of Christianity in the following words. "From the rising of the sun, even to the going down, my name is great among the gentiles; and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation." (Malac. 1:2) Behold the consequence of the impious rejection of the Messias by the Jewish priests, when they cried aloud to Pilate: "Away with him, away with him." Our divine Lord departed from them, and thus they were deprived of the true religion of God, and of the priestly dignity. The Christian church and religion was firmly established on the immovable rock of Peter against which the gates of hell shall never prevail. The dignity of the Christian priesthood, more holy in its nature, more sublime in its object, more efficacious in its effects, more universal in its scope, and everlasting in its duration, has been by our Lord conferred on the apostles, and through them perpetuated in his holy church. Hence St. Paul says: "Others were indeed made priests without an oath; but this with an oath, by him who said to him: The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: Thou art a priest forever, by so much is Jesus made a surety of a better testament ...For that he continueth forever, hath an everlasting priesthood." (Hebr. 8:20) This everlasting priesthood is firmly secured to the Christian religion in the person of the apostles and of all their legitimate successors, in the unbroken chain of the sacred ministry, by the infallible promise of our divine Lord, when he said: Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world." (Mt. 28:20) At their ordination the apostles were commanded by our divine master to exercise the sacred office of the Christian priesthood to the end of time. "Take ye and eat: this is my body which shall be delivered for you. Do this for the commemoration of me. This chalice is the new testament in my blood. This do ye, as often as you shall drink it, for the commemoration of me. For as often as you shall eat of this bread and drink of this chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he come." (1 Cor. 11:24) On this memorable occasion, on the very eve of his death on the cross, our blessed Lord repeats the command twice in order to impress it more deeply in the mind of his apostles, and to insure the fulfillment of his injunction. This command has relation to the future and is extended to the end of time, when he would come to judge mankind. By his order, this the most sacred and sublime exercise of the Christian priesthood, has frequently to be repeated by the apostles and by their legitimate successors. "For, the apostle says, as often as you shall eat of this bread, and drink this chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he come." Hence the existence of this divine command evidently demonstrates the existence of the power in the apostolic priesthood to execute it. For God never commands what is impossible. St. Paul who was not one of the twelve apostles, when these were ordained priests by our Lord, but who was selected three years after, claims this power for himself and for his fellow apostles and priests in the following words. "The chalice of benediction which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?.. .And the bread which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord?..." (1 Cor. 10:16) The Bible, the authority of the fathers, and the whole history of Christianity perfectly agree in affirming the abrogation of the Jewish priesthood, and the establishment of a more sublime sacerdotal dignity in the Christian religion, which will last to the end of ages.
We have dwelt at some length upon this important subject, to show to the world that our faith and confidence in the Christian priesthood is not in the least degree shaken by the present general and violent storm of persecution, directed against it by the impiety of wicked men, instigated by the malice of the infernal powers. "For the gates of hell shall never prevail against an authority established, guaranteed, and supported by the omnipotent hand of God." "Portae inferi non praevalebunt."
5. We must now turn to consider the punishment inflicted upon the guilty Jewish magistrates and rulers of the people. We have seen the chastisement which these perverse men received during the siege of Jerusalem, and after the capture of the doomed city by the Roman army under Titus. But that was only the beginning of their humiliation and sorrow. From that epoch their authority and magisterial power were completely abolished. St. Paul justly remarks that: "The priesthood being translated, it is necessary that a translation also be made of the law." (Hebr. 12:12) But when the law is translated and changed, the former rulers and magistrates are deposed. After the chief priests, the Jewish magistrates, senators, and civil officers had the largest share in the persecution of our innocent Lord. By them Pilate was morally compelled to pronounce the sentence of his condemnation to the most cruel and infamous death of the cross. These iniquitous men had promptly joined their voices to the cry of the Jewish priests, clamoring aloud against our Savior and saying: "Away with him, away with him. Crucify, crucify him.. .Let his blood be upon us and upon our children." Their impious voices unhappily for them prevailed. Behold our Lord, and their Messias fastened to the cross. Their condemnation is written above his adorable head crowned with thorns. These words written by command of Pilate, the Roman Governor, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews," proclaim the abolition of the Jewish monarchy, and magistracy. For when the legitimate King is condemned to death, and the monarchy is abolished, the magistracy is deposed. The terrible threat of the holy prophet Osee is fully realized: "The children of Israel shall sit many days without king, and without sacrifice, and without altar." (Osee 3:4) During nineteen long centuries the wretched children of Israel have, by the just judgment of God, been dispersed among the different nations of the earth, without ever being allowed to elect any king, prince, or magistrate for their exclusive race. Like men infected with a mysterious moral leprosy, the effect of the awful malediction which they invoked upon themselves, when they assumed the terrible responsibility of the blood of Jesus, they are condemned to a perpetual exile among their fellow-men. Similar to their true prototype Cain, they bear on their gloomy foreheads the brand of God's malediction. Naturally ambitious for dominion, the coveted scepter of power invariably eludes like a phantom their eager grasp. They succeed in amassing the mammon of iniquity, they can acquire wealth, but they cannot obtain any lasting civil power. In punishment for their impious rejection of the Messias, the source and center of all authority and jurisdiction, the offended Majesty of God has wisely and justly dried up against them the fountain of all legitimate civil and religious power in society. The voice of prophecy and the testimony of history confirm this fact.
The Civilta Cattolica, one of our ablest Catholic periodicals, published in Florence, Italy, by a select staff of learned Jesuit Fathers who are under the special protection of the Pope, in reviewing a work of a German writer on the struggle of the so-called modern civilization, says: 'The author sustains with much reason that Judaism is one of the principal moving powers in this present anti-christian warfare. The following are his words."
"In the conflict for modern civilization, the central point of which is now in Germany, the Jews wield a very important part. Being the avowed enemies of Christianity and of true Christian progress, they have during more than fifteen centuries, in spite of their oppression and degradation, preserved their vital energy with a pertinacity unexampled in the history of mankind. Wherever freedom has been granted to the Jewish race, these men have with wonderful elasticity sprung up to high eminence, and have succeeded in obtaining a remarkable preponderance in society. The Jews have at the present moment rendered tributaries to their enormous banking systems in both the governments and the nations of Europe. They actually monopolize and dominate over the financial markets of the world. In these latter years they have secured the control of the public press, and of the telegraph. Many influential Jews are actual members of legislative assemblies, and can be found sitting at the council-boards of modern governments, among the ministers of states, of kingdoms and of empires that profess to believe in Christianity.
"We can, without fear of contradiction, assert that the downfall in later years of Austrian power and influence has been precipitated through the perfidious intrigues and vigorous agency of the Jews; and that in union with Bismarck they are at present the staunchest prop to the haughty position, and domineering attitude of the Hohenzollern empire in Germany. We should never forget that the destruction of the Christian religion, and consequently of true civilisation, has ever been the deeply rooted resolve, and the unchangeable aim of Judaism since the establishment of Christianity upon earth. All their power and influence are constantly directed to the final attainment of this central object of their immortal hatred. At the present time the Jews concentrate their united efforts in the west of Europe in the hope of preparing the way, and securing powerful auxiliaries for achieving a more complete and lasting victory in the west of Asia, by the recovery of Jerusalem and the permanent reestablishment of their long-lost dominion in Palestine." (Civilta Cattolica-, 1st Art., 18th Nov.,1876)
But as every attempt of the Jews to recover their national autonomy and civil power under the pagan Roman empire invariably ended by an aggravation of their subjection; so their efforts to obtain power and wield influence in Christian nations have always resulted in various disasters to their race, and to all those imprudent Christian governments that have favored their ambitious aspirations. This is a fact of history. We are firmly convinced that Jewish perfidy and arrogance shall, as ever before, be completely baffled by the heavenly wisdom and victorious power of Christianity. Modern Jews are in various ways prostituting their material wealth, and abusing their actual power and influence to the injury of the Church of Jesus Christ. We may therefore confidently expect that by a very wise disposition of divine Providence they shall soon be deprived of these abused advantages in a manner that will astonish the world. We believe that the most crushing defeat and humiliation ever experienced during the last fifteen hundred years by that stubborn race, involving their general bankruptcy, will, sooner than many imagine, be the inevitable punishment of their audacity and their attempt against the holy religion of Jesus Christ.
"Christus vincit; Christus regnat; Christus imperat." We have full faith in his divine promises, and the testimony of history corroborates our confidence ....Our main object, however, and the limits prescribed to us by our subject permit only a few authentic extracts, which we intend to give in the next chapter after a brief account of THE "ECCE HOMO" CHAPEL AT JERUSALEM.
It was in the year 1842, when the funeral rites of the Count de la Ferronays were being celebrated in the Sant' Andrea delle Fratte, that a Jew of Strasburg by the name of Alphonse Ratisbonne received the light of Faith. This miraculous conversion is well known, and how nobly the convert responded to an after call of grace is likewise a public fact. He joined his worthy brother, who was already a Catholic priest, and they both resolved to devote themselves entirely to the conversion and instruction of their Israelite brethren. Rev. Father Alphonse made the Holy City his home, and there laid the foundation of a work which bears the stamp of true Christian charity.
By a special design of Providence, an Arab made known to Father Ratisbonne the possibility of purchasing the ruins of Pilate's Pretorium, profaned for eighteen centuries, and then in the hands of schismatics. An offer of 15,000 francs was made to them for the building, and this price was at first accepted, but moved by avarice, they afterwards raised the price to 70,000 francs. Father Ratisbonne secured the place, however, notwithstanding the exhorbitant price, for his zeal was nobly supported by souls as generous as they were Christian. An edifice was erected in 1862, and the Daughters of Sion, a religious community founded by the good priest, took up their abode in Jerusalem. Since then the work has grown and prospered.
The Ecce Homo Chapel, situated in this convent, is one of the chief attractions of the Holy City. Divine service is celebrated there with heaven-inspired fervor. Who would not be moved to tears at the sight of a once obstinate Jew offering the Holy sacrifice for the conversion of his unhappy brethren! He prays that the Blood of Jesus may be upon the Jews and their children as a dew of mercy and salvation. Rorate coeli de super.
What feeling must take possession of the heart in that chapel! Here the first scenes of the Passion took place; here it was that the Jews, struck with blindness, demanded the iniquitous sentence, and called down upon themselves and their children the curse of the Redeemer's blood. Here it was that Pontius Pilate, when presenting Jesus crowned with thorns to the populace, exclaimed "Ecce Homo!"
The explanation of Jewish perfidy is thus accomplished on the very spot of reprobation, and at the place of the anathema stands an altar of reconciliation. To hear Father Ratisbonne pronounce in the name of the Jewish nation the solemn act of amendment dictated by his own fervent heart must cause joy in the highest heaven. He is said to be so moved when reciting it that one would think he could never finish. The good religious also partake in his emotion, when, chanting three times, each time raising their voices a little, the words of our Savior on the cross: "Pater, dimitte Mis: nesciunt quid faciunt. Father, forgive them: they know not what they do."