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A Poem on the Passion of the Lord

Formerly Ascribed to Lactantius

Whoever you are who approach, and are entering the precincts20692069     Limina, “the threshold.”   of the middle of the temple, stop a little and look upon me, who, though innocent, suffered for your crime; lay me up in your mind, keep me in your breast. I am He who, pitying the bitter misfortunes of men, came hither as a messenger20702070     Interpres.   of offered peace, and as a full atonement20712071     Venia, “remission.”   for the fault of men.20722072     Communis culpæ.   Here the brightest light from above is restored to the earth; here is the merciful image of safety; here I am a rest to you, the right way, the true redemption, the banner20732073     Vexillum.   of God, and a memorable sign of fate. It was on account of you and your life that I entered the Virgin’s womb, was made man, and suffered a dreadful death; nor did I find rest anywhere in the regions of the earth, but everywhere threats, everywhere labours. First of all a wretched dwelling20742074     Magalia.   in the land of Judæa was a shelter for me at my birth, and for my mother with me: here first, amidst the outstretched sluggish cattle, dry grass gave me a bed in a narrow stall. I passed my earliest years in the Pharian20752075     i.e., Egypt.   regions, being an exile in the reign of Herod; and after my return to Judæa I spent the rest of my years, always engaged20762076     Secutus.   in fastings, and the extremity of poverty itself, and the lowest circumstances; always by healthful admonitions applying the minds of men to the pursuit of genial uprightness, uniting with wholesome teaching many evident miracles: on which account impious Jerusalem, harassed by the raging cares of envy and cruel hatred, and blinded by madness, dared to seek for me, though innocent, by deadly punishment, a cruel death on the dreadful cross. And if you yourself wish to discriminate these things more fully,20772077     Latius, “more widely,” “in greater detail.”   and if it delights you to go through all my groans, and to experience griefs with me, put together20782078     Collige.   the designs and plots, and the impious price of my innocent blood, and the pretended kisses of a disciple,20792079     Clientis. The “cliens” is one who puts himself under the protection of a “patronus.” Here it is used of a follower.   and the insults and strivings of the cruel multitude; and, moreover, the blows, and tongues prepared20802080     Promptas.   for accusations. Picture to your mind both the witnesses, and the accursed20812081     Infanda, “unspeakable,” “wicked.”   judgment of the blinded Pilate, and the immense cross pressing my shoulders and wearied back, and my painful steps to a dreadful death. Now survey me from head to foot, deserted as I am, and lifted up afar from my beloved mother. Behold and see my locks clotted with blood, and my blood-stained neck under my very hair, and my head drained20822082     Haustum.   with cruel thorns, and pouring down like rain20832083     Pluens.   from all sides a stream20842084     Vivum cruorem.   of blood over my divine face. Survey my compressed and sightless eyes, and my afflicted cheeks; see my parched tongue poisoned with gall, and my countenance pale with death. Behold my hands pierced with nails, and my arms drawn out, and the great wound in my side; see the blood streaming from it, and my perforated20852085     Fossos.   feet, and blood-stained limbs. Bend your knee, and with lamentation adore the venerable wood of the cross, and with lowly countenance stooping20862086     Terram petens.   to the earth, which is wet with innocent blood, sprinkle it with rising tears, and at times20872087     Nonnunquam; others read, “nunquam non,” always.   bear me and my admonitions in your devoted heart. Follow the footsteps of my life, and while you look upon my torments and cruel death, remembering my innumerable pangs of body and soul, learn to endure hardships,20882088     Adversa.   and to watch over your own safety. These memorials,20892089     Monumenta.   if at any time you find pleasure in thinking over them, if in your mind there is any confidence to bear anything like my 328sufferings),20902090     Meorum.   if the piety due, and gratitude worthy of my labours shall arise, will be incitements20912091     Stimuli.   to true virtue, and they will be shields against the snares of an enemy, aroused20922092     Acer.   by which you will be safe, and as a conqueror bear off the palm in every contest. If these memorials shall turn away your senses, which are devoted to a perishable20932093     Labilis orbis amicos sensus.   world, from the fleeting shadow of earthly beauty, the result will be, that you will not venture,20942094     Auseris, an unusual form.   enticed by empty hope, to trust the frail20952095     Occiduis rebus.   enjoyments of fickle fortune, and to place your hope in the fleeting years of life. But, truly, if you thus regard this perishable world,20962096     Ista caduca sæcula.   and through your love of a better country deprive yourself20972097     Exutum.   of earthly riches and the enjoyment of present things,20982098     Rerum usus.   the prayers of the pious will bring you up20992099     Extollent. The reading is uncertain; some editions have “expolient.”   in sacred habits, and in the hope of a happy life, amidst severe punishments, will cherish you with heavenly dew, and feed you with the sweetness of the promised good. Until the great favour of God shall recall your happy21002100     Purpuream, “bright, or shining.”   soul to the heavenly regions,21012101     Sublimes ad auras.   your body being left after the fates of death. Then freed from all labour, then joyfully beholding the angelic choirs, and the blessed companies of saints in perpetual bliss, it shall reign with me in the happy abode of perpetual peace.  

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