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Sunday, 29 March 2009


This post comes to you courtesy of an interesting and informative book, 'Our Lady's Dowry' by Rev T E Bridgett C.SS.R , published by Burns & Oates in the late 1800's.

In mediaeval Catholic England, the mysteries of the Faith were brought to the hearts of the people through popular drama, often more effectual than sermons. The following lines are part of a sacred drama, intended to be presented on the afternoon of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The MS from which it is taken is from the early years of the 16th century (Reliquae Antiquae vol ii. p.124).

Due to the length of this extract, it was originally intended that it be posted in two halves. On reflection, I think that this might be detrimental to the overall effect of the work, and have therefore included it in the one post. I hope that you agree.

Scene—the Foot of the Cross
Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalen, and other Maries.

I hear thee, Magdalen, bitterly complain;
What good creature may himself refrain?

O friend Joseph, this Prince had never peer,
The well of mercy that made me clear!
Now, good Joseph, come near and behold.
O, had you seen His pains manifold!
Joseph, look better, behold and see
In how little space how many wounds be.
Here was no mercy, here was no pity!
O good Joseph, I am all dismayed
To see His tender flesh thus ruefully arrayed,

Wounded with nail and spear.
O dear Joseph, I feel my heart wax cold,
These blessed feet thus bloody to behold,
Whom I washed with tears manifold,
And wiped with my hair.
O, how rueful a spectacle it is!
Never has been seen, nor shall be after this,
Such cruel rigour to the King of bliss,
The Lord that made all
Thus to suffer in His humanity!
O Maker of man, what love and pity
Hadst Thou for us so thrall?

Alas, Magdalen, you make my heart to relent,
Beholding His body thus torn and rent
That inwardly I weep;
But, good Magd’len, show unto me
Where is Mary, His Mother, so free,
Who hath that Maid to keep?

Ah, Joseph, from this place is she gone.
To have seen her a heart of stone
For ruth would have relent.
Many men speak of lamentation
Of mothers, and of their great desolation
When that their children die and pass;
But of His piteous tender Mother, alas!
The woe and pain passes all other;
Was there never so sorrowful a mother.
When she heard Him for His enemies pray,
And promised the thief the blisses aye,
And to herself no word would say,
She sighed, be ye sure;
The Son hung and the Mother stood,
And ever she kissed the drops of blood
That so fast ran down;
She extended her arms Him to embrace,
But she might not touch Him, so high was the place,
And then she fell in swoon.

Ah, good Magdalen, who can her blame
To see her own Son in so great a shame?
But, Magd’len, had He of her thought in His passion?

Yes, yes, Joseph, of her He had great compassion,
For, hanging on the Cross most pitifully,
He looked on that Maid, His Mother, ruefully,
As who say, ‘ Mother the sorrow of your heart
Makes my passion more bitter and more smart;
Dear Mother, because I depart now,
John, my cousin, shall wait on you,
Your comfort for to be.’
Lo, He had her in His gracious mind,
To teach all children to be kind
To father and mother of duty.

Ah, good Lady, full woe was she!
But can you tell what words said He
There in that great distress?

O Joseph, this Lamb so meek
In this cruel torment and painful eke
But few words He had;
Save that in great agony
He said these words: ‘I am thirsty!’
With cheer demure and sad.

Magd’len, suppose ye His desire was to drink?

Nay, verily, friend Joseph, I think
He thirsted for no liquor.
He thirsted water of charity
For our faith and fidelity.
He pondered the rigour
Of His passion done so cruelly:
For the health of man’s soul chiefly
He thirsted and desired;
And then, after torments long,
And after pains fell and strong,
This meekest Lamb expired.
O, what displeasure is in my mind,
Remembering that I was so unkind
To Him that hangs here,
That hangs here so piteously,
For my sins done so outrageously!
O meekest Lamb, hanging here on high,
Was there none other mean, but Thou must needs die,
Sinners to reconcile?
O, where shall any comfort come to me
And to His Mother, that Maid so free?
Would God I might here die!
Come hither, Joseph, behold and look
How many bloody letters be written in this book,
Small margin here is.

Yes, this parchment is stretched out of size!
Remember, man, remember well, and see
How liberal a man this Lord was and free;
Which, to save mankind,
One drop of blood has not kept or spared.

**** **** ****

O Lord, by Thy death we are preserved,
By death Thou hast slain death.
Was never no love like unto Thine,
That to this meekness Thyself would incline,
And for us to yield Thy breath.
Thou knew there was no remedy to redeem sin
But a bath of Thy blood to bathe men’s souls in;
And Thou wert well content
To let it run out most plenteously.
Where was ever such love?

**** **** ****

O ye wells of mercy, digged so deep,
Who may refrain, who may not weep?

Other Mary
Magd’len, your mourning avails nothing;
Let us speak to Joseph, him heartily desiring
For to find some good way
The crucified body down to take
And bring it to sepulchre, and so let make
End of this woful day.

Enter Nicodemus
O worthy Lord, who made all things of naught,
With most bitter pain to death art thou brought,
Thy name blessed be!
O, how pitiful a sight it is
To see the Prince of everlasting bliss
To hang on this tree!

**** **** ****

Good brother, of your complaint cease;
You renew again great heaviness
Now in these women here.

Great comfort we may have all,
For by His godly power arise He shall,
And the third day appear.
For once He gave me leave with Him to reason,
And He showed of this death and of this treason,
And of this cruelty;
And how for mankind He came to die,
And that He should arise so gloriously
By His mighty majesty,
And with our flesh in heaven to ascend.
Many sweet words it pleased Him to spend
Then speaking unto me;
That no man to heaven might climb,
But if it were by grace of Him
Which came down to make us free.

To take down this body let us essay;
Brother Nicodemus, help, I you pray,
To knock out these nails so sturdy and great;
O Saviour, they spared not Your body to beat!

Good Joseph, handle Him tenderly.

Stand near, Nicodemus, receive Him softly;
Magdalen, hold His feet.

Haste now, good Joseph, haste you quickly,
For Mary, His Mother, will come, fear I,
Ah, ah! That Virgin so sweet

I saw her beneath on the other side
With John; I am sure she will not abide
Long from this place.

Alas, she comes! Ah, what remedy!
Good Joseph, comfort her steadfastly,
That Virgin so full of woe.

Enter the Blessed Virgin with St John
Stand still, friends; haste ye not so;
Have no fear of me.
Let me help to take my dear Son down.

**** **** ****

Take comfort, Mary; this wailing helps nothing.
Your dear Son we will to His sepulchre bring,
As it is all our duty.

God reward you of your tenderness!
I shall assist you with all humbleness.
But yet, ere He depart,
Suffer me my mind for to break;
Howbeit full scantily may I speak
For faint and feeble heart.
O Gabriel, Gabriel!
Of great joy did you tell
In your first salutation;
You said the Holy Ghost should come in me,
And I should conceive a Child in virginity,
For mankind’s salvation!
That you said truth right well know I;
But you told me not that my Son should die,
Nor yet the thought and care
Of His bitter passion which He suffered now.
O old Simeon, full soothly said you
To speak you would not spare!
You said the sword of sorrow should enter my heart;
Yea, yea, just Simeon, now I feel it smart
With most deadly pain.

**** **** ****

St John
You should leave off your painful affliction,
Calling to your mind His resurrection:
This know you, and that best.

I know it well, or else in rest
My heart should never be;
I might not live nor endure
One minute, but I am sure
The third day rise shall He.

**** **** ****

O Judas, why didst thou betray
My Son, thy Master? What canst thou say
Thyself for to excuse?
Of His tender merciful charity
Chose He not thee one of His twelve to be?
He would not thee refuse.
Gave He not thee His body in memorial,
And also in remembrance perpetual,
At His supper there?
He that was so comely and fair to behold,
How durst thou, cruel heart, to be so bold
To cause Him die thus here?
By thy treason my Son here is slain,
My sweet, sweet Son; how should I refrain
This bloody body to behold?

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