The Scourging at the Pillar

The Perpetual Rosary of Saint Philomena assigns a mystery of the Rosary to each participant. My wife and I both received the Scourging at the Pillar as our own mystery.

In the account of the Passion, one of the Gospels, that of Saint Luke, has Pilate trying to placate the Jewish mob three times by saying: “I find no cause of death in him. I will chastise him therefore, and let him go” (Luke 23: 22). The Greek text uses the word paidusas, which has the flavor of “I will give [him] a licking,” almost like he was talking about a stubborn child. Paidion, which has the same root, means “little child.”  A brutal scourging, Pilate thought, would satiate the Jewish leaders.

Jesus suffered in spirit His whole life long, but especially as His Passion drew near. It was not only our sins that made Him sweat blood in the garden, He also shuddered there in foretaste of His Passion, especially — if I may say it without diminution of any of Our Savior’s other wounds — the brutal scourging.

“‘Behold, we go up to Jerusalem,” Jesus forewarned His Apostles, “and all things shall be accomplished which were written by the prophets concerning the Son of man. For he shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and scourged, and spit upon: And after they have scourged him, they will put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again.’ And they understood none of these things, and this word was hid from them, and they understood not the things that were said.” (Luke 18:31-34).

Jesus was bound and led to a dungeon-like room in another building of the forum where prisoners were lashed at a six-foot high pillar, some unto death. The intensity of the beating depended upon who the malefactor was and who the torturers were. According to Blessed Anna Katerina Emerich the task was given to prisoners of war inducted into the Roman army by force. They were the dregs. It was beneath the dignity of a free Roman soldier to be a scourger or executioner. The visionary describes the scourging in horrific detail, the merciless cruelty of the mercenary men of war given the awful task of chastising God. They were not happy men; they were men used to murder and mayhem, men who drown their conscience with wine. In Our Lord’s case, Blessed Emerich notes that they were drunk, two-at-a-time taking turns with the lashing.

She describes three kinds of scourges used to beat the entire Body of Christ. Here are her words:

“The whips or scourges which they first made use of appeared to me to be made of a species of flexible white wood, but perhaps they were composed of the sinews ot the ox, or of strips of leather. . . . two fresh executioners made use of a different kind of rod,— a species of thorny stick, covered with knots and splinters. . . . two fresh executioners took the places of the last mentioned, who were beginning to flag; their scourges were composed of small chains, or straps covered with iron hooks, which penetrated to the bone, and tore off large pieces of flesh at every blow.

Mel Gibson’s movie, Passion of Christ, followed very closely the revelations of the Blessed visionary.

The crowning with thorns took place in another room into which Our Dear Lord had to be dragged as He could not even stand up after so vicious a “licking.” For that matter, Our Lord, had He not been sustained by His will to live and suffer more (the Cross beckoning Him) He ought to have died from from the lashes.

The scourging was endured in reparation for our sins of impurity.

The relic of the pillar is displayed in Rome in the church of Saint Praxedes. It was first brought to Italy by Cardinal Giovanni Colonna, a 13th-century prelate, one of several Cardinal Giovanni Colonnas, from a noble Italian family. He was appointed cardinal by Pope Innocent III, and, prior to that, he had been serving as papal legate in the Holy Land during the sixth Crusade. Returning to Rome in the 1220s, he brought with him the column in question.