This article is being presented in three parts over three consecutive days.
Part 2 – Veronica Wipes the Face of Our Lord
The three women, no longer conscious or caring about their planned errands, thanked her, and began the retreat back to their homes, when one of them, the youngest, ever impetuous, stopped and asserted, “I must go and see for myself if this terrible story is true.” “You cannot go to that cruel road. You will be crushed by the crazed hordes, those who thrive on these brutal methods of killing.” “Even so,” she asserted, “I am going.” When they perceived that she could not be dissuaded they looked at each other, and said, “Then we are going with you.” She nodded gratefully, and they set out, feeling their way with nervous trepidation through the dismal and crepuscular streets to the area where they knew that poor souls destined for crucifixion would pass.
As they drew closer, the noise was deafening. They cut through an alley endeavoring to get nearer to the scene. The Condemned, they knew, was expected to pass through that very spot. Soldiers leading the walk to Calvary were already pushing bystanders roughly aside as they forged a path for the Man with the Cross. The crowds in their turn snarled at and resisted the soldiers, for even in their eagerness to watch the death process they hated these detestable symbols of Rome and its power. Now they could see other soldiers, prodding Jesus on with whips and scorn. From their location they saw Him as He fell, under the appalling weight of the Cross, to the unforgiving stones below. He lay on the ground, trying to gather his breath and his dwindling strength. The guards, experienced at this type of spectacle, began to fear that He would die before arriving at the crucifixion site on Golgotha, and thus escape the final ordeal. They turned, searched the crowd, and seized upon an unwilling bystander from the sidelines, shouting at him to pick up the end of the Cross and carry it. The stranger, by the name of Simon of Cyrene, tried in vain to resist, but the soldiers threatened him with their clubs, and thus he was obliged to take his place next to Jesus, sharing the infamous burden of the Cross.
From the slight elevation on the side of the roadway where the three women were standing, they were able to peer down and observe this exchange. They saw at once to their horror that this was the Christ, the same formerly triumphant figure, so bruised and battered His facial features were almost unrecognizable. The blood was streaming into His eyes from some kind of fixture attached to His head. They gasped, as they realized He was wearing a crown woven out of sharp thorns. His body was covered with wounds, the skin of His shoulder so worn off that the shoulder bone could be seen when His poor robe slipped. The soldiers continued to scream and curse and threatened the crowd with whips to stand back, then relentlessly turned their whips over and over against the back of the Condemned. The mob pushed and shoved and watched with rabid curiosity, as well as relief that someone Else was suffering that heinous death penalty.
Suddenly, Veronica began the descent to the road and tried to push forward in an effort to break a path through the leering, screaming mass. Again and again she struggled with the lines of sweating bodies, six or seven deep, determined to get to the suffering Man, as her friends watched with astonishment. The crowd pushed her back with indignation and yelled insults at her, but she persevered, undaunted, searching for an opening in the wall of bystanders. She was shoved from side to side, which only seemed to increase her intent and her momentum as she refused to abandon her quest. At length she broke through to the very edge of the rocky path, to find Jesus exactly opposite her. Her eyes streaming with tears, she looked at Him, so rejected and scorned now by all. Yet even in His pitiful state, his body a mass of blood and bruises, His eyes revealed to her His kingship. She knew instinctively that with a mere exercise of His will, He could throw them all in defeat to the ground if He desired. (Did He not say to the apostles in the Garden, at the time of his arrest, that even then he could entreat His Father who would furnish him with more than 12 legions of angels?) But He did not exercise that power, rather He submitted Himself to the trial before Him.
Before anyone knew what she was doing, Veronica ripped off the veil that covered her own head. She acted so quickly no one could exercise any effort to stop her. They were indeed shocked at the sight of this young, beautiful woman, who had removed the customary veil, unheard of — and thus revealed herself and masses of her long, dark curls. She extended her arms to Him. Then she gently wiped His entire face with her veil, clearing it of blood and dirt. The two gazed at each other for scarcely an instant. Not a word was exchanged. Time was standing still, it seemed, when suddenly she was yanked backward by one of the guards, who hurled curses at her and threw her heedlessly into the crowd. She plunged to the ground, seeking to avoid the murderous and trampling feet of the mob. The crowd began to move on, ignoring this foolhardy woman. Gradually the whole parade passed. Her two companions, searching in fear for her, finally found her on the side of the path, scratched and dirty. “I am all right,” she told them to ease their minds, “but my heart is broken.”
Continued Tomorrow in Part 3