The Title on the Cross

A Lenten Reflection for Palm Sunday from Holy Cross Publications


My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

The Title on the Cross.

Amid enthusiastic acclamations of joy on the part of the populace, who salute Him as King of the Jews, Jesus to-day makes His entry into Jerusalem. A few days later this King of the Jews hangs in the sight of all, pilloried upon the cross, His regal title being the only crime for which He is tortured and put to death. “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews,” is inscribed in three languages upon the cross. It is related of a well-known Religious, that when upon his death-bed he took the superscription that was on the cross in his hands, fixed his gaze upon it, and thus looking upon it expired. Do you also, my soul, turn your eyes to-day upon that title, and consider:

1st. The word “Jesus.” It is Jesus who hangs upon the cross. Thus involuntarily His enemies bear testimony to Him. The superscription is to be read by every one, and every one may learn from it that this Individual, about whom there is nothing striking, crucified between two malefactors, is Jesus, the Saviour of mankind. Yes, it is as a Saviour, not as a criminal, that He hangs upon the cross, for no crime could be imputed to Him. The first time that this name was given to Him was when His blood was first shed at the circumcision, when He gave a pledge and earnest that later on He would fully merit that title by His death upon the cross; for on the cross He shed His blood to the very last drop, shed it because “He became obedient, even to the death of the cross”; and for this cause, St. Paul adds, “God also hath exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above all names; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow.”(Phil. ii. 8.) Consequently the name of Jesus is a glorious title for Him who is crucified, and for us a word full of sweetness—as sweet as it was for the penitent thief, who not only read the superscription, but made experience of its truth, since the Sufferer crucified at his side proved in truth for him a “Saviour.”

2d. Consider the second word of the superscription: “Nazarenus,” the Nazarene. By this Pilate meant to indicate the place whence He came, but unintentionally the Roman governor bore a fresh and glorious witness to the Lord by assigning this title to Him, for the word Nazarene signifies one who is fair and beauteous. But how can Jesus be said to be beauteous, He who is pale and withered like a dried-up flower, who is devoid of all bright color and beauty of form? And yet, my soul, this One who is despised and crucified is a tree rich in fairest blossoms, for He is the tree of life, whose fruit is immortality. Look upon this new tree of life, planted in the paradise of the bitter Passion of your Lord. Its root is the deepest humility, the most holy poverty; the rough bark is the toil and torment that He underwent for our salvation; the branches of the tree are His holy doctrines which He has disseminated throughout the whole world; its beauteous blossoms are His sacred innocence and purity; the height of the tree is His wondrous love, its fruits are the glorious graces which He bestows on us. That tree is watered and rendered fruitful and bright with blossoms this day, when Jesus of Nazareth hangs upon the cross, a lovely flower, white and crimson; white in the ghastly pallor of death, tinged with the crimson of His precious blood.

3d. Consider the final clause of the title: “King of the Jews.”This title was given to Him in mockery, but unwittingly His enemies spoke the truth. For this Crucified One is indeed a king. To all appearances He has no throne but a cross of shame, no palace but the place of execution; His courtiers are two malefactors and His regal table gall and vinegar. Yet He is in very truth a king, only His kingdom is not of this world. See how gloriously this King reigns from the cross! At the moment on which He expired the rocks were rent, the veil of the temple was torn from the top to the bottom, the dead were called forth from their graves. A far more powerful Ruler than any prince of this world, from the cross He overthrows Satan’s kingdom, and establishes the kingdom of God, the limits of which are the boundaries of the earth, and of which the duration is to all eternity. And He is the King of the Jews, not of the carnal descendants of the faithful Abraham, but of the spiritual children of those who are true Judeans, that is confessors; who with the penitent thief confess their sins and by their good works show whose disciples they are. Look to it, my soul, that you are in word and deed a true Judean, a confessor of Jesus Christ, for He is your King; and then you will one day make your solemn entry into the heavenly Jerusalem with Him, Jesus of Nazareth, eternally fair and beauteous above all the sons of men.


My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

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4 Responses to The Title on the Cross

  1. Crow says:

    What about the amazing thing regarding the three languages – Greek, Latin and Hebrew. John described in some detail that the Jews asked Pilate to change the inscription to ‘He said that He was King of the Jews’ and he replied ‘What is written, is written.’
    In Hebrew, the initials of those words spells ‘YHWY’.
    I also find it extraordinary that the reason why Golgotha was so called (‘place of the skull’), was that Jewish lore held that the skull of Adam was buried there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. johnhenrycn says:

    I’m no theologian, philosopher or logician, but discussing biblical translations brings to mind the opening declaration by God in the OT reading from 3 Sundays ago – specifically Ex. 3:14 –

    Rheims-Douay: I AM WHO AM
    Knox version: I am the God who IS
    (NRSV, New Jerusalem, NIV, Book of Mormon 🙂

    I believe our Pope (Benedict XVI) likes RSV-CE, as do some Missal publishers, as does also Popeye The Sailor Man
    …but whilst finding Douay-Rheims not as much to my literary liking as KJV (much less RSV-CE) I think the Douay-Rheims version of God’s identity to be the most deeply existential one – and the one I have struggled most deeply with all of my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. johnhenrycn says:

    Rheims-Douay…Douay-Rheims. All of a piece, but sorry for the mix-up. I think of a friend, MCMXIV (or something like) – from Preston, Lancs. – who used to blog on Damian Thompson’s Telegraph Holy Smoke site. He, MCMXIV (or some such) – a cradle Catholic – once called it Rheims-Douay instead of Douay-Rheims. I (convert) corrected him, but he took it like a man.


  4. kathleen says:

    … the reason why Golgotha was so called (‘place of the skull’), was that Jewish lore held that the skull of Adam was buried there.

    Fascinating, Crow! I remember hearing this traditionally held belief somewhere before, but its full meaning often escapes us and yet should be better known.

    As St Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:45–49: The first man (Adam) was from the earth, a man of dust; the second Man (or second ‘Adam’) is from Heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust; and as is the Man of Heaven, so also are those who are of Heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the Man of Heaven. Jesus is the second Adam as the one who came to bring life, and it is through Jesus that sin’s condemning power is broken, offering new life and eternal life through Him.


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