And hence, when the chief priests gathered the scribes and elders of the people together to their council, and the minds of all the priests were occupied with the purpose of doing wrong to Jesus, the teachers of the law put themselves without the law, and by their own voluntary failure in duty abolished their ancestral ceremonies. For when the Paschal feast began, those who ought to have adorned the temple, cleansed the vessels, provided the victims, and employed a holier zeal in the purifications that the law enjoined, seized with the fury of traitorous hate, give themselves up to one work, and with uniform cruelty conspire for one crime, though they were doomed to gain nothing by the punishment of innocence and the condemnation of righteousness, except the failure to apprehend the new mysteries and the violation of the old. The chiefs, therefore, in providing against a tumult arising on a holy day, showed zeal not for the festival, but for a heinous crime; and their anxiety served not the cause of religion, but their own incrimination. For these careful pontiffs and anxious priests feared the occurrence of seditious riots on the principal feast-day, not lest the people should do wrong, but lest Christ should escape.
But Jesus, sure of His purpose and undaunted in carrying out His Father’s will, fulfilled the New Testament and founded a new Passover. For while the disciples were lying down with Him at the mystic Supper, and when discussion was proceeding in the hall of Caiaphas how Christ might be put to death, He, ordaining the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, was teaching them what kind of Victim must be offered up to God, and not even from this mystery was the betrayer kept away, in order to show that he was exasperated by no personal wrong, but had determined beforehand of his own free-will upon his treachery. For he was his own source of ruin and cause of perfidy, following the guidance of the devil and refusing to have Christ as director. And so when the Lord said, “Verily I say to you that one of you is about to betray Me,” He showed that His betrayer’s conscience was well known to Him, not confounding the traitor by harsh or open rebukes, but meeting him with mild and silent warnings that he who had never been sent astray by rejection, might the easier be set right by repentance. Why, unhappy Judas, do you not make use of so great long-suffering? Behold, the Lord spares your wicked attempts; Christ betrays you to none save yourself. Neither your name nor your person is discovered, but only the secrets of your heart are touched by the word of truth and mercy. The honour of the apostolic rank is not denied you, nor yet a share in the Sacraments. Return to your right mind; lay aside your madness and be wise. Mercy invites you, Salvation knocks at the door, Life recalls you to life. Lo, your stainless and guiltless fellow disciples shudder at the hint of your crime, and all tremble for themselves till the author of the treachery is declared. For they are saddened not by the accusations of conscience, but by the uncertainty of man’s changeableness; fearing lest what each knew against himself be less true than what the Truth Himself foresaw. But you abuse the Lord’s patience in this panic of the saints, and believest that your bold front hides you. You add impudence to guilt, and art not frightened by so clear a test. And when the others refrain from the food in which the Lord had set His judgment, you do not withdraw your hand from the dish, because your mind is not turned aside from the crime.
And thus it followed, dearly-beloved, that as John the Evangelist has narrated, when the Lord offered the bread which He had dipped to His betrayer, more clearly to point him out, the devil entirely seized Judas, and now, by his veritable act of wickedness, took possession of one whom he had already bound down by his evil designs. For only in body was he lying there with those at meat: in mind he was arming the hatred of the priests, the falseness of the witnesses, and the fury of the ignorant mob. At last the Lord, seeing on what a gross crime Judas was bent says, “What you do, do quickly.” This is the voice not of command but of permission, and not of fear but of readiness: He, that has power over all times, shows that He puts no hindrance in the way of the traitor, and carries out the Father’s will for the redemption of the world in such a way as neither to promote nor to fear the crime which His persecutors were preparing. When Judas, therefore, at the devil’s persuasion, departed from Christ, and cut himself off from the unity of the Apostolic body, the Lord, without being disturbed by any fear, but anxious only for the salvation of those He came to redeem, spent all the time that was free from His persecutors’ attack on mystic conversation and holy teaching, as is declared in St. John’s gospel: raising His eyes to heaven and beseeching the Father for the whole Church that all whom the Father had and would give the Son might become one and remain undivided to the Redeemer’s glory, and adding lastly that prayer in which He says, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” Wherein it is not to be thought that the Lord Jesus wished to escape the Passion and the Death, the sacraments of which He had already committed to His disciples’ keeping, seeing that He Himself forbids Peter, when he was burning with devoted faith and love, to use the sword, saying, “The cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” and seeing that that is certain which the Lord also says, according to John’s Gospel, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that everyone who believes in Him may not perish, but have eternal life” ; as also what the Apostle Paul says, “Christ loved us and gave Himself for us, a victim to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” For the saving of all through the Cross of Christ was the common will and the common plan of the Father and the Son; nor could that by any means be disturbed which before eternal ages had been mercifully determined and unchangeably fore-ordained. Therefore in assuming true and entire manhood He took the true sensations of the body and the true feelings of the mind. And it does not follow because everything in Him was full of sacraments, full of miracles, that therefore He either shed false tears or took food from pretended hunger or feigned slumber. It was in our humility that He was despised, with our grief that He was saddened, with our pain that He was racked on the cross. For His compassion underwent the sufferings of our mortality with the purpose of healing them, and His power encountered them with the purpose of conquering them. And this Isaiah has most plainly prophesied, saying, “He carries our sins and is pained for us, and we thought Him to be in pain and in stripes and in vexation. But He was wounded for our sins, and was stricken for our offenses, and with His bruises we are healed.”
St Leo the Great