The Crowning with Thorns

 The Third Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary:

This is indeed the Year of the Holy Spirit. By happy “coincidence” the Sunday cycle of Scripture includes the Gospel of Saint Luke, who more than any other Synoptic Gospel mentions the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Holy Spirit fills the Lord Jesus and moves him into the wilderness to experience the three temptations while in prayer. From all eternity this Christ, Our God, is crowned with the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Holy Spirit hovers over him from the moment he is eternally begotten. Can we see the Holy Spirit as a crown?

How do we crown Him now? Do we deny Him, or simply show indifference?

Do we truly seek Him out? The mockery of this pain inflicting crowning, asks us how we crown Our Savior. In this decade we pray for all people who suffer under oppression and persecution. We pray for those who suffer humiliation and rejection everyday and are truly one with Christ Our King. We pray in reparation to The Father, for the forgiveness of our sins, and the sins of the whole world; indeed, these sins are the thorns of the crown placed on the sacred head of our King.

Our Father

1. The soldiers now led Jesus away into the hall known as the Praetorium; at the time they assembled the whole cohort. (Mk. 15:16)

Hail Mary

Thorns crown the unity of the whole cohort. This assembly is there to welcome the True King. The spirit of the emperor anoints this gathering in the Praetorium, but the Spirit of God gathers them together to welcome the True King. Indeed, it is the power of the Holy Spirit that anoints with the oil of gladness. They are glad to do the will of the Roman Emperor, but the true gladness of heart comes from serving The King who is humbled in their sight. The Praetorium is the antechamber for Calvary. Here the whole cohort gathers to cause him pain. To reject him in public seems their delight. To scorn him in public seems the popular thing to do. Yet, this assembly of soldiers and those with political power do not know what they do, and on his throne he asks the Father to forgive them. For them and for us, Christ is crowned and enthroned. For them and for us, Christ crowns us with the Holy Spirit and enthrones us upon the Holy Cross. Is there any greater gladness? Can there be any fuller joy? Is this not what we have been called to in the sacrifice of our monastic consecration? Is not the cross of monastic life the cross and crown of our lives as monks and nuns? Glory Be

2. They dressed Him in royal purple, then wove a crown of thorns and put it on Him. (Mk. 15:17)

Hail Mary

The soldiers dressed Christ in royal purple and the Holy Spirit dressed Christ in glory. He gave up his glory, his doxa, so that he could take on our flesh, and He gave us his flesh, and blood, and soul, and divinity. God became man so that man could become god. Christ is divine by nature; we are divine by sharing in his divine nature. This royal exchange is anticipated by the clothing in royal purple. Removing his home spun tunic and dressing Him in the color and cloth of royalty is an ironic presentation of what Christ is doing so that we can claim our divinity by sharing in his divinity, hidden in his sacrificial humanity. After dressing the Christ in a color of cloth that was so rare and so expensive that only royalty could afford it, they wove him a crown of thorns and placed it upon his head. Such a gesture of mockery only highlights the movement of the Holy Spirit in all of human history. The Spirit of God is upon, within, above, around, opposite, and beneath the actions of these soldiers. They only perceive the external events. Most of us only perceive the externals of life. They are just having fun laughing at “the pretend king”. They are just echoing the laughter of the great and powerful emperor and all his empire. How dare these Jews rebel against the all-powerful Roman Emperor? Don’t they know they have no king but Caesar? Yet, the Holy Spirit inspires Saint Mark to write down and say out loud that the suffering Lord Jesus is more of a king than anyone crowned with gold and clothed in purple. Does the same Holy Spirit enable our vision of those given power in our world, or in our community? Do we see those over us in the light of this crowning with thorns and with the crowning with glory? Glory Be

3. They began to salute Him, All hail! King of the Jews (Mk. 15:18)

Hail Mary

As with any royal procession, any crowning with gold, the crowd shouts and cries aloud with great jubilation. The cheerleaders for the crowd this day are the soldiers of the cohort. The soldiers cry out and the crowds join in: “All hail! King of the Jews.” The spirit of the moment stirred up the crowds who had just a week before shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!” Indeed the Holy Spirit has these soldiers reveal in their choice of words, a truth they were not ready to hear. Indeed, even the Jews are not ready to receive their True King, the Faithful Son of David. Indeed, these pagan soldiers prophesy. They are proclaiming the truth they do not yet understand. However, one of them will be moved by the same Holy Spirit to cry out after his death, “Truly this man is the Son of God!” Indeed, the Holy Spirit reveals and conceals the true King. “Who is the king of glory?” Indeed, his glory is hidden in his agony. His agony and death reveal his true glory. The gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to cry out: Hail! Or Holy! Or Hosanna! Without the Holy Spirit we too would be as clueless as the Roman Soldiers and all who joined in with them to proclaim, “All hail! King of the Jews!” Indeed, he is the only king of the New Israel. Him we salute and Him we follow, all the way to hang upon the cross with a crown of thorns! Glory Be

4. Continually striking Jesus on the head with a reed and spitting at Him, they genuflected before Him and pretended to pay Him homage (Mk. 15:19)

Hail Mary

The breath of the Holy Spirit inspires all prayer. Every act of worship in spirit and in truth is the result of the movement of the Holy Spirit. At this moment in our meditation upon the crowning with thorns we remember that, “they genuflected before Him and pretended to pay Him homage.” The soldiers were engaged in false worship. They were mocking the royal dignity of the Christ, crowned with thorns. However, we never engage in such worship. We are never moved by a malevolent spirit to mock the Christ. Our worship is always Spirit lead and completely authentic. We would never strike the Lord Jesus on the head, on that head already crowned with thorns. Of course, we could not even imagine spitting at the Lord Jesus. Yet, what is our sin? What is our harsh judgment of our fellow sisters and brothers? How do we pretend to worship all the while hating those with whom we take Holy Communion? Have we ever asked for the forgiveness of our trespasses without ever intending to forgive that cruel and mean sister who only has criticism for us? With what resentment toward our superior do we lift up our voices in song to the Lord of All? What hidden resentment do we nurture in our hearts even for those who never attend our office or our mass? Are there any wounds we savor or lack of forgiveness we resolve while we seem to be listening to the Word of God? Such painful questions arise as we remember the Christ who was crowned with the glory of his suffering. Indeed, the Holy Spirit moves us through meditation on the crowning with thorns and moves us to seek repentance for our participation in his crowning that continues in our communities and in our hearts. Glory Be

5. Pilate said to the crowd, “Observe what I do. I am going to bring Him out to you to make you realize that I find no case against Him.” (John 19:4)

Hail Mary

Pilate’s words still echo in our meditation: “Observe what I do”, or perhaps he was saying, “Behold my power”. I have just had him flogged. By my power as the representative of the Roman Emperor, I have subjected this rebel to the standard punishment for such a rabble-rouser. Pilate is trying to manipulate the crowd. He wants them to see themselves in Christ. This is what we will do to any of you who threaten the absolute authority of the Emperor. So just be humble like this so-called messiah and do not cause any trouble. For those of you who hate him, I show you a thorn crowned and humiliated man—this should please you. For those of you who love him, I show you a faithful and obedient man who refuses to deny his identity or his mission—this should inspire you. Now, everyone in the crowd should be happy. All parties should calm down and walk away now that Pilate has satisfied the diverse factions in this crowd. This may have worked if Pilate would not have continued to say; “I am going to bring Him out to you to make you realize that I find no case against Him.” Who else but the Holy Spirit could have inspired this powerful and fearful tyrant to proclaim the truth of Christ’s innocence? With his words he wants to wash his hands clean of the blood of the Crucified Lord. Is it enough for us in monastic life to just proclaim that we find no case against one another? Don’t we have to go beyond this act of disclaimer? Perhaps words are not enough in our relationships. Perhaps our lack of action is louder than our words of innocence. Glory Be

6. When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak, Pilate said to them, “Look at the Man!” (John 19:5)

Hail Mary

Perhaps Pilate wanted them to see what he saw—the Man. See what your jealousy, fear, and hardness of heart has done to this Christ. He’s a man; he’s just a man. So they have sung over the years. Pilate saw more and the more he saw frightened him. His wife warned him to do no harm to this man because she had a dream about him. Pilate saw no reason to have him executed, but he could not, not have him flogged. Pilate seems to have been afraid of the Lord Jesus. There is something in his confidence, security, and peace that disturbs even Pilate. The Holy Spirit inspired him to cry out the truth of his humanity—a beaten and broken humanity, yet strong and courageous none-the-less. His crown of thorns and his purple cloak are mentioned even in the Gospel of Saint John. Even Saint John is in awe and wonder that the minions of the False King and Lord, Caesar, mock the True King and Lord of all. Does the Man in all his suffering inspire us? Do we see his innocence? Do we see his true dignity? Can we glimpse the glory bright on the face of the one so cruelly treated? Only the Holy Spirit can give us eyes of faith to behold the Man and see the utter generosity of the Living God shining on the face of the Christ. Glory Be

7. As soon as the chief priests and the temple guards saw Him they shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him” (Jn19:6)

Hail Mary

Before the crowds can see the horror or the love, the chief priests and the temple guards shout out “Crucify Him!” They don’t want the crowd to be swayed by the rhetorical move of Pilate. They don’t want the crowd to recognize the humanity of the one they want condemned. It’s too dangerous for them to wait; the crowd is so fickle. They might be moved to compassion. So, they shout at the top of their voice! Have we gazed in prayer upon this scene long enough to have our hearts moved by the Holy Spirit? Are we able to hear our own voice saying what the leaders, the guards, and eventually the crowd cried out? When we read this Gospel on Good Friday, the text assigned to the whole congregation is this very condemnation. Most believers find it difficult to read these words, sometimes just to whisper them is too much. Yet, do we not cry out again and again—take him away! Get him out of my sight! He’s too much for me to behold! Let the oppressive government take care of him! Only the Holy Spirit can give us the strength to hear in our own hearts the echoes of our own voices. We too find the revelation of divinity in the suffering flesh of humanity all together too much! Glory Be

8. “Why, what crime has He committed?” asked Pilate. They only shouted the louder, “Crucify Him!” (Mk15:14)

Hail Mary

The charges brought up against the Lord Jesus were of no concern to Pilate. He could care less that the Lord Jesus violate the Sabbath or prophesied the destruction of the temple or that he was a condemned blasphemer. The last person you would expect to try to be reasonable and just is this Roman Representative, Pilate. Perhaps the Holy Spirit was present and active even in the laws and traditions of an oppressive and greedy government. Perhaps Pilate was inspired by the Holy Spirit to slow down this mob that was forming. “What crime has He committed?” But the crowd was already decided. They wanted him crucified. Silence the voice of this one who challenges us to live up to the Covenant. Keep his prophetic voice quiet. We don’t want to hear another message from the LORD God. How do we answer Pilate? What crime has the Lord Jesus committed? Perhaps love is the only answer to this question. He has loved us too much. He loves everyone too much. He loves without hesitation and without regret. He loves unconditionally and faithfully. This love is too much; it demands too much of a response. How can we possibility respond to the love so divine and so compelling? It is just this love that moves Pope Benedict to speak the truth, even when no one wants to hear it. He speaks the words of truth in love and this invites his listeners to be free—truly free. Glory Be

9. Pilate said to the Jews, “Look at your King.” (Jn19:14)

Hail Mary

No longer does Pilate invite the crowd to look at the Man. Now, he summons them to “Look at your King.” The Holy Spirit proclaims a truth here that Pilate could never have accepted, much less announced. Perhaps this politically correct governor is trying to move the hearts of the leaders to reconsider their condemnation. Surely they do not want to be responsible for the historical account to place the death of their messiah-king into the hands of the chief priests and the temple guards. Look your king is powerless and humiliated; surely you want to remove such a king from the public forum. He is an embarrassment to your whole nation. Or perhaps the cruel and cynical Pilate is saying to the whole crowd, this is what happens when you rely upon your legends about a messiah to motivate you. Do not even go there. You cannot threaten the Empire. You have no king but Caesar! This is your king, a broken, a powerless, and a rejected man is your king. You will have no chance at rebellion. Give it up now! Come to your senses! This king of yours will not secure your future greatness; such a king cannot guarantee even your political independence. Bow down now in homage to the Emperor of Rome and the Lord of the known world. Tremble before his awesome authority stretching so far over the earth. Even now the Holy Spirit moves our hearts to say to Pilate and every other tyrant upon the face of the earth: Look at your King—Jesus the one whom you crucified—behold his unspeakable love and mercy by which he reigns supreme at this moment and unto the ages of ages. Glory Be

10. In the end, Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified (Jn19:16)

Hail Mary

What else could he do? Pilate, the representative of the all-powerful Roman Empire, was manipulated by the Jewish leadership. The chief priests, the temple guard, and the crowd demanded that he be crucified. Pilate could not stop it, even though he told the Lord Jesus that he had power over life and death. Pilate was as much a puppet as were the Jewish leadership. In the end it’s all about Rome. Keeping the Emperor happy was the whole point from beginning to end. The governor did not want a bad reputation to get worse. The priests did not want the Empire to fear their messiah-king, and crush them utterly. Indeed, it takes the Holy Spirit to enlighten our perspective on the death of the Lord Jesus, so that we can see beyond mere socio-political motivations, and historical conditions. We can see in faith that the Lord Jesus is truly the great high priest offering a perfect sacrifice of praise. The King Jesus is letting himself be humiliated and crowned with thorns to reveal his true dignity and real power. Such a Spirit filled perspective on the crucified king enables us to glimpse the glory of uniting our suffering with the Lord Jesus and sharing in his Kingdom with all those who humiliated him and nailed him to the cross. Glory Be