February 19, 2021: SACRED CROWN OF THORNS
February 19, 2021: THE SACRED CROWN OF THORNS
[Friday after Ash Wednesday]
“And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon
his head, and a reed in his right hand. And bowing the knee before him, they mocked him, saying: Hail, king of the Jews. And spitting upon him, they took the reed, and struck his head.”
(St. Matth, xxvii. 29, 30)
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who in memory of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ venerate upon earth his crown of thorns, may deserve to be crowned by him in heaven with glory and honour. Who liveth and reigneth, world without end. Amen.
The Crowning of Thorns.
The derisive coronation with thorns took place in the inner court-yard of the guard-house, which latter was situated over the dungeons at one side of the forum, and was surrounded by a colonnade, beneath which the entrance-doors now stood open. About fifty vile-minded wretches were engaged in crowning and mocking Jesus: Soldier servants, jail servants, slaves, hangmen and scourgers. At first the multitude tried to get in, but were kept back by a company of a thousand Roman soldiers who soon surrounded the building. Arrayed in rank and file, they stood there mocking and laughing, and thus encouraging the torturers, as spectators would encourage actors, to do their utmost in making Jesus suffer.
They had trundled the base of an old column to the middle of the court. In the center of this base there was a hole, wherein probably the column once had rested. Upon this they fastened a round foot-stool, which had a handle behind to grip it by, and maliciously brewed the seat with sharp-pointed stones and pieces of crockery.
Again they tore away all that covered His torn and mangled body, and threw on Him a soldier's cloak, old, red-colored, tattered, and so short that it did not even reach His knees. The last shreds of what had once been yellow tassels still clung in places to the old cloak. It was kept in the hangman's office purposely for criminals after scourging, either to absorb the blood from their bodies or to dress them out for mockery. And now they dragged Jesus to the stool, and brought His wounded body heavily down upon its layer of sharp stones and potsherds. Hereupon they proceeded to crown Him with thorns.
This crown was about six inches high, densely intertwined, and with a projecting border on top. They wrapped it like a bandage round His forehead, and tied it tight behind His head so that it formed a crown-like hat of thorns. It was composed of three thorny shrubs, each as thick as a finger. They were strong young shoots fresh from the thicket, and the thorns on them had nearly all been purposely bent inwards. The thorns were of three kinds, corresponding to our buckthorns, blackthorns and hawthorns. The branch which composed the border on top, by which they grasped and jerked the crown, was taken from a bush something like our blackberry bushes.—I saw the place where the fellows went to get the thorns.
Hereupon they pressed into His hand a thick reed-cane with a bushy top. All this was done with derisive solemnity, just as if they were really crowning Him king. They took the cane from His hand, and struck it violently down upon the crown, so that His blood welled up into His eyes. They bent the knee before Him, stretched out their tongues against Him, spat in His face, struck Him, shouting in the meantime: "All hail. King of the Jews!" They knocked over the stool, and Him with it, then set it aright and forced Him upon it again, guffawing derisively mean-while. Alas, I cannot repeat all the vile-minded tricks invented by these wretches to mock Our Lord. He had such an awful thirst! His brutal laceration at the column had brought on a wound-fever. He was all a tremble, His sides were here and there torn open to the ribs, His tongue convulsively shrunken and contracted, and His only alleviation was the down-dripping blood from His sacred head, which flowed mercifully into the scorching heat of His mouth kept open by gasping exhaustion. But those fearful wretches made His holy mouth a mark for their sickening spittle. Thus the scene went on for about half an hour, while the rank and file of the cohort that had surrounded the guard-house stood there with loud-shouting laughter and applause.
The thorn-crown on His head, the reed-scepter in His manacled hands, and clothed in the scarlet rag, Jesus was led again into Pilate's palace. Blood filled His eyes, stained His mouth, clogged His beard and made Him unrecognizable. He reeled painfully along, His whole body one mass of stripes and wounds, looking like a blood-soaked piece of cloth. The wretched mantle was so short that He bent forwards to let it cover Him better. All His other clothing had been torn from Him.
Glory be to thy patience, O Lord!