The Crowning with Thorns
Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee,A Reading from the Holy Gospel According to St. Mark (15:16-20)
Blessed art thou amongst women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Garden of Eden, the first Adam disobeyed God, and lost not only paradise, but the life of grace within him, and consequently, we were born without that grace in us. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, chose to obey God through the coming suffering and death in order to bestow that lost grace on all who would obey Him in faith.
Adam's sin ultimately was one of pride--of doubting God's goodness and thinking that he himself knew better how to live. In the Incarnation, the King of the World came to earth as a man, and humbled Himself even to the point of death.
The punishment for Adam's pride was the loss of Paradise. No longer would life be easy, luscious, or restful, but work would become difficult. The ground itself became cursed by thorns that would prick and sting, and weeds would choke the life out of the good plants making harvest less bountiful. In Jesus' humble Passion, those same weeds and thorns would be woven into a mocking, painful crown in order to ridicule His rightful kingship.
If the Earth was cursed with thorns due to the sin of man, then it is of course necessary that Jesus' Passion would recapitulate that curse as well. The thorns that would prick all of us in our labours would pierce His brow in the Labour for which He purposed to be born. Adam's pride in the end led him to attempt to cover his shame with leaves. Jesus' humility caused belligerent guards to crown His stooped Head with the thorns. When the King of Kings came to earth, the only bed He received was an animal's feeding trough, and the only regalia He was afforded was a sarcastic, violent, and painful coronation.
In the soldiers' attempt to be ironic, the ultimate irony was lost on them. In crowning Jesus with thorns to mock Him, they inadvertently bestowed upon Him the most fitting crown and the highest honour a soldier could hope for: the corona obsidionalis.
Wikipedia describes the crown thus:
The Grass Crown or Blockade Crown (Latin: corona obsidionalis or corona graminea) was the highest and rarest of all military decorations in the Roman Republic and early Roman empire. It was presented only to a general or commander who broke the blockade around a beleaguered Roman army, thus saving a legion or the entire army. The crown was made from plant materials taken from the battlefield, including grasses, flowers, weeds, and various cereals, such as wheat; it was presented to the general by the army he had saved.At the Fall of Man, Adam turned coward and gave into the temptation to pride that the Serpent presented. In doing so, he gave humanity over to imprisonment to our concupiscence, cut off from God's Grace. Into this spiritual POW camp, this occupied territory, came the Redeemer and Saviour of the world, who through His complete obedience to the Father, through His Passion and Death, defeated the power of sin and Satan, and, setting us free from sin, "He went up to the heights, took captives, / He gave gifts to humanity" (Ephesians 4:8, citing Psalm 68:18).
The world after the Fall--the battlefield for our souls--was cursed by thorns. And it was of those same thorns that the guards wove a corona obsidionalis for our great Commander-in-Chief who has come to rescue us all. Or in the words of one of my favourite hymns:
See from His head, His hands, His feet,As we meditate on Jesus, crowned with thorns, may we, as the hymn concludes, give Him our souls, our lives, and our all. Amen.
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?--When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
(Category: Catholic Devotions: The Rosary.)