As we start to settle into our ‘Lenten’ routine, of fasting, abstinence, and the Stations of the Cross on Fridays, let us add yet another traditional way to recognize the Lord and His immense suffering for us, with a special day set to honor His crown of thorns on this First Friday of Lent.
The Feast of the Crown of Thorns was instituted in France in 1239, when King St. Louis IX, recovered the relic of the Crown and brought it back to France where it was later placed at the Royal Chapel along with other relics of Our Lord’s Passion. It was celebrated throughout northern France on August 11th. The following century another festival of the Holy Crown was instituted on May 4th and was celebrated in parts of Spain, Germany and Scandinavia, along with the Feast of the Invention of the Cross. Several Dominican communities in Spain still observe this feast on April 24th.
In the Diocese of Freising in Bavaria a special feast was granted by Clement X in 1676 and then in 1689 Innocent XI granted a feast in honor of the Crown of Christ, which was celebrated on the second Friday of March. Then in 1831 it was adopted in Rome as a double major and observed in areas on the Friday following Ash Wednesday. As it was not celebrated throughout the universal Church, the Mass and Office are placed in the appendices to the Breviary and the Missal.
As we enter into Christ’s Passion this First Friday of Lent, let us contemplate not only the burdensome Cross He bore for us, but also, the crown of thorns they twisted together and fit Him with, on our account. From the Gospel we learn that the thorns sprang forth from the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, planted by the Devil, but grown long and sharp under a curse from God. A wise reflection from St. John Chrysostom states: “when God said to our fallen parents: Cursed is the earth in thy works, thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.” He intended to signify: thy conscience O sinner, shall never cease producing thorns and stings which will prick thy guilty soul.( St. John Chrysostom, Mark 10:19)
As we contemplate the life of Christ, we find that he was born into poverty and bore no resemblance to the royal King that He truly is. His whole mortal life was spent in the clothes of a sinner, and as a remedy for the sins of man, He drank daily, large doses of the disgusting potion that was squeezed from the hearts of corrupted, sinful men, that He was intended to save. Though this vessel was vast and deep…it could not contain the many sins of man, as they kept replenishing the sins every moment of every day. So Jesus, out of obligation to the Father, and because of His great love for us…made a most painful effort to drain it all at once with His most bitter passion. But that was still not enough! The sins of man were many! And in order to drain it completely, He offered to be completely emptied of His life’s Blood…every last drop of It. His Precious Blood would have to be squeezed from every pore of His Body to make up for the sins of man…to make up for our sins….and the crown of thorns was made.
That’s a difficult Truth to swallow…that we…you and I… are responsible for all the anguish, all the suffering…for that horrible crown of thorns! Fashioned by our own sinful hands…the thorns are a sign of our sins. Allowed to be placed there by a loving God. A God Who longs for us to make amends…Who longs for us to be saved from our sins. The Lord desires that each of us should be with Him in Heaven…and it is precisely because of this unfathomable love, that He took these sharp thorns upon His adorable head.
“In that day, the prophet Isaiah says, ‘The Lord of Hosts shall be a crown of glory, and a garland of joy to the residue of His people.” Isaiah 28:5
Saint Jerome says with reason “Through the merit of the thorny crown of Jesus’ head we have acquired a right to the diadem of the Heavenly Kingdom.”
With the crown of thorns, Jesus removed the curse and changed it into a blessing for mankind. In this way Our Lord Jesus Christ, diminished the quantity and the intensity of our temporal sufferings…through His anguish…His suffering…. His pain…he was able to transform it all into a blessing. With His immeasurable grace…He has opened for us, the doors to Heaven…our Eternal Reward!
Dear Lord, I am grieved when I consider Thy sad condition when Thou wore the Crown of Thorns upon Thy holy Head. I desire to withdraw the thorns by offering to the Eternal Father the merits of Thy Wounds for the salvation of sinners. I wish to unite my actions to the merits of Thy Most Holy Crown, so that they may gain many merits, as Thou hast promised. Amen.