In this month of the Rosary, take a moment to reflect on the Third Sorrowful Mystery.
I delivered my face to the strikers, My head to the crown of thorn.
I have been abandoned by all, My person alone amid scorn.
Tell Me, of all of your sorrows, is there one that I have not known? ~ Paul Claudel, Pentecostal Hymn
Is there a suffering we know that Christ has not known? In one sense, yes, since Christ has not experienced in his person every suffering of every human being. He was not, for example, shipwrecked. And yet, the breadth of Christ’s suffering shows us that he did experience, in a general sense, all of human suffering. He suffered from many tormentors: Jews and Gentiles, women and men, friends and those who despised him. It’s as if all of mankind was against the Lord.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him. Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head. (Matthew 27:27-30)
The suffering of Christ is so moving, not simply because of the number of persecutors who attack the Lord, but also because of the way Christ suffers. This mystery of the Rosary stresses that the Lord’s suffering was both psychological and physiological. Insults were hurled, even as the tines of a woven tiara pierced his battered head. With blasphemies and blows heaped upon the Lord, his suffering was real … violent … protracted … extreme.
Paul Claudel pinpoints the depth of agony the Lord endures saying,
The remarkable thing in the story of the passion is that no one wants Jesus Christ. He came, says St John to his own, and his own did not receive him. The Jews gave him over to the Gentiles, and the world of the Gentiles did not know what to do with him. Pilate tried to send Him back to Herod, but Herod wanted nothing to do with Him.
The very Word Incarnate stood before the masses, and they returned his words of truth and charity with aspersion and contempt.
It was not the first time God’s kingship had been rejected. Israel was meant to be God’s own possession: a holy nation, a kingdom of priests, a people set apart (Exodus 9:6). Yet, the sons and daughters of Israel approached the elderly prophet Samuel and demanded to be like other nations. They wanted a king. And what were the Lord’s words to Samuel in his grief? The Lord replied, “Listen to whatever the people say. You are not the one they are rejecting. They are rejecting me as their king” (1 Samuel 8:7). God permits his people to follow their own designs. And so it was that Israel fell victim to unjust and wicked kings. Israel’s own plans and desires become her torment.
God’s plan, though, was to send Christ, David’s heir, to rescue us from the slavery of self-rule. Born of the great king’s house in the city of Bethlehem, Christ is the king come to reconcile the nations and end the tyranny of mankind’s attempted autarchy. Reed, and cloak, and thorn speak greater truths than they know. Christ, the humble prince of the stable, now ascends the throne of the cross to render justice to every ruler and people. What crown jewels could rightly adorn this king?
During the month of October, Aleteia is offering a short reflection on each of the 20 mysteries of the Rosary. Follow it here.
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