The Lord’s Most Holy Crown of Thorns

April 25, 2012

We adore your crown, Lord, alleluia, alleluia.  We recall your glorious triumph.  Alleluia.  With glory and honor you crowned him, Lord, alleluia.  You gave him power over the works of your hand, alleluia.

Christ Crowned with Thorns
Christ Crowned with Thorns by Fra Angelico
These words constitute the versicle that were used yesterday in the Dominican Rite’s Office for the feast of The Lord’s Most Holy Crown of Thorns.  In addition, the first part of this antiphon remains the invitatory antiphon in the current Dominican propers to the Divine Office on the Fridays of the Easter season.  But, why celebrate an instrument of the Passion during the Easter Season?  More will be said to explain this on May 4th when we look at the Order’s current celebration of the Votive Mass and Office of the Passion of the Lord, but for now, it’s interesting to note that the Order specifically celebrated a feast commemorating the Lord’s Crown of Thorns.  Why during the Easter season then, and why the Crown? The historical origins take us back to 1239 when St. Louis, King of France, sent two Dominican Friars, Stephen and James, to Constantinople.  The following year, they returned with the Crown of Thorns, for which St. Louis built Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.  He also then gave the friars some of the thorns from the Crown and asked the friars to celebrate the anniversary of its reception in the Sainte-Chapelle.  Soon after, about the middle of the 13th century, the friars added this anniversary to their calendar, on which it was celebrated until the 20th century. But, aside from historical origins, there is also a spiritual reason – the Paschal Mystery as a whole.  It is through Christ’s passion that our redemption is brought about.  Thus, during this season in which we commemorate our freedom from sin and death and our new life in Christ, it is a great privilege, and even a blessing, to celebrate a feast commemorating one of the instruments that brought about this gift. One of the antiphons at Lauds reads:

The thorns grow red with blood as they make Christ bleed; they cleanse the world from sin and open again the gates of heaven, alleluia.

This crown, that was used by men to mock the Lord, was used by the Lord to show men what true kingship is all about – sacrifice.  His love, displayed so vividly on the cross, appears even greater when we consider that He is the king who died for love of His subjects.  This crown of scorn, then, became a crown of glory for the King of Glory.  And thanks to the blood of Christ, some of which was shed by this glorious crown, the gates of heaven have been opened, and we can join the Eternal King, where He reigns from His throne, crowned in glory. Almighty God, we, who on earth, recall the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ by honoring his crown of thorns, beseech you that we may be worthy to be crowned with glory and honor in heaven, by him; who lives and reigns with you.  Amen.

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