Saturday, April 8, 2017

Courage and the Crown of Thorns

Like many Catholics, I grew up praying the Rosary, murmuring decades of Hail Marys interspersed with Our Fathers and Glory Bes as I thought about the events in Christ's life (or, let's be honest, as I thought about completely different topics when I got distracted). At some point a few years back, I was introduced to the practice of naming a "fruit of the mystery" at the beginning of each decade. According to one article, "Each mystery is commonly associated with a particular virtue or fruit which may be understood more deeply, desired and sought in praying that mystery." 

As I learned what different "fruits" for the mysteries of the Rosary were, and as I started announcing them for each decade, I started to think about some of these fruits in relation to their associated mystery. For example, "The First Joyful Mystery is the Annunciation. The fruit of this mystery is humility." Makes sense, right? Mary's humble fiat and acceptance of God's plan for her life is a shining example of humility. But one "fruit" has kept me thinking long and hard over the past couple of years. 

"The Third Sorrowful Mystery is the Crowning of Jesus with thorns. The fruit of the mystery is courage."


Sure, meditating on courage makes sense when thinking about Christ's Passion in general. It was more horrible and difficult than we can comprehend! But why would courage be specifically associated with the Crown of Thorns? I have asked myself this question numerous times, bringing it to prayer and thinking deeply as I meditate pray this decade.  

I've thought about how we often talk about making the conscious decision to "pick up our crosses" or to "keep carrying the cross in our life." With sayings like these, I think about our little crosses as being trials or inconveniences that we choose to pick up and bear, or that we choose to keep carrying. But, when it comes to Christ's crowning with thorns, a different image comes forth. 

Sometimes, we think of the Crown of Thorns as this itty bitty, delicate little circlet placed on Christ's head. Yet, this kid-friendly illustration that I've seen before does not encompass what Christ's crowning with thorns was like. As Dr. C. Truman Davis writes, "Flexible branches covered with long thorns (commonly used in bundles for firewood) are plaited into the shape of a crown and this is pressed into His scalp " Big, long, sharp thorns being pushed into His head, Christ's Crown of Thorns was no dainty object. As I reflect on Christ's crowning, I think about how this mystery of the Rosary relates to my life-and why courage is a fruit associated with it. While Christ picked up His cross and carried it, the Crown of Thorns was pushed onto his head by others and stuck there, continually piercing Him. 

I have crosses in my life that I can choose to carry or try to ignore, but how do I unite myself with Christ, crowned with thorns? 

I think about those sufferings which I do not choose to "take up and carry;" those trials that are pushed onto me by others or by certain circumstances. Those painful headaches at the end of a long and tiring day when I want nothing more than to sleep alone, but I have to press on for many more hours. I think about those who are faced with chronic illness, who have this "crown" pushed onto their heads that they cannot escape from. We may not experience a Crown of Thorns as horrific and painful as the one Christ wore, but we have our own problems and trials that were pressed onto our lives-so we courageously unite ourselves to our crowned Savior. 

We need courage to endure, to press on and persevere in the face of an unrelenting trial. We need courage to joyfully sing God's praises when every bone in our bodies and section in our souls wail in pain. We need courage to look beyond the piercing, searing pain of our crowns and see the Resurrection and the glory of God that awaits us. 

Look to our Lord, crowned with thorns and dripping in blood, and unite yourself to Him. And ask Him for the courage to endure whatever painful circumstance has been pushed onto your life that you cannot step away from and ignore.  

"The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the Redemption. Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished. He is called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has also been redeemed. In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ." ~St. John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris

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