A Lenten Reflection for Monday after the Fourth Sunday in Lent from Holy Cross Publications
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Crowning with Thorns.
To-day, my soul, in sorrow of spirit place before you that sad scene in our Lord’s Passion of which the Church reminds us in the third sorrowful mystery of the Rosary: the crowning with thorns. The soldiers and servants of the high priest drag our Lord, who has not yet recovered from the terribly painful scourging, on to a seat; then they place the cruel crown of thorns upon His head and drive the sharp spikes deep into His sacred temples, causing Him exquisite anguish. Look, my soul, at this picture of misery! There sits Jesus, tormented with burning thirst in consequence of the loss of blood He has sustained, still quivering from the force of the blows inflicted on Him, His flesh torn and mangled, His parched lips open, moistened only by the drops of blood slowly trickling down from His thorn-crowned brow, faint and exhausted, panting for breath.
1st. Consider that in common with all the pains our Lord endured, the crowning with thorns had in the first place an intercessory virtue. Man is in his rightful character a king, the lord of creation. But his claim to kingly dignity has become a mockery, a caricature because of sin, which made him, who is the lord of nature, its slave. It is on account of this that our Lord, the great Mediator of humanity, now figures in the character of a king whose royal majesty is but a jest and a mockery, whose diadem is an ignominious crown of thorns. In this character He pleads for mercy with His heavenly Father and seeks to move His divine heart to compassion on behalf of man, who has fallen into such deep degradation. Ponder this seriously, my soul, ponder it with grief; think how utterly you have fallen from your regal dignity; think what powerful intercession, what painful atonement is needed to regain for you the celestial crown which you have lost. Learn also of Jesus to intercede for your unhappy fellow men, and pre-eminently to be diligent in the more painful intercession consisting in mortification and self-denial.
2d. Consider that in common with all the sufferings our Lord endured, the crowning with thorns had an expiatory virtue. The thorns were not pressed into His temples merely in mockery, but to cause Him injury and pain. Think, my soul, if a single thorn which has run into your foot will cause you a sleepless night, what terrible pain must result from a crown composed entirely of sharp thorns pressed down upon the head! Thus grievously Jesus had to atone for the pride wherewith men place glittering crowns of gold upon their head, thus bitterly He had to expiate the laudatory speeches, the flatteries, the distinctions we covet so eagerly, and accept with such delight. O my soul, if ever you feel within you a tendency to pride and vanity, turn your thoughts immediately to your thorn-crowned Saviour; think of the painful atonement He made for your pride, and it is to be hoped that you will refrain from weaving a fresh crown of thorns for His aching, bleeding brow, by indulging a spirit of arrogance.
3d. Consider that in common with all His other suffering, our Lord’s crowning with thorns is an example for our encouragement. It may well be that life often appears to you hard and difficult, your state in life sad and dreary, the burden of suffering may seem to weigh upon you too heavily; but would you have your head crowned with roses when that of our Lord is pierced with thorns? In the hour of pusillanimity, of impatience, look into this mirror. Look upon the sacred countenance of your Lord; observe the profound sorrow that characterizes it. The treachery of Judas, the fall of Peter have already graven lines of inexpressible grief on those sacred features; the agony on Mount Olivet, the exhaustion produced by the terrible scourging have left their disfiguring traces on that countenance whereon the angels delight to gaze. Now it is yet more frightfully defaced by the unspeakable torture caused by the thorns, the burning pain in that sacred head. In the sight of suffering so acute, can you, my soul, murmur and complain? Do you not rather feel yourself urged to exclaim with one of the saintly daughters of St. Francis: “More suffering, O Lord, more suffering!”
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.