And platting a crown of thorns they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand. And bowing the knee before him, they mocked him, saying: Hail, king of the Jews (Matthew 27:29).
(Jesus therefore came forth, bearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment.) And he [Pilate] saith to them: Behold the Man (John 19:5).
The Friday after Ash Wednesday is dedicated to the Crown of Thorns. Our Blessed Savior prophesied the major details of His Passion on several occasions to His Apostles. I list them as follows:
(Mark 8:31): And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the ancients and by the high priests, and the scribes, and be killed: and after three days rise again.
(Mark 9:30): And he taught his disciples, and said to them: The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise again the third day.
Then, also in Mark, Jesus repeats with more detail: Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be betrayed to the chief priests, and to the scribes and ancients, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles. And they shall mock him, and spit on him, and scourge him, and kill him: and the third day he shall rise again (10:33-34).
(Matthew 16:21): From that time Jesus began to shew to his disciples, that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the ancients and scribes and chief priests, and be put to death, and the third day rise again.
(Matthew 17:22): Jesus said to them: The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall rise again. And they were troubled exceedingly.
And, later, in Matthew, with more detail: And Jesus going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples apart, and said to them: Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be betrayed to the chief priests and the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death. And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified, and the third day he shall rise again (Matthew 20:17-19).
(Matthew 26: 1-2): And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended all these words, he said to his disciples: You know that after two days shall be the pasch, and the son of man shall be delivered up to be crucified.
(Luke 9:22): The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the ancients and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day rise again.
(Luke 18:31-33): Then Jesus took unto him the twelve, and said to them: Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things shall be accomplished which were written by the prophets concerning the Son of man. For he shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and scourged, and spit upon: And after they have scourged him, they will put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again.
In John’s Gospel, during the Last Supper, Our Lord foretells the betrayal of Judas, and as they finished the Passover and were leaving the Cenacle, He foretold the abandonment of the Twelve leaving Him alone in Gethsemane, and the denials of Peter. He speaks to the Twelve of His Passion as well at this time but using the word glorification, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him” (13:31).
Have you noticed that in all of these passages there is no word of Jesus speaking of His Crown of Thorns? I have been wondering why. Being mocked and scourged and spit upon and, finally, crucified, are all foretold, but no word about this most pathetic and excruciatingly painful insult accompanied, as it was, with reviling mockery from the cruel, pagan band. It is as if Our Savior could not bear to reveal this indignity to His Apostles. Only John would see it, for he was there when the soldiers brought Jesus back to Pilate bearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment. He was there when Pilate said to the Jews: “Behold the Man.” He was there, too, with Our Lady beneath the Crowned Crucified, with the script written above His barbed diadem in three languages, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Our King accepted this Crown rather than no crown at all.
Some of the Fathers of the Church comment upon the thorn being a symbol of sin. Saint Paul himself, alluding to Genesis, calls it a curse: “But that which bringeth forth thorns and briers, is reprobate, and very near unto a curse, whose end is to be burnt” (Hebrews 6:8). And, more than the thorn, the cross itself was a curse: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written: Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13, citing Deuteronomy 21:23).
Jesus bore our sins on a cursed tree transforming it to the Tree of Everlasting Life. He bore our sins even upon His head making the thorns of the cursed earth (“Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herbs of the earth,” Genesis 3:13) into a blessing.
Tradition has it that there were 72 thorns in the Crown of Thorns. Courtesy of Wikipedia, here is a list of where some of these relics are today:
- Belgium: Parochial Church of Wevelgem: a portion of the crown of thorns (since 1561)
- Belgium: Ghent, St. Michael’s Church: A thorn from the crown of thorns
- Czech Republic: Prague, St. Vitus Cathedral: A thorn of the crown of thorns, in the cross at the top of Crown of Saint Wenceslas, part of the Bohemian Crown Jewels
- France: Notre Dame de Paris: The circlet of rushes of the crown of thorns, displayed the first Friday of each month and all Fridays in Lent (including Good Friday)
- France: Sainte-Chapelle: A portion of the crown of thorns, brought to the site by Louis IX
- Germany: Cathedral of Trier: A thorn from the crown of thorns
- Germany: Cologne, Kolumba (Museum): A thorn from the crown of thorns, given by Louis IX to the Dominicans of Lüttich and a second thorn from the treasure of St. Kolumbas Church
- Germany: Elchingen: Church of the former Benedictine Abbey Kloster Elchingen: a thorn brought to the church in 1650/51
- Italy: Rome, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme: Two thorns from the crown of thorns.
- Italy: Rome, Santa Prassede: A small portion of the crown of thorns
- Italy: Pisa, Spedali Riuniti di Santa Chiara: A branch with thorns from the crown of thorns
- Italy: Naples, Santa Maria Incoronata: A fragment of the crown of thorns
- Italy: Ariano Irpino, Cathedral: Two Thorns from the crown of thorns
- Spain: Oviedo, Cathedral: Five thorns (formerly eight) from the crown of thorns
- Spain: Barcelona, Cathedral: A thorn from the crown of thorns
- Spain: Seville, Iglesia de la Anunciación (Hermandad del Valle): A thorn from the crown of thorns
- United Kingdom: British Museum: Holy Thorn Reliquary (see above), Salting Reliquary, each with a thorn
- United Kingdom: Stanbrook Abbey, Worcester: A thorn from the crown of thorns
- United Kingdom: Stonyhurst College, Lancashire: A thorn from the crown of thorns
- United States of America: St. Anthony’s Chapel, Pittsburgh: A thorn from the crown of thorns
- Ukraine: Odessa, St. Prophet Elijah Monastery: A fragment of a thorn of the crown of thorns