The Mystery of the Crown of Thorns
by A Passionist Father
Preserving Christian Publications, Inc.
"Every tree is known by its fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns; nor from a bramble bush do they gather grapes." [Lk. 6: 44]
We have learned from St. Bernard, that our Divine Lord was crowned with thorns by His cruel stepmother, the Jewish synagogue. "Coronavit eum noverca sua corona spinea." We should reflect that by its nature and form this crown spreads its prickly thorns in two opposite directions. Some of the thorns naturally diverge to the interior of the circle, and pierce the adorable Head of our Lord. Others shoot forth exteriorly to punish and repel all His malicious enemies. Among the enemies of our Savior the Jewish synagogue has ever shown itself the deepest in malice and the most stubborn in obstinacy. We cannot then be surprised to see her entangled and tortured in the thorny bush of her own plantation and growth ... For, as St. Paul says, "what things a man shall sow, those also he shall reap." [Gal. 6: 8] Moreover we have heard the voice of eternal truth declaring that: "Men do not gather figs from thorns, nor from a bramble bush they gather grapes. Every tree is known by its fruit."
1. Every tree is known by its fruit. Religious prejudices are generally most deeply rooted in the human mind. The reason is because sentiments of religion have their origin from sources superior to human nature, and tend to a preternatural end. Real sentiments of the true religion are infused by God into the heart of man; and religious prejudices are inspired and fostered by the malice of the devil. Since his horrible fall Lucifer has never ceased from exciting and perpetuating religious hatred in the mind of his dupes whether fallen Angels, or men. He caused the prevarication of our parents, Adam and Eve; and provoked religious dissensions among their immediate children, which have been perpetuated ever since in human society. This has been the origin of all schisms, heresies and idolatry in the religious world.
We can never sufficiently deplore the antagonism existing between the different religious sects of modem times. A little cool and calm reflection would show that all this animosity proceeds from some diversity of opinion about a few religious dogmas of faith and in some instances, among the sects, this difference is confined to mere matters of ecclesiastical discipline, and to the form of church government. All these Christian denominations are, however, united in the fundamental tenets of the Christian religion. They believe in the dogma of revelation and in the Divine inspiration of the Bible. They believe in the original fall of man, in the mystery of the Incarnation, in the mercy of our Savior's atonement, in the establishment of the Christian religion for the eternal salvation of mankind. In short, almost all Christian sects unite in reciting the general formula of Christian faith contained and expressed in the Apostle's Creed. Nevertheless, in spite of all these uniform points of contact, and strong ties of union, we are unhappily kept asunder by few points of difference in belief, or discipline.
This deplorable difference having formed a brazen wall of separation in the Christian Church for more than three hundred and fifty years, between Catholicism and Protestantism, and above a thousand years between our faith and the Greek and Russian schism, how can we Christians hope to find sentiments of religious sympathy in the mind and heart of the Jewish Synagogue, essentially and diametrically opposed to the very idea and nature of the Christian religion? ... Judaism and Christianity are incompatible in the aggregate of the religious idea. The Synagogue, in principle, at least, will ever be opposed to the Christian Church. The Jews expect the Messias to come in future with great power and glory to restore their lost material dominion upon earth. We Christians believe and are bound to believe that the Messias and universal Redeemer of Mankind came upon earth nineteen centuries ago in extreme poverty, deep humility, dying upon a Cross in excessive sufferings. "We preach Christ crucified, to the. Jews a stumbling-block; and to the Gentiles foolishness. But to them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God." [1 Cor. 1: 23] But the proud spirit and the stubborn mind of the Jews will not believe this fact, and they prefer to await for Him whom the Christian World fully and firmly believes to have come nearly two thousand years ago. We appeal in vain to the promises and prophecies which they are bound to know and to believe in the Old Testament. They refuse to listen to the account given in the New Testament of the manifold and stupendous prodigies that preceded the Birth, accompanied the Life, Death, and glorious Resurrection of our Divine Redeemer. St. Paul, after his miraculous conversion from Judaism, addressed a most magnificent epistle to the Hebrews in which he demonstrates, beyond the possibility of contradiction, the coming of the Messias, His Death and Resurrection, the imperfect nature of Judaism, its necessary abrogation, and the superior excellence of the Christian religion. But all in vain. The grand and stupendous fact of the Catholic Church, standing like a huge mountain before the nations of the earth, with more than four hundred millions of believers and worshipers, is by the self-conceited Jew treated as an insane delusion, and horrible idolatry. In his opinion we Christians are worse than anathematized Pagans, whilst he considers himself the genuine Israelite, and the only privileged worshiper of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is unhappily under a fatal delusion; but so long as this criminal delusion continues in his mind, we cannot expect him to look favorably on Christianity. On the contrary he will in force of his own erroneous principles be sternly opposed to it, because the admission of the truth and reality of the Catholic religion is the inevitable abrogation of Judaism.
2. There is another practical obstacle in the way of the conversion of the Jewish race. Their admission of the truth of Christianity necessarily demands their belief in the Divinity of Jesus Christ and in all the mysteries of His Incarnation, Birth, Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection. They should have to acknowledge that their forefathers nineteen centuries ago impiously rejected the Messias, most bitterly persecuted Him, had Him scourged at a pillar like a slave, crowned Him with thorns as the king of ignominy and sorrows, postponed Him to Barabbas a murderer, demanded His Crucifixion from Pilate, the Roman governor, mocked and blasphemed Him during His agony upon the Cross whereon He finally died. The Jews before their conversion should have to study and learn the history of Christianity and deplore the willful blindness of their predecessors in cruelly persecuting all the Apostles and disciples of our Divine Lord, stoning St. Stephen to death and killing the holy Apostle St. James. They should have to condemn the bitter spirit of hatred and persecution with which their race has ever been animated against Christians during nineteen centuries. Finally they should have to acknowledge their own errors, and bitterly deplore their former obstinacy in rejecting the Christian religion. All this requires a miracle of grace which must be obtained through deep humility and fervent prayer.
In order to prove that in what we have stated about the Jews as a body, we were not and are not animated by religious bigotry, we shall have to give some authentic historical facts.
3. "Men do not gather figs from thorns," our Lord says. The illustrious Cardinal Baronius, no less eminent in piety and learning than in dignity, in his voluminous annals of the Church, has often occasion to reprobate the conduct of the Jews against Christians. They are taught in their synagogues by their rabbins, and at their domestic hearth by their parents to anathematize and curse Jesus Christ as an abominable idol. They are urged to commit this impiety every time they pass before a Christian church, or behold in any place His sacred image. The writer of these lines, has repeatedly heard the confirmation of this fact from a sincere and trusty convert from Judaism, from the tribe of Levi. He was taught to act in this manner from his childhood, and was urged to this practice by the words and example of his Jewish father who invariably uttered a curse when passing before a Catholic church, or before the image of our crucified Savior, spitting, when unobserved, contemptuously against them.
Not being satisfied with words of blasphemy they proceed to more horrible facts. Baronius relates that on many occasions the Jews were guilty of awful sacrileges against our Divine Lord in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. He states that in the city of Berytus, or Beiroot in Phencia, the Jews nailed to a cross a picture of our Divine Savior from which flowed a prodigious quantity of Blood. Very celebrated is the fact testified to by the great Patriarch of Alexandria, St. Athanasius before the fathers of the general council of Nicea which occurred about that time, when the Jews pierced with arrows a wooden figure of our crucified Lord, from which such a quantity of Blood miraculously flowed that it was distributed to many Catholic churches in different parts of the world. "Fuit tanta sanguinis copia, ut ditaret omnes ecclesias." [Baron. Ann. 787. No. 23]
We are far from approving any persecution against the Jews or indeed; against any other class of men, merely for their private religious opinions, when their conduct is not injurious to public morality, and does not disturb the peace of society. There is no doubt, however, that the Jews, when sufficiently strong, have in different countries and at various times often provoked the just indignation of God and man. Here we could now describe their present conduct in Europe, and more especially in the Austrian Empire, and in Italy, where they wield a powerful influence through their mammon of iniquity, and through the press. The public policy of Austria, through the connivance of anti-Catholic ministers, and infidel officials of the Masonic stripe, is shaped to promote the material interests of wealthy Jews and in favor of their anti-Christian prejudices. In Italy and more especially in Rome with their proverbial ingratitude, these men are the most bitter and active foes of the Papacy by which their ancestors have ever been protected and favored. But for various reasons we prefer to allow history to speak in relation to former events.
4. After the death of the Emperor Constantine the great, and of his three sons, their unworthy relative Julian, an impious apostate from the Christian faith, was raised to the imperial throne. Reason and experience shows that apostasy from Christianity perverts the mind, corrupts and embitters the heart of man more thoroughly than any other public crime. Julian was endowed with many natural talents, and possessed remarkable qualities for government. But his scandalous apostasy and horrible sacrileges poisoned them in their very roots and withered all their branches. At the beginning of his exaltation to the imperial dignity by the unanimous voice, and strong, brave arm of his faithful Christian subjects, Julian hypocritically affected a show of moderation, and in words he declaimed any intention of interfering with their religious and political rights. But as soon as he found himself firmly established on the throne, he with consummate malice sought by every foul and indirect means to undermine the faith, and sap the very foundations of the Catholic religion. He revived, and with great zeal encouraged the exercise of Pagan worship throughout his vast dominion. This ungrateful wretch dismissed from his military service those faithful and brave Catholic officers who refused to follow the pernicious example of his apostasy. Julian excluded from the public schools all Catholic professors who were very numerous and clever, substituting in their place pagan teachers. Free Catholic schools were forbidden by him, and the children of Catholic parents were by his impious and tyrannical laws obliged to receive their education from pagan or heretical masters. The most eminent Catholic patriarchs and bishops were banished from their sees and churches, and heretical Arian ministers thrust into them by military force, or by the brutal violence of mobs, encouraged and supported by his imperial satraps and minions in office.
In writing these lines towards the end of this nineteenth century, we scarcely know whether we copy the records of the fourth age of Christianity, or we chronicle the conduct of modem apostate governments in Europe and in many parts of America. The likeness between the two portraits is so very striking that the illusion is natural, and almost inevitable. The hypocritical impiety of Julian about religion and his wily and tyrannical policy against Catholic schools is very closely imitated by too many modem civil governments. The final end shall be like unto his. Some kings and emperors have already found out this truth by sad experience, which should serve as a timely warning to other potentates and governments that abuse their power in oppressing the conscience and by violating the sacred rights of their faithful Catholic subjects. But let us return to our main point.
One of the most malicious and diabolical designs of the apostate emperor, Julian, was to invent some means to frustrate the accomplishment of the prophecies made in different parts of the Old Testament, and more recently confirmed by our Divine Lord in the Gospel, about the utter destruction of the famous temple of Jerusalem.
The holy Prophet Daniel foretold this destruction, and its principal cause, in the following clear and explicit words. "After sixty two weeks Christ shall be slain; and the people that deny Him, shall not be His. And a people with their leader, [The Romans under Titus] that shall come, shall destroy the city, and the sanctuary, and the end thereof shall be waste; and after the end of the war, the appointed desolation ... And there shall be in the temple the abomination of desolation' and desolation shall continue even to the consummation and to the end." [Dan 9: 26] Our Divine Lord confirmed this prophecy, which He had originally inspired, in the most explicit and positive language, as three of four evangelists testify. St. Matthew says, "Jesus, being come out of the temple ... His disciples came to show Him the buildings of the temple; and He said to them: Do you see all these things? Amen, I say to you there shall not be left here a stone upon a stone that shall not be thrown down." [Mt. 24: 1]
Julian then was determined to render void this remarkable prophecy, and thus attempt to deny the Divinity of Jesus Christ. By this clever stroke of human wisdom, the apostate imperial philosopher presumed to expose the pretended imposture of Jesus of Nazareth, and consequently the falsity of the Catholic religion. Had Julian succeeded in his cleverly conceived scheme it would, without doubt, have proved a severe blow against Christianity. In the year 361, the apostate emperor assembled the principal and most influential persons among the Jews, and spoke to them with affected compassion for the political and religious condition of their people. He exhorted them to return to Palestine, rebuild their famous temple in Jerusalem, and reestablish their ancient public worship, promising them his generous concurrence towards carrying the work to a speedy completion. The Jews received the warrant with inexpressible joy, and were so elated at it, that flocking from all parts of the world to Jerusalem, they began in their unquenchable hatred against the Christians to scorn and insult them, killing several of them, burning and demolishing their churches, and threatening to exterminate them very soon with the cooperation of the emperor. This imperial monster gave orders to his royal treasurer to furnish money and everything necessary for the undertaking. He drew together the most able workmen from every part of the empire, and appointed as overseers persons of the highest rank placing at their head his intimate friend Alypius, who had been formerly prefect or governor in Britain [England.] The Jews of both sexes entered into the enterprise with wonderful enthusiasm. The Jewish women stripped themselves of their most costly ornaments of gold and jewels to contribute to the expense of the building. They helped to dig the ground and carried out the rubbish and and earth in their aprons and skirts of their gowns. All things were now ready to begin the building of the temple. Immense heaps of stones, bricks, timber, and other materials had been collected with enormous labor and expense. The old foundations of the temple were removed, thus unwittingly concurring to the literal and perfect accomplishment of the prophecy of our Divine Lord, which they impiously presumed to belie and render illusory. They were doomed, however, to find out, at their own expense and deep humiliation, that "There is no wisdom, there is no prudence, there is no counsel against the Lord."
When these perfidious men began to dig the foundation for the intended new temple, and thousands of busy laborers were at work in it till very late at night, on returning to their work early on the following :morning, they found that a miraculous earthquake during the night had thrown back into the trenches all the earth removed the previous day. Alypius, the imperial commissioner and the governor of the province, deeply disappointed and excited at these mysterious events, pressed and urged on the work, when, behold! horrible balls of fire issued out from the foundation, which scorched and blasted it. The workmen fled away in terror and dismay. The work having been suspended, the miraculous fires ceased. But as soon as the Jews attempted to renew their labors the flames burst forth more fierce than ever. They leaped over the immense heaps of timber, and wood of every description accumulated in the immediate vicinity and produced an awful conflagration. The heat of the fire was so intense as to split the largest stones, melting all the iron, destroying the thousands of spades, picks, axes and all the implements used in the work. A terrible whirlwind scattered the burning cinders in every direction; the lime and sand prepared in immense heaps were blown out of sight and heavy loose materials were by an invisible power miraculously dispersed and carried away. Frightful crashes of thunder and blinding flashes of lightning terrified all the Jews and Pagans, whilst they wonderfully confirmed the faith, and roused the hope of Christians. These two opposite effects became more thrilling when miraculous crosses appeared perfectly well formed on the clothes of the perfidious Jews and obstinate Pagans who lingered about the place of the intended building in the vain hope of being soon able to resume their impious undertakings. These miraculous crosses were so admirably executed, as to exceed in art and elegance any painting or embroidery ever seen by human eyes. In vain did these obstinate Jews attempt to wash them off from their clothes, the more they strove to remove from them the sign of salvation, the more clear it became, and moreover, when they changed one suit of clothes to wash the other, the miraculous crosses were formed on both.
On the same evening there appeared over Jerusalem a luminous cross as large as that seen by Constantine and by his entire army over the city of Rome, shining very brightly and accompanied by a halo or circle of light, like a most beautiful rainbow, the hopeful emblem of approaching peace and calm for the faithful persecuted Christians. More prodigies occurred on this memorable occasion which have been recorded by numerous and trusty Christian, Jewish and Pagan writers. We conclude with St. Gregory Nazianzen, "what could be more proper than to close this tremendous scene, or to celebrate this decisive Christian victory over Jewish perfidy, and Pagan impiety, than the miraculous apparition of the cross triumphant, encircled with the heroic symbol, and with the glorious crown of conquest." [St. Greg. Naz. Drat. 4, 8, 9] Thus the Jews and their impious protectors and abettors were severely punished by God in their wicked attempts against the Catholic religion. We have however some other facts to relate.
4. "From a bramble bush we do not gather grapes." Cardinal Baronius states that about the year 982, a frightful plague was desolating the eastern parts of Europe and Asia Minor. The inhabitants of the ancient city of Sparta in their dire affliction, being destitute of human help, had recourse to prayer and implored the assistance of Heaven. They also sent a delegation, to a very holy hermit, called Nicon, requesting him to visit their desolate city. He very kindly received the messengers and promised to grant their petition, and obtain the discontinuance of the pestilence, if they promised to banish from their city the Jews who contaminated their practices and by their religious rites. The delegates acknowledged their error, promised to comply with the direction of the servant of God, and the plague ceased immediately after the expulsion of the Jews from their city and territory.
Benedict Fernandez in his commentaries on the thirty-fifth chapter of Genesis, relates, that our Divine Lord appeared to Simon Gorney, a person of eminent sanctity and doctrine. In this vision the servant of God saw our blessed Savior horribly scourged at the pillar, and crowned with thorns. Our Lord said to him, "In the kingdom of Portugal the king, princes, and principal persons, exalt, honor and enrich those who have so cruelly scourged and deeply dishonored Me. Who could dare to harbor, feed and cherish in his house, a traitor who had most severely beaten and wounded his king with a heavy stick, and who obstinately refused to acknowledge his royal dignity and authority? Who could be so perverse and disloyal as to gild all over the bloody stick with which the king was barbarously struck and mortally wounded? Surely this man should be severely punished, and his house should be razed to the ground. Now this is the way in which My enemies are honored, exalted and enriched in Portugal. It is on this account that I am forced to punish the king and the kingdom;" The prophetic vision was soon realized. The Portuguese army was completely routed in Africa by the Moors, King Sebastian was killed, the kingdom was reduced to the brink of ruin and desolation. All these chastisements were inflicted by God upon the kingdom of Portugal, because the Jews were favored and honored in it. "Omnes in Lusitania judaicae nation is homines honorati et florentes viverent." [Paciuchellus De Pass. D. N. Lib. 3. Discuss. 6]
We are not preaching a crusade; neither do we wish to foment any
against the Jews: but we relate historical facts, which show that God
punished, and continues to punish, the malicious perfidy of these
in rejecting their Messias and persecuting Him even unto the Death of
Cross. We believe that among the Jews, there are many well disposed
their obstinacy in error, however, and the nature of their religious
make them the natural enemies of Christianity. Moreover, as they
that the very essence and life of genuine Christianity, is found only
the Catholic Church, so by logical instinct, they, as a class, hate
our holy religion. If they do not openly persecute, they are found,
always ranked on the side of our enemies. From their forefathers they
learned to employ three weapons against us which they used with fatal
against our Divine Lord and master; namely, hypocrisy, calumny and
Our Lord often reproached them for their hypocrisy; their calumnies
Him are well known; surely they bribed with money Judas who betrayed
and the soldiers who witnessed His glorious Resurrection. The same
are used by their successors at the present time. The modern Jews not
refuse with characteristic obstinacy to believe in their crucified
but in the different Christian countries as in Italy, Austria, Germany,
France, they are most active and bitter foes of the Catholic Church. It
is not sufficiently observed that almost every influential Jew is a
of the worst secret societies in existence of which they are the soul
life. The Jews at least in Europe have the monopoly of the telegraph,
the press and of financial transactions. Through the telegraph and
they spread calumnies against the Church, Pope and against his most
ministers, friends, and supporters. They maliciously suppress from
knowledge whatever may be favorable to the Catholic religion. Through
financial power, they bribe governments, and hire Judases against Jesus
Christ and His Holy Faith. As their forefathers, by their hypocritical
intrigues and seditious clamors, forced the Roman Governor, Pilate, to
confirm and execute their sentence of death against our blessed Lord,
the more powerful and influential Jews, of the present day, stimulate
urge modern Pilates, in civil power, to oppress and persecute His Vicar
in Rome, and all faithful Catholics. These are known facts that cannot
be contradicted. We Catholics, however, who suffer through their malice
will strive to imitate the meekness and charity of our crucified
we will excuse their ignorance and pray to God for their conversion,
forgive them, for they know not what they do." May these modern Sauls
become Pauls. May the Immaculate Mother of our blessed Redeemer,
the miracles of grace, for the speedy conversion of the Jews; as she
did in Rome with the youthful Ratisbonne. Amen.
CHRIST THE KING--------------------------HOME