A naked man, covered with sweat and dirt and blood, exhausted and beaten, hanging on a gallows in front of a mocking crowd, dying in agony – a wreath of sharp thorns piercing his brows. That is the Crucified Christ – that is Christ the King. That was the end, so they thought, of a trouble-maker; that was, in fact, the most glorious victory the world has ever known.
We know now that the Cross, the shameful gibbet, was in fact a royal throne; we know that the dirt and sweat and blood were the purple robe of empire; we know that that apparent defeat was victory. We know that the mocking crown of thorns was the glorious diadem of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And, abashed and confounded, we kneel in worship and veneration.
For this confounds all the values of the world – as indeed we might expect, for is not the wisdom of this world foolishness in the eyes of God? Earthly monarchs live in honour and are robed in state, crowned with gold and jewels: but what need has true royalty for such trappings? Our Lord needed none of these things, and the greatest of earthly rulers have not needed them; no wonder that Saint Louis preferred a crown of thorns to a crown of gold.
It is not the habit that makes the monk; and it is not the crown and sceptre and purple robe that make the king. True royalty is that exemplified by Christ : authority, yes, but also humility, service, obedience, and – this above all – perfect love. These virtues shine more brightly than any material jewel, appear more splendid than any velvet robe : and if they lead through suffering, even death – can earthly pomp and honour avoid that?
The Crucifixion is the lesson and model for all kings: and by virtue of our Baptism we – yes, even you and I – are kings; kings and priests; a kingly priesthood. May we, united in the Order of the Crown of Thorns, keep those Thorns always before our mind’s eye : let us never be led astray by the false standards of the world, but in humility, obedience and love do the will of our Blessed Master, until we are worthy to receive a crown of thorns, with all its suffering, and in so doing bear in our lives the marks of the Lord Jesus, sharing in His redemptive work, until at last our crown of thorns on earth is exchanged for the halo of sanctity and the crown of glory as we reign with Him in heaven.
Archbishop Geoffrey Peter Thomas Paget King (1917-91)
Prelat-Commandeur, Order of the Crown of Thorns
taken from : ‘A Symposium in honour of the Crown of Thorns’ edited by Canon George F. Tull, 1962