Wednesday, April 24, 2019

April 24: Feast of the Most Holy Crown of Thorns, II Class

Even though this feast is not celebrated today, since we are in the midst of the octave of Easter, I wanted to post it anyway, given the tragic events of last week.

This is one of the oldest feasts, unique to the Order, that is on the Order's calendar.  In his history of the Dominican Rite, Fr. William Bonniwell, O.P. notes that this feast is actually listed on the oldest surviving Dominican liturgical calendar, which dates back to the time when Humbert de Romans was Master of the Order.

You can download a pdf of the English translation here.

The history of the feast is detailed in the third lesson of Matins:
"When Saint Louis, king of France, accepted from Baldwin II, emperor of Constantinople, the gift of the Lord’s crown of thorns, he sent to Constantinople two brethren, Stephen and James, of the Order of Preachers.  In the year 1239, on the day following Saint Lawrence’s feast, they brought the crown to Sens, to the king.  With great solemnity, it was borne to Paris and was finally placed in the royal palace, in a chapel built by Louis himself.  The precious treasure, profanely stolen during the unhappy days of the French Revolution towards the end of the eighteenth century, was later restored and transferred to the metropolitan basilica.  Louis however, made a gift of some thorns of the sacred crown to the Dominicans and commissioned them to celebrate, in the chapel dedicated to the crown, the anniversary of its reception there.  The feast of the most holy crown of thorns was inserted into the calendar of the Order of Preachers about the middle of the thirteenth century."

Among some of the more beautiful elements of the Office of this day are:

Invit.  The solemnities of the Lord's crown are begun. * Let the church applaud with abundant praise, alleluia.
Ant to psalms:  An unbelieving people mocks Christ as he wears the crown of thorns; by his red blood the crown of glory is conferred, alleluia.
R. i.  The thornless Flower is pierced with the thorn through which the thorn of sin is broken; * the thorn of death is blunted by thorns, as Life itself is dying, alleluia.  V.  Through this mockery, the enemy is mocked; through death, the power of death is taken away. - The thorn of death.
Before Lauds V. Plaiting a crown of thorns, alleluia.  R. They put it on the Lord's head, alleulia.
Ant. 1.  This is the joyful day on which the crown of thorns, red with Christ's blood, is recalled to mind, alleluia, alleluia.
Ant. 3.  How happy the puncture, how blessed the thorn, from which flows that unguent, the cure for the world!  Alleluia. 

Almighty God, we who on earth recall the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ by honoring his crown of thorns, beseech you that we may be worthy to be crowned with glory and honor in heaven, by him;  who lives and reigns with you…