We continue our Patristic Rosary Project today with the:
2nd Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging
The Roman flail was a terrible thing, designed to do maximum damage. The Lord endured outrageous humiliation of His Divine Person as well as physical suffering beyond our understanding.
Pilate, who made decisions based on polls, queried the Lord about His Kingship. Christ responded: "My kingship is not of this world" (John 18:36). The Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine (+430) wrote what is probably the best commentary on John ever assembled. Here is an obervation on Christ’s dialogue with Pilate:
2. Hear then, ye Jews and Gentiles; hear, O circumcision; hear, O uncircumcision; hear, all ye kingdoms of the earth: I interfere not with your government in this world, "My kingdom is not of this world." Cherish ye not the utterly vain terror that threw Herod the elder into consternation when the birth of Christ was announced, and led him to the murder of so many infants in the hope of including Christ in the fatal number, made more cruel by his fear than by his anger: "My kingdom," He said, "is not of this world." What would you more? Come to the kingdom that is not of this world; come, believing, and fall not into the madness of anger through fear. He says, indeed, prophetically of God the Father, "Yet have I been appointed king by Him upon His holy hill of Zion;" but that hill of Zion is not of this world. For what is His kingdom, save those who believe in Him, to whom He says, "Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world"? And yet He wished them to be in the world: on that very account saying of them to the Father, "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil." Hence also He says not here, "My kingdom is not" in this world; but, "is not of this world." And when He proved this by saying, "If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews," He saith not, "But now is my kingdom not" here, but, "is not from hence." For His kingdom is here until the end of the world, having tares intermingled therewith until the harvest; for the harvest is the end of the world, when the reapers, that is to say, the angels, shall come and gather out of His kingdom everything that offendeth; which certainly would not be done, were it not that His kingdom is here. But still it is not from hence; for it only sojourns as a stranger in the world: because He says to His kingdom, "Ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world." They were therefore of the world, so long as they were not His kingdom, but belonged to the prince of this world. Of the world therefore are all mankind, created indeed by the true God, but generated from Adam as a vitiated and condemned stock; and there are made into a kingdom no longer of the world, all from thence that have been regenerated in Christ. For so did God rescue us from the power of darkness, and translate us into the kingdom of the Son of His love: and of this kingdom it is that He saith, "My kingdom is not of this world;" or, "My kingdom is not from hence." [tr. Io. eu. 115]
The cowardly Pilate declares Christ innocent several times. Yet He condemns Him to savagery anyway. St. Ambrose (+397) has something to say about this:
They send Christ to Herod and then to Pilate. Although neither pronounces Him guitly, both gratify the desires of strange cruelty. Pilate washes his hands but does not wash away his actions. A judge should not yield to either envy or fear and then sacrifice the Blood of the innocent (cf. Matthew 27:24). Pilate’s wife warned him (Matthew 27:19). Grace shone in the the flight. The Godhead was revlead, yet he still did not abstain from a sacrilegious verdict. [Exposition of the Gospel of Luke 10.100]
Cyril, (+386) the bishop of Jerusalem where it all took place, writes about Christ’s innocence and the subsequent impact of His condemnation.
Many have been crucifed throughout the world, but the demons are not afraid of any of these. These people died because of their own sins, but Christ died for the sin of others. He "did not sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth". It was not Peter, who could be suspected of partiality, who said this, but Isaiah, who, although not present in the flesh, in spirit foresaw the Lord’s coming in the flesh. Why do I bring only the prophet as a witness? Take the witness of Pilate himself. He passed judgment on Him, by saying, "I find no guilt in this man." When he delivered Him over and washed his hands, he said, "I am innocent of the Blood of this just man." (Matthew 27:24) [Catechetical Lectures 13.3]
Indeed, demons fear Christ. His Presence, even in the Blessed Sacrament is unfathomable agony for them. And yet their malice for us is so great that they over come their agony in the presence of the Eucharist so for the opportunity to weaken us, tempt us to receive Communion when we ought not. Then the demons do not fear us. They fear and hate us when our souls shine with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, made more splendid yet by Communion received in the state of grace. The Rosary can be a great tool of discernment in our approach to Communion.
St. Augustine puts Christ’s betrayal, scourging, humiliation and condemnation into perspective:
1. On the Jews crying out that they did not wish Jesus to be released unto them all the passover, but Barabbas the robber; not the Saviour, but the murderer; not the Giver of life, but the destroyer,–"then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him." We must believe that Pilate acted thus for no other reason than that the Jews, glutted with the injuries done to Him, might consider themselves satisfied, and desist from madly pursuing Him eve, unto death. With a similar intention was it that, as governor, he also permitted his cohort to do what follows, or even perhaps ordered them, although the evangelist is silent on the subject. For he tells us what the soldiers did thereafter, but not that Pilate ordered it. "And the soldiers," he says, "platted a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and they clothed Him with a purple robe. And they came to Him and said, Hail, King of the Jews! And they smote Him with their hands." Thus were fulfilled the very things which Christ had foretold of Himself; thus were the martyrs moulded for the endurance of all that their persecutors should be pleased to inflict; thus, by concealing for a time the terror of His power, He commended to us the prior imitation of His patience; thus the kingdom which was not of this world overcame that proud world, not by the ferocity of fighting, but by the humility of suffering; and thus the grain of corn that was yet to be multiplied was sown amid the horrors of shame, that it might come to fruition amid the wonders of glory.
2. "Pilate went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And he saith unto them, Behold the man!" Hence it is apparent that these things were done by the soldiers not without Pilate’s knowledge, whether it was that he ordered them or only permitted them, namely, for the reason we have stated above, that His enemies might all the more willingly drink in the sight of such derisive treatment, and cease to thirst further for His blood. Jesus goes forth to them wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, not resplendent in kingly power, but laden with reproach; and the words are addressed to them, Behold the man! If you hate your king, spare him now when you see him sunk so low; he has been scourged, crowned with thorns, clothed with the garments of derision, jeered at with the bitterest insults, struck with the open hand; his ignominy is at the boiling point, let your ill-will sink to zero. But there is no such cooling on the part of the latter, but rather a further increase of heat and vehemence. [tr. Io. eu. 116]
How often do we warm to the theme of our own sins, sparing not even our Crucified Lord, sunk so low for our salvation? As Pope John Paul emphasized, the Rosary teaches us to gaze with Mary on the face of Christ. He must be seen not only in His risen glory, but also in His battered state when He had been beaten "beyond recognition of a man".
Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. [Isaiah 53]