Monday, 8 December 2008

Sorrowful Mysteries

It seems a bit strange talking about the Sorrowful Mysteries on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception -- a joyful feast day for our Blessed Mother Mary. However, that's the way things worked out.

Anyway, the first Sorrowful Mystery is "The Agony in the Garden". There are two versions of this icon. The first is the one I feel inclined to use as it is more traditional -- the second version is actually my favourite because it has the chalice visible.

As you may recall, in this mystery, Christ is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to his arrest. It is Thursday evening and he will be crucified the next day. He has gone off a little way by himself, taking Peter, James and John with him. He asks them to stay awake and pray with him. Jesus then goes a few paces further and falls to the ground where he prays so fervently that he begins to sweat blood. He knows full well the terrible ordeal that he is facing.

He prays: "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not my will, but your will be done." In some translations it reads "chalice" rather than "cup". This reference is why I like having the actual cup in the icon. WHAT DO YOU THINK?

The second Sorrowful Mystery is the "Scourging at the Pillar". At this point, Jesus has been accused and condemned by a group of local authorities and taken before the Roman governor, Pilate. Pilate does not want to put Jesus to death so he sends him to be lashed or scourged until he is almost dead in hopes that this will satisfy the ever-growing and increasingly vocal crowd. It seems like a good plan, but it doesn't work.

In this third mystery, after the scourging, the soldiers and their companions entertain themselves with Jesus while they wait to be summoned to return to Pilate's judgement seat. This mystery is called "The Crowing with Thorns".

Not only is a crown of thorns jammed onto Jesus' head, but his bloody and terribly wounded body is covered by an old purple robe. Thus crowned and dressed in royal purple, the soldiers and bystanders bow before Jesus, calling him the King of the Jews, hitting him with his "royal sceptre" and then spitting in his face. In this icon, I have also shown the trumpeter, the cymbal player and the drummer as well as the court jester all of whom are mocking the "king".

Finally, Jesus is condemned to death and made to carry his own cross to the place of his execution. This mystery is called "The Carrying of the Cross" and is the fourth Sorrowful Mystery.

As you may recall from earlier postings, I mentioned that because Jesus keeps falling under the weight of the cross -- he is so weakened by the loss of blood from the scourging -- that a man from the crowd is grabbed by the soldiers and forced to carry the cross for Jesus.

We know from Scripture that Our Blessed Mother, St. Mary Magdalene and St. John accompanied Jesus all the way to the place of the crucifixion and stayed with him until the end.

This is demonstrated in the fifth and final Sorrowful Mystery -- Blessed Mary, St. Mary Magdalene and St. John are gathered beneath the cross as Jesus -- now nailed to the cross he tried to carry -- dies from loss of blood and asphyxiation.

After his death, Jesus is quickly taken down from the cross and laid in a new tomb nearby -- a tomb donated by one of his wealthy followers -- as it was nearing sunset and soon the Sabbath would begin.

These are truly such sorrowful mysteries, but there is something that Catholics say that puts it all into perspective for me: "Lord, by your cross, death and resurrection, you have set us free; you are the Saviour of the world."

As you hopefully noticed, I am asking for your advice about the first Sorrowful Mystery. I realize that the two icons are so similar that it probably doesn't make that much difference to most people. However, if there are any of you reading this with an opinion as to "chalice or no chalice", please let me know what you think. Thanks.

It's late and I am tired. May we all have a peaceful night.

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