Thursday, July 28, 2016

20 Mysteries: Jesus is Crowned with a Crown of Thorns - Part II

Genesis 1:26-28:

[26] And he said: Let us make man to our image and likeness: and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth. [27] And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. [28] And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.

Genesis 2:8-9:

[8] And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning: wherein he placed man whom he had formed. [9] And the Lord God brought forth of the ground all manner of trees, fair to behold, and pleasant to eat of: the tree of life also in the midst of paradise: and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

CCC 396:

God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God. The prohibition against eating "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" spells this out: "for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die."276 The "tree of the knowledge of good and evil"277 symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust. Man is dependent on his Creator, and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom.

Genesis 3:4-5:

[4] And the serpent said to the woman: No, you shall not die the death. [5] For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever. Amen.

In Part I of this Mystery, I said that in this Part II, I would take a deeper look at Jesus' Kingdom, and how it relates to human history, human suffering and human flourishing. To that end, I would like to explore the essential aspects of this Kingdom in light of Scripture and Church Tradition. We cannot understand properly what this Kingdom is, without understanding first the need for it, and the need for it derives all the way back to our first parents, Adam and Eve.

Adam, King of the Earth

Though Adam is not directly called a King in Scripture, he is said to be given dominion over the Earth, and commanded by God to "subdue it and rule over [it.]" By right of this rulership, of this dominion, Adam may certainly be thought of as a King. This is especially true when we consider that all of humanity has followed after him in sin. A King, if nothing else, is a leader of a people. He and Eve lead us into sin.

By this, we may understand that the legacy of his rule is sin, it is suffering, it is death. But, what did his kingdom look like before his Fall?

It was perfect. It was paradise. And, principally, it was a mastery of the self. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil "symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust." The Tree, then, is a symbol that pertains to man, himself, and not principally, or even necessarily, to anything outside of him. This being true of the Tree, we may conclude that the Garden of Paradise itself is principally a symbol of man. Namely, it symbolizes man in his original perfection, as he was created.

It is specifically called a "paradise of pleasure." Human perfection isn't a dour, boring state. It is filled with joy and pleasure. God permits man to partake of all trees in this paradise, including that which stands at its center, the Tree of Life, except that one tree called the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Tree of Life is a symbol of the friendship of God. That is, the indwelling of the Life of God, the Holy Spirit.

What this imagery evokes is this: within the bounds of human nature, human capacity, human ability, nothing was prohibited except to try to reach beyond his own natural limits. By doing so, man would distort his own nature, injuring it, corrupting it. This corruption would inevitably lead to death, and the disobedience done by the act would injure the relationship he had with God, causing the Life of God to depart from him. The Serpent's temptation was that they would "be as gods," a temptation to exceed the boundaries of their own nature.

The imagery of this story makes sense when we understand that the Jewish word "Adam" meant "Earth." Thus, when man has fallen, the natural consequence to sin is that he would have to "till the earth" and toil in order for the earth to bear fruit. This speaks to the fact that in the weakened human condition, virtue, or "good fruit" no longer comes naturally to man, but that he must work at it, that virtue is now difficult. We call this concupiscence. It is the inclination to, or the ease by which we fall into, sin, and the difficulty by which we return to virtue.

We may summarize. Adam's Kingship began in perfection, in friendship with God, and in pleasure and happiness. Adam's sin was to reach for self-divinity, something a creature is incapable of. This was an act of pride, and of disobedience, and of death. Thus, the legacy of Adam's Kingdom, the legacy we have all inherited from him, is pride, disobedience, and death.

Adam's Kingdom in History

What we have seen in human history is a reflection of the sin of our first King. Throughout history, we have seen the rulers of great nations fancy themselves gods. Roman emperors were thought to be divine, as were the Egyptian Pharaohs, just to name a couple.

Our ancestors devised new systems of morality, and cosmological paradigms. It was a hubris that attempted to redefine reality in their own terms. This power belongs to God alone, but we ever seek to be gods unto ourselves. This pride has not left us. Even today, we seek to define "truth" and "morality" according to our own, individual, determinations. "What's true for you, is true for you, but what's true for me, is true for me."

And this gets to the heart of pride: it is a denial of truth, and once you deny truth, you then proceed to deny virtue, or goodness, because virtue is grounded in the truth. Deny truth, and morality because entirely subjective. Thus, pride, the denial of truth, leads to disobedience, the denial of goodness. And once goodness is denied, death follows, because if you do not behave in accordance with your nature (in our case, that's human nature), which is the standard of virtuous behavior, then your nature deteriorates, leading to suffering and death.

But this is the legacy of our first King.

But, of course, he wasn't just a King. He was also a husband. His Fall involved also the Fall of his wife, Eve. In one and the same act, not only did they damage human nature itself, but they damaged human relationships, both human-Divine relationships, and human-human relationships. Where the original marriage was one of mutual love and respect, of an understanding of how each fit the other properly as part of a unified whole, of open sincerity and without shame, relationships since then have been marked by the will of the man to dominate and use, and of the woman to manipulate that domination, and to also use.

The beauty and joy of life was lost. The freedom to live well was lost. The truth was lost in human arrogance.

Jesus, King of Heaven

Jesus arrives at the heart of human history to restore what was lost. Jesus came to restore humanity's relationship to God. He came to restore humanity's relationships to one anther. He came to restore our ability to freely live virtuous lives. He came to restore joy and life and love to the world. He came to restore the truth. He came to give us Himself, whom He names the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

This is His Kingdom, it is a Kingdom of restoration, of healing. It is a Kingdom of goodness and truth. He shows us the Way into this Kingdom. He teaches us the Truth that resides only there. He sends to us the Holy Spirit, the Life of God, to take up His rest within our Hearts, that we may freely enjoy the beauty of His creation, to freely receive the love that He offers, and to freely share that love with each other in goodness and virtue.

How does He accomplish all of this, and what does He expect from us? We can talk about that in Part III.

God bless.


  1. Wow! This is excellent. Looking forward to the next part

  2. Thanks also look forward to next blog.