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Mysteries of The Rosary (Part III)

by Lois Donahue


These five mysteries remind us of the great price in sorrow and suffering Jesus paid to redeem us.


Matt 26:36-46 Mark l4:32-36

This mystery incorporates so much human reason for sorrow. The Bible tells us that when Jesus came to Gethsemane he “began to feel sorrow” and even said to Peter, James and John, “My soul is sorrowful ..” Why wouldn’t He feel sorrow? He knew what lay ahead of him. It was not uncommon to see crucified bodies hanging from crosses and He was aware that crucifixion was such a painful, horrible, humiliating form of capital punishment that, under the law, Roman citizens could not be crucified. Beyond that, just imagine the disappointment and the sorrow in his voice when He awakened the sleeping Peter with the words, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?” and how saddened of heart He must have been that Judas, who He personally had selected to be to one of ‘His chosen twelve’, betrayed Him, with a kiss no less. No wonder He sweat blood.

Before continuing, let me explain that since I live so many, many, many years after Jesus died and such great changes have taken place throughout the world during that period of time, it would be impossible for me to even imagine just what the SCOURGING, the CROWNING WITH THORNS, the CARRYING OF THE CROSS, and the CRUCIFIXION entailed. Therefore, the thoughts I have when I meditate on the following four mysteries, are pretty much based not only on the inspired words of the Bible and recorded historical facts as to life, laws, customs and conflicts in the homeland of Jesus but also on things which have been written offering us a somewhat detailed but very probable scenario of happenings in connection with a first century crucifixion.


Mark l5:l5 John l9:l

The Roman scourging which Jesus endured was known as “the halfway death” because it was designed to stop just this side of death. The man who administered this torture used what was called a flagellum, described as “a short circular piece of wood”. Several strips of leather were attached to this and there was a chunk of bone or a piece of iron chain tied or somehow sewed to each strip. Jesus had to stand and bend over a short column to which He was securely tied. Standing about six feet behind Jesus the man who was trained to carry out this brutality, raised the flagellum back over his head and then swung it fiercely down against Jesus’ back and the bones or chains attached to the strips of leather swung around His body and tore the flesh on His chest.

Again the flagellum was raised and came down with the same force on another part of Jesus’ body. Jesus undoubtedly moaned and bled and prayed. The flagellum continued to be swung in slow heavy rhythm with no concern that Jesus might be rendered unconscious – that was pretty much a given under these circumstances. The scourging was finally stopped when the decision was made that Jesus might not be able to be revived back into consciousness. At that time the ropes binding him to the column would have been untied and almost assuredly Jesus would have collapsed on the stone floor unconscious – for a time at least. Then, only to help bring this ‘criminal’ back to full consciousness, they roughly washed his torn, blood-stained body with cold water. Thus ended the scourging --- but not the torture, the agony, the suffering and --- the sorrow.


Mark l5:l7 Matthew 27:29

We can feel sorrow for someone for a number of reasons. When we say our rosary and think about the crown made of sharp, hardened thorns our sorrow naturally stems from trying to image the pain Jesus must have had to endure. However, there is another reason to feel sorrow for Jesus and that is because of another kind of suffering which was forced upon Him on that unforgettable day so many centuries ago. To begin with, He suffered great humiliation when there, before the eyes of so many people, they removed all his clothing thus ridiculing the Jews’ strict rule of modesty. The ‘crowning’ was part of the next phase of humiliation. A few soldiers, carrying the ‘crown of thorns’, a bright red wool cloak and a heavy reed came to Jesus who by then had been forced to sit on the short column over which He bent during the scourging. Spasms shock his shivering body. 

With a snickering grin on their faces, one soldier dropped the scarlet cloak over His naked back, another forced the braided thorns securely in place on His head, completely indifferent to the spurting blood, and the third thrust the heavy reed into His hand so as to mimic a scepter which signified imperial power. The soldiers then bent one knee and knelt before Him shouting sarcastically “Long live the King of the Jews”. Some came close and spat in His face. Others literally slapped Him. One went so far as to snatch the tall heavy reed out of His hand and struck Him. Humiliating, indeed, and how sorrowful for Jesus to hear and feel such hatred from people He, out of love, had come to save.


Luke 23:26-32

Again, with this mystery of our Rosary, the personal thoughts we have will, for the most part at least, be determined by things we have read or heard or seen portrayed about what happened to Jesus in the preparation for and during the time it took Him to painfully complete the approximately three thousand foot climb to Golgotha. To begin, Jesus was moved to His designated place in the about-to-begin procession. Up front was a soldier on horseback followed by soldiers armed with spears. Jesus was surrounded by legionnaires. Three guards stood in front of him holding the traditional wooden sign bearing the criminal’s name and words explaining his crime. Jesus’ sign read --“Jesus of Nazareth” followed by the title, “King of the Jews” which his enraged enemies falsely claimed he was guilty of attributing to Himself.

Next, before the ‘parade’ actually started a six foot, 3” x 5” cypress crossbeam weighing about thirty pounds was placed on Jesus’ bruised and aching right shoulder and his wrists were bound together in such a way as to allow only enough space for his hands to curl over opposite sides of the beam.

Now they all began to move. Slowly and painfully time passed. Finally the weight of the crossbeam combined with His increasing weakness from loss of blood caused Jesus to fall…which he did again and again. Fearing Jesus might die along the way and thus deprive the on-lookers of the anticipated “pleasure” of seeing Him crucified, a man was pulled from the crowd and forced to help Jesus carry the crossbeam.

In meditating on this mystery, we are more apt to associate our sorrow with all of the physical pain we have learned Jesus must have felt along the way. However, as I mentioned above, the feeling of sorrow takes many forms. I know that often when I think about this sorrowful mystery I think with sorrow about the tears that must have been shed when Mary saw her suffering son on the way to His death or imagining the humiliation a young man in his thirties must have felt when he had to rely on someone else’s help not only to walk but to even stand…. humiliation felt even more deeply because of the fact that it was so obviously apparent to so many. But the worst was yet to come.


Mark l5:22-39 Matthew 27:33-50 John l9:l6-30

Now the brutal ending ---- Finally, in pain, breathing heavily and unable to stand completely upright, Jesus now arrived at the destination of His human journey. Before him stood an upright cypress beam, one of any number which were left standing between crucifixions to be used again and again. It was approximately six foot tall and fashioned so that the crosspiece Jesus had been forced to carry could be locked to it with spikes. Then things began in earnest. First he was stripped naked. There is probably no way we can possibly imagine the pain which must have engulfed his entire body as they then proceeded to wind a cloth around his loins, between his thighs and then tucked in the loose end against his bruised and beaten back.

After that Jesus was quickly grasped by the arm and pulled backwards to the ground, striking his head and pressing the sharp thorns against His torn scalp. Next, the beam he’d carried was tightly fitted under the back of His neck. On either side a soldier knelt on the inside of his elbows. Jesus offered no resistance. There was no stopping things now. The soldier with his knee on one of Jesus’ arms held the forearm flat against the wood and the executioner felt for the hollow spot in Jesus’ wrist. Once he found it, he took a square cut nail, held it in place within that hollow spot, raised his hammer and brought it down on the nail head with force. The executioner immediately stepped over Jesus’ body and did the same to the other wrist. On signal, four soldiers, two on each side, lifted the crossbeam dragging Jesus up by his wrists. Jesus moaned with every breath.

With no compassion, the soldiers continued to lift the crossbeam until Jesus’ feet no longer touched the ground, maneuvered it into place on the upright part of the cross and pounded in the nails which fastened both pieces together. The executioner then knelt in front of the cross and a soldier on each side took hold of one of Jesus’ legs by the calf, placed the right foot over the left, pushed them upward and the executioner nailed them to the cross. St. Mark tells us this happened at nine o’clock in the morning and there he hung in constant pain. When his body sagged in fatigue the pain from hanging by his wrists was beyond bearing as muscle cramps knotted his arms and shoulders. 

He would reach a state where he could draw air into his lungs but could not exhale it. His automatic reaction was to raise himself up on his bleeding feet and fight that pain so that he could breath rapidly for at least a few moments. But the pain always won the battle and he was forced to let his torso sag. This process repeated itself again and again and each time the pain worsened. Little by little Jesus was being asphyxiated as if someone were tightening their hands around his throat. However, along with the agony of pain, was the sorrow of looking down and seeing “only” John--- of being unable to comfort his beloved mother who looked up and the sorrow in her eyes spoke to him. Hours of indescribable agony followed. Then, shortly after three o’clock, Jesus spoke His final words, “It is finished”. Within minutes he died.

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"Nothing should
frighten or grieve you.
Let not your heart be troubled. Am I, your Mother,
not here with you?"

"Nothing should
frighten or grieve you.
Let not your heart be troubled. Am I, your Mother,
not here with you?"

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