Yes, so sad but so full of hope. Here are a few realizations I've had while praying these mysteries:
The Agony in the Garden
Even if we do not battle certain conditions such as Bipolar Disorder, panic attacks or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, all of us know what it is like to go through periods of mental agony caused by uncontrollable circumstances in our lives.
Christ did not suffer from mental illness and all circumstances were in God's control, but our Savior experienced such mental, emotional, and spiritual agony in the garden while facing his arrest, torture and Crucifixion that he sweated blood.
So I firmly believe that in the darkness and loneliness of our own very personal and sometimes dire mental struggles, we can be sure He knows what we are experiencing and never abandons us.
The Crowning with Thorns
We each must bear a crown of thorns occasionally in our lives, but unlike Christ, we usually weave them for ourselves. What strikes me most strongly when I contemplate the one woven by others which Christ wore, is that he bore it in silence.
Too often we feel the urge to defend ourselves verbally, to validate ourselves in the face of what we perceive as misunderstanding, to cut others down in order to raise ourselves up, or to express our disapproval or air our own interpretations, and often in so doing we cause division in our families or increase tension with our fellow human beings. Our words so often accomplish nothing, because they are self-serving.
After situating the thorny crown on Christ's head, the soldiers mocked Jesus in outrageous fashion when he was already suffering horribly from the scourging at the pillar. They struck him. They spit on him. They wrapped him in humiliation.
And Jesus was silent. He did not rebuke or refute. He did not challenge or chastise or even judge.
Would we be able to do the same? Can we manage sometimes to hold our tongues under our own crown of thorns? Can we, as a spiritual work of mercy, bear wrongs patiently in imitation of Christ?
Our parish priest asserted recently that if ancient Romans were to view all the crosses in Catholic churches in the world today, they would be astonished ( and appalled?) at our passionate embrace of it, for the cross was designed to and still does represent everything we most fear: humiliation, nakedness, torture, suffering, death.
Where is the hope in that?
If one simply contemplates the guilt - ours, in fact - that put Christ there and does not remember the Resurrection, then the cross does not inspire hope and fortitude, causing instead the guilty, and unrepentant, to turn away.
This perfect means of torture and humiliation that early Christians were hesitant to embrace, however, is the perfect means of redemption. It challenges and demands change from those who gaze upon it in earnest, and it inspires gratitude in hearts who gladly remember the One Who paid the price for our salvation.
Gratitude. We are guilty, yes, but Someone loved us enough to bear the stripes and the condemnation in order to regain a life of grace for us. He took a symbol and instrument of shame and suffering and made it the beautiful instrument of salvation. Only God Himself can do such a thing.