“So Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them – ‘Behold the man’.” (John 19:5)
Throughout Holy Week, the Church greatly encourages us to maintain an air of solemnity and, as far as possible, of silence, keeping our minds and spirits focussed on the events we celebrate this week, as we approach the Sacred Triduum which begins on Thursday.
An interior silence allows us to be mindful of these events, whilst an exterior silence removes noise and distractions and allows us to listen for – and respond to – the voice of the Lord, who whispers quietly to us in stillness.
In many respects, this silence, both interior and exterior, reflects something of the silence of the Lord which begins on the night of Holy Thursday. After the Last Supper, He goes to Gethsemane to pray, knowing full well what will follow shortly.
Up until this point, the Gospel of Saint John contains a very lengthy discourse of the words of the Lord. The thirteenth chapter begins with the Lord washing the feet of the disciples, before telling them that one of their group will betray Him. The, He gives them the commandment to love one another so that ‘all people will know that you are My disciples’. After foretelling the denial of Peter, the Lord describes Himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life, the means through which we reach the Father in Heaven, and He promises to send them the Holy Spirit and He explains what the Spirit will do. Finally, He gives glory to the Father in a long prayer of thanksgiving and asks the Father –
“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, so I send them into the world. And for their sake, I consecrate Myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (Jn.17:17-19)
This truth will shortly be mentioned again, when the Lord is before Pilate, and it will be one of the few things Jesus speaks about. He tells Pilate –
“Jesus answered.. ‘For this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice’. Pilate said to Him – ‘What is truth?’.” (Jn.18:37-38)
The irony is that perceiving the truth, and directly hearing the voice of Truth, Pilate continues with the facade of a trial and execution. More ironic still is that, despite his vain attempt to wash his hands of the guilt of what he is doing, more than two thousand years later, the name of Pilate is linked forever to this moment of guilt.
And so this Man stands before us now, covered in a purple cloak, a crown of thorns upon His head, a reed in His hand. And He stands before us as He did before Pilate – as the Way, the Truth and the Life, bearing witness to the Father and inviting us to do the same. When, in the reading of the Passion later this week, we hear those words of Pilate said once again – ‘Behold the man’ – be certain that this is addressed to every one of us, as much as it was addressed to those who first heard those words being spoken.
As this Holy Week moves forward towards it’s bloody and bitter conclusion, may all of us have the courage to stand with this Man of Sorrows and to acclaim Him as our Way, our Truth and our Life.
© Main image: ‘Ecce Homo’ – Bartolomé Esteban Murillo