The Carrying of the Cross

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 Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary:
THE CARRYING OF THE CROSS

Our Father…
1. When they had finished making a fool of him, they stripped Jesus of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucifixion. (Mt. 27: 31)

Hail Mary…

The gospel commands us to pick up our cross and follow Christ—every day. In this
verse from the Gospel of Saint Matthew the Lord Jesus is led off to crucifixion. He is led. The one who is led leads us. He is led to his death on the Mount of Calvary. We are led to our own experience of crucifixion. What about us must die? What remains of the First Adam that must be crucified? How is the New Adam leading us? He leads us by the power of the Holy Spirit. The strength of the Holy Spirit enabled the Lord Jesus to endure the mockery of his crowning, and it is the same Spirit who enabled him to endure his stripping and being dressed in his own clothes. Jewish modesty does not allow for appearing naked in public. Such a violent act of humiliation is a public act of embarrassment for the Lord and those who love him. Can we give enough thanks for such loving humiliation on the part of our Lord? Indeed, any humility in our life is found here in the striking and painful humiliation of our Lord Jesus in his carrying of the cross. This public humiliation is not just endured it is welcomed by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the same Holy Spirit who will enable us to be led into humiliation to learn how to be humble. We never learn humility unless we are humiliated. Humility eludes us because we so easily become proud of our virtue. Without the Holy Spirit we easily become disoriented on this final path to union with the Crucified Lord. We so easily get lost in our own pride about our humility. From this danger we need the Holy Spirit to guide us and protect us inwardly and outwardly. Glory Be…

2. On their way out they met a Cyrenean named Simon. This man they pressed into service to carry the cross. (Mt. 27: 32)

Hail Mary…

Saint Matthew has little to say about this Simon. He was from Cyrene which is present day Libya. He could have been a Jew in exile and returning to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. He was probably known in the community of Saint Mark because he was identified as from the countryside, and he was remembered as the father of Alexander and Rufus. However, Saint Matthew does not have this information, and from his perspective he could have been just someone the Roman soldiers met on the way to the execution of this troublemaker, the messiah-king of the Jews. These Roman keepers of the peace had the authority to force someone into public service. They would not have demanded this service of Simon if they were not afraid that the Lord Jesus might die along the way to Calvary. It was the custom for the accused to carry his cross. It was the custom for the condemned to bear the instrument of his punishment. From this Gospel perspective, Simon could have been a pagan—not only a stranger to the Romans, but also totally unrelated to Jesus and to the People he had come to save. Simon may never have heard the Lord Jesus preach. He may never have witnessed the Lord Jesus heal the sick or raise the dead, yet he was pressed into service. No doubt Simon heard the crowds condemnation and ridicule and the labored and weak breathing of the Lord Jesus as he struggled on the way. No doubt Simon saw the confusion and hurt in the faces of so many who were powerless to help their Master and Messiah. Simon, unknown and unknowing, is remembered by name in the Gospel of Saint Matthew. At moments along our life-long journey of carrying the cross we too encounter strangers, who we may remember by name—or who remain nameless, but their role in our life is essential. Perhaps we could never have come this far without their help. Perhaps we too have become as weak and weary as the Lord Jesus on our way to the altar of the cross—to the altar of our joy and gladness. Indeed, the Holy Spirit enables us to see what the Lord Jesus saw: the Father’s help along the journey to Calvary. It is there on this altar of our sacrifice that we will give thanks for every Simon we have ever met along the way. On this altar of our sacrifice we too will repent of ever refusing to be a Simon to anyone who was weak and weary along the way. Glory Be…

3. Let my eyes stream with tears day and night without rest, over the great destruction, which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people, over her incurable wound.
(Jer 14:17)

Hail Mary…

GENERAL AUDIENCE OF JOHN PAUL II ??Wednesday 11 December 2002
The Prophet Jeremiah raises to heaven from within his own historical context a bitter and deeply felt song… The context in which this lamentation arises is represented by a scourge that often strikes the land of the Middle East: drought. However, with this natural disaster, the prophet interweaves another, the tragedy of war, which is equally appalling: “If I walk out into the field, look! Those slain by the sword; if I enter the city look! Those consumed by hunger”. Unfortunately, the description is tragically present in so many regions of our planet. Jeremiah enters the scene with his face bathed in tears: he weeps uninterruptedly for “the daughter of his people”, namely for Jerusalem. Indeed, according to a well-known biblical symbol, the city is represented with a feminine image, “the daughter of Zion”. The prophet participates intimately in the “great destruction” and in the “incurable wound” of his people. {So, too, the Lord Jesus weeps as he moves along the Way of the Cross. Perhaps our tears mingle with his as we gaze with prayer-filled hearts upon our world today. Perhaps the Holy Spirit can instruct our hearts to share in the great mystery of His Passion.} Often, [his] the prophet’s words are marked by sorrow and tears, because Israel does not allow herself to be involved in the mysterious message that suffering brings with it. [Perhaps we are also less than convinced that our suffering and the suffering pervading our world is part of the redemptive work of the One Who Carries The Cross!] In another passage, Jeremiah exclaims: “If you do not listen to this in your pride, I will weep in secret many tears; my eyes will run with tears for the Lord’s flock, led away to exile”. The reason for the prophet’s heart-rending prayer is to be found, as has been said, in two tragic events: the sword and hunger, that is, war and famine. We are therefore in a tormented historical situation and the portrait of the prophet and the priest, guardians of the Lord’s Word who “wander about the land distraught” is striking. Glory Be…

4. A great crowd of people followed him, including women who beat their breasts and lamented over him. Jesus turned to them and said: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me. Weep for yourselves and for your children.” (Lk. 23: 27,28)

Hail Mary…

It’s never about me. This is what the Lord is saying to the women. The Lord Jesus knows and teaches us this truth. Indeed, he gives us the Holy Spirit so that we can see through our tears into the Eternal Father’s heart. His suffering is about doing the Father’s will and revealing, in his own broken body and poured out blood, the truth of Abba’s unconditional love. This touch of tenderness on the brutal path to Calvary enables the Lord Jesus to reveal his tender love for the “Daughters of Jerusalem” and for their children—for us, for you and me. At every moment in history the children of Jerusalem, our mother, and the New Jerusalem, the church, are a cause for great weeping. We continue to ignore the Lord Jesus and his unspeakable suffering. We do not see the connection between our sins and his suffering. We do not repent. We continue to make excuses for our sins and our weakness. Indeed, the Lord Jesus joins the mothers in every generation and in every city in their great lament. These divine tears reveal the Father’s tenderness and compassion. He allows himself to be hurt by our pain—even our self-inflicted pain. We continue to be our own worst enemies. We continue to hurt others and ourselves by hard heartedness and sin. Perhaps we can join in the weeping and be purified and be healed. Perhaps we can be slain by the precious pain of our Savior and all who join Him in the only sadness of the saints. Perhaps we can find the blessedness of those who mourn and weep that sin survives and vice flourishes in our lives and in the world. Indeed, this is the only thing worth our weeping. Glory Be…

5. Two others who were criminals were led along with him to be crucified. (Lk. 23: 32)

Hail Mary…

Why does the Holy Spirit inspire Saint Luke to remember and record that the Lord Jesus is led along in the company of criminals? Perhaps this is a foreshadowing of the scene at the end of the journey in which we will hear from these silent companions a word of ridicule and a word of compassion. Perhaps this detail from the passion procession is a result of Saint Luke’s consistent observation that the Lord Jesus is regularly found in the company of tax collectors and sinners. These companions on the journey also remind us of the commissioning of the disciples in their missionary journey. They were to travel by twos and certainly the Lord Jesus was the Third Companion along the way—fulfilling the promise he had made—I will be with you. Certainly the Lord Jesus is with us when we suffer the condemnation, misunderstanding, and rejection of our fellow travelers. When we give witness to the truth, those who prefer the lie and delight in deception will persecute us. The journey of Christian Life is not a parade of popularity nor is it a well-designed liturgical procession. On our way to Calvary, the Holy Spirit will give us eyes of faith to see our companions. We will be able to see how the world sees us by forcing us to walk along side criminals. In our monastic witness, during prayer and in our hospitality, we cannot refuse to fellowship with those who have been caught up in the deception of the world or even those condemned by the world. Indeed, we are all criminals, sinners who would suffer the ridicule of the crowds if they only knew what we know about our hidden lives of compromise and our ready excuses to justify everything we have done or thought of doing. Indeed, the Spirit of God inspires us to pray that we repent of our refusal to be seen in public with those who are publicly condemned, misunderstood or rejected—for refusing to be seen with the Condemned Christ. Glory Be…

6. Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb lead to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)


Hail Mary…

In the silence of the Lamb, the Holy Spirit speaks. The Lord Jesus was treated harshly, but he submitted. He was yelled at, but he opened not his mouth in protest. The Lamb of God is lead to the slaughter without a cry of resistance. Like a sheep before the shearers, the Lord Jesus was silent and opened not his mouth. In this sacred silence we can hear the tiny whispering sound of the Holy Spirit. “Behold the Lamb of God;” the Spirit whispers to our soul. This Holy Spirit moved the prophet Saint John to make the same proclamation so that his followers would follow the one for whom he prepared the way. On the Way to Calvary we hear the same Spirit beckoning our hearts to accept harsh treatment and even slaughter to be completely united to the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit whispers the truth we dare not ignore. We too must accept suffering and the cross. Indeed, only in our obedience do we find true freedom. Only when we surrender do we truly triumph. Unless the severe mercy takes our breath away, unless we are silent in awe and wonder, we will never hear the tiny whispering sound that summons us forth from glory to glory—step by step—all the way to the cross of our self-sacrifice. Perhaps now the Spirit will transform our complaints about our monastic superior and our protests about our monastic life-style into the silence of loving acceptance of our cross and joyous embracing of our community. Perhaps grateful silence will replace our selfish complaining—all for the glory of God and the good of the Church. Glory Be…

7. Carrying His own cross He went out of the city to the place called Golgotha, where they crucified Him with two others. (John 19:17)

Hail Mary…

Saint John gives witness in his Passion Account that the Lord Jesus carried his own cross all the way to Golgotha. This was not the Synoptic witness. However, the Holy Spirit inspires Saint John to glorify the Great High Priest, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, Christ is the priest; He is the altar; He is the lamb of sacrifice. As priest, he carried the instrument of sacrifice. As altar, his body is one with the wood of the cross. As the lamb of sacrifice, the Lord Jesus freely gives his life away—indeed, no one takes it from him. He is that ram caught in the brush that Father Abraham used to sacrifice his only begotten son to the Father. He gives himself completely. He pours out every drop of blood and every ounce of water from his wounded body so that we could have abundant life. His Blood is found in the Eucharist. His Water is found in Baptism. His Water is also found in the Holy Spirit, who wells up within us like a spring of life-giving waters. Without the Spirit the meaning and impact of this Most Perfect Sacrifice is never appropriated. We need the Holy Spirit to stand before the cross of Christ and cry out: “Jesus is Lord!.” Glory Be…

8. Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. We had each gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all. (Is 53:6)

Hail Mary…

Only the Holy Spirit can make us aware of the ways we go astray. It is the power and presence of the Holy Spirit that keeps us in the fold, following the Good Shepherd. When we wander astray we disrupt the unity of the community. To move back into the fold we must repent; our guilt must bare the fruit of penance. However, we cannot heal ourselves. There is no self-chastisement that will heal us. Only the Lord Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God can make us whole and bring us healing. We long to be made whole; we want to be healed. This desire is God’s gift to us. The Holy Spirit breathes into us the longing for wholeness, for holiness. This longing can only be fulfilled by the Lord Jesus who had the guilt of the whole human race laid upon his shoulders. He bore our guilt he carried our sin. Those heavy sins we cannot carry; these same sins He carried. Can there be any greater love? Can there be any bounds to our gratitude? Have our relationships in community revealed the healing love of the One Who Carried His Cross? Do we have enough love to change the face of the earth?  Glory Be…

9. “Anyone who wishes to be my disciple must take up his cross every day and follow in my steps.” (Lk. 9: 23)

Hail Mary…

Thanks be to the Holy Spirit! Only Saint Luke was inspired to include “every day” in this command of the Lord Jesus to “take up” our cross. Carrying the cross is not an option for those who follow the Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus. We cannot avoid a sacrificial life, but it is a life-style we lift up in the Cross not just a once in a life time event. This cruciform life-style is not the result of holding out our hands to sing the Sucipe. It’s not enough to sing three times: “Sustain me oh Lord as you have promised that I may live and disappoint me not in my hope!” We must let this song penetrate our hearts and saturate our flesh every day. Every day we will be challenged to bare the burden of our monastic consecration. Even if we sing that song of solemn trust in our hearts each waking day, we will be severely challenged to carry out this trust. Will we trust the Lord to support our resolution the next time we receive a “no” from our superior? Will we trust the Lord to support our resolution the next time our sister refuses to forgive and forget out offense? Will we trust the Lord to support our resolution the next time some stranger at the door interrupts our contemplation or our rest? Only if we take up our cross every day will we be able to follow in his steps all the way to Calvary—all the way to freely given self-sacrifice. Glory Be…

10. The Jewish priests said, you should not write King of the Jews, but this man said: I am King of the Jews. (Jn 19:22)

Hail Mary…

See how the Holy Spirit uses even the pride of Pilate to proclaim the truth no one wanted to hear? The Jewish priests did not want to kill the King for whom they have so long waited. These ambitious and power hungry men had no appetite for killing the Jewish Messiah. Yet, Pilate would not let them get away with blaming him. He could have responded, “Did you not bring him before me with this accusation? Was not his claim a threat to your own power as well as the power of the only king of this Empire?” But, it was enough for him to say “What I have written, I have written!” Not so long ago the Lord Jesus himself reminded Pilate that he only had power because it came to him from on high. This truth the Holy Spirit inspired the Lord Jesus to speak so that everyone at every time in history would remember that the Lord Jesus was no martyr nor was he some kind of suicide victim. As the Powerless One proclaimed, standing before those who had power, Pilate and the Jewish Priests, “No one takes my life from me—I freely give it!” Such a humble man who knows who he is and to Whom he is obedient is truly dangerous for those who think they have power to write or rewrite history. It is the love of our True King enthroned upon the Cross that inspires all our humility and bares us up in all our humiliations. “We praise you O Christ and we adore you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!”
Glory Be…