Fourth Sorrowful Mystery:
The Carrying of the Cross
The time continuum between the Praetorium where the Jews screeched 'Crucify Him!', and the moment He arrived at the summit of Calvary could well have taken thirty minutes to an hour and a half. In this time, we have in the Via Crucis, several lessons we can garner from this interval, including His reunion with His Sorrowful Mother, the aid of Simon of Cyrene, the gentle charity of Veronica, the weeping of the women of Jerusalem, and three cruel falls along the way; each more crushing and exhausting. Despite all this, the question arises: do we have the spiritual stamina to keep up with Him?
"On His final trek up Calvary, Jesus resisted any retaliation, keeping silent as He trudged along. This only incited the mobs' and Roman soldiers' anger more. This was not a small crowd as can be told by the verse after Jesus’ resurrection where He meets the two disciples who say “are you the only one that does not know what has gone on” or something to that effect. It probably took about 30 minutes to get from the Praetorium to the Place of the Skull. This was Jesus’ last journey through Jerusalem, His Own city. It is ironic to think about the Presentation where the Lord of the Temple appears as a tiny baby. Now our Lord is led through HIS city, Jerusalem, as if He is among the worst of criminals. His heart has a special burden towards Jerusalem and all it stands for. It is her last chance and she will fail miserably. Her temple will be rent in two, forever scattered to the rubble, never be rebuilt and her people dispersed to wander in an endless desert of what might have been."
"And as they led Him away, they laid hold of one Simon of Cyrene, coming from the country; and they laid the cross on him to carry after Jesus. And there followed Him a great multitude of people and of women, who bewailed and lamented Him. But Jesus turning to them, said: 'Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over Me; but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days shall come, wherein they will say: Blessed are the barren and the wombs that have not borne and the paps that have not given suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains: Fall upon us. And to the hills: Cover us. For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?' And there were also two other malefactors led with Him to be put to death" (Luke 23:26-32).
Three of the four gospels use only one or two verses to describe the Carrying of the Cross. Tertullian describes our Lord carrying the cross on His shoulder and on a back that has had the flesh torn off from the whipping, and He certainly was not given shoes to wear after the scourging. Jesus does not yell back at the people that are mocking Him. From this we can learn fortitude in the midst of suffering.
Our Lord is fully Divine and fully human – He does not bleed or hurt less because He is God. This is a burden like any other man. There is one who said “He is like an athlete being spurred on to run and win a grueling race when all His strength is already spent but whereas an athlete would have been rested and his limbs anointed and massaged in preparation, Jesus has been anointed with blows and massaged on every inch of His body with the sharp teeth of a loaded lash; whereas an athlete could have looked hopefully beyond the race to rest and refreshment, Jesus could look forward only to being nailed down to the very wood He was bearing. Carrying the cross is only the next suffering on the way to death. Having been punished by others, Jesus is now expected to punish Himself by putting out the almost impossible effort of being put to death on Calvary.
Not only does He have to walk through Jerusalem but He was walking up hill. The centurion is in front leading the way and pulling Jesus along; the soldiers are behind Him to clear the crowd. The distance from the praetorian to Golgotha was about a quarter to a third of a mile. Everyone wanted to see the criminal so they would have taken the longer route leading around the city. The people were jeering, spitting, and venting hatred all kinds of hatred on Him.
Do you notice how groups of children can be particularly cruel when they choose another child to pick on? This can be especially true when the child is a good kid, or when they have him down or he is unable to fight back. Sometimes I think people see the goodness in others which makes them see what they lack and instead of trying to improve themselves they try to destroy the other so they don't feel so bad about being the way they are. It is the old "misery loves company" syndrome, and so they beat one when he is down. There is a certain jealousy and envy there. Adults are not that much different when dealing with others sometimes; so low, so trivial, so petty. Isn’t that sad? Yes it is. It is sad, pitiful and pathetic.
And that is what one might have said as they saw the bloodied, scourged, unrecognizable Son of God pass them on the dusty Via Dolorosa. Who is this Man? We don't recognize Him! So also, today, we do not recognize His scourged and battered Mystical Body that has been so twisted and tortured, invaded by the cancer of conciliarism, where the sores are crusted with bitter boils that ooze forth in a putrid puss of liquified lukewarmness, that pierce and obliterate, to the marrow of the bone, the blood vessels of the Word, the muscles of tradition, and the flesh of doctrine, pushing the entrails of ecumenism into the the very pores that once resisted such poison.
On His final trek up Calvary, Jesus resisted any retaliation, keeping silent as He trudged along. This only incited the mobs' and Roman soldiers' anger more. This was not a small crowd as can be told by the verse after Jesus’ resurrection where He meets the two disciples who say “are you the only one that does not know what has gone on” or something to that effect. It probably took about 30 minutes to get from the Praetorium to the Place of the Skull. This was Jesus’ last journey through Jerusalem, His Own city. It is ironic to think about the Presentation where the Lord of the Temple appears as a tiny baby. Now our Lord is led through HIS city, Jerusalem, as if He is among the worst of criminals. His heart has a special burden towards Jerusalem and all it stands for. It is her last chance and she will fail miserably. Her temple will be rent in two, forever scattered to the rubble, never be rebuilt and her people dispersed to wander in an endless desert of what might have been.
The Stations of the Cross are a great help for me when meditating on this Fourth Sorrowful Mystery from the final judgment of Pilate to the stripping of our Lord’s garments just before His crucifixion. Jesus is about to become the sacrifice, and, according to Jewish Law, He is considered to be unclean and thus must be taken out of the city to the place of the skulls where, before the multitudes, any insurrection will be quelled by the example of what happens to those who would lead the people. Where is your king, they will mutter mockingly to those who previously followed Him in Galilee, in Bethania, and witnessed the miracle of the loaves and fishes. It can be disheartening to those who believe, but do not have the conviction of their belief.
Christ's final sacrifice is a fulfillment of the Lamb in Genesis 22: 1-13: of God being offered up. Abraham had such faith and love for God that he was willing to offer up his only son Isaac. Because of his love, God spared Isaac and made available in the thorns nearby the lamb, placed on the fire and wood; the very wood Isaac had carried to the place of sacrifice. So also Christ carries the wood to His place of sacrifice.
God said to Abraham “Take thy only begotten son”. Some think God the Father is cruel and unkind. Rather it would be cruel if there were other ways to salvation apart from Jesus, as the current Vatican leaders would like us to believe. Then God the Father would be cruel because then there would be no point for Jesus having to suffer so incredibly much. (See John 3:15) We are exclusivist when it comes to salvation. It has to be Jesus. The Jews brought condemnation on themselves, on us and on our children. Remember them doing this before Pilate. Jesus is the way - this is why He has to die. Geographically the place of the Crucifixion is the same mountain that Abraham sacrificed Isaac.
The Stations of the Cross, the most indulgenced prayer we have, have our Lord meeting His Blessed Mother after having fallen the first time. What interests me about this portion of the Stations is that in the next two Stations after meeting His mother, our Lord is assisted with the carrying of the cross by Simon of Cyrene and then Jesus has His face wiped clean by Veronica. Perhaps our Lady’s offering of this heartrending meeting as a prayer to the Father is what leads to the two above mentioned consolations.
Can you imagine the scene, so vividly depicted in Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ? Recall when Jesus’ eyes meet His mother's as He is carrying the cross, face caked in blood, spit and dirt and the feeling His mother has as she contemplates this sorrowful sight with the knowledge that the worst is yet to come. Can you imagine how Jesus felt when He looked into His mother’s eyes, knowing how sorrowful this made her? Knowing that she shared with Him the burden of sorrows?
Our Lady alone probably understood His mission and why He suffered as He did. The carrying of the cross is likely the first time she sees what the scourging did to Him. There is no record of words spoken between them at this moment. His look meant, “This is the will of God”. Her look meant, “Behold the handmaid of God”. The words of Simeon: "a sword will pierce your heart" is even more fulfilled at this point of their journey in the will of the Father. Pope Pius VI explains it thus:
“Mary, the mother of sorrows, at the same time because of the perfection of holiness within her, which she has because of Jesus, responds to who He is, there can even be joy because of that love, deeper feeling of suffering at the same time there is able to be a joy because of that total relinquishing to the will of God.” For Hebrews states the joy set before Him even as He endured the cross.
What can we learn from this? We must yield to the will of God no matter how painful, and, in that pain, if our wills are united to His, we will find joy. Any time we struggle with relationships, roommates, family, spouse, we can yield our hearts to the will of God. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in the midst of losing her daughters and other sufferings would cry out “the will of God!” What ways can we be like Simon and help one another carry the cross, how do forgive those close to us who hurt us? What do we do when we see others hurting those we love? We adore our children, actually only Mary could legitimately do that (regarding the strict definition of the meaning of adore which is to worship). It is hard for a new mother to even think that her precious baby could be hurt. Do we forgive those people as our Lady did? She heard them laughing and jeering, yet she found - through the mercy of God - a way to forgive them. When we are falsely accused how do we deal with it? When others are falsely accused do we join in, do we stand up for them? We must ask the Lord to help us see what cross He wants us to carry and then carry it with fortitude.
" And as they led him away, they laid hold of one Simon of Cyrene, coming from the country" (Luke 23:26).
" And going out, they found a man of Cyrene, named Simon: him they forced to take up His cross" (Matthew 27:32)
" And they forced one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and of Rufus, to take up His cross. And they bring Him into the place called Golgotha, which being interpreted is, The place of Calvary." (Mark 15:21-22)
Cyrene is part of North Africa. The time of the Crucifixion was just before the Passover and all males 13 and over were expected to come. We see in Acts 13 that there was a large Jewish population and Jewish converts from Cyrene. There were many Jews in the crowd who may have been in Galilee for our Lord’s preaching, for His multiplying the bread, and on the day Jesus entered to Hosannas. Not everyone in the crowd turned against Jesus, but many were part of that jeering crowd. It is believed the skull of Adam was buried at the place of the Scull, and there is a strong possibility that the scull of Goliath was buried there as well. There is a picture depicting Jesus on the cross and his blood falling to the ground directly over the scull of Adam a powerful depiction of the second Adam, with His Blood seeping into the depths of the mount down through the sediment, down past the rock into the bosom of Abraham where He would descend while dead to announce they were redeemed. Limbo was over, by His Blood, they were given entrance to the heavenly Jerusalem.
Returning to the Cyrenean, we see Saint Paul's words in Romans 16: 13, "Salute Rufus, elect in the Lord, and his mother and mine." There is a legend that believes Simon was Rufus’ son and that Simon became bishop in a church in Arabia where He was martyred. Simon carries the cross behind Jesus – he follows Christ. None of us will carry a cross heavier than what our Lord had to endure. He is carrying the weight of the world. When we focus on ourselves instead of the Lord, our crosses get heavy. They were not asking for volunteers, they grabbed him and made him carry it. Gibson's film captures this quite well. The soldiers were not showing compassion for Jesus when they did this; nor did they show any gentleness toward the Cyrenean. They did not want Christ to die before the torture of the crucifixion. The Catholic Encyclopedia provides an interesting accounting of the origin of the veil and Veronica:
" In several regions of Christendom there is honored under the name of Saint Veronica a pious matron of Jerusalem who, during the Passion of Christ, as one of the holy women who accompanied Him to Calvary, offered Him a towel on which he left the imprint of His face. She went to Rome, bringing with her this image of Christ, which was long exposed to public veneration. To her likewise are traced other relics of the Blessed Virgin venerated in several churches of the West. The belief in the existence of authentic images of Christ is connected with the old legend of Abgar of Edessa and the apocryphal writing known as the "Mors Pilati". To distinguish at Rome the oldest and best known of these images, it was called vera icon (true image), which ordinary language of the Romans soon came to be veronica. It is thus designated in several medieval texts mentioned by the Bollandists (e.g. an old Missal of Augsburg has a Mass "De S. Veronica seu Vultus Domini"), and Matthew of Westminster speaks of the imprint of the image of the Savior which is called Veronica: "Effigies Domenici vultus quae Veronica nuncupatur". By degrees, popular imagination mistook this word for the name of a person and attached thereto several legends which vary according to the country.
"In Italy Veronica comes to Rome at the summons of the Emperor Tiberius, whom she cures by making him touch the sacred image. She thenceforth remains in the capitol of the empire, living there at the same time as Sts. Peter and Paul, and at her death bequeaths the precious image to Pope Clement and his successors. In France she is given in marriage to Zacheus, the convert of the Gospel, accompanies him to Rome, and then to Quiercy, where her husband becomes a hermit, under the name of Amadour, in the region now called Rocamadour. Meanwhile Veronica joins Martial, whom she assists in his apostolic preaching. In the region of Bordeaux Veronica, shortly after the Ascension of Christ, lands at Soulac at the mouth of the Gironde, bringing relics of the Blessed Virgin; there she preaches, dies, and is buried in the tomb which was long venerated either at Soulac or in the Church of St. Seurin at Bordeaux. Sometimes she has even been confounded with a pious woman who, according to Gregory of Tours, brought to the neighboring town of Bazas some drops of the blood of John the Baptist, at whose beheading she was present. In many places she is identified with the Haemorrhissa who was cured in the Gospel. These pious traditions cannot be documented, but there is no reason why the belief that such an act of compassion did occur should not find expression in the veneration paid to one called Veronica, even though the name has found no place in the Hieronymian Martyrology or the oldest historical Martyrologies, and St. Charles Borromeo excluded the Office of St. Veronica from the Milan Missal where it had been introduced. The Roman Martyrology also records at Milan St. Veronica de Binasco, the Order of St. Augustine, on 13 January, and St. Veronica Giuliani on 9 July. (Catholic Encyclopedia, circa 1918).
"And there followed Him a great multitude of people and of women, who bewailed and lamented Him. But Jesus turning to them, said: "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over Me; but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days shall come, wherein they will say: Blessed are the barren and the wombs that have not borne and the paps that have not given suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains: Fall upon us. And to the hills: Cover us. For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?" (Luke 23:27-31).
Jesus is undergoing a tortuous death, yet even now He is concerned with the souls of others. This Jesus did to increase our faith and theirs as well. How do you think Jesus is feeling mentally at this point? Consider how He had no sleep for many hours, undergoes many tortures, some of which we have no idea about, yet has the presence of mind to speak to these women of Jerusalem. We see here the fulfillment of the Prophet Zacharias: "And I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace, and of prayers: and they shall look upon Me, whom they have pierced: and they shall mourn for Him as one mourneth for an only son, and they shall grieve over Him, as the manner is to grieve for the death of the firstborn" (Zacharias 12: 10). _____________________________
" Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets; and stonest them that are sent to thee, how often would I have gathered thy children as the bird doth her brood under her wings, and thou wouldest not? Behold your house shall be left to you desolate. And I say to you that you shall not see Me till the time come when you shall say: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Luke 13:34-35).
Those who believe Catholic truth that Scripture is inerrant (without error), and that Jesus can never deceive nor be deceived, must accept the fact that the Jews were responsible for the death of our Lord. Layers of condemnation are prophesized by Jesus when the people ask the blood of Him on them and their children – first for the people, but even moreso for the religious leaders who plotted to kill Him over and over again. Children do pay for the sins of their parents. This has been the case since Adam and Eve. Religious leaders now will be more answerable than those who “have a right to be a bit more ignorant than they,” as it were. Their stripes will be more to the degree that they are culpable. They have put themselves in position to attain great glory while at the same time increasing their potential for damnation – to whom much is given much is expected as Jesus asserts in Luke 12: 46-47, and cowardly silence in the face of evil is not giving much – it is much like the lukewarmness that the Lord condemns and regurgitates in Apocalypse 3: 16. Religious leaders want Him dead, and the other people, not knowing what they are doing, follow the false leaders not realizing Christ just wants to love and protect them like a mother hen loves and protects her brood. I would suggest that it might be a good idea for the current religious leaders to take heed and understand how their actions and words replicate the pharisees of the Gospels. Ironic? No. Sad and tragic? Yes.
"But the Lord said to Josue: Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thy hands: none of them shall be able to stand against thee" (Josue 10:
. “Mountains fall on us – Hills cover us” this is the antithesis of what a typical Jew would say. The coming judgment will be terrifying. Green wood? What is the green wood? Our Lord is the green wood. If the innocent would suffer so much, what about those that put the innocent to death or commit other grave sins? Can you build a fire with green wood? Perhaps, if you are stupid or desperate, or God provides a miracle. The dry wood Jesus speaks of is the spiritual Judea which weeping women represent, that is, the dry wood is Jerusalem. This calls to mind Purgatory and how our unforgiven venial and forgiven mortal sins dry up our soul - making us more flammable or purgable, if you will, and unforgiven mortal sins make us eternally flammable or damnable. If all this suffering is on the innocent how great will that of sinners be? There is no escaping punishment and suffering in this life, but there will be hope for those that believe, repent, and die in a state of sanctifying grace.
At this point, the incline grows steeper, His breathing more raspy, the blood dribbles over His eyes, mixing with the dust and grime, blurring His perfect vision. Not once, following His comfort to the women of Jerusalem, does He ask to wash His face or seek someone to wipe the dust away, soothe the wounds. His shoulder has worn to the bone; the cruel slivers pinching flesh and muscle, He has little muscle left to lug the heavy tree weighing Him down. On the surface, it would seem all is lost. But one need only remember the Scriptures at this point, the Scripture passages every one of the Jews were schooled in: the Psalms. In Psalm 68 Salvum me fac Deus, the Douay-Rheims prefaces it: "Christ, in His passion, declares the greatness of His sufferings, and the malice of His persecutors, the Jews; and He foretells their reprobation."
"Save me, O God: for the waters are come in even unto my soul. I stick fast in the mire of the deep and there is no sure standing. I am come into the depth of the sea, and a tempest hath overwhelmed me. I have labored with crying; my jaws are become hoarse, my eyes have failed, whilst I hope in my God. They are multiplied above the hairs of my head, who hate me without cause. My enemies are grown strong who have wrongfully persecuted me: then did I pay that which I took not away. O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my offences are not hidden from thee: Let not them be ashamed for me, who look for thee, O Lord, the Lord of hosts. Let them not be confounded on my account, who seek thee, O God of Israel. Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face. I am become a stranger to my brethren, and an alien to the sons of my mother. For the zeal of thy house hath eaten me up: and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me. And I covered my soul in fasting: and it was made a reproach to me. And I made haircloth my garment: and I became a byword to them. They that sat in the gate spoke against me: and they that drank wine made me their song. But as for me, my prayer is to thee, O Lord; for the time of thy good pleasure, O God. In the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation. Draw me out of the mire, that I may not stick fast: deliver me from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. Let not the tempest of water drown me, nor the deep water swallow me up: and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me. Hear me, O Lord, for thy mercy is kind; look upon me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies. And turn not away thy face from thy servant: for I am in trouble, hear me speedily. Attend to my soul, and deliver it: save me because of my enemies. Thou knowest my reproach, and my confusion, and my shame. In thy sight are all they that afflict me; my heart hath expected reproach and misery. And I looked for one that would grieve together with me, but there was none: and for one that would comfort me, and I found none. And they gave me gall for my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. Let their table become as a snare before them, and a recompense, and a stumbling block. Let their eyes be darkened that they see not; and their back bend thou down always. Pour out thy indignation upon them: and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them. Let their habitation be made desolate: and let there be none to dwell in their tabernacles. Because they have persecuted him whom thou hast smitten; and they have added to the grief of my wounds. Add thou iniquity upon their iniquity: and let them not come into thy justice. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; and with the just let them not be written. But I am poor and sorrowful: thy salvation, O God, hath set me up. I will praise the name of God with a canticle: and I will magnify him with praise. And it shall please God better than a young calf, that bringeth forth horns and hoofs. Let the poor see and rejoice: seek ye God, and your soul shall live. For the Lord hath heard the poor: and hath not despised his prisoners. Let the heavens and the earth praise him; the sea, and every thing that creepeth therein. For God will save Sion, and the cities of Juda shall be built up. And they shall dwell there, and acquire it by inheritance. And the seed of his servants shall possess it; and they that love his name shall dwell therein."
" And He said to all: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (Luke 9:23).
What does following Him involve? Following Him involves denying ourselves. Many deny this message. Having children, accepting the fact that an immortal soul is more important than some extra cash or some needless material goods might be a way to deny ourselves, for instance. When we deny ourselves in this way we are making sure that we will not be denied when we meet our maker. The Grand Designer has set things up in the most ironic of ways. The first shall be last, through death you shall live, deny yourself and I will not deny you, the meek shall inherit the earth, the humble shall be exalted. “And take up his cross”. These are crosses that God gives us; not always our choice. He knows what will refine and strengthen us. Our Lord did not undergo this ordeal so that we could avoid suffering and obligations in this life. He went through this ordeal as an example that we could imitate and so we could become like Him in our thoughts words and actions during every moment of our life to the degree that is possible by the grace of God. Are you ready to take up your cross and follow Him? The moment of truth is next as we reach the summit and the crescendo of the Passion next week with the Crucifixion and Death of our Lord.