Friday, November 11, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery – The Carrying of the Cross

Scripture References

Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26-31; John 19:17

The Story in Brief

When the soldiers led Jesus out to be crucified on Calvary, they made Him carry His cross. He had been so badly wounded and was so exhausted that He fell three times along the way. The soldiers compelled Simon of Cyrene to help Jesus carry His cross so He would not die before He reached the scene of crucifixion. Along the way, Jesus met His mother Mary. He encountered Veronica, who compassionately wiped His bloody, sweaty face, and He left His own holy image on the cloth she used. He also spoke with some of the women of Jerusalem who were lamenting His fate. Finally, Jesus reached Calvary. He was about to die for our sins.

Points to Ponder

1. The Biblical account of Jesus carrying His cross is very brief, but the Church's Tradition offers us further details and insights through the Stations of the Cross. Take a few minutes to look over a few Stations of the Cross websites (like the ones at EWTN and Creighton University) and ponder the following.

2. Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us that the Roman soldiers compelled Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus' cross. John emphasizes that Jesus carried the cross Himself. Both these these statements can be true if we think about how Jesus would have been very weak during His walk to Calvary. He perhaps started out carrying His cross and then required assistance from Simon. Picture Jesus carrying His cross. Remember how wounded He already was from the scourging and crowning of thorns.

3. What was Simon of Cyrene's response was when he was forced to carry the cross with Jesus?

4. Mark mentions that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus. This reference suggests that Simon's sons were well-known in the early Christian community and probably Christians themselves. Ponder the significance of this.

5. The Stations of the Cross tell us that Jesus fell once before Simon of Cyrene was pressed into service. Reflect on Jesus' pain and weakness as He fell to the ground beneath the heavy cross. Remember that Jesus was carrying the cross on account of our sins and falls.

6. Jesus met His mother Mary as He walked toward Calvary. Meditate on this meeting. Picture the expressions of the Son and the mother. Imagine what they might have said to one another. What was Mary feeling as she saw her Son's pain? What did Jesus feel as He gazed on His mother?

7. Consider the behavior of the crowd that lined the streets as Jesus walked by. Imagine the range of responses the Jews and Romans had as they looked at Jesus. Some probably abused Him as a criminal. Others may have felt sorry for Him. Were His followers mixed in with the crowd? What were they thinking when they saw Jesus?

8. According to the Stations of the Cross, a woman named Veronica wiped Jesus' sweaty, bloody face with a cloth. Picture Jesus' Holy Face. Consider Veronica's courage as she flaunted the Roman soldiers to approach Jesus and minister to Him.

9. When Veronica looked at the cloth she had used to wipe Jesus' face, she discovered an image of Jesus. What a reward for her kindness and care! Try to picture what the image on Veronica's cloth might have looked like. Note also that the name “Veronica” means “true icon” and was probably assigned to the woman after the incident along the way of the Cross. That incident probably became the defining moment of her life. It was enough to give her a new name.

10. Jesus fell a second time, but He got up again and kept going despite His pain. Ponder His courage.

11. Luke tells us that some women were in the crowd, beating their breasts and wailing for Jesus. They were clearly distressed at seeing Jesus so mistreated. Reflect on both their internal thoughts and external actions.

12. Read Jesus' response to the women in Luke 23:28-31. His words were mysterious. They suggested a time of trial and probably pointed to more than one future event, including the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and perhaps even the end times. Meditate on Jesus' words.

13. Jesus fell one more time as He neared Calvary. By this time, He would have been exhausted, but He got up and continued on His path to the cross. Ponder Jesus' complete self-surrender.

14. Walk with Jesus along the Way of the Cross. Place yourself next to Him and journey with Him on the path to Calvary.

Application Questions

1. How do you take up your cross and follow Jesus? What are the crosses in your life? How do you respond to them? Do you join your personal Way of the Cross to Jesus'? How might your life be different if you did so more often?

2. Are there any sins that you need to confess? Do you struggle with any particular sins? Do you take them to Jesus and ask for help?

3. When have you fallen in your life? What did those falls feel like? When you fall, do you get up and keep going? Why or why not?

4. Do you share your pain with others? Do others share their pain with you? What are those experiences like? How do you help other people carry their crosses? How do you comfort those who are in pain?

5. How do you think you would have responded if you had been part of the crowd that was watching Jesus as He carried His cross to Calvary?

6. What are the defining moments in your spiritual life?

7. Are you a courageous person? Why or why not?

8. Do you weep for the world and for the people around you? Does your prayer include intercession for the whole world?

9. Have you surrendered you entire life, your entire self, to God? If not, will you do so?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and Adoration – Lord Jesus, we bow before You in silent adoration as we contemplate Your way of the cross. We adore You as we watch You struggle in pain and exhaustion. And You did it all for us that we might be with You in Heaven forever. We love You, Jesus.

Praise – We praise You, Jesus, for Your courage. We praise You for surrendering Your entire Self to the Father. We praise You for carrying Your cross for us. We praise You for Your tremendous love.

Thanksgiving – Once again, Lord, how can we thank You enough? You suffered unspeakable pain and anguish for us when You carried the cross. You taught us how to carry our own crosses, and You walk right along with us when we must. How can we ever thank You enough?

Intercession – Jesus, we lift up to You all those who must carry their crosses. We lift up those who are in pain. We lift up those who must stand beside those who suffer and comfort them. We lift up those who mourn. Hold them all in You loving arms, Lord.

Petition – Jesus, please accompany us as we carry our crosses. Please give us courage and perseverance, and please never leave us alone. Please give us compassion for the suffering around us that we may comfort them and help them carry their crosses.

Quotes from the Saints

“ they went out, they laid hold of Simon, but when they drew near to the place in which they would crucify Him, they laid the cross upon Him that He might bear it. Simon obtained not this office by chance, but was brought to the spot by God's providence, that he might be found worthy of mention in the Scriptures of the Gospel, and of the ministry of the cross of Christ. And it was not only meet that the Savior should carry His cross, but meet also that w e should take part therein, filling a carriage so beneficial to us. Yet would it not have so profited us to take it on us, as we have profited by His taking it upon Himself.” - Origen

“...since this Simon is not called Be a man of Jerusalem, but a Cyrenian, (for Cyrene is a city of Libya,) fitly is he taken to mean the nations of the Gentiles, which were once foreigners and strangers to the covenants, but now by obedience are heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. Whence also Simon is fitly interpreted 'obedient,' and Cyrene 'an heir.' But he is said to come from a country place, for a country place is called 'pagos' in Greek, wherefore those whom we see to be aliens from the city of God, we call pagans. Simon then coming out from the country carries the cross after Jesus, when the Gentile nations leaving pagan rites embrace obediently the footsteps of our Lord's Passion.” - St. Bede

“For no one else accepted to bear the cross, because the wood was counted an abomination. Accordingly upon Simon the Cyrenian they imposed as it were to his dishonor the bearing of the cross, which others refused. Here is fulfilled that prophecy of Isaiah, Whose government shall be upon his shoulder. For the government of Christ is His cross; for which the Apostle says, God has exalted him. And as for a mark of dignity, some wear a belt, others a head dress, so our Lord the cross. And if you seek, you will find that Christ does not reign in us save by hardships, whence it comes that the luxurious are the enemies of the cross of Christ.” - Theophyl.

“Christ therefore bearing His cross, already as a conqueror carried His trophies. The cross is laid upon His shoulders, because whether Simon or Himself bore it, both Christ bore it in the man, and the man in Christ. Nor do the accounts of the Evangelists differ, since the mystery reconciles them. And it is the rightful order of our advance that Christ should first Himself erect the trophy of His cross, then hand it down to be raised by His martyrs. He is not a Jew who bears the cross, but an alien and a foreigner, nor does he precede but follow, according as it is written, Let him take up his cross, and follow me.” - St. Ambrose

“A large multitude indeed followed the cross of Christ, but with very different feelings. For the people who had demanded his death were rejoicing that they should see Him dying, the women weeping that he was about to die. But He was followed by the weeping only of women. Not because that vast crowd of men was not also sorrowful at His Passion, but because the less esteemed female sex could more freely give utterance to what they thought.” - St. Bede

“By these days He signifies the time of the siege and captivity which was coming upon them from the Romans, of which He had said before, Woe to them that are with child, and give suck in those days. It is natural, when captivity by an enemy is threatening, to seek for refuge in fastnesses or hidden places, where men may lie concealed. And so it follows, Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. For Josephus relates, that when the Romans pressed hard upon them, the Jews sought hastily the caverns of the mountains, and the lurking places in the hills. It may be also that the words, Blessed are the barren, are to be understood of those of both sexes, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake, and that it is said to the mountains and hills, Fall upon us, and Cover us, because all who are mindful of their own weakness, when the crisis of their temptations breaks upon them, have sought to be protected by the example, precept, and prayers, of certain high and saintly men.” - St. Bede

“They compel Jesus to bear the cross, regarding it as unholy, and therefore avoiding the touch of it themselves. And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha, where they crucified Him. The same was done typically by Isaac, who carried the wood. But then the matter only proceeded as far as his father's good pleasure ordered, but now it was fully accomplished, for the reality had appeared.” - St. John Chrysostom

“Great spectacle, to the profane a laughing-stock, to the pious a mystery. Profaneness sees a King bearing a cross instead of a scepter; piety sees a King bearing a cross, thereon to nail Himself, and afterwards to nail it on the foreheads of kings. That to profane eyes was contemptible, which the hearts of Saints would afterwards glory in; Christ displaying His own cross on His shoulders, and bearing that which was not to be put under a bushel, the candlestick of that candle which was now about to burn.” - St. Augustine

“He carried the badge of victory on His shoulders, was conquerors do. Some say that the place of Calvary was where Adam died and was buried; so that in the very place on where death reigned, there Jesus erected His trophy.” - St. John Chrysostom

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