Jesus Carries His Cross
Source: THE SCHOOL
OF JESUS CRUCIFIED, Fr. Ignatius of the Side of Jesus,
TAN BOOKS, with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1895
No sooner is Jesus Christ condemned to death, than He is delivered up to the Jews to be crucified. A Cross is hastily prepared, and placed on the shoulders of our Blessed Lord, Who issues forth from Jerusalem, bearing that heavy burden, on the road to Calvary.
The soldiers, before placing the Cross upon the shoulders of Jesus, tear off the ragged purple mantle which He has worn until then, and put on Him His own clothes again, that He may be more easily recognized by all beholders. Thus are the wounds of Jesus re-opened, and the suffering and agony He endures are great in proportion to the length of time during which the mantle has adhered to His open wounds. Can we meditate upon this point of the Passion without pitying our most afflicted Redeemer, who suffers with such admirable patience and humility? For His greater torment, the crown of thorns is left upon His head, and what a continual source of suffering is this crown to Him! The pressure of the Cross against His sacred Head, every movement He makes, and every step He takes, inflict the most acute torture upon Him. And yet Jesus utters not one word of complaint, but wears this painful crown even to His last breath. Be ashamed of your delicacy and unwillingness to endure the slightest trial. All things being thus arranged, and Jesus clothed in His seamless garment, the! long and heavy Cross, upon which He is to be nailed, is presented to Him. Jesus lifts His eyes, and beholds it, and as it has ever been the object of His most loving desires, He embraces and tenderly presses it to His bosom; then, exhausted as He is, suffering, weak from loss of blood, and in a condition more nearly resembling death than life, places it upon His trembling, bleeding shoulders. Learn, O my soul, in what manner thou shouldst accept whatever God sends thee. It may be a heavy Cross that He sends thee, but remember that it is imposed upon thee by God Himself. Thou wilt never be called upon to suffer as much as Jesus, and unless thou bearest thy Cross after Him, thou wilt never partake of His glory.
2. The ignominious manner in which Jesus comes forth from the Praetorium.
The Jews hasten to conduct Jesus to death, and in order to satisfy their hatred against the innocent Saviour of the world, they determine that He shall die in the company of malefactors, and thus be supposed to be equal to them in guilt. They therefore immediately bring forward two condemned robbers, and having placed Jesus between them, set forward in procession towards Mount Calvary. The people, hearing the cries of joy and loud acclamations of the soldiers hasten from all sides to behold the mournful spectacle.
Jesus comes forth from the Praetorium, between the two thieves who are His companions in punishment, bound with cords, His sacred Face defiled with blood and spittle, His Head crowned with thorns, and His adorable form bending beneath the heavy weight of the Cross which He is bearing with difficulty upon His shoulders. With what confusion must Jesus have been overwhelmed at being seen by everyone in so disgraceful a position! How indescribably painful for Him, to whom sin is infinitely odious, to be exhibited to all Jerusalem in the character of a criminal about to suffer the penalty of his crimes! And yet He carries His Cross, and submits to the disgrace with so much patience and humility, with such meekness and mildness, that any hearts but those of the hardened Jews would have been touched with compassion.
Jesus, in taking up His Cross, has at the same time taken upon Himself all our sins; and it is to make satisfaction for them that He now willingly embraces this humiliation, and joyfully bears the heavy weight of the wood on which He is to sacrifice His life. Is it not just that you, who are guilty of so many faults by which you have immeasurably increased the weight of the Cross of Christ, and inflicted so much suffering upon Him, should now humbly and submissively bear the Cross of penance and of obedience to the Divine commands? All the streets of the city through which Jesus passes are crowded with people. Everyone watches, and takes pleasure in deriding and insulting Him in His sufferings. All blaspheme Him in the most derisive and disgraceful terms, and there is none to console, comfort, or assist Him. Approach, my soul, approach thy afflicted Redeemer, and by the light of faith recognize in that Man who is thus become the scorn of the people, thy Saviour, thy Father, and thy God, bearing in His Own Person the penalty due to thy crimes; shed tears of contrition at His feet, and beware of increasing the weight of His Cross, and inflicting new sorrow upon His tender Heart by committing sin afresh.
3. The unspeakable agony He suffers during this His last journey.
Jesus being much weakened by all the Blood He has shed, is forced to exert the whole of His remaining strength to support the weight of the Cross, and every step He takes adds to His sufferings. He thus ascends the mount, sinking with fatigue, exhausted, and covered with wounds, but no one expresses any compassion for Him. He advances with the utmost difficulty, bearing on His weak and wounded shoulders that heavy Cross, which overpowers Him by its weight, and re-opens all His wounds, to that the traces of His passage are marked in Blood. Oh, what exquisite torture does our sweet Jesus now endure! Your unworthy pleasures, and the steps you have taken in the paths of iniquity, are the causes of all His sufferings. The executioners strike, and force Him onward with cruel blows; the strength of Jesus fails at length entirely, and, overpowered by excessive suffering and fatigue. He sinks beneath the heavy weight of the Cross. My soul, attentively contemplate thy Saviour falling beneath His Cross, and acknowledge the enormity of thy sins. None but a Man-God could bear their weight, and even He is overwhelmed with the horror and deformity of so hateful a burden. If thou hadst not sinned, the weight borne by Jesus would have been less overpowering. The weight of our sins inflicts more suffering upon Him than His heavy Cross. Compassionate thy Lord thus oppressed with sorrow on account of thy sins. Jesus having risen from the ground, feels His strength completely failing, and that He can do no more. And yet, He must proceed onward to Mount Calvary! His love for us, and desire to die for our salvation, infuse vigor into that Body now nearly drained of the last drop of Blood. He is sighing for that moment in which He is to offer Himself as a sacrifice to the honor of His Father, and for the redemption of His brethren. O most sweet Jesus! such then is Thy love for me, and shall I still remain insensible and ungrateful to Thee?
There are crosses to be found everywhere, even upon the throne. Seek not to remove or avoid them, and bear them not unwillingly, but, on the contrary, endeavor to render them meritorious. The Cross alone conducts to Heaven, and there is no Saint who has not loved it. Therefore, when an affliction or trial befall you, never fail to return God thanks, and let it be your study then to practice the virtues of humility, patience, and resignation, in imitation of Jesus bearing His Cross. Are you desirous of carrying your cross with ease? Carry it in the company of Jesus Christ.
ExampleThere is no devotion dearer to the lovers of Jesus suffering than that commonly called the Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross. The servant of God, Sister Mary Minima, of Jesus of Nazareth, used to make the Way of the Cross, if possible, every day, shedding floods of tears, and deeply bewailing the sufferings of her Lord, Whom she accompanied in spirit through the whole of His painful journey to Mount Calvary. One day, as she was performing this devotion, and meditating upon Jesus bearing His Cross, she heard Him say to her, "Look upon Me; assist Me: love Me." From which circumstance her heart became inflamed with the most eager desire to relieve Jesus in His excessive sufferings. Do you also perform this devotion in a spirit of loving compassion for your suffering Lord.