Excerpts from MEDITATION ON THE PASSION
Rev. Reginald Walsh, O.P.
Burns Oates & Washbourne LTD, London
with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1922
THE ESCORT OF OUR CROSS-BEARING SAVIOUR
Our Blessed Lord did not carry His Cross alone; He was accompanied by
many. Indeed, all who walked with the procession to the place of
execution took part in the carrying of the Cross, each in his own way.
We may distinguish three different groups among them: (1) Those who
load our Lord with the Cross. (2) Those who literally carry the Cross
with Him. (3) Those who participate in spirit in our Lord's carrying of
. - Those who load
our Lord with the Cross. Those who lay the Cross upon our Lord's
shoulders are the authors of His Passion - viz., the Jews, the Priests,
the Pharisees, the soldiers, the executioners and their assistants.
They are all guilty of His Passion, and increase it by their cruelty
and mockery. They themselves carry a cross, too - the cross of their
evil passions and sins. They are the tools of Satan, and it is his yoke
that they drag along. This is an inglorious cross - a fatal cross,
which leads not to redemption, but to eternal death. Whoever does not
embrace the Cross of Jesus must bear that of Satan.
And in a wider sense we and all men belong to those who load our Lord
with the Cross. They are our sins that He is painfully carrying - our
sins, that are pressing upon Him with such cruel weight - which of us
has not contributed a share to weight the Cross laid on our dear Lord?
How just and fitting, then, that we should accompany our Lord, and now
at least make reparation to Him for the hardships and cruelties of this
journey by the relief our compassion and gratitude can afford Him! As
Jesus allowed Himself to be loaded with the Cross through love of me,
so shall I accept each cross that is laid on me, through love for Him.
When nature is ready to sink beneath the burden of the cross I shall
look confidently to Jesus for grace to carry it patiently and
Many, says St. Alphonsus Liguori, love Jesus, as long as the breeze of
heavenly consolation refreshes them; but if the clouds of diversity
lower, if for their trial, Christ, our dear Lord, withdraws His
sensible presence from them, they are sorely tempted to give up prayer,
neglect self-denial, sink into despondency and tepidity, and finally
turn for comfort to creatures and perishable things. Such souls love
themselves more than Jesus Christ. Those who truly love our Lord are
faithful in darkness and trial. Faith tells us that Jesus is as sovereignly amiable and good when He afflicts as when He consoles
[Emphasis here and below added.] Oh, how dear to the Heart of Jesus is
the soul who suffers with loving submission! Precious, beyond all
graces, is the grace to suffer and to love!
COLLOQUY. - O most sweet Jesus, draw me close to Thy Heart and help me
to love the Cross, for without the Cross I know there can be no close
union with Thee. "Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou shalt
go." I do want to be wholly Thine; take me, and dispose of me ever and
always, according to the good pleasure of Thy Heart. May I at last, by
likeness to Thee, and union with Thee, become a true disciple of Thy
Heart. "Thou art my God and my Eternal King!"
. - Those who
literally carry the Cross with Jesus. The two malefactors are the first
in this group. They go with Jesus and carry their crosses to the place
of execution. But they do not carry them for Jesus, for faith and
virtue, but on account of their crimes and misdeeds. Nor do they carry
them as Jesus did His, but only under compulsion, raging and gnashing
their teeth, and - one of them at all events, the thief on the left
side - with evil consequences. For him it may have been the instrument
of eternal damnation. But in the heart of the good thief the first
emotions of the contrition and penance that he so touchingly completed
on the cross, may have just begun to stir during the carrying of the
Another who literally carries the Cross with Jesus is Simon of Cyrene,
who actually carried it part of the way to Calvary. How did this
happen? Simon was returning from the country, and, as it appears, just
entering by the city gate; for we are told that the soldiers found him
as they were going out, laid hold on Him, and forced Him to take up our
Lord's Cross. Why? Because the weakness and exhaustion of Jesus was so
great that they feared He would succumb on the way under its weight. They laid the Cross on him to carry after Jesus.
It was for Simon's sake much more than for His Own that our Lord shared
His Cross with him. The virtue that came from its contact with the Son
of God went out to him who followed in His footsteps. Quickly Simon
learned his lesson. From bearing the Cross reluctantly he came to bear
it patiently, willingly, joyfully, reaching thus the highest perfection
of which love is capable on earth. We may assume this in respect of
Simon himself. And as regards Alexander and Rufus, his sons, the fact
of their being mentioned by name in this place of St. Mark's gospel may
show that they received extraordinary graces through Simon's good deed.
To carry after Jesus
. - What
blessed words! I shall do well to hear them, as they apply to me just
as truly as to Simon. There is rarely a day that I have not the
privilege of bearing some cross for and after Jesus, my dear Master.
What a loss for eternity if I neglect my opportunities. Do I? They laid the Cross on him.
True, but did Simon stop at the instrument? When, after years spent in
his Master's service, he looked back to the meeting on the road to
Calvary, did he so much as think of the hands that constrained him? Was
not the design of God too plain? Was it not God Who planned that
meeting, Who chose him for the honour of being the first to carry the
Cross after Jesus.
Looking back on their lives, from the
bed of death and from their place in Heaven, the servants of God see
that what they could least spare out of their life would be its
crosses. It is the Cross that has stamped them all with the mark
special to the elect. For whom He foreknew He also predestined to be
made conformable to the image of His Son
wonderful are God's dealings with us. How continually He turns our days
of trouble into times of the richest blessing. Little did Simon of
Cyrene think that Friday morning as he went forth to his daily toil,
that grace was lying in wait for him on the road to Calvary - that
hidden in the Cross of pain and shame was laid up for him the highest
honour and never-ending joy. We rise in the morning and make our plans
for the day. God has made His for us. Turning a corner, we find the
Cross of Christ awaiting us, and with it the grace that with a little
effort on our part will enable us to bear it bravely after our Master.
How is it that whilst we have plenty of congratulations for Simon we
have nothing but compassion for ourselves!
COLLOQUY. - Teach me, dear Lord, to bear my crosses with faith, and hope, and love.
"Nearer, my God to Thee, nearer to Thee;
E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me."
- to believe that every cross comes from Thy hand - to cry out when I see it in the distance: It is the Lord.
- because, dear Jesus, if I follow Thee to Calvary now, I shall follow Thee into Thy Kingdom by-and-by. With love
- that will make me glad to bear something for Thee Who hast borne so
much for me. Mother, imprint deeply on my heart the wounds of Thy
"Make me feel as Thou hast felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ thy Son."
. - Those who participate in spirit in our Lord's carrying of the Cross.
In this group we find, first - the women of Jerusalem, and other good people who compassionated our Lord's fate. For a great multitude followed Him,
says St. Luke. They commiserated Him, and gave vent to their pity and
grief in loud lamentations. This expression of their grief was right,
and required great courage, since it was made in the presence and the
hearing of our Lord's triumphant foes. What was imperfect about it was
that they regarded our Lord's Passion as a pure misfortune, and
bewailed it as such. Jesus rewards them for their compassion. He speaks
to them, and in His turn offers His pity for them and their children.
These women and other compassionate people are a type of the souls who
feel pity for the sufferings of our Lord, but do not follow up their
pity by deeds. But Jesus, the loving Lord and Master, accepts even this
token of love graciously, and returns it in His Own way.
According to tradition, our Lord was met on His way to Calvary by a
woman named Veronica or Berenice. Veronica desired to give Jesus a
proof of her attachment, love, and compassion at this moment of
distress and abandonment. Her loving pity is practical, noble, and
courageous. See her as she pushes her way through the crowd to Him, and
hands Him her veil that He may wipe His Divine Face. This act was a
slight service, but a courageous confession of her faith in Jesus, of
her loyalty and fidelity to Him. It was all she could do at this
moment, and she did it with a generous and loving heart; and oh, how
magnificently Jesus rewards her for her faith and love! See how
gratefully and tenderly Jesus looks on Veronica as He takes the veil,
wipes the blood and perspiration from His Sacred Face, and gives it
back to her. How her heart overflowed with love when, having reached
her home, she unfolded the veil and beheld the adorable face of Jesus
miraculously imprinted on its folds.
"Magnet of souls
! - O holy Face!
Draw us to Thee by Thy sweet grace,
That all we do, and think, and say,
May be for Thee alone today.
And through Thy boundless power and grace,
Work wonders, O most holy Face!"
How sweetly our dear Lord rewards even the very smallest act of
charity, and encourages us to give Him heartfelt proofs of our love,
even though we can do so little.
. - We find in this
group our Lord's Own Mother, who (as tradition says) also awaited Him
on this painful journey. In the Via Dolorosa, or Way of the Cross, it
is believed that there is a memorial of their sorrowful meeting. The
new church of "The Lady of the Spasm
which belongs to the Armenian Catholics, stands over the place marked
by tradition as the Fourth Station of the Cross, and in a subterranean
chapel belonging to this church the memorial may be seen. In the words
of the learned Father Meistermann, O.S.F.: "In the crypt, level with
the ancient street, some bits of the pavement of which have been found
on the northern side, is a great piece of mosaic, which was discovered
in digging the foundations for the new church. A square, framed in a
rich border, bears in the centre two little shoes or sandals placed
together, with their points turned to the northwest. This mosaic, which
is prior to the seventh century, seems to mark the very spot where
tradition states that the Blessed Virgin stood when she exchanged with
her Son a look which pierced her maternal heart like a sword." These
words will help us in making our composition of place. "In death they
were not divided."
Jesus, our dear and Blessed Master, on the way to Calvary must teach us
at every turn, for His time is short. His most Blessed Mother, too, the
first and most faithful of His disciples, is to serve us for an example
on that way. Let us watch the meeting and see the kind of consolation
they bring to one another in this hour of bitter anguish for both. What
fortitude! What self-forgetfulness! What oblation of the strongest,
holiest affection earth has ever seen! Mary's heart beats in perfect
unison with the Heart of her Son. Like His, it throws itself into the
Divine Will for the redemption of the world with a strength of purpose
that sanctifies the instincts of nature. There is no shrinking in their
self-immolation at the sight of the anguish of the One dearer to each
than life. The Son and the Mother meet,
but it is as the Redeemer and the Co-Redemptrix of the world. The
sacrifice that their mutual love increases occupies them entirely.
Contemplate the meeting of the Mother and Son. Their eyes meet. Dimly,
through the tears and blood that obscure His sight, Jesus discerns His
Mother's face, and His glance carries strength to her soul. He summons
her, His well-beloved, to ratify the oblation made at Nazareth in the
hour of the Incarnation, when she consented to become the Mother of the
Man of Sorrows, the oblation made solemnly in the Temple on the day of
His Presentation, and renewed again and again as the time of the
Passion drew near: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord."
At every stage of His Redemption she has been, and is, His handmaid,
waiting upon Him always, His solitary fellow-worker, on whose sympathy
and absolute fidelity He can rely.
And now His hour has come, the hour of which He had so often spoken to
her at Nazareth, the hour that was the subject of such earnest prayer
put up together, as they knelt side by side; the hour for which He had
promised to strengthen her, that, first in privilege as in dignity, she
might drink deeper than any other of His chalice. His glance recalls
all this to her now, and it is met by a response such as that handmaid
alone could give. No cry escapes her. To bring Him the only comfort in
her power, the assurance that she accepts with Him every jot and tittle
of the Father's Will; that she does not grudge one pang, that she is
ready for more, for the consummation of the sacrifice, for Calvary -
this is her one thought. Mary cannot speak her Ecce Ancilla
, her heart would break with a word to Him; but her eyes, her quivering lip, her clasped hands speak for her.
It is by studying prayerfully this meeting of Jesus and Mary on the
road to Calvary that I shall learn how true friendship comports itself
in the hour of trial. What kind of consolation do I bring to others in
the path of daily life that is for so many of God's servants the Way of
the Cross? Is it a help and spiritual support to meet me? Do I try to
take the sting out of wounds, or are they the worse for my handling? Do
I, by injudicious sympathy, accentuate vexations or misunderstandings?
Do I try to put a favourable construction on painful words or acts, and
abstain from repeating what would work further mischief l Are others
moved by my words and example to bear up bravely and trust in God.
Mary's was the noblest and most sublime participation in our Lord's
Cross, because nothing could equal the courage and love of His Mother,
and her desire to suffer with her Divine Son. Is not our Blessed Mother
here the highest model of all cross-bearing souls?
All have a cross to bear, the cross of sin and passion, the cross of
misfortune permitted by God, or the cross of penance or of love. Thus
the Way of the Cross is a living type of the Church and the whole human
race. Whoever we are, willingly or unwillingly, we must form part of
the escort of our Cross-bearing Saviour. All that is left to our choice
is, to which division of the company we will belong, and surely the
choice is not difficult. "Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth." How
glad and proud I shall be on the last day to bear the Cross on my
forehead, to hear the congratulations of the holy ones who surround the
throne of God: "Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth
." Why should I not feel at least the beginning of that gladness now?
COLLOQUY. - Thou wert glad, dear Lord, to suffer for me, not that Thou
couldst desire suffering for its own sake, for Thou wert truly Man, and
Thine exquisitely sensitive nature shrank as none other ever shrank
from pain; but, my dear Jesus, my Lord and my God, Thou didst long to
go through that pain which was to purchase my happiness, and to prove
Thy love to me. If Thou, my Jesus, didst look forward with eagerness to
Thy Passion, it was all for my sake. "He loved me, and delivered Himself for me.
Ah, dear Lord, so must it be with me. I cannot desire suffering for
itself, but, sweet Jesus, with the grace which Thou wilt give to me as
to Thy Saints I may come to love what will bring me nearer to Thee -
which will forward Thy designs for my sanctification and happiness,
which will enable me to glorify Thee more, and be proof to Thee of my
gratitude and my love.
Give me grace, dear Jesus, to understand the Mystery of the Cross, to
value it, and when Thou dost give me the Cross here, to give me a right
to bear its glorious sign on the last day, let me not turn away
rebellious or disconsolate. Let me not sorrow as those that have no
hope, bitterly, because unwillingly. My dear Master, with Thy Almighty
Grace, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou shalt go. "In what place
soever Thou shalt be, Lord, my King, either in life or in death, there
will Thy servant be." O my Mother, help me to be true to Jesus at any
"Make me feel as Thou halt felt.
Make my heart to glow and melt,
With the love of Christ, my Lord."
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