For the last fourteen days of Lent, I’m posting one Station of the Cross per day, taken from Pope John Paul II’s 2003 Good Friday meditations, and Pope Benedict’s 2005 Good Friday meditations, both delivered at the Colosseum.
V. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi. [We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee.]
R. Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum. [Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.]
From the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. 53:4-6
Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
|Third Station of the Cross, Church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste au Beguinage|
Jesus falls under the weight of the Cross. He falls to the ground. He does not resort to his superhuman powers, he does not resort to the power of the angels. “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Mt 26:53). He does not ask for that. Having accepted the cup from the Father’s hands (Mk 14:36) he is resolved to drink it to the end. This is as he wills it. And so he has no thoughts of any superhuman force, although such force is at his disposal. Those who saw him when he showed his power over human infirmities, crippling diseases and even death itself, may well, in their grief, have wondered: “What now?” “Is he repudiating all that?” In a few days the disciples on the road to Emmaus would say: “We had hoped” (cf. Lk 24:21). “If you are the Son of God….” (Mt 27:40), the members of the Sanhedrin were to fling at him. And the crowd would yell: “He saved others but he cannot save himself” (Mk 15:31: Mt 27:42).
He accepts these provocations, which seem to undermine the whole meaning of his mission, his teaching, his miracles. He accepts them all, for he is determined not to combat them. To be insulted is what he wills. To stagger and fall under the weight of Cross is what he wills. He wills it all. To the end, down to the bitter end, he is faithful to what he had said: “Not my will, but yours be done” (cf. Mk 14:36, etc.).
God will bring forth the salvation of humanity from Christ’s falling beneath the weight of the Cross.
Jesus, meek lamb, Redeemer, you bear the sin of the world. R. Kyrie, eleison.
Jesus, our companion at times of suffering, you share in our human weakness. R. Kyrie, eleison
From the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. 53:4-6
Surely he has born our grief and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
|Third Station of the Cross, Three Falls Church, Salamanca, Mexico|
Man has fallen, and he continues to fall: often he becomes a caricature of himself, no longer the image of God, but a mockery of the Creator. Is not the man who, on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among robbers who stripped him and left him half-dead and bleeding beside the road, the image of humanity par excellence? Jesus’ fall beneath the Cross is not just the fall of the man Jesus, exhausted from his scourging. There is a more profound meaning in this fall, as Paul tells us in the Letter to the Philippians: “though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men… He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a Cross” (Phil 2:6-8). In Jesus’ fall beneath the weight of the Cross, the meaning of his whole life is seen: his voluntary abasement, which lifts us up from the depths of our pride.
The nature of our pride is also revealed: it is that arrogance which makes us want to be liberated from God and left alone to ourselves, the arrogance which makes us think that we do not need his eternal love, but can be the masters of our own lives. In this rebellion against truth, in this attempt to be our own god, creator and judge, we fall headlong and plunge into self-destruction. The humility of Jesus is the surmounting of our pride; by his abasement he lifts us up. Let us allow him to lift us up. Let us strip away our sense of self-sufficiency, our false illusions of independence, and learn from him, the One who humbled himself, to discover our true greatness by bending low before God and before our downtrodden brothers and sisters.
Lord Jesus, the weight of the cross made you fall to the ground. The weight of our sin, the weight of our pride, brought you down. But your fall is not a tragedy, or mere human weakness. You came to us when, in our pride, we were laid low. The arrogance that makes us think that we ourselves can create human beings has turned man into a kind of merchandise, to be bought and sold, or stored to provide parts for experimentation. In doing this, we hope to conquer death by our own efforts, yet in reality we are profoundly debasing human dignity. Lord help us; we have fallen. Help us to abandon our destructive pride and, by learning from your humility, to rise again.
|Third Station of the Cross, Pfettisheim Saint Symphorian|
Pater noster, …
O quam tristis et afflicta
fuit illa benedica