Simon of Cyrene Helps Carry the Cross by Joseph Breig, 1950’s
Now here is a strange thing. Here is a bewildering thing. Here is a downright dumbfounding thing. Christ the omnipotent, He who could say to a mountain, ‘remove from here, and it would remove-Christ no longer can carry His cross. Christ needs somebody to help Him to carry out His mission of salvation.
Christ is falling, Christ is fainting, Christ is failing. Christ needs an assistant; Christ the rescuer of all mankind needs rescuing. And in this moment of shattering drama, does God send an angel, or a prophet, a flaming personality such as John the Baptist? No, God sends a man of whom nobody ever has heard. God selects a chance passerby to lift Christ’s burden and to walk beside Christ on the way to Golgotha.
What mystery is this, that the most ordinary and casual onlooker is lifted to immortality, is chosen to lend his strength to the All-Powerful One when the All-Powerful One is helpless? Cannot the divine Christ, the healer of lepers, the giver of sight to the blind, the restorer of life to the lifeless, cannot He finish his work unless he is assisted by this Simon of Cyrene who has blundered onto the scene, and who, we may guess, has small taste for carrying crosses for condemned criminals?
Mystery it is indeed; mystery of mysteries. It is as mysterious, this incident, as St. Paul’s remark about filling up in his own body what is wanting in the passion of Christ. What can possibly be wanting in the passion of Christ? Although we know that God could have repaired fallen human nature by a simple act of His Will, yet He demands for our personal salvation an act of our will, a cooperation with His grace.
This is the mystery of human freedom, without which man is not really man at all. Man to be man must be able to make choices. Man to be what he is, the image and likeness of God, must distinguish between good and evil, and choose good. How else is man to have any dignity? How else is man to be like unto God? How else is man to be happy-for does not happiness consist in the knowledge that one has done the good that one ought to do, and avoided the evil that one ought to avoid? How can man share forever in the happiness of God unless he has identified himself with that happiness by freely choosing God and God’s way?
It is like asking whether any of us can enjoy the beauty of a sunset without ever having gazed upon a sunset, or the lilting joy of symphony music without having listened to it. What the conductor of an orchestra feels, we cannot feel without sharing, according to our capacity, in his experience. We cannot have any of his happiness in music without ourselves entering into music. Neither can we enter into God’s eternal joy without choosing for ourselves the cause of that joy, which is God’s goodness.
There are those who blindly complain about this; who would prefer that God force His happiness upon them without their doing anything to make themselves capable of it. But this is impossible. As well might we ask that we know the joys of love while refusing to love; or the pleasure of knowledge while declining to learn. If you do not know a single word of English, and resolutely refrain from acquiring any English, it would be foolish of you to complain because you cannot enter into the joy of reading Shakespeare in his own tongue. You are simply incapable, through your own choice, of sharing in the experience and the insights of Shakespeare.
Thus it is with God and man. Christ has opened the door; Christ has led the way; Christ has given us all the means for fitting ourselves for the happiness of heaven. But if we turn our backs, if we walk the other direction, if we reject the means, then we shall find that with respect to God’s happiness, we are like blind men trying to enjoy the sight of flowers, we are like the deaf wanting to listen to music, we are like paralyzed persons longing for dancing and the poetry of movement. We must do our part. We must lift a burden as Simon lifted; we must walk with Christ as Simon walked. We must fill up in ourselves, as St. Paul filled up, what is wanting of the passion of Christ.
The point is that what is wanting in the passion of Christ is my little bit, and your little bit. In one sense, Christ climbed alone to Calvary. In another sense, He climbed in the midst of a countless multitude of other climbers, each carrying his own little cross, his own little duty, his own contribution to the unselfish immolation of love. The passion of Christ took place at a certain time and in a certain place; but it extends backward to Adam and Eve, and forward to the last man and woman.
What we ought to see when we contemplate Christ’s sacrifice is not the sacrifice of Christ alone, but the sacrifice of Christ expanded into countless other hearts and souls. This is the meaning of the Mystical Body of Christ; this is the meaning of the Church. The Church is Christ saving all of us by enlisting our willing cooperation. The Church is Christ and you and I and a vast concourse of others, indomitably struggling upward and onward toward the death that is the opening into life everlasting. Every last one of us is, or ought to be, a Simon of Cyrene, walking through life with Christ, enduring bravely life’s vicissitudes and keeping our eyes always on the goal until it is achieved.
Unless the Simons do their part, the Simons cannot accomplish what Christ gave them the power to accomplish. All this is a mystery, and yet it ought to be as plain as a pikestaff.
Let us express it in this manner-the confessionals are always open, and guilt can be blotted out of our souls in an instant, but not if we will not enter the confessional. And even if we enter the confessional, nothing is accomplished without contrition. Nobody else can be contrite for us; we ourselves must turn from evil to embrace good. The instant we do that, we become capable of the life of God which is the life of love and goodness; we begin, in fact, to share God’s supernatural life on earth. We have a foretaste of eternal joys; we enter into an anteroom to heaven.
But as long as evil is what a man loves, then what he loves is not goodness, and he cannot know the happiness that comes of goodness embraced. To make a homely comparison, if I cannot abide the taste of olives, then olives cannot give me pleasure. If I want the pleasure that olives give, I must change. And if I am to share the happiness of God, then I must fit myself to be happy by God’s happiness; I must become like God. I must determine to be a Simon of Cyrene who will be ready to walk with Christ and not to turn away from Christ.
Simon might have been a lover of comfort who would have so weakened his body with self-indulgence and luxury as to have been incapable of lifting the weight of Christ’s cross. He was fit for Christ, when the test came, because his muscles were strong, and his soul willing. To each of us comes our moments of Simon-likeness, when we are called upon to do our bit in sharing the passion of Christ which leads to resurrection and glorification with Christ. It is our duty and our high privilege to be always prepared.
A mother holds her baby in her arms, looks up to God, and knows that she, by months of suffering and patience, has co-operated with Him in making and bringing into the world a little body housing a priceless soul. A father stands above his new-born son resting in the arms of his wife, and knows as he picks him up and weighs him tenderly that he has shared with God the Father His very fatherhood; for this mite of humanity, immortal in destiny, is truly his son. Mother and father together have co-operated with God in the astonishing creation of a human being. -Fr. Daniel A. Lord, 1950’s
A Finer Femininity Meditation for Lent
What happened to Veronica’s veil was simply an outward expression of what happened in Veronica’s soul. Are we “Veronica’s” in our everyday life? Do we seek to serve, to encourage, to listen….?
Do you need some inspiration? For some great book suggestions visit My Book List… https://finerfem.com/my-book-list/