Since there was such a positive reception to the excerpt from Caryll Houselander's The Way of the Cross last week, I decided to provide another. The previous post is here and you can read about the book here.
All fourteen stations are fascinating, but there is something a little more disturbing about the fifth station, the one where Simon the Cyrene is forced to help Jesus carry the cross up to Calvary. He was just walking by. He had no intention of following the macabre procession. He didn’t know Jesus. It’s almost as if we were walking down the street, turned a corner, and came across a robbery, and somehow got thrown into the drama. There is such significance in it and Houselander does a great job of bringing it all out.
Simon the Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross
He is labouring under the cross. It is too much for Him to carry alone. Everyone can see that, but no one offers to help Him. Someone, then, must be forced. The soldiers seize upon Simon of Cyrene. It has, or he thinks it has, nothing to do with him. He was simply about his own business in Jerusalem. It seems to him mere chance that he met this tragic procession—an unlucky chance for him, but there it is! He is made to take up the load and help this man, a stranger to him, and whom he supposes to be a criminal on the way to his execution.
Really there is no chance in the incident. It is something planned by God from eternity to show men the way of Christ’s love: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” It means that no one is meant to suffer alone. No one is meant to carry his own cross without some other human being to help him.
Again Christ is proving to the world that He has come to live the life of all ordinary men on the simplest human terms. Now as He accepts the reluctant help of Simon—accepts it because He perforce must, and yet in His humility gratefully—He is showing each one of us whom He will indwell, what he asks of us and what He wants us to give to one another.
A man who claims to be self-sufficient and not to need any other man’s help in hardship and suffering has no part in Christ. The pride which claims to be independent of human sympathy and practical help from others is unchristian. We are here to help one another.
We are here to help Christ in one another. We are here to help Christ blindly. We must know Him by faith, not by vision. We must help Him not only in those who seem to be Christlike, but more in those in whom Christ is hidden: in the most unlikely people, in those whom the world condemns. It is in them that Christ, indwelling man, suffers most; it is in them He cannot carry His cross today without the help of other men.
Houselander, Caryll. The Way of the Cross (pp. 31-32). Angelico Press. Kindle Edition.
How many times do we come cross Christ in our daily activities? How many times do you help the person who can’t carry his cross by himself? Helping the elderly is the first thing that comes to my mind, but anyone in accident, or disabled, or a child can easily be overwhelmed by immediate circumstances. When you do so, you are Simon called to help Christ.
Here’s a clip from the movie, The Passion of the Christ that dramatizes the scene.