Monday, March 8, 2010

Eucharistic Way of the Cross: Fifth Station

Simon of Cyrene Carries the Cross

As Jesus struggles under the weight of the cross, the Roman soldiers press into service a man from the crowd, Simon from Cyrene, to help Jesus carry His burden. We might ask: Is Simon a disciple of Jesus? Had he ever laid eyes on the man before this moment? Was he simply in the wrong place at the wrong time? – Regardless of Simon’s worthiness and regardless of his status in life, he shares Jesus suffering and participates in His sacrifice. He was called out for this role it was given to him…as a burden…as a gift?

At Mass:

The priest invokes the words of consecration: “Take this, all of you, and eat: this is my body which will be given up for you.”

Saint Augustine used to tell Christian upon receiving the Eucharist at communion: “Receive what you are and become what you receive.” We are the “Body of Christ” and we receive His Body at Mass under the appearance of bread. We should see this as a call to better imitate Jesus in His suffering. We are called out from among the crowd to bear the cross. Simon of Cyrene bore the weight of the very cross that would be the instrument of our salvation. Simon, whether he knew it or not, was making Jesus’ sacrifice his own and so participated in the salvation of the world. Is the Mass any different?

When the priest declares that he holds in his hands the very Body of Jesus, like Simon of Cyrene, the priest places himself in Jesus’ role (in persona Christi), and bears up the weight of the cross with His own hands. We are called to make this sacrifice our own.

[For an explanation of this series of meditations on the Way of the Cross see this Introduction.]

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