The Third Station: The Cross is Laid on Simon of Cyrene
March 20, 2014 Comments Off on The Third Station: The Cross is Laid on Simon of Cyrene
I wanted to pause and meditate for a moment on the meaning of this famous scene, of Simon the Cyrene carrying Jesus’s cross. I think it’s really significant that we get this picture not just of Jesus’s sacrifice, not just of his kenosis or pouring out, but of being supported by another. Even though this is something that the Roman soldiers imposed, I feel that our imitation of Christ should not only be in self-sacrifice, but maybe also in receiving the sacrifice of another. In allowing some burdens to be borne for us by our sisters of brothers in Christ, it reminds us of our dependence, not just on each other, but ultimately I think it reminds us of our dependence upon God. Christ didn’t do it on his own; why on earth do we think that we should?
This is why Paul will can say to the Galatians, “Bear each other’s burdens, and in this way fulfill the law of Christ.” Paul makes the fulfillment of the law of Christ contingent upon mutuality between self and other. Contrary to the law of nature, where self-preservation is the governing concern, relationality in the mystical body of Christ functions through selflessness. To bear one another’s burdens builds community. And, you know, there’s something about bearing a burden for someone else that makes it feel less heavy. It’s like it feels lighter than if it were my own.
This law is a constant check on human instinct, which is always bubbling up: the instinct to self-preservation. To bear the burdens of another, and to allow an other to bear one’s own burdens, demands a decrease in selfishness and an increase in humility. It’s an acting out of these two virtues, and what they say is true, if all else fails, fake it till you make it…. In helping somebody else who has a need, automatically I become less obsessed with my problems, less absorbed in my stuff, in my hurt. By the same token, allowing myself to accept help from another instantaneously creates in me a feeling of humility.
Under the law of Christ, it’s no longer that, in order to get something, one must take. That is the old law, and the law of Rome. To be members of the mystical body of Christ means that in order to get, one must give. And what one gets is access to life in the Spirit, and freedom from hierarchical relationships and the violence inherent in them.
I think part of what Jesus means when he invites believers to take up his yoke is exactly this, to help carry someone else’s cross for a while, and to allow others to do the same for you.
– Atticus Zavaletta