Online Edition – March 2007
Vol. XIII, No. 1
Jesus Falls from the Weight of the Cross
From the Stations of the Cross, given at the Colosseum in 2005 by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI
Jesus falls for the first time
V/. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi.
R/. Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.
From the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 53:4-6:
Surely He has born our griefs 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.
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.
Pater noster, qui es in cælis:
sanctificetur nomen tuum;
adveniat regnum tuum;
fiat voluntas tua, sicut in cælo, et in terra.
Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie;
et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris;
et ne nos inducas in tentationem;
sed libera nos a malo.
O quam tristis et afflicta
fuit illa benedica mater Unigeniti!
Our Father, who art in heaven:
Hallowed be thy name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
O how sad and how afflicted was the blessed mother of the Only Begotten!