You know that feeling when you feel completely alone and the whole world seems turned against you? When the friendly faces seem rare and far between? When you have an impossible load that you’re trying to do your best to carry, but you can’t seem to do it without stumbling?
Our Lord knows that feeling too. He knows it intimately, in fact.
He carried the Cross.
The gospel describes that scene in the Passion like this:
26If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? 27Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them. 28If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? 29As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. 30All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides.
There are a lot of artworks portraying Jesus carrying the Cross, but I think this is the one that makes me shudder the most.
Why does it make me shudder?
He is alone.
The friendly faces are few and far between. Mind you, there are friendly faces in the crowd. But, they’re hard to spot. Christ’s mother is behind Him in blue. Veronica is holding up her veil nearby. A man, possibly St. John, is looking up at the Virgin Mary, making sure she is okay. But, it’s hard to spot these faces, and Jesus doesn’t seem to be noticing them at all. He is in too much pain. He’s collapsed under the weight of the Cross, the Crown of Thorns still cutting into His Head. And there are far more apathetic or angry faces than there are friendly faces.
The whole world hates Him.
There’s a sort of foreignness to the scene that gives me a sense of queasiness. The Roman Eagle from Europe, the rich silk cloths from Asia, the furs of animals that came from Africa… they lend a foreign sort of touch to this picture which make it seem like the whole world is pitted against Christ and desires to kill Him.
And, the more I consider this imagery, the more appropriate it seems. After all, Jesus once says, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated Me first” (John 15:18). And it reminds me how uncomfortable it is to stand up for Christ in this world, even today. Nobody wants to be hated by the world.
And yet, that is the path we are on, if we follow Jesus. And that is terrifying.
He is going to die.
Looking at this picture is intense. Even Christ’s expression, it’s clear that He is suffering greatly. He seems to be stopped, collapsed under the weight of the Cross, which makes the motion of everybody else seem dizzying. Everybody but Christ seems to be clamoring up to get to the top of the hill as quickly as they can.
And so your eye is naturally drawn upwards to the top of Calvary, towards the sky. After all, there is so much that goes on in this scene that your eye gets tired and wants to look at something simple. Skies are simple. And clouds are pleasant to look at. So your eye goes there.
But, there at the top of Calvary, one cross is already there, and soon Christ’s cross will be there as well.
And it acts as yet another reminder of the inevitable: that Christ will die in an excruciating way.
Some Final Thoughts
During Christ’s ministry, He often told His disciples that, in order to be His disciple, they would need to carry their cross and follow Him. During these instances, His disciples seemed to ignore Christ. After all, nobody wants to carry the Cross. Nobody wants to hear that they will suffer. Perhaps they were hoping that, when He predicted His own crucifixion and urged them to follow Him, He was merely speaking in a parable.
We too must carry our own crosses. We too must suffer.
May we always look to Christ and follow Him.
This blog is part of a blog series about meditations of the Rosary, in honor for October, which is the month dedicated to the Rosary! This artwork, as well as many others, are available in my book, The Sorrowful Mysteries, which allows you to pray the Rosary prayer by prayer, with each prayer illustrated with gorgeous religious art. If you would like to learn more about the books, click here!