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S.P. 42: "Borromeo" Liturgy of the Hours miniated by Cristoforo de Predis, Cent. XV
Ambrosian Library

Jesus takes up his cross


V/. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi.
R/. Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.

From the Gospel according to Mark. 15:20

And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.


In the courtyards of the imperial palace the grim sport has ended, the silly royal robes have been taken away, the doors open. And Jesus comes forth, dressed in his own clothing, in a tunic “without seam, woven from top to bottom”[19]. His shoulders are bent beneath the cross-beam which will receive his arms and then be attached to the pole of the crucifix. His is a silent presence, his footprints stain with blood that street of Jerusalem which even today bears the name “Via Dolorosa”.

Now begins the real Way of the Cross, the route we repeat tonight, which leads to the hill of executions, outside the walls of the holy city. Jesus slowly makes his way forward, his mangled, weak body staggering beneath the weight of the cross. Tradition has symbolically marked that route by three falls. They reflect the unending story of all those women and men laid low by poverty or starvation: frail children, the aged and infirm, the weak and the poor, those from whose veins all strength has been sucked.

Those falls also contain the story of all those who are desolate and unhappy, ignored by the busy and distracted crowd which hurries by. In Christ, bent beneath the weight of the cross, we see that frail and sickly humanity of which the prophet Isaiah says[20] “deep from the earth shall you speak, from low in the dust your words shall come; your voice shall come from the ground like the voice of a ghost, and your speech shall whisper out of the dust.”

* * *

Today too, as then, surrounding Jesus as he picks himself up and pushes forward carrying the wood of the cross, is the daily life of the street, with its business deals, its bright shop windows, its pursuit of pleasure. Surrounding him, however, there is not only hostility or indifference. Even today there are those who choose to follow him, to walk in his footsteps. They have heard the summons that he had issued one day as he walked through the fields of Galilee: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”[21]. “Let us, then, go forth to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured”[22]. At the end of the Via Dolorosa is not only the mount of death or the darkness of the tomb, but also the mount of his glorious Ascension, the mount of light.



Pater noster, qui es in clis:
sanctificetur nomen tuum;
adveniat regnum tuum;
fiat voluntas tua, sicut in clo, 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.

Quis non posset contristari,
piam matrem contemplari
dolentem cum Filio?


[19] John 19:23.

[20] Isaiah 29:4.

[21] Luke 9:23

[22] Hebrews 13:13


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