“Take up your cross and follow me,” you said.
We couldn’t know then exactly what you meant,
But then they placed the thorns upon your head,
And mocked you for their mirthless merriment.
Condemned you did not fight their condemnation,
While they passed you back and forth like a child’s game.
Condemned for every person, you are Salvation,
But asking who condemned you, I say my name.
I stood in the crowd and chanted “Crucify!”
I said your blood would be upon my hands.
I drove the nails, I made the Savior cry.
I left the Savior dying, it was my plan.
Condemned you started on your dolorous road,
The cross upon your back your heavy load.
The cross upon your back your heavy load,
You stumble with it on the sinner’s way.
Straining with each step upon the road,
Your mouth is shut, you have nothing left to say
Until your final moments on the cross.
What did you think as you started to drink the cup,
The cup you prayed your Father would allow to pass,
The cup that would see you fall and lifted up?
Did you think of those who had abandoned you?
Or the people who desired to watch you die?
Did you think of me and the sinful things I do,
Which led you to the barren hill so high?
Or did you focus on every single breath
As your feet still led you to the death of death?
As your feet still lead you to the death of death,
You stumble on the rocks and stones and holes,
The very rocks you once said could be filled with breath
And cry out your name and move us in our souls.
You fall to show us we can rise again,
That our first fall has now been overcome.
In this fall is our original sin,
And you show us death will one day soon be done.
You fall to the ground, you fall just like a toddler,
Looking for his father, for his mother,
But you fell down to raise up our fallen father,
To loose our first mother from her evil lover.
You lift the cross and rise up to your feet;
You see the woman Eve was meant to be.
You see the woman Eve was meant to be,
Her heart pierced through by many sorrowful swords.
Her tears obstruct her eyes, she can barely see
As celestial silence sounds from her Son, the Word.
It was her fiat that made this possible,
Her “let it be” to undo her mother’s “Yes.”
But to survive this? it seems impossible,
To see her only Son reduced to less
Than human by our sins and dark cruelty.
And in your eyes, she sees this is not the end,
For in your eyes are comfort and credulity,
Belief that life cannot break, only bend.
But still you bend beneath the heavy cross,
And a man is forced to replace the strength you lost.
A man is forced to replace the strength you’ve lost,
Simon of Cyrene bears some of the load.
You rise, it is yours to pay the cost,
But Simon remains and joins you on the road.
God has always used his mediators:
Worked through us and not just on his own.
So Simon lifted up our bleeding Savior,
Determined with you to walk, with you to groan.
Would I have taken on my Savior’s pain,
Walked with you on the via dolorosa?
Or would I have turned my back on you again,
And left you on the path in pain and closer
To the dust from which humanity was made,
With grime and blood and mud upon your face?
With grime and mud and blood upon your face,
You wander closer to your final hour
When a girl who takes up little space
Proceeds to stop you with her innocent power.
She reaches up to clean you and sees you smile.
You bend down to receive her ministrations.
She delights you for a little while,
And you leave behind the icon of Salvation.
For you are the Image in whose image we are made,
We bear it truly as you bear our sins for us.
But even the Image of God cannot be stayed,
You continue on this path so dolorous.
This brief respite with her can’t reel you in,
Your light is flickering out, your beacon’s dim.
Your light is flickering out, your beacon’s dim,
And so our God falls down a second time.
This self-kenosis is a weight on him,
The One from Whom all lights receive their shine.
A baby in a manger, so powerless
Is he who made the stars to shine and play.
The Boundless God draws closer to the precipice,
Bounding to his death at the close of day.
Your second fall, your choice of Incarnation
United you to our so fragile flesh.
We’ll rise with you, we’ll rise in deification,
For with your divinity we have been enmeshed.
But you still have so many miles to go
When you see the Jewish women full of woe.
When you see the Jewish women full of woe,
You hear the voice that wept in lamentation,
Rachel’s tears and wailing, Rachel brought low,
You see her in their eyes, their consternation.
Another son of Israel struck down,
A servant of the poor oppressed by Rome.
They’ve lost their hope of freedom, of David’s crown
Raising up the tent of Jesse, a new Kingdom.
They didn’t know then what you meant to do,
That your enemy was not of flesh and blood.
You came to conquer Death and give us new
Life, a life that’s overflowing like a flood.
But before you could destroy Death’s vice-like hold,
You had to finish walking up this road.
You had to finish walking up this road,
To reach the hill, the end for which you were sent.
But the burden wore you down, it brought you low,
And again you fell; the wounds on your back were rent
Open once again, in anticipation
Of the new wounds which you would soon receive,
The holy wounds which would bring us our redemption,
The loving wounds to which we’ll forever cleave.
Two times you fell to overcome the past,
But this fall and rising showed to us the future.
Death cannot stand, it cannot even last
A moment in the presence of our Savior.
Up the hill the God-made-man ascended,
But once upon a mountain God descended.
Once upon a mountain, God descended,
When Aaron took up his idolatrous collection.
But when you reached the hill, O Lord, you ascended,
And they disassembled God in strange reflection.
They stripped you of your clothes and left you naked.
They rolled their dice to see who got your tunic.
They thought to leave you exposed, humiliated,
But your divinity could not be wounded.
Fortune seemed to favor those who hurt you,
As they laughed and jeered at you beside the cross.
But fate would show this scene in a different hue
Because you had descended to seek the lost.
Naked they readied you for your execution,
While you were praying for their absolution.
While you were praying for their absolution,
They nailed you to a cross and raised you up.
They thought this would bring your story to its conclusion;
They didn’t know that this was just the next step.
Just like the snake they raised up in the desert,
We look to you on the cross to receive our cure.
The cure you gave to the Israelites was lesser,
For now you wash us clean and make us pure.
Your breathing slows as you’re raised, it is nearly over;
The blood begins to pour, you are diminished.
With dying breath you give the Church your Mother,
And then call out at last that it is finished.
The soldier comes with hammer as we tremble in fear,
But he puts the hammer down and takes up the spear.
He puts the hammer down and takes up the spear
To pierce our Lord right through to his sacred heart.
Blood so red and water falling clear
Pour to the ground and hallow every part.
The Earth becomes the Chalice, the Holy Grail.
It’s hallowed by the outpouring of liquid light.
And yet it seems as if you have just failed,
As if, somehow, the darkness has become bright.
But your blood and water soak in and enrich the soil,
And they anoint our first father’s forgotten head.
Thus begins the end of pain and toil;
Yet still you hang there, limp and lifeless, dead.
Joseph takes into his hands the holy cup,
And lifts it down, so it can be raised up.
Joseph lifts you down so you can be raised up,
Yet everyone believes this is the end.
They think at last that you’ve run out of luck,
And that they have condolence cards to send.
Mary holds your body in her heart-broken arms;
The sixth sword has stabbed her in the heart.
In this moment, no knowledge can make her warm.
She must feel the sorrow, feel it, every part.
There is no time to properly dress your body,
Prepare it for the end they think you’ve attained.
You’ll be buried peasant-simple, not princely-gaudy.
The women work and the apostles have been shamed.
In hopelessness, I stand outside and groan
As they place you in a tomb that’s not your own.
They place you in a tomb that’s not your own.
The first-born son would never be passed over.
Death has come to bring you to his home,
Little knowing this catch he could not cover.
Old Death will be consumed by what he’s eaten.
He’s finally caught a life he cannot kill.
But three days would pass before he would be beaten,
And we are left alone in darkness, silence, still.
We’re left to wonder if it’s worth the cost
To follow you into the dark unknown.
Your light’s gone out; without it we are lost.
It feels as though we’re walking all alone.
We leave you in the tomb, alone and dead.
“Take up your cross and follow me,” you said.
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The featured image is “Christ on the Cross” (1870) by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834–1890) and is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.