FRIDAY, FIFTH WEEK OF LENT
During the last outbreak of the Back Plague in Bavaria, the inhabitants of a small village, not far out of Munich, made a Solemn Vow to God that if their community was spared from the plague they would, every 10 years, perform a Passion play. Having been spared from the plague, the community of Oberammergau has since 1634 been faithful to that vow. On two occasions the play had to be cancelled, 1770 and 1940. The fully booked-out 2020 performances have now been postponed till 2022. Another 'victim' of the Corona Virus.
The character of Simon of Cyrene may well fit the bill of being 'incidental' to the larger narrative, but like Veronica, Simon has caught the imagination of all who have reflected on the Via Crucis.
They led him out to crucify him. They enlisted a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull.
Gospel of Mark, 15; 21-22)
The Chapel of Simon of Cyrene on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem
The poet, Countée Cullen, probably correctly imagines Simon, a native of Cyrene in Eastern Libya, as being black, although tradition has revised that detail. Simon may later have had a ministry in the early Christian community. Some years ago, a tomb, possibly of a noted member of the Christian community, was found bearing a double inscription, 'Alexander, son of Simon'. Whatever about his subsequent career, whether his ministry to Jesus was compelled or willingly lent, Simon's service to the suffering Christ has become legendary, a model for compassionate service.
There are many frightening statistics as we live through the Covid-19 scenario, perhaps not as dreadful as that Black Plague in Oberammergau, but overwhelming for us today.
Against this bleak backdrop, one remarkable statistic stands out: the fact that in response to a Government request, something in excess of 700,000 people made contact with the authorities to volunteer their willingness to help in this crisis.
In our own parish community, we also have had a very generous response to this helping ministry. While there is suffering, there is also empathy and practical compassion.
Each day of Lent, during the Mass, Mgr Hughes will remember all the intentions of our parishioners during this challenging time.
Those who access the daily reflection are, of course, also included in this parish Eucharistic celebration.
Oremus pro invicem
Let's pray for each other
As is well known, the performance is taken very seriously by the townspeople, with casting of the various dramatis personae judiciously considered, key roles being vied for and even handed down within families from generation to generation. It can be well imagined that taking on the character of Christus, or some of the Apostles might be quite a coup. Incidental characters in a drama also can make a considerable impact. sometimes surprisingly so.
An Icon of the 'Fifth Station' displayed in Wells Cathedral
Simon the Cyrenian Speaks
He never spoke a word to me,
And yet He called my name;
He never gave a sign to me,
And yet I knew and came.
At first I said, "I will not bear
His cross upon my back;
He only seeks to place it there
Because my skin is black."
But He was dying for a dream,
And He was very meek,
And in His eyes there shone a gleam
Men journey far to seek.
It was Himself my pity bought;
I did for Christ alone
What all of Rome could not have wrought
With bruise of lash or stone.
(Countée Cullen, 1903-1946)
Almighty ever-living God,
who as an example of humility
for the human race to follow,
caused our Saviour to take flesh
and submit to the Cross,
graciously grant that we may heed his lesson
of patient suffering, and so merit
a share in his Resurrection.
Through Christ Our Lord.
(Collect for Palm Sunday)