Compassion: Stations 5 & 6
The events of the last days of Jesus are sometimes referred to as the Passion of Christ. The word “passion” means suffering. The prefix “com” means together or with. Our word “compassion” then is a suffering with someone. These two people described in the next stations, one historical and one traditional had compassion on Jesus. They shared his suffering.
The fifth station of the sonnet is “You watched a stranger free you from your chain.” This story is recorded in Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21, and Luke 23:26. From these passages we learn that Simon was from Cyrene on the north African coast, what is present day Libya. He was headed from the country into Jerusalem. He was forced to carry Jesus’ cross for him. He was a stranger to the country.
We can only imagine the non-verbal, and perhaps verbal, exchange between the two. Mark records that he was the father of Alexander and Rufus. We don’t know how Mark knew about his children, if Simon was moved by his encounter to become a follower of Christ, or the rest of the story. Paul also greets a Rufus in the church at Rome as an outstanding follower of the Lord (Romans 16:13). Could that Rufus be Simon's son? We do know that it was this stranger who shared the burden of Jesus' cross. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:19: “ So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household.”
I have attempted to cut an image of Jesus and Simon at close quarters for this pane. If they were this close, perhaps Simon shared not only the cross, but Jesus’ sweat and blood.
The sixth line of the sonnet is “Another wiped the blood that hid your face.” This story was not in the Bible, but is a traditional story, which may have arisen from the miracle of the unnamed woman who was healed by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment (Luke 8:43–48). She is named in the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus as Berenike. The name Veronica is a Latinization of that name. Luke does tell us that “a large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him” (Luke 23:27).
The image for this pane is a piece of cloth. Have you ever had your mother to wash your face with a cloth when you hurt yourself, or have you ever washed your children’s face when they got hurt? That kind of compassion is what is recalled at this station.