In this meditation, Caryll Houselander writes about the many people who are following Jesus on the way to Calvary: those who hate him, those who love him, those who he has healed, the poor who hope he will establish a new kingdom.
They wait, straining forward, struggling to come near to Him, breathless with suspense, some through fear, some through hope; all tense, expectant, waiting!
And what does He do? For the third and the last time, Jesus falls under the cross!
This is the worst fall of all. It comes at the worst moment of all. It tears open all the wounds in His body; the shock dispels the last ounce of strength that He had mustered to go on. It shatters the last hope, the last remnant of faith, in nearly everyone in the crowd. It is triumph for His enemies, heartbreak for His friends.
* * * * * * * *
The last fall is the worst fall. In it Christ identified Himself with those who fall again and again, and who get up again and again and go on--those who even after the struggle of a lifetime fall when the end is in sight; those who in this last fall lose the respect of many of their fellow men, but who overcome their humiliation and shame; who, ridiculous in the eyes of men, are beautiful in the eyes of God, because in Christ, with Christ's courage, in His heroism, they get up and go on, climbing the hill of Calvary.
Caryll Houselander, The Way of the Cross
This meditation reminds me of Lord Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. We meet this beautiful, charming, younger son of the Marchmain family in Oxford where he is living an elegant and dissolute life, and leave him "a sort of under-porter" at a monastery in Tunis where he is "an odd hanger-on" under the care of the Father Superior, when he isn't off on a drinking spree. In the eyes of the world, he is a hopeless drunkard, but hopeless is exactly what he is not. Although he knows that he will never overcome his alcoholism, he never gives up hope, always stumbling back to the monastery after a fall. "Holy" is the way his sister Cordelia describes him.
fallen under the cross
for the last time,
grant to me, and to all those
with whom You identified Yourself
in the third fall,
to rise in Your strength,
and in spite of failure upon failure,
shame upon shame,
to persevere to the end.