The Carrying of the Cross is the Mystery of Suffering: we are privileged to join our sufferings to Christ’s and to carry His cross in carrying our own.
When I first began praying the Rosary this mystery always invoked a single strong image in my mind: Christ carrying the Cross through the streets of Jerusalem, the foot of the Cross dragging along the street behind him…while I reclined at my ease on the Cross, letting Him carry me along while adding quite considerably to the weight. It’s a horrifying thought; and yet a true one, for He bore the weight of my sins along the Via Dolorosa along with the Cross. It’s undoubtedly the thought that’s done more than any other to bring to a sense of true contrition about my sins.
But Christ doesn’t leave me there, perched blissfully atop the cross, just along for the ride. t. Paul says,
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church… (Colossians 1:24, RSV-CE)
Not that Christ’s sufferings were insufficient for our salvation, mind you, but that of His grace He allows us to participate in His saving work, as members of His body, by carrying our own crosses for the sake of His body. In short, each of is called to be, not simple a rider on Christ’s cross-tail, but another Simon of Cyrene, helping to carry the cross down the road.
And truly, this is a cause for joy, hard though it might be to experience my suffering this way: for if my trials remain every bit as painful or annoying when offered up to God, at least they have meaning. Yes, I am still suffering, but I am suffering to a purpose.