We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
It’s hard for her to say what he looks like.
Maybe He was never physically beautiful, but He is certainly not now.
His whole body is ugly, crisscrossed by scourge marks, a patchwork of bruises and matted blood. She can barely tell that He’s a man– beyond that, she can see that He is ugly, and that He is in pain.
We don’t know who this woman is. We don’t know her name– “Veronica” means “true icon” and refers to her veil, not to her. We don’t know how long she’s been following Jesus. There’s nothing about her in the Bible, specifically. It could be that she never saw Him before this moment. It could be that she has no idea who He is or what was said about Him.
Somehow she got through the crowd and the guards. Why? Why take that risk?
Why did she run toward Him when His disciples betrayed Him; when His friends denied Him and ran away?
I suppose we’ll never know, but here she is.
She takes off her veil, and wipes the blood and dirt from His face.
His eyes are clear, for a moment. For a moment He can see. He looks at her, at the one who had compassion on Him but was helpless to stop His pain. He looks at the one who had nothing to give Him, but came forward anyway, desperate for the chance to help. Compassion Himself gazes upon a compassionate soul.
Then the guards push Him forward to Calvary, leaving the woman behind.
His face is forever printed on her veil.
It could be that she didn’t know whose face it was, but it was a human face, and she had wiped it clean for a moment. Such a useless gesture, in the grand scheme of things. In a moment the blood would all run back into His eyes. He would fall again at any minute; dust would stick to the blood, and He would be blind and ugly again. And whether He could see or not, He was going to die. He was going to die in agony, with no one to help Him. She couldn’t stop any of that.
What she could do, just then, was wipe the blood from His face.
Just then, His suffering was lessened a little.
Just then, He could see compassion.
There is so little we can do, so much of the time. Everyone around us is dying; everyone is hurting. This is the human condition: one long and painful road to Calvary.
But we are called to compassion. Each one of us can help someone, a little, for a moment. Every day there are opportunities to make somebody’s road to Calvary easier for a little while, if only we would notice them. If we could have compassion for the condemned men and women all around us, we could be their Veronica. We could make their path easier for a moment, and we could do it again and again for all we meet along our own Via Dolorosa until we are all in Heaven together.
If we will be faithful to small acts of compassion, I know that Christ will imprint His Countenance on us.
All we have to do is attend Him whenever we see Him passing by on the Way of the Cross.
(Image Via Pixabay)
Steel Magnificat will be meditating on the Way of the Cross on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout Lent. All Stations are linked in this post.