The 2004 Vatican version of the Via Crucis writes poetically about the Eighth Station – Simon of Cyrene helps to carry the cross of Jesus:


“The first stars that hail the Sabbath have not begun to shine in the sky,
and yet Simon makes his way home from his work in the fields.
Pagan soldiers, who know nothing of the Sabbath rest, stop him.
They place upon his sturdy shoulders the cross
that others promised to carry every day behind Jesus.
Simon does not choose; he receives an order,
and as yet does not realize that he is accepting a gift.
The lot of the poor is not being able to choose anything,
not even the weight of their own sufferings.
But it is also the lot of the poor to help others who are poor,
and there is one poorer than Simon:
even his very life is to be taken from him.
To help without asking why:
the weight is too heavy for the other
but my shoulders can still take it.
And that is sufficient.
The day will come when the poorer one will say to his companion:
“Come, blessed of my Father, enter into my joy:
I was crushed under the weight of the cross and you raised me up.” (The Holy See, 2004.)


Simon of Cyrene is mentioned by name in three Gospels: Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26. While little is said of him, it must have been important to remember, by name, this nobody who was simply minding his own business, a passer-by if you will. We also know that the task of carrying the cross, was not something that was willingly taken up. The Gospels emphasise that he was “pressed into service”. Mark’s Gospel takes it a step further by naming Simon’s children – Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15: 21). This tells us that these three were likely known in the community or at least curious of Jesus. It is also important to note where Simon comes from – Cyrene.


It could have been any one, but as the coincidence of the Lord determines, Simon was standing there at that exact moment. Having gone through a series of life circumstances, disappointments, rejections, failures, we do not know the details – these roads in his life led him to where he was, at that exact moment standing face to face with Christ, and asked clearly and without a doubt – Simon of Cyrene, would you take up your cross and come and follow me?


In the Faith, there are no passers-by. Confronted by the face of Jesus looking at us and gazing at us, the passer-by is required to make a decision to either run away like Peter before his conversion did, or to stay and help build the Kingdom of God (Grondelski, 2017). There is no middle ground, and there is no compromise.


There are also no coincidences when it comes to God’s time.


Geographically, Cyrene is located today in the country known as Libya. Nearly 1448.41km separate Cyrene from Jerusalem, and in the time of Jesus, someone would have taken several weeks to travel from Cyrene to Jerusalem. Cyrene around the time of 630 B.C., was recorded as being a Greek colony. Through political marriages – because Cyrene was a colony of great importance, Amasis II forms an alliance with Cyrene (Cook, 1937) and Ptolomy III soon incorporated Cyrene as part of Egypt in circa 231 B.C. (Britannica, 2019). Ptolomy Apion, the last of the Ptolomies, eventually ceded Cyrene to the Roman empire (Siani-Davies, 1997).


Yet, Cyrene is not a stranger when it comes to Biblical history. In 1 Maccabees 15, we recall that a Jewish community had been in existence in Cyrene for at least 300 years before the happenings of Holy Week. Josephus (1895; 2017), a Jewish historian, records that the Jews had been dispersed to various parts of Cyrene.


If Cyrene is a symbol of the forced separation and dispersion of God’s own people, then it must surely mean something, that now, someone who originates from Cyrene, is reunited to God, via a forced encounter, a forced connection – that links Jesus – God, with Cyrene, via the beams of the cross. This trope is further echoed later, in Acts 2, where we encounter Cyrenians hearing Peter speak in their own language – “We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travellers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God,” (Acts 2: 9-11) and again in Acts 11:20: “There were some Cypriots and Cyrenians among them, however, who came to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks as well, proclaiming the Lord Jesus.” There appears to be a gathering of the God’s own people who were previously scattered, and now, God and his people are reunited through a shared and random encounter of God who is Jesus the Son.


The shame of the dispersion is now reframed and reclaimed by Jesus, becoming and transforming thus into the foretaste of the spread of the Good News to the ends of the Earth.


Was Simon of Cyrene at the wrong place, at the wrong time, or was Simon of Cyrene placed strategically where he stood, at the right place, and at the right time by the unseen Hand of God?


As with our faith journeys – we too may not know the reason why certain things happen in our lives, we may not understand why we are placed in certain places for a season and a time. However, these events are precisely such that call out to us to be collaborators in building the Kingdom of God. We are not mere passers-by or onlookers anymore. We are called into action from where exactly we have been standing on the outside and looking in. We can either run away, or we can take up the cross like Simon of Cyrene.



By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan




Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2019, November 7). Ptolemy III EuergetesEncyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from

Cook, R. M. (1937). Amasis and the Greeks in Egypt. The Journal of Hellenic Studies57, 227–237.

Grondelski, J. (2017). Simon of Cyrene: The Patron Saint of Passersby. National Catholic Register. Retrieved March 2, 2023 from

Flavius Josephus. (1895). The Works of Flavius Josephus. Trans. Whiston, W,  Auburn, A.M. & Buffalo. J.E. B. Abe Books.

Flavius Josephus. (2017). The Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. Whiston. W. Project Gutenberg. Retrieved March 2, 2023 from

Siani-Davies, M. (1997). Ptolemy XII Auletes and the Romans. Historia: Zeitschrift Für Alte Geschichte46(3), 306–340.

The Holy See. (2004.). Via Crucis. Retrieved from