Lent | The Stations of the Cross

As with the season of Advent, Lent is a season of journey and a season of waiting. It is a time of wilderness, a time of feeling lost, knowing that at the end of the journey we have the death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, but also knowing that at the end of the journey we celebrate his glorious resurrection.

Our Lenten pilgrimage through the labyrinth follows The Stations of the Cross, as we recall Jesus’ journey to the Cross. At the stations Jesus stops, he stops to speak to people with compassion; he stops because he falls with exhaustion; he stops because he reaches Golgotha, the place of his execution. And he stands with humanity in all that brings us to a standstill. We can be brought to a stop because of a change in circumstances or by the sadness of a suffering world. As we walk the stations, we know that Jesus walks with us, and that he brings us with him to resurrection.

  1. Jesus is condemned to death.

‘Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He [Pilate] said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor”. Then he handed them over to them to be crucified.’ (John 19:14-16)

Pilate is divided, he knows Jesus is innocent and looks for a way to free him, but he is afraid of the crowd – his own self-interest becomes more important than what is right.

We acknowledge the times we have failed to stand up for the truth through fear or indecision. We pray for the falsely accused and victims of injustice.

  1. Jesus receives his cross

‘So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of the skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha.’ (John 19:17)

Jesus is made to carry his own cross, he takes it up, bearing the burden of a sinful world, bearing our burdens. He begins to walk, showing the way that leads to true life.

We acknowledge the burdens we have placed on the shoulders of others, or times when we have failed to ease the burdens of others. We pray for the grace to carry the crosses we have to bear, crosses of pain or responsibility of ourselves or others.

  1. Jesus falls for the first time

‘Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.’ (Philippians 2:6-8)

Jesus falls beneath the weight of the cross and the whole meaning of his life is revealed. He empties himself, descending to the lowest point of human nature, so that he might lift us up again in glory.

We acknowledge that this fall of Jesus is no accident, but a part of his movement down to fallen humanity. We pray for the strength to leave the destructive pride which drags us down, and through our sharing in the humility of Jesus, to rise again.

  1. Jesus meets his mother

‘Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too”.’ (Luke 2:34-35)

Mary’s heart contained treasures. Here she had kept the words of the angel, spoken to her at the beginning, and in it she had pondered all the events surrounding the birth of her Son. Her heart carried Jesus as she watched him grow and begin his ministry. Now her heart knows the courage and faith of a mother.

We acknowledge the courage of Mary’s love and pray that we may have some share of that faithfulness in our own discipleship. We pray for mothers who are carrying great burdens today, for those caring for their suffering children and those struggling to understand a child who seems to be lost to them.

  1. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross

‘They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus.’ (Mark 15:21)

Simon was going about his daily business when he came across the procession of condemned men on their way to Calvary. As the soldiers force him into helping to carry the cross of Jesus how would he have felt at this interruption to his day? This chance encounter touched Simon’s heart, and he became a disciple.

We acknowledge our own reluctance to help those in need if it interferes with our own plans or desires. We pray for the grace to share the sufferings of others and so to build up the body of Christ.

  1. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

‘”Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!’ (Psalm 27:8-9)

In the Old Testament we hear believers yearning to see the face of God. In Jesus that face is made visible. At first Veronica saw only a bloodied and bruised face, but as she stepped forward to bring comfort to this condemned man the image of the true God was impressed on her heart.

We acknowledge our blindness of heart which means we only see the surface of things. We pray for help to see God’s glory in the suffering, the poor, the oppressed and for the courage to serve him in those people and places.

  1. Jesus falls for the second time

‘So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ (Romans 7:21-25)

The tradition of Jesus’ falls beneath the weight of the cross remind us of the falls of humanity. It is humanity with its back turned on God that lies fallen in the dust. But Jesus shared our weakness so that we may share his strength. He falls in order to raise us up.

We acknowledge our falls and failures, especially when others may have been depending on us. We pray for a clearer sense of God’s presence in our lives, lifting us up above the forces of evil.

  1. Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem

‘A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’ (Luke 23:27-31)

The women of Jerusalem fulfil a duty to weep for a condemned man, but their grief is formal and ritualistic. Jesus’ words to them point us to a deeper truth: sentimental piety on its own is not enough, but must lead to a true conversion of heart. Do we stand and express sorrow and consternation at the world’s woes, shed a tear but then turn away?

We acknowledge times of insincerity or shallow piety. We pray for the gift of real compassion that acts in the face of suffering, and for those who are the helpless witnesses of cruelty or pain.

  1. Jesus falls for the third time

‘He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep”.’ (John 21:17)

Jesus’ falls speak to fallen humanity and to our own falls through weakness or sin. But the Church falls too; through our lack of unity. When the Church falls we drag down the name of Christ, but he is yet the resurrection and the life - and his power can raise us up.

We acknowledge the times we have wounded the Body of Christ. We pray for those who have lapsed from the Church because of the actions of her members - that the strong love of Jesus would draw them back.

  1. Jesus is stripped of his garments

‘You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.’ (Ephesians 4:22-24)

As the soldiers removed Jesus’ clothing they remove every last shred of his dignity. He becomes simply an outcast, judged by the eyes he is exposed to. Jesus again takes on the condition of fallen humanity, when we are stripped of all we surround ourselves with and come face to face with God.

We acknowledge the futility of the self-deceit and disguise with which we can clothe ourselves before God. We pray for the gift of self-awareness. And we pray for all those who have had their dignity removed through the inhumanity and cruelty of others, for victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation - and that the hearts of the perpetrators may be turned.

  1. Jesus is nailed to the cross

‘When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ (Luke 23:33)

In the cruelty of the moment Jesus deliberately takes the pain of crucifixion. As his arms and legs are stretched out and pinned to the beams of the cross his whole body demonstrates the height and breadth and depth of the measure of God’s love for us.

We acknowledge those times when we have preferred a faith that asks little of us or of a half-hearted following of Christ. We pray for the tortured and those awaiting execution, for those fastened to the crosses of addictions to drugs or alcohol and those who find no joy in being alive. May the love of God which triumphed in even this dark hour be their strength and stay.

  1. Jesus dies on the cross

‘It was now noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man is innocent”.’ (Luke 23:44-47)

Jesus has accomplished his task. He has thrown open the way to heaven, and given himself into the hands of the Father. With all creation we stand in awe and wonder as Jesus, our Lord and God, dies.

May his wounds both wound and heal me, he engineless, cleanse, anneal me, be his cross my hope and stay. May he, when the mountains quiver, from the flame which burns for every shield me on the judgment day.

  1. Jesus is taken down from the cross

‘Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.’ (John 19:32-34,38)

Jesus is dead. Yet before the body is taken from the cross and placed into the arms of his mother Mary, his side is pierced and water and blood flow out - an image of Baptism and the Eucharist which will be at the heart of his Church. Even in this hour of immense grief the hidden God is preparing the way for something new, as a community of faith begins to take shape.

We acknowledge the times when we have been tempted to lose heart. We pray for all who cannot see beyond the darkness of grief, and for all who mourn - especially parents mourning the death of a child. May Mary, who knew the pain of grief, pray with them and for them.

  1. Jesus is laid in the tomb

‘Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.’ (Romans 6:3-4)

It seems that it is all over. Jesus’ body is placed in a tomb, and a giant rock covers the entrance. But Jesus is on the cusp of a new beginning, ahead lies an unimaginable future which he will share with all whose life seems to have reached a dead end. From this place of death will spring forth glorious new life.

We acknowledge our failure to live up to our baptismal promises. Let us pray for all the baptised, and for those preparing for baptism. Since in baptism we have shared Christ’s death in order to share his risen life, so through us may the word of God be alive and active today.

  1. We exit the labyrinth in a sense of despair and grief, but also with hope – hope in the knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Day.
More in this category: « Prayers for the Holy Land

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