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Holy Week and Easter ~ Stations Of The Cross

The Way of the Cross 2020

Collect

Almighty God,
whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the Cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The First Station

First Station - Jesus is condemned to death

Lord, it's too late for you to be quiet, you have spoken too much; you have fought too much;
You were not sensible, you know, you exaggerated, it was bound to happen.
You called the better people a breed of vipers;
You told them that their hearts were black sepulchres with fine exteriors;
You kissed the decaying lepers;
You spoke fearlessly with unacceptable strangers;
You ate with notorious sinners, and you said that street-walkers would be the first in paradise;
You got on well with the poor, the tramps, the crippled;
You belittled the religious regulations;
Your interpretation of the Law reduced it to one little commandment - to love.
Now they are avenging themselves.

They have taken steps against you; they
have approached the authorities,
and action will follow.

Michel Quoist

The Second Station

Second Station - Jesus carries His cross

Jesus carried a large wooden beam – one half of a cross. They handed it to him like it was nothing. Like it could be thrown away; like they were going to throw him away, this thing of terrible beauty.

He held the rough wood in his hands, gripped it, felt its shape, tested its weight, imagined the plane upon it, the axe striking the base of the trunk, the weight of the leaves upon the branches fluttering in the air of a spring day, breathing their last, gasping, falling, crashing down. He saw it dragged away, cut open, dissected, used.

He remembered its growing in the forest. A tiny, unfolding. The first leaf unravelling. Felt the sap rising within it; its growing and its vast potential. He felt its density. This was the hull of a boat, the rafters of a house, the handle of a plough, the shaft of an axe. It contained the strength to support and the durability to hold. It contracted and expanded. It was the eye of a needle. It was the base of a table. And now a grim vocation: to be the place where death is distributed.

Stephen Cottrell

The Third Station

Third Station - Jesus falls under the weight of the cross

He shouldered the weight. It could carry him and it could crush him. He felt its roughness against his rawness. The splinters that pushed into his flesh anticipated the nails that were to follow. It was fruit of the earth and work of human hands, this wood he carried.

It was about five feet in length – the weight of a small person. It weighed about five stone, as much as a bag of cement. And he was already battered and broken from being flogged. And the crowd that had welcomed him days earlier now bayed for blood. And the pallor and expectancy of death was already upon him.

Stephen Cottrell

The Fourth Station

Fourth Station - Jesus meets His mother

Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
  and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
  and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
  from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
  he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
  and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
  and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
  in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
  to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Luke 1:46-55

The Fifth Station

Fifth Station - Simon helps Jesus carry the cross

Poor Simon: what did he do to deserve this? By ruling invaders he was compelled to carry another man’s cross through the streets of Jerusalem. It was a humiliating act, and sent out various messages to those watching. It told some of them that he, Simon, was a criminal, being led out to die, who could be mocked, beaten, spat at and humiliated en route. It told others that he, Simon, was a disciple of Jesus: a friend of this poor benighted individual who had pushed his preaching too far and fallen foul of both the Jewish leaders and the Romans. And it told others that he, Simon, sympathised with the religious and political views of this strange man from Galilee, whose miraculous career was about to be terminated, just like his cousin John’s had been. And none of it would have been true.

No-one would have known much about Simon, the foreigner from far away Cyrene in North Africa (now Shahhât, Libya). Maybe he was interested in the local custom of parading convicted criminals in the streets, and he stepped a little too close at the wrong moment. Before he could protest, he was standing in for Jesus for those last few hundred yards. By the time they reached Golgotha he was also covered in blood and sweat, strangely connected to this other man whose cross he had borne, and whose apparent guilt he now shared. It changed his life, and that of his sons Rufus and Alexander, who became followers of Christ.

Gordon Giles

The Sixth Station

Sixth Station - Veronica wipes Jesus' face

Her name, Veronica, tells us that she did not exist. The Bible does not claim that she did, nor that anyone wiped Jesus face as he passed along the Way of the Cross. Legend has it that Veronica was the woman who showed compassion for Christ, and that her name literally means ‘true image’. Some legends even identify her with the woman who touched Jesus garment to be healed. The story evolved that Christ’s facial impression was left on the cloth she used and this picture became the basis for the first paintings – ikons – of Jesus. But the name does not come from the Latin for True (vera) and the Greek for Image (eikon), but is in fact the same as Bernice, a Greek name from pherein (bring) and nikê (victory). So her name means ‘bringer of victory’. And that is a name we would not apply to a strange, fictional woman who we like to think brings kindness, but to Christ himself. For in taking up his cross, dying upon it and rising on the third day, it is he who gains the name Veronica: the bringer of victory.

Gordon Giles

The Seventh Station

Seventh Station - Jesus falls again

He carried the sins of the world. He carried the harsh words that I reserve for those I love most. He carried the bruising resentfulness of my pride. He carried every one of the petty excuses that I use to defend myself. He carried the puffed up charade of my vanity: my self importance and my self-reliance. He carried every wrong decision I have ever made. He carried those moments of willful wrong-doing, where I have stared down the right path, seen what it would cost me, and chosen the easy road instead…

But if I look very closely I can see something else that he carries. Not just my sins as if they were separate from me… He is carrying something else; carrying something which is very precious; something which needs to be restored; something which he knows can be beautiful; something which can be loved back to life. He carries me. And I am not heavy to him.

Stephen Cottrell

The Eighth Station

Eighth Station - Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

Were the women really weeping, or were they professional wailers? Was their grief superficial? Jesus seemed to think so. Sometimes we almost relish suffering - look at the way our media present natural disasters, terrorist outrages or warfare. We are interested in them. Or perhaps, if our grief is genuine, we cannot bear it any more. We only have so many tears, and we cry ourselves dry. The women of Jerusalem did not cry themselves dry, because theirs were not real tears - they did not understand why they were crying. What we see around us makes us cry sometimes, with grief and with frustration. But let us pray that we may cry with understanding, and that our tears may be tears of love and integrity.

Gordon Giles

The Ninth Station

Ninth Station - Jesus falls for a third time

He carried the determination that this new commandment (of love) should be lived out, demonstrated, here in his dying, no matter how difficult. This was the moment of disclosure where the risky enterprise of tenacious love would stand or fall. All God’s hopes and all God’s purposes were poured into these hours of passion. This was the place where hate would spend itself. There was no fallback position; no Plan B. So he forgave those whose dismal duty it was to bang home the nails; and he looked with mercy upon those who spat and scoffed and struck out. Not because it was a duty laid upon him, but because he carried in his heart the ways of love. There was no other way.

And again he falls. It is as if he is always falling. Dropping through the air, falling through the earth itself, burrowing down into the very depths of death. How far must he go before everyone is gathered in his arms? To hell itself?

Stephen Cottrell

The Tenth Station

Tenth Station - Jesus is stripped of His garments

A girl came from outside India to join the Missionaries of Charity. We have a rule that the very next day new arrivals must go to the Home for the Dying. So I told this girl: "You saw Father during Holy Mass, with what love and care he touched Jesus in the Host. Do the same when you go to the home for the dying, because it is the same Jesus you will find there in the broken bodies of our poor". And they went. After three hours the newcomer came back and said to me with a big smile - I have never seen a smile quite like that - "Mother, I have been touching the body of Christ for three hours". And I said to her, "How did you do?" She replied, "When we arrived there, they brought a man who had fallen into a drain, and had been there for some time. He was covered with wounds and dirt and maggots, and I cleaned him and I knew I was touching the body of Christ.”

Mother Teresa

The Eleventh Station

Eleventh Station - Jesus is nailed to the cross

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

The Twelfth Station

Twelfth Station – Jesus Dies on the Cross

I remember the morning long ago
when I was brought down at the edge of the forest
severed from my roots.
Strong enemies seized me,
telling me to hold up their evil doers to the sky,
and made of me a spectacle.

Men bore me
on their shoulders and set me on a hill.
Many enemies held me fast there.
I saw the Lord of All coming swiftly
and with such courage to climb upon me.
I did not dare to bend or break then
when I saw the surface
of the earth tremble, for it was against my Lord’s desire.
Tumbling, I could have felled
all my enemies.
But I stood firm and true.

Then the young warrior, God Almighty Himself,
stripped, and stood firm and without flinching.
Bravely before the multitude He climbed upon the cross
to save the world.
I shivered when the hero clung to me.
but I dared not bend to the ground,
nor fall to the earth.
I had to stand firm.
I was a rood raised up.
I bore on high the mighty King,
the Lord of Heaven.
I dared not stoop.
They drove dark nails into me -
see these terrible injuries,
the open wounds of malice,
I dared not injure the enemies.
They insulted us both and I was soaked in the blood
that ran from the Man’s side after He set His spirit free.

On that hill I saw and endured so much.
I saw the God of Hosts stretched on the rack.
I saw darkness covered the lifeless body of the ruler with clouds.
Against His shining radiance
Shadows swept across the land,
strange powers moved under the clouds.
All creation wept,
weeping and moaning for the death of the King.
For Christ was on the cross.

The Dream of The Rood (9thCentury AD)

Silence

The Thirteenth Station

Thirteenth Station - Jesus is taken down from the cross

So here I stand. It is as if everyone else has departed and I am alone at the foot of the cross. The day is almost over and Jesus waits upon me. He looks at me with such tenderness. He won’t make this decision for me. He just waits. And until that day when God gathers together all the scattered fragments of his creation he will go on waiting. His offer remains the same. There is nothing I need to do to earn it or deserve it. It is just there carried by this cross. I feel the weight of it. I see the extent of it; and I am faced with a choice. It is the same choice that every person faces or avoids; the same choice those criminals either side of him encountered as their lives inched towards death: shall we sneer, or shall we ask to be remembered?

Stephen Cottrell

The Fourteenth Station

Fourteenth Station - Jesus is laid in the tomb

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful; for thou art not so.
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow;
And soonest our best men with thee do go –
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to Fate, chance, kings and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swellst thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

John Donne

Conclusion

Lord Christ, the meaning of our lives lies in your confidence in us. We tell you: 'Lord I believe, come and help my lack of trust'. And you open for us a way of creation. Along this way, you show us how to create even with our own weaknesses.

Praise to the risen Christ who, knowing how poor and vulnerable we are, comes and prays in us the hymn of his unchanging confidence.

Brother Roger of Taizé

This year we shall be celebrating Holy Week and Easter differently because of the current Coronavirus situation. Please click on the links below to access the relevant pages.