THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS
The normally accepted Stations are those which are known by ‘tradition’ as being the way of the cross. They are:-
1. Jesus is Condemned to Death.
2. Jesus Bears His Cross.
3. Jesus Falls the First Time.
4. Jesus Meets his Mother.
5. Jesus is Helped by Simon.
6. Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus.
7. Jesus Falls the Second Time.
8. Jesus Speaks to the Women of Jerusalem.
9. Jesus Falls a Third Time.
10. Jesus is Stripped of His Garments.
11. Jesus is Nailed to the Cross.
12. Jesus Dies on the Cross.
13. Jesus is taken down from the Cross.
14. Jesus is Laid in the Tomb.
It is only through ‘tradition’ that we accept and honour the fourth, sixth and tenth stations. There is no biblical proof of them being true.
As well as the above Stations there are also some lesser known ones which, rather than been traditional, are definitely biblical and can be given chapter and verse references. These are:-
1. The Last Supper.
2. The Garden of Gethsemane.
3. The Betrayal of Judas.
4. The Denial of Peter.
5. The Crowning with Thorns.
6. Jesus is Condemned to Death.
7. Jesus falls.
8. Jesus is Helped by Simon of Cyrene.
9. Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem.
10. The Nailing to the Cross.
11. Jesus Speaks to His Mother.
12. Jesus and the Repentant Thief.
13. Jesus Dies on the Cross.
14. The Risen Jesus.
The only one of the above which does not have a biblical reference is No. 7. But the fact that Simon was forced to help Jesus indicates that Jesus was weakening. These are the Stations which I intend to write about.
If you visit The Clifton Roman Catholic Cathedral in Bristol you will see these Stations. Their format has been copied at the Catholic Church of St Phillip and St James in Brickhill, Bedford. The local Anglican brethren have shown an interest and the Stations were displayed in the Anglican Church of St Andrew, Bedford during Passiontide in 1999.
1 THE LAST SUPPER
The Last Supper started out as a Passover Service which incorporates singing and a meal. Was Our Lady present? It may be that she, and the other women who served Jesus and the apostles and disciples, would have made and served the meal. Whether or not she was actually present; all the writings of mystics tell us that Our Lady, at her own request, was granted the ability to see and hear all that her son had to undergo. (How else can the words of Pilate be known? Also Our Lady would surely have all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. She certainly knew of her son’s ability to perform miracles. Otherwise, at the marriage feast at Cana she would not have said to him “They have no more wine.”) So we can consider ‘Our Ladies thoughts’ throughout these Stations.
Two necessities for the Passover are unleavened bread and wine. That was just what Jesus needed for the new covenant, the new way forward. When he said the words which were to change the bread into his body and the wine into his blood the apostles must have gasped with amazement. Not just at what was happening but at the realisation of his words. Now they could understand what was previously a mystery. “…..if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood you have no life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life.” John 6:53. When they had first heard Jesus say those words they had no idea what he meant. It was blind-faith which had kept them from joining others who ‘accompanied him no more.’ John 6:66. Now they understood. Now it was made clear to them.
For all humanity and for us two thousand years later the Eucharist is the most beautiful sacrament. Only God could have thought of it – could have envisaged the effect it would have – how it would allow Jesus to stay on earth and feed his flock while, at the same time, be in his rightful place in heaven at his father’s right hand. Through the mystery and beauty of the Eucharist we are capable of hours of meditation.
Our Thoughts: Some of Jesus’ suffering was caused by ourselves - our sins. Frequent reception of the Eucharist gives us the opportunity to ask for forgiveness and to express our love.
Our Lady’s Thoughts: We can assume that Our Lady knew the path of pain and suffering which lay ahead for her Son. For the moment though she sees the wonder and beauty of the Sacrament of The Eucharist which her Son is instituting. She knows of Judas’ thoughts of betrayal. We are not told whether Judas left the upper room before the Eucharist. If not then Our Lady sees him receive her Son whilst harbouring such evil thoughts. She is repulsed by what she sees and prays that, even at this late hour, he may repent. But then she sees him leave the room on his way to the Pharisees to lead them to her Son. John’s is the only Gospel to tell of the washing of the feet and we do not know whether it came before our after the Eucharist. Our Lady watches her Son carry out a task normally reserved for slaves. But she understands that He came to serve and no service is too humble for him to accept.
2 THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE
This was a favourite place where Jesus and the apostles would go. It was on the way out of Jerusalem towards Bethany. The garden was quiet and peaceful and by the time they got there, it be would be dark. Matthew and Mark’s Gospels tell us that Jesus took Peter, James and John apart from the other apostles and went to pray. He said to the three “Wait here, and stay awake.” But ‘The Passover’ involves much wine and also as the hour was late the three apostles fell asleep. Jesus, who knew all that is to happen to him is full of ‘terror and anguish’ to the point where he asks his Father to ‘take this cup away from me’. He returns to the three apostles to find them asleep. He awakens them and once more implores them to stay awake. St Luke’s Gospel tells us that in his great agony ‘his sweat fell to the ground like drops of blood.’ Once again he returns to the apostles and once again they are sleeping. The writings of mystics tell us that the terror which Jesus experienced was due to him being shown all the sins of the world. Other writings tell us that part of Jesus’ great sadness was caused by the knowledge that despite all that he was to suffer, over the years, many would still reject him. He returns a final time to find the apostles again sleeping.
Our Thoughts: Some of the terror which Jesus experienced in the Garden of Gethemane was caused by our sins. We must not lay the blame elsewhere but accept our share in the whole of Jesus’ passion.
Our Lady’s Thoughts: As the apostles spent their time sleeping it must have been Our Lady who was allowed to watch her son and from whom the synoptic gospel writers obtained their information. She sees her Son suffering, she sees the sweat falling as drops of blood. Surely she offered a prayer for her Son to have some relief – and her prayer was granted when ‘an angel appeared to him, coming from heaven to give him strength.’
3 THE BETRAYAL OF JUDAS
Like every person before or since, Judas had free will. Sadly he had decided to use it for evil. No doubt the devil had seen a weakness in Judas’ character and had taken advantage of that weakness. Jesus had accepted Judas as one of the twelve apostles so he must have had very special qualities. My readings about Judas, other than the gospels, give the impression that he was quick-tempered, always striving to improve but, equally, always failing. John’s gospel tells us ‘he [Judas] was a thief; as keeper of the money bag he used to help himself to what was put in it.’ Those are harsh words for someone who had a special place in Jesus’ heart. From the gospel readings we are given the impression that what Judas saw as a waste of precious ointment by Mary, when she anointed Jesus’ feet, was the ‘final straw.’ Perhaps Judas, like the Pharisees, had been looking for a Messiah who, like one of the Machabees, would take up the sword and rid the Jews of it Roman oppressors. Also Jesus was often making strange decisions like choosing a tax collector as an apostle. The other eleven appeared to blindly follow Jesus whereas Judas followed with a logic which did not work, which did not make sense. Whatever Judas’ motives may have been the Pharisees were delighted to take the opportunity. Judas would be able to take them to a quiet place where, away from the crowds, the arrest could take place without the causing of a potential riot.
Our Thoughts: Every time we sin we betray Jesus.
4 THE DENIAL OF PETER
Our Thoughts: Do we stand up for our Faith or, if there is a religious discussion, do we find it ‘safer’ to keep silent? Are we proud of our faith? If so how do we show it?
Our Lady’s Thoughts: Here is the man who is to become the head of her Son’s Church on earth. She sees him at his weakest. She knows that the only redeeming feature is that from this lowest point there is only one way for Peter to go – upwards to great sanctity and eventual martyrdom.
The soldiers had a game called ‘The Kings Game’ it can be seen etched out on a slab in the Praetorium which is under the Convent of the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion close to the where the Temple would have been. This man ‘Jesus’ had caused the soldiers more than enough trouble - going to Gethsemane to arrest him - up till late at the house of Annas – some of them having to mount an all night guard. “Let’s get our own back by making fun of him. He claims to be a king let’s crown him using a crown of thorns. Let’s make mock honour of him – blindfold him and ask if he knows who hits him. Let’s spit at him to show our contempt at last night’s lost sleep.” And so this sad charade was played out and the only person who ever earned a crown was crowned with a circlet of thorns which pierced his head and caused appalling agony.
Our Thoughts: Do we always show respect to Jesus by thought, word and deed?
The rowdy procession reaches Calvary and preparations are made to crucify Jesus and the two criminals. Pictures show the criminals tied to their crosses with ropes while Jesus is nailed. Why the difference? Four hundred and fifty years earlier, in the book of Ezra we read, ‘And I have made a decree. That if any whosoever shall alter this commandment, a beam be taken from his house, and set up, and he be nailed upon it……’ (Ezra 6:11). So nailing to wood was something which was known as a punishment. But the reason why Jesus was nailed may be connected with having been helped by Simon of Cyrene. The cross beam which Jesus had been carrying would have been tied to him by ropes. These same ropes would be used to tie him to the cross. But when Simon took the cross, the ropes weren’t needed and went missing, dropped along the way. But nails were needed to fasten the cross beams to the uprights so nailing was the alternative way of fastening Jesus. It can be assumed that this would fit in very well with the chief priests and Pharisees who would enjoy seeing Jesus receiving the very maximum of suffering. After all, for the past three years, hadn’t he made them suffer with all his healing and derogatory speeches against them? “Let him suffer now; it is no more than he deserves!” Our crucifixes usually show the nails passing through the hands. But nailing there would not work as the weight of the body would tear the hand. The nails would have been placed through the wrist. In so doing the nail would damage a sensory nerve which would cause tremendous agony. The stigmatist Theresa Newmann said that although she carried the stigmata in her hand it would not have been so with Jesus. The Holy Shroud of Turin confirms this and clearly shows the nail going through the wrist. What must it be like to be nailed to a Cross? ‘Everyone’s Way of the Cross’ by Clarence Enzler tries to explain:
Christ speaks “Can you imagine what a crucifixion is?
My executioners stretch my arms;
they hold my hand and wrist against the wood.
and press the nail until it stabs my flesh.
Then, with one heavy hammer smash, they drive
it through – and pain bursts like a bomb of
fire in my brain. They seize the other arm;
and agony again explodes.
Then, raising my knees
so that my feet are flat against the wood,
they hammer them fast too.”
Our Thoughts: Who is to blame for this brutality? The soldiers were only doing their job. To them Jesus was a criminal. I am to blame. My sins have helped the tree to grow; have helped the nails to be made; have helped the hammer to be made and assist the soldier as he brings down the hammer onto the nail, piercing Jesus’ flesh. No-one else needs to be blamed.
Our Lady’s Thoughts: She would have known that this crucifixion of her Son would take place. So for years she had lived in terror of this happening knowing that it had to be – there was no way it could be avoided. As the nails pierce her Son’s flesh, the sword prophesied by Simeon pierces her soul.
11 JESUS SPEAKS TO HIS MOTHER, OUR MOTHER
Our Thoughts: At the time of creation God gave us a father, ‘Adam’, and a mother, ‘Eve’, but they disobeyed and so we needed another sinless father and mother. So, from the Cross, Jesus, who replaced Adam as our father, gave his mother, not only to John, but to us all.
Our Lady’s Thoughts: She willingly accepts her Son’s command and whenever we need her help she will shelter us under her mantle. We only have to ask.
12 JESUS AND THE REPENTANT THIEF
We can spare a thought for the two men crucified with Jesus. ‘One on the right and one the left giving the impression that the one in the middle was the worst criminal.’ It is possible that the execution of these men had been brought forward to fit in with the death of Jesus. It would make for a better spectacle to have three deaths rather than only one. So the two men would be feeling great bitterness towards Jesus, increased by the fact that Barabbas had been chosen for release instead of one of them. Matthew’s gospel tells us that the two men taunted Jesus. But Luke gives us the story of the ‘good thief’. How can these two versions be reconciled? Perhaps they both started out by taunting Jesus but then one of them, seeing the ‘majesty’ of Jesus’ crucifixion was converted to ask for help which he received in abundance.
Our Thoughts: The good thief’s cry for help and Jesus immediate response gives hope for us all. We too can cry out and will receive Jesus’ response “…..you will be with me in paradise.”
Our Lady’s Thoughts: The good thief’s words “…we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong” would be a source of comfort to our Heavenly Mother.
13 JESUS DIES ON THE CROSS
‘Jesus cried out in a loud voice saying “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. With these words he breathed his last’. To be able to speak at all was incredible and Jesus must have struggled with every fibre of his body to do so ‘in a loud voice’. As Jesus died the synoptic gospels all tell of terrifying happenings. Mark sets a frightening scene: ‘At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour’ Jesus cried out “Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani”. Bystanders hear the word “Eloi” and think Jesus is calling for Elijah. They wait to see if Elijah will come but Jesus cries out with a loud voice and breathes his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom’. Matthew writes; ‘At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.’ Luke confirms what the others had written; ‘…..darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. ‘…the curtain of the temple was torn in two’.