Meditations on the Stations of the Cross
1. You are Condemned to Death
Beaten and weary, You are brought before a judge whose power is given to him only by You. The crowd is asked to choose and, even as You desire otherwise -- yearning for the love of Your people -- You know they will choose the creature over their Creator. "Barabbas" rings out and, with sad heart, You prepare for the grueling way of Calvary that started before Your birth. Innocent, you are condemned to death, betrayed by those who claim to love You and those who claim to be upholding Your truth even as they pass judgment. The crowd clamors for Your blood, not realizing that it is only through Your blood that they will live. It is a great irony. We think that by ridding ourselves of You, we will be free. And You give us what we wish -- freedom -- using even our evil to raise us up to You, if we will only see and accept. How different is the choice for man or God. In choosing man we choose death. In choosing You, you use our death to lift us to life in You. Pilate washes his hands of guilt, and, in doing so, washes his hands of you. Evading the truth of his guilt means rejecting you. We cannot be Yours if we do not admit what we are, sinners in need of mercy.
2. You Take Up the Cross
You accept the cross, knowing fully the agony to come. You take upon battered and bleeding shoulders the weight of all our sins. From dead wood You will bring the fruit of everlasting life. In Eden it was the living tree that brought death. Now, You turn our world upside down, as You show us the true way to life, through the dead wood, the suffering of the cross. In rejecting the temporary life, which seems so alluring and gratifying, we will know the bountiful joy of the life of heaven, in union with You. In dying through the cross we will live forever. You will shoulder all our pains with us as You walk the way of Calvary. All the way of Calvary, the way of the cross, will be blessed by Your blood. United in You, through the heritage You share with us by Your incarnation, and through the blood You shed for us on this way, we hope despite pain, despite all hardship. In taking up the cross You show us to trust in the Father, to fall into His arms in faith, no matter the obstacles before us.
3. You Fall the First Time
Soon after taking up the cross You fall. So early in the way You are on the ground; God, face down in the dust. The knowledge of the burden of carrying our weight becomes clearer. The nearly overwhelming impact of the hideous crush of sin, the evil pressing down, makes You stumble. All the while the crowd mocks and derides You, clinging to sins, even as You are lifting them away. We treat You as a beast to be our scapegoat, heaping pain and ridicule and indifference upon You as You seek to save us. We put our God face down in the dust so we do not have to bear Your gaze upon our evil.
4. You Meet Your Mother
You meet Your Mother on the way. Seeing her brings relief and regret. For a mother to see her Son so wretched wrenches Your heart. What a pain to You to know her grief. She is helpless to save You, but is granted the power to relieve Your suffering merely by her presence. She supports You in Your way of the cross and shares in Your anguish. She is there in the intimacy of a meeting in which you are kept physically apart but are united in the Fathers mission. You yearn for her consolation, even as You seek to comfort her in her sorrow. She stands by in love and constant prayer, never yielding to hatred for those who are turning away from You. She understands the need for love and its redemptive power especially when faced with the cruelest and most vindictive evil.
5. You Allow Simon to Assist You
You allow Simon to assist You in carrying the cross and he is reluctant, initially refusing. How foolish of him and us to reject Your invitation to share in Your redemptive plan! Do we not know what a gift You are giving in the cross? In the cross lies our salvation and our unity. In the cross we are never alone. In the cross we are our brothers keeper, helping each other and making reparation for the wrongs we have inflicted. In the cross we give You to each other and lift the barriers of sin. In the cross we are Your Body, sharing in Your passion and in the ultimate triumph of eternal life, freed from all the ungodly restraints and allure of the world. In the carrying of the cross lie our atonement and our joy.
6. You Bless Veronica
Veronica sees Your need and offers her consolation. In such a little and tender way she reflects Your kindness and Your courage. Stepping out from the crowd, she risks jeers and public contempt and thereby obtains the only approval that counts. In wiping Your face she serves a simple need, clearing Your sight from the dripping blood and dirt as the flies gather. From this small act comes the greatest blessing. She is given Your image because she reflects You in her kindness. In helping you to see, she is given the perfect vision, the beatific image of the face of God. Touched by Your grace, and in union with You, her humanity is made holy. She becomes a tiny mirror of You.
7. You Fall the Second Time
Now all assistance is exhausted. There will be no more help for You, no further kindnesses to encounter on the way. You are bereft of consolations. From now on, until the triumph over the tomb, there is only the misery of loneliness. You fall in this loneliness, again overcome by the weight of evil, the physical and emotional wounds so insistently inflicted, even as you trudge with Your heavy burden. The crowd still roars in contempt. There is no pity for a God face down in the dust a second time. The crowd is at the peak of its lust for blood, its determination for revenge for crimes never committed. The crime of innocence in the face of our guilt is enough for us to want to impose dehumanizing injury, to rid ourselves of the evidence of goodness and purity before us. We cry all the louder for You to be punished. The mockery continues. We say You are not God enough for us, and then treat You as we should not treat a man.
8. You Admonish the Weeping Women
The women weep for You, whether in sincerity or in show. They do not realize that their own guilt and that of their children is more deserving of tears. It is they who are more grievously hurt than the innocent victim. While Your Body is wracked and deformed by pain, their piteous cries hide the deadly ugliness of sin-stained souls. It is this sin that kills You. We kill because we want to be God. But that is what You are offering us through Your Incarnation a share in Your divinity! You show us the royal irony of our rebellion. In rebellion we reject the very thing we want, Your divinity. But we cannot have it unto ourselves. We and our children have it only through You. In You we have the light of eternity. We weep because we think a man is dying to this life. We are so attached to this world. But You tell us to weep for those who lose eternal life by separating themselves from You. The women weep copiously but they do not assist you. Is this why You rebuke them? Do they fail to offer true charity, in union with You, while standing on the sidelines wailing about the misery before them?
9. You Fall the Third Time
Stamina utterly depleted, You fall a third time. Taunted mercilessly by temptations to turn away from Your mission, and weakened by the fatigue of constant pain, You once again stumble into the rocky dirt. Pathetic and broken, You bear the sneers and raucous insults and profanities of a blaspheming crowd that wants a worldly leader to confirm them in their own power. God in the dust? Ha! They yell. We do not see the nobility of redemptive suffering, the majesty of meekness. We seek comfort and worldly prosperity and acclaim while You, our God and Creator, lie prostrate before us, humbling Yourself like a snake on the ground, crawling in dirt for us. How much more can we expect from a God we accuse of not caring, of lacking in love for us? And still You persevere amidst hatred, pride, and ridicule and the great satanic temptation to dismiss us as unworthy of Your love.
10. You Are Stripped of Your Garments
Men mock You in Your nakedness, thinking they are revealing how pitiful this God is. In fact, they are showing how God has exalted man by becoming man bare in his manhood. By seeking to reveal You as mere man, we fail to realize that in Your very manhood lies our divinization. In Your incarnation You have raised us to Yourself. The soldiers seek to leave You nothing, but You are God and cannot be made nothing. They want You to be shamed in Your nakedness, as Adam and Eve were shamed. But You are God and are not shamed. They think to reveal guilt but show only innocence. You consent to be naked in Your innocence, transcending the stain that Adam and Eve brought in guilt. We try to hide our sin, our flaws, by clothing themselves. You, in innocence, are naked and You see all. Your robe is sought like a carnival prize, a souvenir of execution. Is that what we want, just a token of You?
11. You Are Nailed to the Cross
Wounded, mangled, made to bleed, You consent to the violent attack of the hammer. Patient in Your agony, You allow the cruel penetration of Your Body to make us one with You. You give Bread of life to fill us as You receive our nails. From Your love You bleed. For love of us, for love of the Father, the Child bleeds for the children. Brother bleeds for the brother who is killing Him. You become one with the cross, absorbing completely the burden of sin, allowing it to permeate You all the rage and loneliness and anxiety and despair and hatred and lust and greed and incessant lies of all mankind through all the ages, sinking into You, filling You up. You are bombarded with poison and still You love.
12. You Die
You hang on a cross with but a few faithful at Your feet. Your Mother is there as her Son drips to death for His human creatures. You ask for a small compassion and are given gall. Even captured on a cross and expiring from the torture, there is no mercy for You, yet You plead for mercy for us. You even give us the Mother You chose for Yourself, impressing upon us our relatedness. Still Your family torments You. And in Your passion, without solace, alone in the midst of the crowd, cut off even from Your Mother and the beloved disciple, You are man utterly alone. Defiled even as You die, cursed and ignored with no possibility of human comfort, You cry from the cross Your agony. At this moment, filled with all the despair of every human heart, You tear any vestigial veil between man and God and plunge into the total hell of sin to purge it for us. It is the final acceptance of death. And then You die in trust that the Father will receive You.
13. Your Body Is Taken From the Cross
Your Body is given to Your Mother. In her womb You were welcomed into human life. Now You go to her in death. Your Mother is entrusted with the Body of Christ. She cleans it in love and wipes away the signs of the evil inflicted upon it. So it is with us. Your Mother welcomes us into her arms and heals and soothes through Your grace. She is the Mother of the Church, the Mother who accepts the mangled, the bereft, the brokenhearted, even as condemnation is heaped upon her. She takes into her embrace a Body that is accused of irreverence, of presumption, even criminality, and protects it with maternal care.
14. Your Body Is Laid in the Tomb
Your Body is laid in a tomb, presumed vanquished, but You cannot be contained. You allow Yourself to be placed in a tomb by us. We voluntarily seek the tomb by turning away from You. To be separated from You is to consign ourselves to death. But we see it differently. We think we can place You far away, outside ourselves, in a tomb, while we live. But the only life is in You. In casting You away we give ourselves to death. We seal our hearts against You and make of ourselves the tomb. How often we do this in receiving the Eucharist, taking You into a tomb we do not open to You and treating You as dead? How often do we put the Body of Christ into a tomb, saying it serves no purpose for us, that we can live without it? We turn away from Your Church, but she will prevail in Your Resurrection. She emerges from every apparent tomb. And in our death to self the Body of Your Church is continually renewed.
As we make the stations of the cross with You, filled with remorse for the anguish our sins have wrought, inspire us to true contrition for our sins. Open our hearts to You and share with us what You will of Your passion, dear Jesus. Help us to carry the cross with You. And, at the end of our time in Calvary, let us hear those joyous and incomprehensible words of unfathomable love that are Your Promise:
"Come, ye blessed of My Father, and possess the kingdom that was
prepared for you from the beginning."
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