24 February 2018
Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 11:
Longford 9: Jesus
falls a third time
Each morning in Lent, as part of my meditations and reflections for Lent this year, I am being guided by the Stations of the Cross from three locations.
The idea for this series of morning Lenten meditations came from reading about Peter Walker’s new exhibition, ‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ inspired by the Stations of the Cross, which opened in Lichfield Cathedral last week and continues throughout Lent.
Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning are inspired by three sets of Stations of the Cross that I have found either inspiring or unusual. They are the stations in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, at Saint John’s Well on a mountainside near Millstreet, Co Cork, and in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.
In my meditations, I am drawing on portions of the Stabat Mater, the 12th century hymn of the Crucifixion (‘At the cross her station keeping’) attributed to the Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi. Some prayers are traditional, some are from the Book of Common Prayer, and other meditations and prayers are by Canon Frank Logue and the Revd Victoria Logue of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.
For two weeks, I am looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, sculpted by Ken Thompson in Bath stone with chisel and mallet, with lettering inspired by the work of Eric Gill and haloes picked out in gold leaf.
He uses blue to give a background dimension that works almost like a shadow in itself, providing the foreground figures with greater relief. The bright gold leaf haloes establish the central image of Christ as well as his mother and disciples or saints.
Rather than using the traditional title for each station, the text at the foot of each panel is allusive. He has chosen two lines of scripture for each panel, cut them in lettering inspired by Eric Gill, and highlighted them in terracotta.
Station 9: Jesus falls a third time
This is one of the traditional stations that does not recall an event in any of the passion narratives in the four Gospels. However, Ken Thompson has made this a Biblical scene by linking it with the Last Supper and more particularly with the story of Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The angel with the filled cup in Station IX, and the chalice that is seen again in Station XIII, recall both the Last Supper and Gethsemane.
The words in terracotta capital lettering at the bottom of the panel read: ‘Yet Not My Will But Thine Be Done.’ The angel, the cup and the depiction of Christ falling to the ground recall this part of the story of the agony in the Garden as recalled by Saint Luke:
He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground (Luke 22: 39-44). The parallel accounts, in Matthew 26: 36-46 and Mark 14: 32-36, do not mention the visiting angel.
There are still signs of hope in this panel: the daffodil blooming in the bottom right corner, and the green shoots on the branch in the top left corner (see Mark 13: 28).
From Stabat Mater:
Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
O thou Mother! Fount of love,
Touch my spirit from above.
Make my heart with thine accord.
Brutalised. Dazed. Beyond strength.
Now nearly on Calvary’s broad summit, Jesus collapses.
Poles long set into the ground are silhouetted against gray clouds.
Impatiently, Jesus is pulled up and shoved angrily toward his death.
Loving Lord, you fell that we might rise and taught us that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Help us to die to ourselves so that we might live to you and bear much fruit for your Kingdom. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our crucified Lord, the King of Glory, the King of Peace. Amen.
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world.
Jesus, your journey has been long. You fall again, beneath your cross. You know your journey is coming to an end. You struggle and struggle. You get up and keep going.
A prayer before walking to the next station:
Holy and mighty Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.
Tomorrow: Station 10: Jesus is stripped of his clothes.