17 February 2018
Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 4:
Longford 2, Jesus
accepts his Cross
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 earlier this week on Ash Wednesday [14 February 2018], 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 a portion 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 of the 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, impelling the foreground figures into greater relief. The 24-carat gold leaf haloes establish not only the central image of Christ and also those of his mother or disciples.
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 2, Jesus accepts his Cross
In this station, Christ is taking the cross on his shoulders. Saint John’s Gospel alone says that Christ carried the cross by himself (John 19: 17); the other three Gospels say Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry the cross behind him.
Facing Christ as he sets out on the Via Dolorosa are a man and woman – they are without haloes, and so are representative of all men and women, all humanity. Behind him are three figures, but one has a halo, representing Saint John the Evangelist, the Beloved Disciple, who is said to have followed the condemned Christ to Calvary, and who is with the women at the foot of the Cross (see John 19: 25).
The inscription in terracotta capital letters below the panel reads: ‘For in his Cross is Salvation and Life’.
From Stabat Mater:
Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword has passed.
Splinters. Heavy, rough wood. The scent of the hill country. A single beam laid across the back of a carpenter. The crowd jeers. The procession to the place of the skull begins.
Obedient Lord, you asked us each to take up our cross and follow you. Then you took up your own cross and led the way not just to Calvary, but to the empty tomb and beyond. Give us the courage to follow where you lead. 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, as you accepted your cross, you knew you would carry it to your death on Calvary. You knew it would not be easy, but you accepted it and carried it just the same.
A prayer before walking to the next station:
Holy and mighty Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.
Tomorrow: Station 3: Jesus falls for the first time.