Sunday, 18 February 2018

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 5:
Longford 3: Jesus
falls for the first time

Station 3 in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford … Jesus falls for the first time (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This is the First Sunday in Lent, and later this morning [18 February 2018] I am presiding at the Cathedral Eucharist and preaching in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, in my role as Precentor of the Cathedral. Meanwhile, the Dean of Limerick, the Very Revd Niall Sloane, is visiting Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick, and Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry.

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 on Ash Wednesday 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 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 but 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 3: Jesus falls for the first time

In this station, Christ has fallen beneath the weight of his Cross. This is one of the traditional Stations of the Cross that depict Passion scenes that are not recalled in any of the Gospel accounts.

As Christ stumbles on his hands and feet on the Via Dolorosa, a uniformed soldier looks on, holding a spear in one hand, while a man without a uniform grips an arm of the cross as he raises a whip in his other arm to beat Christ on the ground below him.

In the background a child raises his hands to his face in horror.

The inscription in terracotta capital letters below the panel quotes indirectly from Isaiah 53: 3 and reads: ‘He was Despised A Man of Sorrows’.

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
O, how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother highly blessed
Of the sole-begotten One!

Meditation:

Stumble. Waver. Collapse.
Jesus’ sweat mingles with dust as he falls to the earth.
The weight of the sins of the world on his shoulders.
Barely able to stand.
He cannot carry the cross without falling.

Prayers:

Lion of Judah, you know our weaknesses, our temptations and our failings. Support us by the power of the Holy Spirit that we do not stumble so as to fall away from you. 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, the cross you have been carrying is very heavy.
You are becoming weak and almost ready to faint, and you fall down.
Nobody seems to want to help you.
The soldiers are interested in getting home,
so they yell at you and try to get you up and moving again.

The Collect of the Day (the First Sunday in Lent):

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
Give us grace to discipline ourselves
in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

Holy God,
Holy and mighty Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.

Tomorrow: Station 4: Jesus meets his mother Mary.

Yesterday’s reflection

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