Friday, 16 March 2018

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 31:
Millstreet 14: Jesus
is laid in the tomb

Station 14 at Saint John’s Well, Millstreet, Co Cork … Jesus is laid in the tomb (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

In my meditations and reflections in 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 month and continues until the end of 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 the past two weeks, I have been looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross at Saint John’s Well in a forested area on the slopes of Mushera, outside Millstreet in north Co Cork and close to the Cork/Kerry border.

Saint John’s Well is 8 or 9 km south-east of Millstreet, on the slopes of Mushera, on the Aubane side of the mountain, opposite the entrance to Millstreet Country Park. The Stations date from 1984 and were designed by Liam Cosgrave and Sons, Sculptors, of Blackpool, Cork.

Millstreet 14, Jesus is laid in the tomb

In the final station by Liam Cosgrave in Millstreet, Mary bends over to look at her son as he is stretched out on the grave slab in the tomb provided by Joseph of Arimathea. Christ’s left hand is raised up, almost to tell us he is going to be raised from the dead.

Behind are two male figures with haloes indicating they are saints – Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, perhaps, although the younger, beardless figure on the left could also represent Saint John the Beloved Disciple.

Through the entrance to the tomb, we can see in the distance the Hill of Calvary, with three simple, bare crosses.

The simplicity of this station in Millstreet, with its sharp lines and outlined shapes, is in sharp contrast to the elaborate, tableaux of this scene found in cathedrals and churches throughout Continental Europe.

The Deposition of Christ by Vincenzo Onofri, dating from the early 16th century, is in a niche under the organ in the right nave of the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna. There are seven terracotta figures in this work. The group gathered around Christ in the tomb includes Nicodemus and Saint John the Beloved Disciple on one side, and the Virgin Mary and the three other Marys who are witnesses to the Crucifixion in the centre and to the left, with an expression of horror on the face of Saint Mary Magdalene. The artist has left his signature on the cushion on which the head of the dead Christ rests.

Once again, through the entrance to the tomb, we can see in the distance the Hill of Calvary, with three simple, empty crosses.

Jesus is laid in the tomb … the tableau by Vincenzo Onofri in the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

There is a very different, though equally elaborate sculpted terracotta tableau from the early 16th century by Alfonso Lombardi (1497-1537) in the Cathedral of San Pietro in Bologna.

Here, in the Compianto su Cristo morto (‘Lament over the Dead Christ’), completed in 1522-1526, the Virgin Mary is held up by two of the other Marys as she faints with grief, while Mary Magdalene stretches out her arms in horror.

Saint John the Evangelist is to the left, while to our right Nicodemus kneels with his arms crossed. He has asked for the Body of Christ, now he kneels as though he has just received the Body of Christ in the Holy Communion.

Good Friday is just two weeks ago today. Easter Day follows two days later.

Jesus is laid in the tomb … the tableau by Alfonso Lombardi in the Cathedral of San Pietro in Bologna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

From Stabat Mater:

Jesus Christ, crucified, have mercy on us!
By the cross with thee to stay,
There with thee to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of thee to give.

Meditation:

Cold stone. A shroud. Darkness.
Sabbath rest at last.
The disciples gather in fear.
A grain of wheat waits for spring.

Prayers:

Alpha and Omega, you are beginning and end. In death you conquered death so that even at the grave we praise your name. Help us to find you as the way, the truth and the life and to lead others out of darkness and into your light. 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 body is prepared for burial. Joseph gave you his own tomb. He laid your body there and rolled a large stone in front of it, then went home. What a sad day it has been for so many people.

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honour of your Name. Amen.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

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

Tomorrow: Introducing the Stations of the Cross in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.

Yesterday’s reflection

The graves of my grandmother and my great-grandparents in the grounds of Drishane Castle, Millstreet, Co Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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