Sunday, 18 March 2018

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 33:
Lichfield 1: Condemned

‘Condemned’ … Station 1 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Pilate condemns Jesus to die (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This morning is the Fifth Sunday in Lent and we are moving into the last two weeks in Lent. Until Vatican II, this Sunday was known in the Roman Catholic tradition as Passion Sunday, and this Sunday still marks the beginning of the two weeks of Passiontide. Later this morning, I am at Morning Prayer in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick, at 9.30 a.m., and presiding and preaching at the Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2) in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Tarbert, Co Kerry, at 11.30 a.m.

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.

Lichfield 1: ‘Condemned’

For the last two weeks in Lent, I am looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield. Since the age of 19, I have regarded this chapel as my spiritual home

Passiontide traditionally begins on this Sunday, the Fifth Sunday in Lent, and the Stations of the Cross begin with Christ’s condemnation before Pontius Pilate.

In the First Station in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, instead of the traditional full description, there is one word in plain capital letters: Condemned.

Behind Pilate’s throne are the initials SPQR, symbolising the Latin title, Senatus Populusque Romanus, ‘The Roman Senate and People,’ which appears on Roman currency, at the end of documents made public by inscription in stone or metal, in dedications of monuments and public works, and on the signs of the Roman legions.

This title is first recorded in inscriptions of the Late Republic, from ca 80 BC on. Previously, the official name of the Roman state was simply Roma. The abbreviation last appears on coins of Constantine the Great (312–337), the first Christian Roman emperor. It continues to be used in Rome today, although Italians have long used a humorous expansion of this acronym, Sono Pazzi Questi Romani (‘They’re crazy, these Romans’).

Pilate has his right hand raised, almost as in mockery of giving a blessing, or perhaps hinting at the fascist salute. His left hand is pointing down as if pointing towards the bowl in which he washes his hands of all responsibility for his actions.

The band over his right shoulder at first looks like a deacon’s stole, as if Pilate the Servant is mocking Christ the Suffering Servant. Yet is also seems to bind his hands, as if to say his hands are tied and he has no other option.

Christ stands before him with a glance of a rope on his right wrist indicating how he has been bound and punished. He wears a simple robe draped over his shoulders and holds in his hands a reed, placed there is mockery of the claims that he is a king.

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

Meditation:

Betrayed. Deserted. Alone. Jesus stands before an unjust judge. Dry palm branches crackle under the feet of the crowd. Soldiers rain down punches and crown him with thorns. Jesus is condemned to die.

Prayers:

Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world, you knew no sin and yet were sentenced to death. Assist me by your mercy to see the beam in my own eye and to remove it before I look to the speck in the eyes of others. 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, you stand all alone before Pilate. Nobody speaks up for you. Nobody helps defend you. You devoted your entire life to helping others, listening to the smallest ones, caring for those who were ignored by others. They do not seem to remember that as they prepare to put you to death.

My Jesus, often have I signed the death warrant by my sins; save me by your death from that eternal death which I have so often deserved.

Jesus is condemned to death … an image on the façade of Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
Grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross,
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
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: ‘Receives Cross’ … Station 2 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Jesus accepts his Cross.

Yesterday’s reflection

The Tudor façade of Saint John’s Hospital, facing onto Saint John Street, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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