Monday, 19 March 2018

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 34:
Lichfield 2: Receives Cross

‘Receives Cross’ … Station 2 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Pilate condemns Jesus to die (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.

Lichfield 2: ‘Receives Cross’

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.

In the Church Calendar, today [19 March] is also the Feast of Saint Joseph.

The Second Station in the Stations of the Cross has a traditional description such as ‘Jesus takes his cross.’ But in the Second Station in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, instead of a traditional full description, there are two simple words in plain capital letters: ‘Receives Cross.’

It is an awkward moment. Christ received the Cross with a soldier who faces him. He holds the Cross gently with his left hand and his right arm. But he is going to have to turn around so that he can carry it on his shoulder and his back.

The Greek word μετάνοια (metanoia) is often translated as ‘conversion,’ or a transformative change of heart,’ especially: a spiritual conversion.’ But the Hebrew and Latin equivalents convey the sense of having to turn around.

I first turned around and found myself on a new journey in faith when I walked into this chapel on a summer evening in 1971, when I was a 19-year-old.

Having received the Cross, Christ is going to turn around for his journey to Calvary. In Lent, he invites us too to turn around too and to join him on this journey.

As Christ takes up his Cross in this station in Lichfield this morning, I think of Cross in Hand Lane in Lichfield, where pilgrims once took their own crosses in their hands as they walked along the final stage of the pilgrims’ route between the shrine of Saint Werburgh in Chester and the shrine of Saint Chad in Lichfield.

When I am back in Lichfield, I often stay at the Hedgehog Vintage Inn, on the northern edges of the cathedral city. The Hedgehog stands on a hill, with sweeping views across the countryside, and across to the three spires of Lichfield Cathedral. Below the bank on one side is Cross in Hand Lane, a meandering country lane that leads out into open countryside, with fields and brooks, leading north to the villages of Farewell and Chorley.

Some historians say a little hamlet once stood half-way between Lichfield and the old Benedictine Convent of Farewell, and this hamlet was called Cross-in-Hand, because of the frequent monastic processions between the Benedictine nunnery at Farewell and the cathedral in Lichfield.

The route is being developed as the Two Saints’ Way, with a team of volunteer local co-ordinators to oversee each section of the route in their locality, making sure the footpaths are clear and the signs stay in place. A recent book by David Pott, The Two Saints’ Way (2015), with maps and instructions, is a beautifully presented and attractive invitation to set out on this pilgrim route. There is a wealth of practical detail and information, with interesting and inspiring content.

This year, Bishop Michael Ipgrave of Lichfield and a group of people from across the diocese, including seven first-year curates, walked a pilgrim route Shrewsbury to Lichfield earlier in Lent, beginning on 27 February, and walking through Shrewsbury, Wrockwardine, Telford, Shifnal, Tong, Brewood, Penkridge, Chasetown, Cannock Wood, Gentleshaw and Farewell.

The last stage of their pilgrims’ walk was the four miles from Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell, along Cross in Hand Lane, arriving in Lichfield Cathedral on 1 March in time for the Saint Chad’s Day celebrations.

Cross in Hand Lane, Lichfield … a mediaeval pilgrim route for people who took up their cross on the route from Farewell to Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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.

Meditation:

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.

Prayers:

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.

The Collect of the Day (Saint Joseph):

God our Father,
who from the family of your servant David
raised up Joseph the carpenter
to be the guardian of your incarnate Son
and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Give us grace to follow his example
of faithful obedience to your commands;
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post-Communion Prayer:

Heavenly Father,
whose Son grew in wisdom and stature
in the home of Joseph the carpenter of Nazareth,
and on the wood of the cross perfected
the work of the world’s salvation.
Help us, strengthened by this sacrament of his passion,
to count the wisdom of the world as foolishness,
and to walk with him in simplicity and trust;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

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

Tomorrow: ‘First Fall’ … Station 3 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Jesus falls for the first time.

Yesterday’s reflection

A walk along Cross in Hand Lane in Lichfield last Easter (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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