Saturday, 24 March 2018

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 39:
Lichfield 7: Second Fall

‘Second Fall’ … Station 7 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Jesus falls the second time (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 7: ‘Second Fall’

For these 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.

The Seventh Station in the Stations of the Cross has a traditional description such as ‘Jesus falls for the second time.’ But in the Seventh 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: ‘Second Fall.’

Although Simon of Cyrene has come to help Jesus carry his cross, although Veronica has sought to sooth his brow, Jesus falls beneath the weight of his cross a second time.

In Station VII in Lichfield, Jesus seems to seek to break his fall by holding his hand towards a rock on his path. Simon is seen trying to lift the cross with both hands as Jesus stumbles and falls on the city streets; he is no reluctant conscript but actively trying to share Christ’s burden.

In the past, at times, the Church had an appalling record for how it treated people regarded as ‘fallen.’ Instead of helping many women in distress, it condemned them to the Magdalene laundries, and often conspired in the inhumane treatment of their children.

But the Church has also responded with both hands to people who have fallen to the bottom of the system because of economic and social policies. I pray this morning for people from the churches who are working together on the streets of Athens and on the Greek islands with refugees and asylum seekers.

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender child,
All with bloody scourges rent.

Meditation:

Oppressed. Afflicted. Silently suffering.
Simon carries the cross, yet Jesus cannot continue.
He bears our infirmities and carries our sorrows.
Crushed under their weight, Jesus falls once more.

Prayers:

Compassionate Christ, all we like sheep have gone astray, turning each of us to our own way. Grant that when we fall into sin, we may return from going our own way to following in yours. 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.

This is the second time you have fallen on the road. As the cross grows heavier and heavier, it becomes more difficult to get up. But you continue to struggle and try until you are up and walking again. You do not give up.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

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

Tomorrow: ‘The Women’ … Station 8 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.

Yesterday’s reflection

Jesus Falls … one of the sculptures on the Basilica of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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