Sunday, 25 March 2018

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 40:
Lichfield 8: The Women

‘The Women’ … Station 8 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This morning is Palm Sunday, the Sixth Sunday in Lent. Later this morning, I am preaching at Morning Prayer in Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick, and preaching and presiding at the Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2) in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick.

Normally today [25 March] is the Feast of the Annunciation, but the sequence of days leading up to Easter this year means this feastday has been transferred to the week following the Second Sunday of Easter, and we plan to celebrate it in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, on Wednesday 11 April.

We have now reached the last week in Lent, Holy Week. In my meditations and reflections in Lent this year, I am being guided by the Stations of the Cross from three locations that I have found either inspiring or unusual. These 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. 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.

In these 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 8: ‘The Women’

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 I was a 19-year-old, I have regarded this chapel as my spiritual home.

The Eighth Station in the Stations of the Cross has a traditional description such as ‘Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.’ But in the Eighth 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: ‘The Women.’

In this station in Saint John’s, Lichfield, two women meet Jesus on his way along the Via Dolorosa, and seem inconsolable. One is covering her eyes with both hands as she weeps; the other seems to have fallen to her knees and raises her hands towards Jesus as if to touch him gently.

Next Sunday at the Resurrection, Christ is going to say to Mary Magdalene in the Garden, as she reaches out to touch him, ‘Noli Me Tangere,’ ‘Do not hold onto me,’ as it is translated so often in an insipid way. The original Greek, Μή μου ἅπτου, which might be better translated as ‘stop holding onto me,’ or ‘stop clinging onto me.’

Christ holds the cross with one hand and one arm, and raises his other hand, as if in a blessing. He tells the women of Jerusalem to weep not for him but for themselves and their children. His gesture and his words seem to make his burden less than their grief.

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
For the sins of His own nation
Saw Him hang in desolation
Till His Spirit forth He sent.

Meditation:

Tears. Wailing. Daughters. Mothers. Grief.
Women beat their breasts and mourn openly,
for the Son of Man, but his concern is for them and their children
in the days of woe yet to come.

Prayers:

Son of Man, you told the women of Jerusalem to weep not for you but for themselves and their children. Give us the gift of tears for our own sins, that we may mourn the ways in which we fall short of the glory of God that we may truly repent and return to 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, as you carry your cross, you see a group of women along the road. As you pass by, you see they are sad. You stop to spend a moment with them, to offer them some encouragement. Although you have been abandoned by your friends and are in pain, you stop and try to help them.

The Collect of the Day (Palm Sunday):

Almighty and everlasting God,
who, in your tender love towards the human race,
sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
to take upon him our flesh
and to suffer death upon the cross:
Grant that we may follow the example
of his patience and humility,
and also be made partakers of his resurrection;
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: ‘Third Fall’ … Station 9 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Jesus falls for the third time.

Yesterday’s reflection

The entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday … an icon by Theodoros Papadopoulos of Larissa, who is leading a workshop in Knock, Co Mayo, later this year on 8 to 13 October 2018

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