Monday, 26 March 2018

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 41:
Lichfield 9: Third Fall

‘Third Fall’ … Station 9 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Jesus falls for the third time (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This is Holy Week and the last week in Lent. Throughout Holy Week, there are special services in each of the churches in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This evening, this service is Evening Prayer at 8 p.m.in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning are guided by three sets of Stations of the Cross 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 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 9: ‘Third 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 I was a 19-year-old, I have regarded this chapel as my spiritual home.

The Ninth Station in the Stations of the Cross has a traditional description such as ‘Jesus falls for the third time.’ But in the Ninth 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: ‘Third Fall.’

In this station in Saint John’s, Christ has stumbled and fallen for a third time. The Roman soldier who has been whipping and goading him all along the way now seems tired and exhausted too, as he tries to hold up an arm of the cross with both hands, his whip hanging limply in one hand, without any hint of a gesture to move Christ on with force.

Christ holds onto his cross with one hand, but with both arms he embraces the jagged rock that has broken his fall and that must be bruising his already much-bruised body.

Psalm 18 refers to God as ‘my rock, my fortress and my deliverer’ (verse 2), and Psalm 95 speaks of God as ‘the rock of our salvation’ (verse 1). But this morning I am reminded of the words of the Prophet Habakkuk: ‘The very stones will cry out from the wall, and the plaster] will respond from the woodwork’ (Habakkuk 2: 11).

These words of Habakkuk are recalled in Saint Luke’s account of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday:

As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,

‘Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!’
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out’ (Luke 19: 37-40).

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
O thou Mother! Fount of love,
Touch my spirit from above.
Make my heart with thine accord.

Meditation:

Brutalised. Dazed. Beyond strength.
Now nearly on Calvary’s broad summit, Jesus collapses.
Poles long set into the ground are silhouetted against grey clouds.
Impatiently, Jesus is pulled up and shoved angrily toward his death.

Prayers:

Loving Lord, you fell that we might rise and taught us that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Help us to die to ourselves so that we might live to you and bear much fruit for your Kingdom. 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 journey has been long. You fall again, beneath your cross. You know your journey is coming to an end. You struggle and struggle. You get up and keep going.

The Collect of the Day (Monday in Holy Week):

Almighty God,
whose most dear Son went not up to joy,
but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of his cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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: ‘Stripped’ … Station 10 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Jesus is stripped of his clothes.

Yesterday’s reflection

The Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital seen on Saint John Street, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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