Thursday, 29 March 2018

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 44:
Lichfield 12: Dies

‘Dies’ … Station 12 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Jesus dies on the Cross (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is Maundy Thursday and we are almost at the end of Holy Week and the end of Lent. Later this morning, I am taking part in the Chrism Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, when the bishop and the priests of the diocese renew our ordination vows together.

Throughout Holy Week, there are special services each evening in the churches in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. Later this evening, I am presiding at the Maundy Eucharist, with Washing of the Feet, at 8 p.m. in Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick.

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 12: ‘Dies’

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.

Station XII in the Stations of the Cross traditionally description such as ‘Jesus dies on the cross.’ But at Station XII in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, instead of a traditional full description, there is one simple word in plain capital letters: ‘Dies.’

When Christ dies on the Cross in Station XII, the group at the foot of the Cross are mainly women. The Gospel writers say many women were there (Matthew 27: 55; Luke 23: 55), and they name his mother Mary (John 19: 25-27), her sister Mary, the wife of Clopas (John 19: 25), Mary Magdalene (Matthew 27: 56; Mark 15: 40, 47; John 19: 25), Mary the mother of James and Joseph (Matthew 27: 56; Mark 15: 40, 47), Mary the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matthew 27: 56), and Salome (Mark 15: 40).

The only man at the Cross on Good Friday, apart from those who condemned Christ and the two thieves, is Saint John the Beloved Disciple (John 19: 26).

In Station XII in Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Christ dies, his jaw drops, his head falls to one side limply, his side is pierced, the bones of his ribs press through his skin.

Is Christ alone and abandoned on the Cross?

In the Lichfield station, there are only two figures at the foot of the Cross: Saint John, who has raised hands joined in prayer, and the Virgin Mary, whose hands are raised to her face to cover her grief and her distress. But in a way, their presence here makes them representatives of all humanity, male and female, brought to the foot of the Cross on that first Good Friday.

The Last Supper … a sculpture that was once in Quonian’s Lane, Lichfield, but is missing for some years (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
Let me share with thee His pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Meditation:

Despised. Rejected.
Eloi, Eloi, Lama sabachthani?
My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?
Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
From top to bottom the veil in the Temple is torn in two.

Prayers:

Lamb that was slain, as you cried out to your Father from the cross we learned how deep was your suffering, how complete was your sense of abandonment. Be present with us when others betray us or forsake us that we may find ourselves in your eyes and not theirs. 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.

As Jesus hung on the cross, he forgave the soldiers who had crucified him, and prayed for his mother and friends. Jesus wanted all of us to be able to live forever with God, so he gave all he had for us.

Jesus, let me take a few moments now to consider your love for me. Help me thank you for your willingness to go to your death for me. Help me express my love for you!

The Collect of the Day (Maundy Thursday):

God our Father,
you have invited us to share in the supper
which your Son gave to his Church
to proclaim his death until he comes:
May he nourish us by his presence,
and unite us in his love;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

or

Almighty God,
at the Last Supper your Son Jesus Christ
washed the disciples’ feet
and commanded them to love one another.
Give us humility and obedience to be servants of others
as he was the servant of all;
who gave up his life and died for us,
yet is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. 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.

Post-Communion Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,
in this wonderful sacrament
you have given us a memorial of your passion.
Grant us so to reverence the sacred mysteries
of your body and blood
that we may know within ourselves
the fruits of your redemption,
for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

or

O God,
your Son Jesus Christ has left us this meal of bread and wine
in which we share his body and his blood.
May we who celebrate this sign of his great love
show in our lives the fruits of his redemption;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

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

Tomorrow: ‘Taken Down’ … Station 13 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Jesus is taken down from the cross.

Yesterday’s reflection

The passageway to the chapter house in Lichfield Cathedral has a unique example of a mediaeval pedilavium where feet are washed on Maundy Thursday. There is an open arcade of double pillars with either heads or foliage between the arches; along the base is a stone seat with red cushions (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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