Friday, 30 March 2018

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 45:
Lichfield 13: Taken Down

‘Taken Down’ … Station 13 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Jesus dies on the Cross (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is Good Friday and we have come to the climax of Lent. Later today, at Noon, I am beginning to lead three hours of prayers cross in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick (12 noon to 3 p.m.), on the theme of following Christ to the foot of the Cross at Calvary.

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 13: ‘Taken Down’

For these final 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 XIII in the Stations of the Cross traditionally description such as ‘Jesus is taken down from the cross.’ But at Station XIII in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, instead of a traditional full description, there two simple words in plain capital letters: ‘Taken Down.’

In this chapel, close to the Stations of the Cross, a small plaque worked in painted stucco on wood, shows the Virgin Mary kneeling in prayer before the Christ Child, who looks up into her face, his hands lifted up in a child’s loving gesture to his attentive mother.

Above, there are four angels crowning the inner garland, on each side are assorted painted flowers, and within the frame are two lilies, symbols of Easter and the Resurrection.

Below are the winged faces of two golden putti or cherubim, each on a cloud, perhaps symbolic of the two angels who later appear at the empty tomb announcing the Resurrection.

The inscription below the platform, in an inset on the outer frame, consists of two simple words, ‘Ave Maria’.

Now, in Station XII, the Mother who once cradled the Infant Child on her lap, now holds her dead son on her lap. The hands once raised in adoration and in love, are now clutching his shoulder and raised in horror and in anguish.

Had she known that this was the end, would she have said yes to the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation when he greeted her with those words, ‘Ave Maria, Hail Mary’?

But this is not the end.

‘Ave Maria’ … a sculpture beside the Stations of the Cross in the Chapel in Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
Let me mingle tears with thee,
Mourning Him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.

Meditation:

Mourning mother. Broken child.
A sword of grief pierces her soul.
Women surround her, but none can comfort her.
Her name is bitterness.

Prayers:

Crucified Saviour, you are resurrection and life and in your death and resurrection we who mourn find the peace and comfort your own mother lacked as your body came down from the cross. Help us to bring the hope of the resurrection to all who mourn. 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, how brutally you were put to death. How gently your are taken from the cross. Your suffering and pain are ended, and you are put in the lap of your mother. The dirt and blood are wiped away. You are treated with love.

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!

Gaudí’s Crucifixion on the façade of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Collect of the Day (Good Friday):

Almighty Father,
Look with mercy on this your family
for which our Lord Jesus Christ
was content to be betrayed
and given up into the hands of sinners
and to suffer death upon the cross;
who is alive and glorified 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: Station 14: Jesus is laid in the tomb.

Yesterday’s reflection

Tomorrow: ‘Entombed’ … Station 14 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Jesus is placed in the tomb.

Yesterday’s reflection

The Crucifixion … the east window in Graiguecullen Church, Carlow (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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