Saturday, 31 March 2018

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 46:
Lichfield 14: Entombed

‘Entombed’ … Station 14 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Jesus is placed in the tomb (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the last day in Lent. There are no Liturgical Provisions in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of Ireland. There is no collect of the day. There is no celebration of the Eucharist. The altar has been stripped bare. There is nothing to celebrate.

But this is not the end.

Later this evening, I am celebrating the first Eucharist of Easter in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale (8 p.m.) and in Castletown Church, Co Limerick (10 p.m.).

Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning have been 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 14: ‘Entombed’

For these final two weeks in Lent, I have been 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 XIV in the Stations of the Cross traditionally description such as ‘Jesus is placed in the tomb.’ But at Station XIV in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, instead of a traditional full description, there is one simple word in plain capital letters: ‘Entombed.’

In this station, Nicodemus who came to see Christ under the cover of darkness, now prepares to bury his body before darkness falls.

Nicodemus who had questions and doubts, now holds the Body of Christ in his hands.

Nicodemus has become a full communicant member of the Church.

In death he knows what is meant by new birth.

‘The Body of Christ given for you.’

‘Amen.’

But this is not the end.

Early on Sunday morning, before dawn on the first day of the week, the women come to the tomb with spices they have prepared. But they find the stone has been rolled away from the tomb, there is no body, and two men in dazzling clothes ask them ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen’ (Luke 24: 5). There is a similar greeting in the other two Synoptic Gospels: ‘He is not here; for he has been raised’ (Matthew 28: 6); ‘He has been raised; he is not here’ (Mark 16: 6).

At the end of my meditations and prayers at the Stations of the Cross, I invite you to turn to John Piper’s East Window, above the Altar in the Chapel in Saint John’s Hospital.

Christ is stretched out in the shape of the Cross, still wrapped in his grave clothes, his hands and feet still pierced with the marks of the nails. But this is the Risen Christ. His eyes are open, and on either side are the angels who announce the Resurrection on Easter morning.

Behind Christ, the Cross is empty. This Cross is in the shape of Saint Chad’s Cross on the coat-of-arms of the Diocese of Lichfield.

Between Christ’s arms and the arms of the Cross, we can see the waning moon on the left and the rising sun on the right. Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

In the four corners of the window we see the symbols of the Four Evangelists: we have Good News to proclaim.

Christ in Majesty ... John Piper’s window in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

From Stabat Mater:

Jesus Christ, crucified, have mercy on us!
By the cross with thee to stay,
There with thee to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of thee to give.

Meditation:

Cold stone. A shroud. Darkness.
Sabbath rest at last.
The disciples gather in fear.
A grain of wheat waits for spring.

Prayers:

Alpha and Omega, you are beginning and end. In death you conquered death so that even at the grave we praise your name. Help us to find you as the way, the truth and the life and to lead others out of darkness and into your light. 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 body is prepared for burial. Joseph gave you his own tomb. He laid your body there and rolled a large stone in front of it, then went home. What a sad day it has been for so many people.

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honour of your Name. Amen.

A prayer before leaving this station:

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

But this is not the end.

Later this evening, I am celebrating the first Eucharist of Easter in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale (8 p.m.) and in Castletown Church, Co Limerick (10 p.m.). Tomorrow morning, I preside and preach at the Easter Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick (9.30 a.m.) and in Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert, Co Limerick (11.30 a.m.).

Yesterday’s reflection

Series concluded … but this not the end

Christ in the tomb … an image at Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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