28 March 2023
Praying at the Stations of the Cross in
Lent 2023: 28 March 2023 (Station 3)
Passiontide began on Sunday, the Fifth Sunday in Lent (26 March 2023), and in the past that Sunday was known as Passion Sunday.
Before this day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.
During Lent this year, in this Prayer Diary on my blog each morning, I have been reflecting on words from Samuel Johnson, the Lichfield-born lexicographer and compiler of the first standard Dictionary of the English language. But, in these two weeks of Passiontide, Passion Week and Holy Week, I am reflecting in these ways:
1, Short reflections on the Stations of the Cross, illustrated by images in Saint Dunstan’s and All Saints’ Church, the Church of England parish church in Stepney, in the East End of London, and the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Francis de Sales in Wolverton, which I visited for the first time last month;
2, the Gospel reading of the day in the lectionary adapted in the Church of England;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.
Station 3, Jesus Falls the First Time:
The Third Station in the Stations of the Cross has a traditional description such as ‘Jesus falls for the first time.’ Having received the Cross, Christ has turned around is on his journey to Calvary. Christ’s three falls depicted traditionally in the Stations of the Cross (Stations III, VII and IX) are not recorded in any of the Four Gospel accounts of the Passion.
As the piety around this traditional station developed, perhaps people recalled Christ’s words: ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11: 28-30).
Now his yoke is not easy and his burden is heavy. In the third station in Stepney, Christ remains gentle and humble in heart as he falls to one knee beneath the weight of his Cross, a Roman soldier watches on, spear in hand, as he stands in the way before Christ, while four men seem to fumble as they try to lift the Cross of Christ’s back.
The words below read: ‘Jesus Falls the First Time’.
In Station 3 in Wolverton, the barefoot Christ stumbles on the rocks along the way, as if he were about to kneel in prayer. A soldier raises his whip to beat the weary Christ, but a second man tries to lift the shaft of the Cross from behind with both hands, taking the weight of the Cross from Christ’s shoulders.
Below all three figures, the words read: ‘Falls the First Time.’
Christ is going to fall twice again.
John 8: 21-30 (NRSVA):
21 Again he said to them, ‘I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 22 Then the Jews said, ‘Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’ 23 He said to them, ‘You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.’ 25 They said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Why do I speak to you at all? 26 I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.’ 27 They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. 29 And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.’ 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.
The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Good Neighbours: A View from Sri Lanka.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday morning with an adaptation from Father Rasika Abeysinghe’s contribution to USPG’s Lent Course ‘Who is our neighbour,’ which I have edited for USPG. Father Rasika Abeysinghe is a priest in the Diocese of Kurunagala in the Church of Ceylon.
The USPG Prayer Diary today (Tuesday 28 March 2023) invites us to pray:
Let us pray for the healing of class divisions wherever they exist. May we see each other through the eyes of Christ, recognise our common humanity and work for justice.
Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us
that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters
we do also for you:
give us the will to be the servant of others
as you were the servant of all,
and gave up your life and died for us,
but are alive and reign, now and for ever.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
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