Monday, 19 February 2018
Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 6:
Longford 4: Jesus
meets his mother Mary
Each morning in Lent, as part of my meditations and reflections for Lent this year, I am being guided by the Stations of the Cross from three locations.
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 week on Ash Wednesday and continues throughout Lent.
Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning are inspired by three sets of Stations of the Cross that I have found either inspiring or unusual. They 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.
In my meditations, I am drawing on a portion 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.
For two weeks, I am looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, sculpted by Ken Thompson in Bath stone with chisel and mallet, with lettering inspired by the work of Eric Gill and haloes picked out in gold leaf.
He uses blue to give a background dimension that works almost like a shadow in itself, impelling the foreground figures into greater relief. The 24-carat gold leaf haloes establish not only the central image of Christ but also those of his mother and the disciples.
Rather than using the traditional title for each station, the text at the foot of each panel is allusive. He has chosen two lines of scripture for each panel, cut them in lettering inspired by Eric Gill, and highlighted them in terracotta.
Station 4: Jesus meets his mother Mary
In this station, Christ meets his Mother Mary. He seems to have dropped his Cross as he rushes towards her and she rushes towards him. She stretches out both hands as if she is about to embrace him; he has one arm around her neck, his right hand clutching her left shoulder. But his other arm is being pulled back by the arm of another otherwise unseen figure.
Behind Mary, the silver blade of a drawn sword looms threateningly, a reminder of the words once spoken to her in the Temple 40 days after Christ’s birth. The 40 days of the Christmas season lead us to the 40 days of Lent, the Incarnation and the Presentation lead us to the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Hope springs eternal, as we are reminded by the freshly-shooting green spring branches over each figure.
The inscription in terracotta capital letters below the panel quotes those words of Simeon to the Virgin Mary at the Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple, words from the Canticle Nunc Dimittis, ‘And You Yourself a Sword Shall Pierce’.
Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too’ (Luke 2: 34-35).
From Stabat Mater:
Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs,
Of her dying, glorious Son.
Mother and child. Madonna.
Joseph has died. There is no angelic choir.
No shepherds. No wise men.
Gone are the gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Mary sees her battered son through a veil of tears.
Son of God, son of Mary, the crowd heaps scorn and turns the blade that pierces your mother’s own soul. Grant us the grace to see those in needless suffering and to reach out to them showing the love you wanted to show to your mother Mary as you stumbled toward Calvary. 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, you feel so alone with all those people yelling and screaming at you. You do not like the words they are saying about you, and you look for a friendly face in the crowd. You see your mother. She cannot make the hurting stop, but it helps to see that she is on your side, that she is suffering with you. She does understand and care.
A prayer before walking to the next station:
Holy and mighty Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.
Tomorrow: Station 5: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross.