Thursday, 7 April 2022

Praying at the Stations of the Cross in
Lent 2022: 7 April 2022 (Station 5)

Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross … Station 5 in the Stations of the Cross in the Church of the Annunciation, Clonard, Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

We are in the middle of what is often known as Passion Week. Before today begins, I am taking some time early this morning (7 April 2022) for prayer, reflection and reading.

During Lent this year, in this Prayer Diary on my blog each morning, I have been reflecting on the Psalms each morning. But during 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 the Church of the Annunciation, Clonard, Wexford, and the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles in Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the lectionary adapted in the Church of Ireland;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Station 5, Jesus Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross:

In an unusual arrangement, the Stations of the Cross in the church in Clonard are set in the curved outer wall of the church in 14 windows designed by Gillian Deeny of Wicklow. In her windows, she emphasises the role of women in the Passion story.

Her windows were made in association with Abbey Glass, where she worked with the cut-out shapes of coloured glass, the pigment being a mixture of lead oxide, ground glass and colour. Each window is signed by the artist.

The Stations of the Cross on the north and south walls of the nave in Stoney Stratford were donated in memory of John Dunstan (1924-1988).

The Fifth Station in the Stations of the Cross has a traditional description such as ‘Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross.’ Simon of Cyrene is mentioned in three of the four Gospels as the man forced by the Roman soldiers to help Jesus carry his cross. He was from Cyrene in north Africa. But was he a black African, or was he like so many others there who were of Greek, Roman or Jewish descent?

Whether Simon was a Jew or a Gentile is perhaps irrelevant. His action reminds me of the ‘Righteous Among the Nations,’ an honour used to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis.

The term originates with the concept of righteous gentiles, a term used in rabbinic literature to describe non-Jews (ger toshav) who abide by the Seven Laws of Noah.

The Righteous are defined as non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Only a Jewish party can make a nomination. Helping a family member or a Jew convert to Christianity is not a criterion for recognition. Assistance has to be repeated and substantial, and it has to be given without any expected financial gain.

The largest number of Righteous is from Poland (6,706). Mary Elizabeth Elmes (1908-2002) from Cork was the first Irish person to be honoured among the Righteous by Yad Vashem. She saved at least 200 Jewish children under the age of 12 by smuggling them over the border between France and Spain in the boot of her car. There is also an application for another Irish person, Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, who rescued 6,500 Prisoners of War and Jews in Rome.

The Righteous are honoured with a feast day in the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church in the US (16 July), and a Righteous from Italy, Edward Focherini, was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 2013.

Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross … Station 6 in the Stations of the Cross in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles in Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

John 8: 51-59 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 51 ‘Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.’ 52 The Jews said to him, ‘Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.” 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?’ 54 Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, “He is our God”, 55 though you do not know him. But I know him; if I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.’ 57 Then the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ 58 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’ 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.’

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Meeting the Invisible.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana Do Brasil. The prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (Thursday 7 April 2022, World Health Day), invites us to pray:

Let us pray for healthcare workers, nurses and doctors. May they be guided by the Holy Spirit in all they say and do.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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

No comments: